Shall we talk about couture?


Chanel HC Fall 2013
"They don't do it like that anymore..." was the first thought that went through my mind as I finally managed to drag myself away from a softy lit display at V&A. Behind the glass there was an original Balenciaga suit, once a part of the Golden Age of Couture exhibition and now residing in the museum permanently among other stunning ball gowns. Seeing it out there, in a vast dark space invisibly cushioned by the distant sound of music (I was very fortunate to visit the place before the opening hours) felt as if I was in a different universe, not exactly stepping back in time, but thinking about the future.

Dovima in chloche & suit by Balenciaga, Dafe Des Deux Magots, Paris, August 1955, photographed by Richard Avedon
I don't think I've ever seen anything quite as perfect as that suit where every grain of grey tweed seamlessly followed the lines of the garment, the 3/4 sleeves hit the arm at exactly the right point to make a woman's wrist look particularly slim and fragile, not too exposed, but never - too covered, the precise cut and the delicate row of stitches running alongside...

Myrtle Crawford wearing Balenciaga tweed suit photographed by Frances McLaughlin-Gill for Vogue September 1952
A stunning specimen of the original couture and quality, the impeccable timelessness, the elegance - all made it so easy to understand why women were in mourning when Balenciaga closed the doors of his atelier in 1968.

Gitta Schilling wearing Balmain dress from "Perle Oceane" Spring 1959 photographed by Regina Relang
Indeed, there were a few other stunning examples in that room... The day dresses and gowns by Schiaparelli and Lanvin, Balmain, Fath, Givenchy and Dior, the lavishly embroidered Roger Vivier shoes, pillow box hats covered in delicate flowers and the original Rene Gruau illustrations... 

I walked out of that hall, in awe, feeling dizzy with emotions... Somehow those almost a century-old frocks made me realise how much we once had and how carelessly a huge part of that legacy was lost, wasted almost... Not because it was necessary, but for the desperate need to be... something else, modern, as many put it these days. But what is modern anyway? The odd shape here and there? The careless cut? The lack of love? Yes, it would be unfair of me to say that everything we are presented with nowadays is bad - no, not at all... In fact, I do truly love what Lagerfeld, Saab, Dolce and Gabbana, Chuiri and Piccioli send down the runway. Even more so I admire some of the clothes designed as ready-to-wear, but, in reality, borderlining on couture -  just think Ferretti, Bottega Veneta, Dolce&Gabbana, Balmain and Valentino collections.

Valentino RTW Spring/Summer 2015
And yet, over all, it seems to me that the balance between the marvellous couture traditions and wearability (even if we are talking princess gowns) is not always there, lost in a rush, in a phenomenon of fast-moving modern fashion that makes one forget about the elegance, the made-to-last quality, love and allure. Even more it makes one forget that, in fact, everything new is often well-forgotten (or skilfully copied) old...

The truth to be told, the last couture season left me in shreds... It made me wonder how I would feel if I saw these dresses in 50 years from now... When are we going to have another Worth, Balenciaga, Ferre, Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, Galliano or McQueen - the visionaries who enhanced the world of fashion with the dreams and ideas of their own, moved it forward without destroying the past? Do we, in fact, need another Balenciaga?

I could have said "At least we will always have Chanel...", but, in our mortal world, even this statement is rather ephemeral... Pretty much like some fashions these days...

Chanel HC Fall 2010
What do you think?

Photo source: Chanel HC Fall 2013, Dovima in chloe & suit by Balenciaga photographed by Richard Avedon, Cafe des deus Magots, Paris, August 1955, Myrtle Crawford wearing Balenciaga tweed suit photographed by Frances McLaughlin-Gill for Vogue September 1952, Gitta Schilling wearing Balmain dress from "Perle Oceane" Spring 1959 photographed by Regina Relang, Valentino RTW Spring/Summer 2015, Chanel HC Fall 2010


  1. that sounds like an amazing experience. I love how these posts showcase your talents as a writer. Beautiful!

    XO, Gina

  2. Amazing!

  3. Amazing post and thank you so much for your lovely thoughts on my past post!!
    Deeply appreciate it ;)
    My Lyfe ; My Story

  4. Everything that's labelled couture is almost unattainable these days. I wish I could just go after a couture show and get any dress I liked... but that option is available only to a select 100... But hey, a girl can dream, right? :)


  5. Great post, very informative.=)

  6. I am not sure about it, i think that we will have new designers but they will not be able to make the same changes.

  7. I think that this is the curse of our generation, in so many ways, not just couture - nostalgia for things that we never had or experienced. On one hand it's hard to blame our parents for constantly marching towards progress and modernity. I'm sure, at the time, it seemed like progress could only equal improvement. Unfortunately, that has proven not to be the case in so many things, and especially in fashion. It's true, we can't even say that we will always have Chanel anymore. But at least, at least, we have the hope that Galliano is coming back and perhaps he can satisfy us, at least a little bit.

  8. WOWWW that last picture!

    xxx Linsey from

  9. Какое необыконовенная и восхитительная выставка!
    Боже....Могу себе представить Ваши ощущения,Наташенька.
    Увидеть совсем рядом настоящую историю высокой моды,сердце наверное выпрыгивало из груди!!!

    Инстересное и очень тонкое замечание о действитеьно настоящем "от кутюр"....
    Невозможно не согласиться с Вами- история преследует нас в любых изображениях в одежде(как тонко подобраны фото из истории!!!)
    Спасибо огромное за этот пост,
    Хочу снова перечитать его и ответить Вам:)*

  10. This is in fact a good question and honestly I don't know the answer :) I have no idea how the fashion will be in 50 years or if fashion even exists then ...

    xx from Germany, Rena

  11. That's so true! Not even sure that chanel will be for ever what it is - has been?


  12. Really good post :)


  13. Natalia, I think everything has gone down since then. The quality of fashion, music, education etc are not as good. You have lots of designers, but not of the same quality.

  14. It is sad that even "Designer" fashion has begun to blur lines with fast fashion. Of course there are positives in the sense that fashion has become more accessible to the masses--- unfortunately in many ways it is a slippery slope.

  15. I think Couture is slowly changing. We can never go back to the past, but we can hope for the new generation of designers to bring Couture back with new forms. After all, Couture today is not just gorgeous gowns and dresses.

  16. It's an interesting question Natalia. One patternmaker I worked with had worked at Chanel and went to the couture school in France, I forget the name but you have to go there if you want to work in any of the couture houses. She said they all had notebooks that they would log in the number of hours on a garment. Some were 26 hours, others were 50, etc. and required numerous fittings of an hour or so. I think the art of couture is beautiful but I also wonder how many people in the world could really afford these garments and when I see documentaries about slews of $100,000+ gowns hanging in certain women's closets it always makes me stop and think for a moment about what this means the grand scheme of things. It's a complicated issue so I try and appreciate the beauty but never make it too important.
    xo Mary Jo