Jolie Madame, Balmain’s Iconic Collection

A perfume paved the way for Pierre Balmain’s couture – a scent called Jolie Madame, which later gave its name to the 1952 haute couture collection.

1945. Paris was just emerging from the Second World War when Pierre Balmain founded his studio at 44 rue François 1st in Paris. Formerly of Lucien Lelong and Edward Molyneux, Balmain soon established himself as one of the masters of sewing. On October 12 of that same year, the designer presented his very first collection. The critics are unanimous: the sober but graphic use of fabrics mixing green, brown, red and lavender gives off a most attractive refinement. In 1949, Balmain published its very first perfume – called Jolie Madame, the designer captured “the scent of adventure for evenings of passion and enchantment.”

In reality, the Jolie Madame scent distilled the spooky spirit and the atmosphere of Parisian nights after the war. Its composition, the fragrance borrows directly from the image of female sensuality. It is the family of floral chypres which is associated with clove with orange blossom with jasmine or even patchouli. Intense notes for a fragrance synonymous with elegance and sophistication!

The success is such, the perfume is so right that in anticipation of Autumn/Winter 1952, Pierre Balmain names his collection ‘Jolie Madame’. From then on, the Balmain style became essential and, with it, embroidery, the shoulder pads and the waisted waist became the visual codes of a new woman. Many celebrities then favored the ‘Jolie Madame’ silhouettes. Little dresses with a twist and short veils for cocktails, the Parisian style was born at the same time as the golden age of couture made Paris shine!

This return to opulence, to the charm and elegance of noble materials because rare, precious because highly worked, is quickly defined as being “the new French style” by the mythical Gertrude Stein, in Vogue magazine. Just look at the ‘Jolie Madame’ ball gown from 1954. Cut from bright blue satin; the creamy opulence. On the couture side, the Balmain tailors appear straight, the houndstooth woven that has become emblematic. This iconic collection is full of historic pieces – the large ball gowns, coolie jackets, and ermine evening skirts are all pieces that enter the most legendary locker rooms. Soon, Balmain’s Pretty Madame developed like an active and somewhat insolent woman.

Between 1993 and July 2002, Oscar de la Renta took over the artistic direction of the house and, with the talent we all know, remained faithful to the essence of Pierre Balmain’s Jolie Madame couture. But at the dawn of the 2000s, the label entered a most desired modernity: with Christophe Decarnin then Olivier Rousteing, the Jolie Madame by Balmain became as sexy a woman as possible, sporting elegant and sumptuous pieces, cut with cord in luxurious and luxuriously embroidered materials.

And when we question the parentage between Olivier Rousteing and this emblematic collection of Pierre Balmain, often accusing the talent of uncontrolled opulence, the artistic director has something to say: “My Balmain wife is however a very French woman. The French style is not only that of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. My version of France is the flamboyance of Versailles, the magic of the City of Lights. Poiret, Balmain, Dior, Balenciaga. They all worked on opulence. The Eiffel Tower is the opposite of minimalism! Likewise, the Jolie Madame style is the opposite of gloom.