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Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette

The exhibition "Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette" looks at the groundbreaking work of fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga whose innovations in the middle of the 20th century created a radically new silhouette, giving the body freedom of movement and building architectural volumes to create a space around it.

  • Location

    MoMu - Fashion Museum Antwerp

Description of the exhibition

Along with the piooners of haute-couture in the 1920s and 1930s and, later on, designers of the 1980s and 1990s, Balenciaga proved an alternative for the prevailing constructive hourglass silhouette. These "Game Changers" looked at fashion of the 20th century from a new perspective. 

Influential garments from Japan, such as the kimono, liberated women from their tight corsets at the beginning of the 20th century. Fashion designers such as Madeleine Vionnet, Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel shaped this freedom in the 1920s-1930s with technical innovations and modern ideas about femininity. At the end of the 20th century, the boundaries of the female silhouette are further explored by Japanese and Belgian designers such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Ann Demeulemeester, and Martin Margiela. They paved the way for new body shapes and abstract silhouettes, and gave a new interpretation of what could be considered as fashion. 

The central figure of the exhibition is the Basque fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895-1972) who is seen as the pivotal figure between the two periods, the architect of innovation. His patterns and work are the central axis of the exhibition. Each of the designers worked in their own way on similarly innovative ideas and shifted the boundaries of the classic feminine silhouette. 

In this way, fashion becomes more than a sequence of trends; fashion is a way to shape the body, space and movement. Ray Kawakubo's "Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body" SS 1997 collection shows how these new shapes have become a part of the fashion vocabulary. 

The exhibition unites 100 unique couture and ready-to-wear silhouettes by Cristobal Balenciaga, Paul Poiret, Madeleine Vionet, Gabrielle Chanel, but also Issey Miyake, Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela. With loans from prestigious collections of the museum of Fashion Technology Institute in New York, the V&A, MUDE Lisbon, and Musée Galliera. 

Dig deeper

Haute Couture is like an orchestra, whose conductor is Balenciaga. We other couturiers are the musicians and we follow the direction he gives

Christian Dior

Exhibition under the lead of
Curators: Karen Van Godtsehoven & Miren Arzalluz