Pierre Balmain (1914-82) was one of the most respected and admired of the Parisian couturiers of the 1950s and 60s. Trained under both Molyneux and Lucien Lelong, he opened his house in 1946, becoming a rival to Dior and Balenciaga. The flyleaf of his autobiography: 'Pierre Balmain, my years and seasons' which was published in 1964, starts 'In the couture world, the name of Balmain is synonymous with elegance', and ends with a direct quote from Balmain himself: 'To be a couturier is to impose on millions of women a whole way of life'. Parisian couture in the 1950s certainly influenced fashion generally throughout Europe, and this continued into the 1960s, but by 1970, cheaper clothing and younger role models were threatening the whole edifice.
This black mini dress shows Balmain at his most provocative and 'moderne'. It has cut out daisy-discs which show through to the flesh below. The earlier outfit below is typical of Balmain at the height of his powers in 1957 and was commissioned by the Manchester-based Cotton Board. The original press release photograph shows the elegance of the outfit, which has a stole in the same print but with a contrasting green ground instead of the truquoise of the dress. The last image shows a wedding dress by Balmain from 1967, again showing classic simple cut and unfussy decoration.
Full item descriptions:
"mini dress" [2007.37], Pierre Balmain, Paris
"cocktail dress & stole" [1959.104/3], Pierre Balmain, Paris, Ascher, Zita
"wedding dress" [2001.127], Pierre Balmain, Paris