Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 11, 2018

Balenciaga museum

My main reason to visit Getaria was to see the Balenciaga Museum which was established in the town of the fashion designer’s birth in 2011.

Anyone with an interest in fashion would know of Cristobal Balenciaga. He was the most inspirational clothing designer of the 20th century. Christian Dior referred to him as “The master of us all”. On the day of his death in 1972 Women’s Wear Daily ran the headline “The King is Dead”.


Cristobal Balenciaga was born in Getaria, in Basque Country in northern Spain on January 21, 1895. His father died when he was a child. His mother, Martina Eizaguirre, worked as a seamstress at Bista Ona, the summer residence of the Marquises de Casa Torres, often with her young son by her side. The Marchioness became one of Balenciaga’s first clients years later.

He began an apprenticeship at the age of 12 with a tailor, something which set him apart from other designers later on. He was able to cut fabric, assemble a garment and sew it by hand.

His first boutiques were in San Sebastián, but the Spanish Civil War saw him move to Paris. He opened his Paris couture house in Avenue George V in August 1937.

Harpers Bazaar wrote in 1938…”The best of the school is the new Spanish house Balenciaga. Here black is so black it hits you like a blow. Thick Spanish black, almost velvety, a night without stars, which makes the ordinary black seem almost gray”

The museum is attatched to the villa belonging to the Marquises de Casa Torres in Getaria.



The interior is as elegant as you would expect it to be.

At the entrance is a timeline of his life and a theatre showing a documentary about the designer.

There are more than 1200 pieces in the museum, many supplied by his pupil, Hubert de Givenchy, and the families of clients such as Grace Kelly.

The lighting is low and everything is behind glass, making taking photos difficult. Here are some that are not too bad. This first selection is from 1928 until 1952.




His Spanish heritage was evident in his designs.


His inventiveness became most evident in the post war years. In 1951 he transformed the silhouette, broadening the shoulders and removing the waist. In 1955 he designed the tunic dress which became the chemise in 1957. 1959 brought the empire line and coats like kimonos. The baby doll dress appeared in the late 1950s.  The sack dress was the forerunner of the mini-dress of the 1960s.





His sculptural designs were considered masterworks of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the clothes we think of typical of these decades where his creations.

He closed his couture house in 1968.

In the late 1960s he designed uniforms for Air France.


He died on March 23, 1972.

Unlike many designers of his era (and now) he shunned publicity and gave only 1 interview in his life. He did not appear at the openings of his collections and his clients rarely saw him.

I read an excellent book on his life and work, Master of us All, by Mary Blume. She interviewed Florette Chelot, the first person Balenciaga hired in Paris. She became his top vendeuse and they worked closely together for 30 years. It is a fascinating insight into an interesting life.

My visit to The Balenciaga Museum was a delight. I have a feeling I will be back, there is much to take in.

Opening hours…

November – February…Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 15.00

March – October…Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 19.00

July – August…Open every day 10.00 – 20.00

Admission fee €10


  1. This a real interesting post, thank you Debra.

    • I really enjoyed the museum. He was an amazing designer.

  2. We must visit. Thanks for info Debi

    • The little town is great too.

  3. I am completely blown away! Thank you so much Debra – very kind of you to share.

    • If you research Cristobal Balenciaga further you will see more of his stunning creations.

  4. What a fascinating read! Oh, those dresses…

    • This is just a tiny sample. He made the most stunning clothes.

  5. What a wonderful retrospective of his work! So interesting to see it change throughout the decades.

  6. Absolutely stunning!

    • Once you know his work you can see how other designers have been influenced by him.

  7. Can you imagine how wonderful it would have been to have owned one of those stunning dresses. Lovely!

    • Yes, I would love to have had an original Balenciaga.

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