Celebrity Style

Nicole Kidman Wears a Recreation of a Flamenco-Inspired 1950s Balenciaga Gown to the 2024 Met Gala

Photo: Getty Images

Given that the 2024 Met Gala is being thrown in honor of the exhibition “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion”—which aims to bring historical garments, many too delicate to be worn again, back to life through a variety of sensory experiences—it was widely predicted that celebrities would be reviving clothing from designers’ archives for the red carpet. But few delivered on that promise with the same thoughtfulness and theatricality as Nicole Kidman, who hit the flower-filled steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art this evening in an iconic 1950s couture gown by Cristobal Balenciaga—albeit, a recreation.

“The Met Gala’s ‘The Garden of Time’ theme is so beautiful, I think I just fell in love with the idea of kissing a Balenciaga couture gown awake,” Kidman tells Vogue of the dress, which was originally part of Balenciaga’s spring 1951 collection. To fashion fans, the look may be most familiar from an image shot by Richard Avedon for Harper’s Bazaar in their April 1951 issue—an image that Kidman and her team discovered earlier this year. “The black and white gown was immortalized by the great Avedon in a photo we discovered,” says Kidman. “I was planning to work with Richard Avedon, but due to timing, sadly never got the chance.”

Dorian Leigh in the original Balenciaga outfit, photographed by Richard Avedon for Harper’s Bazaar in 1951. Photo: Courtesy of the Richard Avedon Foundation

Worn by Dorian Leigh, arguably considered one of the first supermodels, her dancer-like pose echoed Balenciaga’s inspiration for the gown, which he found in the full, flouncy skirts worn by flamenco dancers in his native country of Spain. Both the original dress and its recreation by Demna feature a white double silk satin bustier worn over a long flared skirt in black, decorated with hand-frayed organza embroidery designed to recall feathers.

The recreation involved an astonishing 800 hours of hand embroidery, with the meticulous application of 3000 feathers using 150 meters of silk organza—each cut by hand, folded, pleated, and finally hand-frayed. (On top of that, another 400 hours of atelier work was spent transforming the original look of two separate pieces into a single piece evening gown.) “The gown creates a natural full circle moment of time—it’s a celebration of Richard’s work that will live on, but also, an acknowledgment of Balenciaga’s artistic vision that continues to seamlessly blend the illusion of past, present, and future,” Kidman adds.

Photo: Courtesy of the Archives Balenciaga Paris
Photo: Courtesy of the Archives Balenciaga Paris

Given Kidman’s playful eye for fashion, however, she and her stylist Jason Bolden were keen to ensure the look was more than just an homage to fashion history. “When it came time to discuss doing my first Met Gala with Nicole, I really wanted to start in a world that inspired her,” says Bolden. “She’s such an artist and is a true collaborator, so the conversation really started with the world of Balenciaga and what Demna was thinking. Nicole was incredibly inspired by this Richard Avedon photo and her story behind it was completely inspiring.”

Photo: Getty Images

As Kidman ascended the steps of the Met, striking a pose to accentuate the dress’s dramatic front, the look was perfectly befitting of a fairy tale princess—a fact that was very much intentional on Kidman’s part. “Ensuring that just like Sleeping Beauty, no dress is truly ever left asleep, I am honored to be wearing Balenciaga’s creation this evening,” she says. “A huge thank you to the exquisite artisans for their commitment to keeping couture alive—and to Anna [Wintour], thank you for bringing us all together to celebrate fashion and art.” If the 2024 Met Gala is all about honoring fashion’s history while bringing it firmly into the present day, Kidman just knocked it out of the park.

This article was originally published on Vogue.com.

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