Cristobal Balenciaga Coats photographed by Irving Penn

Cristóbal Balenciaga 1895 – 1972) opened his Paris couture house in 1937. He gained a reputation as a couturier of uncompromising standards and was referred to as “the master of us all” by Christian Dior. It was not until the post-war years that the full scale of the inventiveness became evident. In 1951, he totally transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955, he designed the tunic dress, which later developed into the chemise dress of 1957. And eventually, in 1959, his work culminated in the Empire line, with high-waisted dresses and coats cut like kimonos.

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Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing a mantel coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga. Photo: Irving Penn via

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Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing a Balenciaga Coat, Paris. Photo: Irving Penn via

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Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing  Cristobal Balenciaga, Little Great Coat. Photo: Irving Penn, 1950 via

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Cristobal Balenciaga, Coat. Photo: Irving Penn, 1951 via

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Cristobal Balenciaga, “Balenciaga sleeve”. Photo: Irving Penn, 1951 via