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Nicola Mira
Jun 2, 2022
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New York exhibition juxtaposes Dior, Balenciaga

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Jun 2, 2022

A conversation between masters, two styles that often overlapped, two designers keen to leave behind the ravages of war. A new exhibition at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York showcases creations by Dior and Balenciaga, two of the 20th century's most influential designers.

Outfits from the exhibition ‘Dior and Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies,’ at the museum of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, May 31 2022 - AFP

Christian Dior (1905-1957), born in Normandy, and Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972), who hailed from Spain’s Basque country, probably had little contact with each other, even though they were the same age, 42, when they showed their first collection, and both had settled in Paris and were involved in France's post-WW2 recovery.

But “they spoke the same language, lived in the same era and had virtually the same clientèle,” so they had to make sure that “they designed clothes that would appeal” to their affluent clients in France and especially the USA, as Patricia Mears, curator of the exhibition ‘Dior and Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies,’ told the AFP agency. The exhibition opened at MFIT on Wednesday and will run until November 6.


The two designers’ clientèle was “hungry for beauty and luxury, and needed to forget the trauma” caused by war, said Mears, who is also deputy director of the museum at New York’s prestigious fashion university.

The exhibition revisits the work of these two fashion giants, probing into the design and talent behind 65 garments and sets from their collections.

“My goal was not only to show the work of these two designers, but to juxtapose them and ask questions: what are the differences and similarities between them?” explained Mears.

At first glance, it is hard to tell who created any single dress or suit. The items are therefore exhibited in pairs, side by side, to expose their similarities and differences. The two evening gowns that open the exhibition are in the same beige colour, have an identical silky texture and a fitted bodice that ends with a voluminous skirt.

Dresses on show at the exhibition ‘Dior and Balenciaga: The Kings of Couture and Their Legacies,’ at MFIT, May 31 2022 - AFP

Dior achieved this with a sort of corset, generating volume by means of fabric layers arrayed beneath it. Balenciaga, whom Dior called “the master of us all,” used gathers to achieve the desired shape. And while Dior's garment weighs five kg, Balenciaga’s  weighs only one kg.

Dior's work was focused on sensuality and detailing, but he also gave a fresh twist to the corseted silhouettes typical of the Belle Epoque.


Balenciaga, born in a modest fishing village in the Basque country, was quite simply considered the greatest designer in the world.

“As you look more and more closely, you begin to find subtle clues, like more structure in Dior and more fluidity in some of Balenciaga's work,” said Mears.

To illustrate the impact of these two masters, one third of the exhibition showcases creations by other designers inspired by Dior and Balenciaga, as well as by creative directors who succeeded them at the labels they founded. Names like Yves Saint Laurent (1957-1960), John Galliano (1996-2011) Maria Grazia Chiuri (since 2016) at Dior, and Nicolas Ghesquière (1997-2012) at Balenciaga.

By Ana Fernández
New York, June 1 2022 (AFP)

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