One fine Spring day, I took myself off on a bus trip along the coast of Spain, deep in the Basque country to a little fishing village. With one solitary building as my destination, the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum. I had been aware of this museum for a few years, it was on my list of places I need to visit but never had the opportunity, so when I was only an hours drive away off I went. It did not disappoint.
I had a bit of an adventure (read hardship and I nearly gave up) finding the bus to Getaria. Maybe I was expecting a big picture of haute couture dresses on the side of the bus with a big flashing arrow Pretty Dresses This Way. I did eventually get on the right bus and made the winding journey along the Basque coast, the views were beautiful, it was easy to see how Balenciaga could be inspired to create beautiful clothes.
The museum itself sits high in Getaria, just above the bus stop (handy, no fear of getting lost), gives stunning views across the sea in this little fishing village. High ceilings, dark, cool, everything you expect a museum to be. What I loved is you made your way to the top floor and worked your way down. The exhibition rooms were a journey you walked through. What was worked really well was the spacing of the outfits, no room was over full but each room gave the deserved space and reverence to just a couple of pieces. This helped move the flow of tourists too, so you never felt too crowded or had to wait too long to stand in front of a floor length silk gown with your mouth open in amazement.
The temporary exhibition on the day was The Elegance of the Hat. I'm not a big hat person nor do I pay much attention to them, so I was a little disappointed at first but by the end of it I was more than delighted to have seen this, broadened my horizons, after all this is why I was here; to learn.
"The hat is a matter of architectural balance: it crowns the building of the dress." - Balenciaga
It was the permanent exhibition that had drawn me here and I was right to follow my instinct and persevere with finding the right bus (it really was that traumatic!). You can see these creations in books, you can zoom in on screens but when you see these in the flesh it never fails to make me stop and pause. Firstly the colours, they can never be captured except with your own eyes. The deep red or the divine blacks, the soft dainty pinks. The next thing I notice is the shape, the silhouettes, ever changing over time, the shape of the bust or the width of the waist always comparing the difference to todays shapes. The structure of each piece, how it rests on the body what it subdues or what it highlights. The detail, oh the detail on haute couture. I'm usually seen with my nose an inch away from the glass peering in, trying to get a better look while not setting off any alarms. The texture, the beading, the stitching, incredible, absolute artistry. Lastly, immaculate condition of these clothes, how they are decades old and yet in such strong condition but then that's vintage for you.
These are some of the pieces that I took away as inspiration that day.
Love the shape and the colour, the oversized floral detail stops it being boring and fading into the background.
So sweet and neat but yet that train makes it glamourous.
A real nod to his Spanish heritage without feeling like a costume piece.
My wardrobe if full of black lace pieces simply because I love it and I love this too.
This was even more stunning in the flesh. The detail on the lace, that belt.
So contemporary writing his name all over his clothes, from afar it looks like a pretty pattern.
I just wanted to touch this so badly, how soft this looks but definitely an outfit that requires an up-do, for all you long haired folk, you know the pain of pulling tangled hair out of buttons.
The hooded dress, so fresh and fun and actually so functional too.
The Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum well worth the visit.