I already had the feeling that this fashion exhibition would have some flamenco in store for me. And it did! Let me guide you through ‘Hubert de Givenchy. To Audrey with love’ in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague to take a look at some fabulous flamenco-inspired designs.
This exhibition has been co-curated by French designer Hubert Givenchy as an homage to his muse Audrey Hepburn, who became a world famous actress and fashion icon wearing his designs in movies like ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ (1961) and ‘How to steal a Million'(1966). Several of the garments on display seem inspired by either flamenco fashion or Spanish folklore dress.
The ‘Bettina Blouse’ and skirt, cotton, linen, summer 1952 by Givenchy. Photo: Hannet Engel
The first design in the exhibition that strikes me as very flamenco is the so called ‘Bettina Blouse. It is an iconic piece from Givenchy’s first collection of ‘separates’. These were easy to wear individual garments that could be combined in various ways. It was couture with a modern approach, preluding the later prêt-a-porter trends. The cotton blouse was named after Italian topmodel Bettina Graziani and illustrated by René Gruau for L’Officiel (see photo above).
The tiers of ruffles down Bettina’s sleeves give the blouse a dramatic touch very reminiscent of flamenco dress. Ruffles have decorated flamenco sleeves and skirts for centuries and became characteristic for dance professionals like Carmen Amaya or ‘La Argentina’ in the beginning of the 20th century.
I am not sure where exactly Givenchy got the inspiration for the Bettina blouse. But his greatest example was Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. In Balenciaga’s designs the influences from flamenco and Spanish fashion are very apparent and present throughout his work. In Givenchy’s designs they seem a little less obvious, but recognisable nonetheless. Hubert de Givenchy cited his role model Balenciaga in an interview in 2010 when he said: “A ruffle must be intelligent.” Indicating that ruffles are more than just decoration, but they had to be an integral part of the silhouette of a garment.
Nowadays tiers and ruffles are still the most characteristic features in flamenco costume for women. I love the festiveness they transmit. Modern day dancers still love to wear ruffles and especially at the end of a skirt. It enhances the effect of the flowing dance movements and emphasises the hourglass figure of the female dancer. Ruffles in tiers originally come from the traditional Andalusian festive dress called traje de flamenca. When flamenco became a professional performing art in the nineteenth century it used this traditional Andalusian style for costume design.
Modern day flamenco ruffles. Dancer ‘La Pastora’. Photo: Marjon Broeks ©
And Andalusian fashion is still a flourishing business in southern Spain. ‘Lina Sevilla’ is one of the leading fashion designers for these flamenco-style dresses and the 2017 collection is very much inspired by the tradition of stiff frills and billowy sleeves from the sixties and seventies, like we see in the Bettina Blouse.
Collection ‘traje de flamenca’ 2017, Lina Sevilla 1960.
Photo: Benito Herrera, Deinm Estudio, Cien x Cien Studio y Chema Soler.
Dot dot dot
The exhibition showed even more outfits that I suspect have been inspired by flamenco fashion and bullfighters’ wear. And these were part of Audrey Hepburns’ wardrobe. The bolero jacket, high waist, tasseled shoulders and embroidery alongside the pants are all elements from Spanish folklore dress and bullfighter fashion. Polkadots are also very flamenco of course, but I will have to venture into flamenco fashion some more to find out about the origins of that specific element…
And then, as I was about to leave the last room of the exhibition, a small miracle happened. The all time greatest flamenco hit ‘Entre dos aguas’ by guitarist Paco de Lucía started playing, as if to say: flamenco is always, everywhere and ever-present. Enjoy!
26 november 2016 t/m 26 maart 2017
HUBERT DE GIVENCHY
- Hamish Bowles, Balenciaga and Spain, New York 2011
- Madelief Hohé e.a., Hubert de Givenchy. To Audrey with Love, Zwolle 2016