Nicknamed “the King,” “the master of us all” and “the only true couturier” by the fashion industry, Cristóbal Balenciaga needs no introduction. Active in Paris between the late 1930s and the 1960s, this elegant Spaniard ruled the fashion industry and inspired the likes of Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. A 1927 photoshoot by Boris Lipnitzki, taken while the designer was still operating out of Spain, demonstrates that the young Balenciaga was already a very beautiful dresser. Arms resting in his lap or poised on the surface of a couch or piano, he strikes a truly dapper figure with an old-school style rarely seen today. His double-breasted suit may be loose by today’s standards but it fits perfectly in a luxurious, rippling kind of way.
According to The Daily Telegraph, a Balenciaga suit in the 1960s “fitted the body with a supple ease.” Judging by the elegant looseness of the designer’s suit in the 1927 photographs, Balenciaga favored a more relaxed, though far from baggy, fit. The effect is one of effortless elegance, a lovely style that makes a change from all the slim or skinny fit suits around today. The suit’s lines are all pretty straight, with enough room to give the impression that the fabric is draped across the body. Even his handkerchief overflows from his jacket pocket, not stuffed in tight as men wear them today. Apparently, he didn’t like clothes to constrict the body, a characteristic that’s clearly absent from the suits in these old photographs. All this has led me to wonder if – when our preference for tight, modish suits gets old – perhaps the long, straight, flowing, Balenciaga silhouette could form the basis for the suit of the future. It would be a welcome change.