COURTESY OF AMELIA ISAACS
Some of the exhibits at the museum were X-ray photographed in order to study their structure.
We all see beauty in the world and subsequently strive to surround ourselves with things that we find beautiful.
Whether that beauty takes the form of a piece of art, a video game or a song, we surround ourselves with the things we love and make us happy.
For me this beauty can take on many different forms. I often find it in fashion.
While I do mean just seeing someone rocking a really cool outfit on the way to class or taking the time to put an outfit together myself, I also just love looking at beautiful clothes.
As someone who used to make costumes in high school and has even been known to make their own clothes when I can’t find what I want in a store, I derive immense pleasure and inspiration from seeing beautiful clothing and fashion.
So in an attempt to get my fix and some inspiration, while I was home over break, I took a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.
The V&A is one of my favorite museums for many, many reasons. Ultimately though, I return time after time to enjoy their extensive collection of fashion and their frequent temporary exhibitions on different designers, past and present.
The exhibition that happened to be on while I was back in London was entitled Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. The exhibit detailed the influence of the Balenciaga brand.
“Discover how Cristóbal Balenciaga’s exquisite craftsmanship and innovative designs shaped modern fashion,” read the exhibit’s tagline.
I had never realized quite how influential Balenciaga, nicknamed “The Master” of couture fashion, had been in shaping fashion today.
On display were not only over 100 pieces crafted by the designer himself but also his protégées and contemporaries working in the same innovative tradition. By displaying these works side by side, the effect Balenciaga has had on other designers was made strikingly clear.
As someone probably a little too obsessed with designers whose talent I can only dream to come close to one day, I was overwhelmed (in the best possible way) by the beauty and, in some cases, just the pure eccentricities.
Not only did I see works that I had written about by Balenciaga — most notably for me his “envelope dress” — but works by Hussein Chalayan, Issey Miyake, Hubert de Givenchy, Iris van Herpen and Alexander McQueen, among others.
These are all designers who I personally look up to and admire, and to see the way in which they were all individually inspired by the genius that was Balenciaga was incredible.
Sometimes it’s hard to see what might actually be quite obvious until someone lays it all out right in front of you. That’s how I felt seeing all of these designers put together in one place, united by the inspiration they drew from Balenciaga and his work.
Another striking part of the exhibition are the X-ray photographs of some of Balenciaga’s most innovative and frankly confusing garments.
The exhibition fully acknowledges the strangeness and complexity of much of Balenciaga’s work; he designed and created in a way that most designers can only ever aspire to and that most of the general public would struggle to understand.
In an effort to make the experience of looking at his work more understandable, the V&A team worked with X-ray artist Nick Veasey, thus allowing us to see the inner workings of Balenciaga’s complex couture gowns.
In a description of one of the pieces curator Cassie Davies-Strodder discussed how the team’s interactions with Veasey led to new revelations about the pieces of clothing’s structure.
“We had a few surprises,” Davies-Strodder wrote. “We’d never been able to explain what the ties at the hem of our fuchsia ball gown did. When looking at the X-rays with these students, they suggested that perhaps these tied around the legs.”
The description continued, saying, “We tried it on the mannequin and suddenly it all made sense, and created this harem-pant look at the front with a 19th century bustle in the back.”
Along with these X-rays, there were videos recreating the process of making the garments.
There were also interactive exhibits in the form of pieces of paper with dotted lines, which encouraged the public to attempt to recreate Balenciaga’s infamous ‘one-seam’ coat.
To me, fashion is art. Now, you may disagree with me, and that’s fine — art is subjective.
Regardless, given that this exhibition is on in London and ends in a few weeks’ time, you probably wouldn’t be able to see it even if you wanted to (you’re really missing out, I’m sorry).
I hope that instead of wanting to rush out and see this exhibition, you choose to surround yourself with things that you love and things that you find beautiful. Take the time to find joy in the little things around you in this busy beginning of spring semester.