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Posts Tagged ‘The Master of Us All Balenciaga: His Workrooms’

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I could go to 10 Avenue George V wearing the most uneventful outfit and emerge with the certainty that to the knowing, or even to the ignorant, eye I was well dressed. A Balenciaga could be outlandishly showy or, like mine, almost plain. What they all had, uniquely, was poise – a savant equilibrium that was quiet even at its most extravagant – and this poise was passed onto the wearer. It was my blue light wool Balenciaga suit that enabled me to take out a notepad and quiz Eleanor Roosevelt at the Hotel de Crillon as if I were (almost) entitled to. 

– Mary Blume, columnist and author of: The Master of Us All Balenciaga: His Workrooms, His World (FS&G, 2013)

16864778_1621459711199312_3192038558631594158_nMs. Blume was a lucky young woman when in the early 1960s, after having arrived in Paris to work as a journalist, she was introduced to Florette, Christobal Balenciaga’s top vendeuse.* Florette took to Ms. Blume and often invited her into the storied fashion house to peruse the designs and buy a few older pieces at a sizeable discount.

The luck continued and more recently Ms. Blume was able to interview 90-something Florette before she died in 2006. The devoted vendeuse still had a sharp memory, providing for Ms. Blume a detailed look at the inner workings of the Balenciaga fashion house, from the time she was hired in 1936 to the day it closed in 1968. The result is the biography (and fashion history) – The Master of Us All Balenciaga: His Workrooms, His World.

A great book! I particularly enjoyed the bits about how fashion houses operated in those days – far less commercial – and I appreciated Ms. Blume’s detailed inclusion of the historical context in which Balenciaga was working. Lot’s of stories on other designers of the era (Dior) as well as society ladies, models, and … the vendeuses.

*A vendeuse worked in designer fashion houses with clients helping them choose pieces from each new collection. She collaborated with the seamstresses in fittings and saw to appointments and the overall satisfaction of her clients. She was part saleswoman, part stylist and a very important member of the staff. A good vendeuse was invaluable to any designer.

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