PaperCity Magazine

November 2018- Dallas

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79 diamond-shaped pattern. It's a brilliant optical illusion, something for which Balenciaga himself was famous, with his mastery of tailoring and deft hand at architecting shape. There is an elegant man among us. He has an unkempt beard, wears cutoff shorts, and a pair of Balenciaga tennis shoes. His look is that of a youthful hipster, but his role here is every inch academic — and his soft- spoken, calculated demeanor says that in spades. This is Gaspard de Massé, head of the archives for the house of Balenciaga — one of few people on the planet with uninhibited access to Cristóbal Balenciaga's closely guarded oeuvre, housed in an anonymous space somewhere in Paris. His knowledge of Balenciaga's world is about as intimate as it comes. A few of the Kimbell's curators glide through, examining the position of a mannequin inside its vitrine, whispering about the next dress to be unpacked, waiting for their turn in the process of what is called mannequinage. This method of handling museum- quality garments and fitting them to a mannequin for formal display is the finest of arts — and the intensity of the process is felt as just a few hands spend countless hours over the course of a week making sure each of the garments on view is fitted, nipped, and tucked so precisely that it appears to have the same shape, volume, and life as if it were worn by a living woman. The tools of the trade are simple: sharpened scissors, needles and thread for adjustments and alterations, reams of foam to mold into an accentuated bust or hip, and several large Ping-Pong tables (sans net) that have been altered slightly to act as staging tables for the garments — their final resting place before coming to exhibition life. THESE PIECES ARE ONE-OF-A-KIND IN THE TRUEST SENSE, DOWN TO THE LENGTH OF THE HEM, THE WIDTH OF A SLEEVE, THE NIP IN THE WAIST — ALL FOR THE FIT OF ONE SINGULAR WOMAN. Véronique Belloir Gaspard de Massé Mannequins at the Kimbell Art Museum await their garments.

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