A San Sebastian swimwear experience.

Swimwear history San Sebastian.

If in San Sebastian, climb Mount Urgull. Because it’s worth it; for the exercise, the view, military history. And because of the House of History Museum located in the Castillo de la Mota at the top of the 123 m high mountain.

The musem gives the lowdown of San Sebastian coming into being. In an incredibly unique and cool setting. When I was there a display included a 7 min film clip on the arrival of tourism and rise of beach life. Presented in an oral history format, a handful of elderly people tell their experience of how swimwear went from a very “covered” affair to showing more skin than not.

In a fairly recent past, showing “too much” (as judged by the police) was punishable by fine. Then one day, ladies looked like this …

Balenciaga Museum.

Jeanette Johansson @ Balenciaga Museum.

Riding on the UK09 bus from San Sebastian to Getaria it took me 55 min to get there. But who cares – the weather was stunning and so was the scenery. Cantabria has an emerald hue.

Getaria is the home of the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum. Has been for five years. The museum is almost right by the bus stop. Outside escalators from the footpath to the museum takes you there in a sweet style.

Located just below the once-upon-a-time residence of  Marqués and Marquesa of Casa Torres, the latter a mentor in the early days of Balenciaga’s career, the “volumetric and structural concept” of the museum is the creation of Cuban architect Julián Argilagos.  It is a large, long, curved space, trapezoidal in section, complete with an integrated floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Inside the building there are three suspended areas which house the galleries.

I arrive having anticipated an entry fee of €10. Am, however, told that present charge is €5 due to current closure of the temporary exhibition area. Only the permanent exhbition is available to visit, which I consider a real pity. Before proceeding to this section I’m recommended to view a 20 min film about Balenciaga’s life and career.

Unfortunately, there’s a technical hiccup. Sound but nothing to see. A Spanish couple got there before me. They picked Spanish as their preferred language. Once the technical problem had been recitified, I spent 5 min watching the film, Spanish commentary ringing in my ears, yet unable to understand much. Spanish is not my strong point.

As much as I appreciate seeing beautiful people wearing expensive and fashionable clothes in early 20th century San Sebastian (where Balenciaga started his career), I decided to go and check out the exhibition.

At the advise of the receptionist, I work my way to the far end of the galleries on the 1st floor. The exhibition is mainly organised in a chronological order – best to start at the beginning. Each gallery is separated by black sliding glass doors. As you approach you half expect them to be walls, feels like your lucky day when they open …

Balenciaga was a very skilled tailor, the son of a seamstress, he started his tailoring apprenticeship when he was 12. As such he eventually became one of the few Parisian couturiers who could use their own hands to design, cut, and sew the models he devised.

His craftmanship is obvious. Yet, judging by the pieces on display I find his early creations somewhat conservative. Piping appliqué is common. His fascination with historic fashion is obvious.

The second gallery shows his creations by theme. And I think it’s here that the museum’s aim to give visitors insight in the principal characteristcs of Balenciaga’s work shines bright. Features highlighted are his use of embroidery, his “sack silhouette” innovation, the introduction of the concept of volume, experimentation with new fabrics such as Gazar.

Finally, the third gallery is dedicated to Balenciaga’s legacy. Key garments are accompanied by a screen giving a 3D demonstration of the relevant assembly technique. After all, Balenciaga with his mastery of his trade, was referred to the “architect of haute couture” …

I make my way to the exit. The museum is almost empty. I only saw a couple of visitors when walking through the galleries. A group of Asian women appeared to have some sort of race – “how fast can we do the Balenciaga museum?”. In their hurry they failed to see one of the black sliding doors, missing a third of the exhibition.

Some money has clearly been spent on  building the said museum. The construction is very funky. Pity about the initial technical hiccup and language barrier (perhaps this can be organised in a different – read better – manner?). Missing out on the enjoyment of a temporary exhibition was also a disappointment.

On contemplation I still think my visit was worthwhile. Take the opportunity to stroll around the old town of Getaria when you are there.








Flamenco fan.

Flamenco fans.

I made my first acquiantance with a flamenco fan when I was about 10 years old. Someone had bought a souvenir for me. The fan was ivory white, had some pictures on it and was made from plastic. I really liked it. Used it so much it soonishly broke.

Quality wasn’t a keyword. Not as is the case with the ones seen above.

Apparently the first reference to the fan being used in Spain is in the 14th century in the Chronicles of Pedro the First of Aragon. Fans were used for keeping cool but also to fend off insects.

With time they became a fashion accessory. Wealthy people could afford to buy quality – how about hand-painted silk and embroidered works of art?

Came across these at the MARCELINO MENÉNDEZ PELAYO house museum in Santander. Unfortunately, no information about origin and ownership was given …

A peaked cap story.

Jeanette Johansson

I never cease to be amazed by the universal use of headgear back in the days. Every single man on this photo is wearing some form of headwear!

Normally fashion styles start in the upper echelons of society and filtrate their way down the social ladder. Not so with the peaked cap worn by a number of blokes in the front row above; this time it worked the other way around. Working men and their sons set a trend that during the early part of the 20th century was wholeheartedly adopted by ALL men, high and low (at least in Sweden).

How peculiar …


Travel outfit.

Jeanette Johansson

So holiday is beckoning. How about some new clothes? New in my world often equals garments from a 2nd hand shop(s). Didn’t take a  major effort to find these items. As good as new and at bargain price.

Happy holiday to me!

Like mother not like daughter.

Mother and daughter ca 1925.

What a fascinating photo! Girl and grandmother? No. Mother and daughter actually. The former born 1869, the latter 1909. Looking so similar, one gazing to the right the other left, holding arms and hands in a telepathic manner (or choreographed by the photograper).

The source doesn’t say when the image was taken but my guess is some time in the mid 1920s (in Sweden). The daughter looks like she might be in her ealy teens, but is still wearing “girls” clothes typical of this time (often “children” began wearing “adult” clothes after Confirmation). Meaning a knee-length loose fitting pristine white dress with a gathered tier at the bottom and sleeves, opaque black stockings and black shoes.

Meanwhile the mother is wearing an outfit which probably hadn’t changed in style for decades. A no frills black dress (possibly skirt and jacket) with a row of small buttons on the upper chest. Like her daughter she is wearing black shoes.

Times where a-changing. Whilst the mother probably dressed similarily to her mother, the day the daughter seen here moved on from her “girl” clothes, she would most likely be seen in something rather different.

By the way, interesting positioning of the painting in the background …

Image found at the Digitalt Museum website.


Tailor origins.

Tailor origin.

What I learnt today:

Tailoring was a creation of the thirteenth century, when the coat, a walk-in-device, supplanted the climb-in tunic. This novel garment with its new-fangled buttons was put together in sections; hence the tailor, from the french ‘tailler’, to cut.

The existence of the tailor in turn stimulated style and fashion among those able to afford the adroit new artists in cloth.

Source: The Savile Row Story: An Illustrated History by Richard Walker, Prion Press, 1988.


400 years of fashion.

400 years of fashion Bath museum.

If you are in Bath (UK) at any point until 1 January, 2019, why not pop into the Fashion Museum for a dose of era-defining fashion? Four hundred years of fashion time is summarised by 100 ‘star’ objects from the Museum’s extensive collection. This includes shoes.

Whilst you are there, check out the ‘Behind the Scenes‘ display. A great idea, it showcases a century of fashions for women, from Jane Austen delicate white muslin Regency dresses to a World War I khaki drill uniform worn for war work, against a backdrop of the stored collection. Certainly adds depth!