Fashion Blog Series: Balmain
The Valentine’s extensive textile collection contains many beautiful pieces by many famous designers. Several of French fashion designer Pierre Balmain’s beautiful pieces are included in this collection. His designs included evening dresses, tailored suits, sportswear, and stoles, but eveningwear was his first love. This blog post, from Jackie Mullins, introduces use to Balmain and showcases some of his amazing work.
Gertrude Stein attended Balmain’s first show; afterwards they became good friends and she wrote about him in Vogue in 1945, “He made us beautiful, warm outfits [near the end of World War II] and a wonderfully warm coat, and Alice Toklas insists that one of her outfits was just as beautiful as all those that he presented on his opening night…”. His designs included evening dresses, tailored suits, sportswear, and stoles, but eveningwear was his first love.
Balmain’s simple elegance shone through in eveningwear examples such as this velvet evening dress from 1952 trimmed with black taffeta ruffles down the left side.
Balmain consistently quenched the thirst for luxurious fashion following World War II. He however preferred pale, gentle colors and lace as seen in this delicate cocktail dress of 1952 made of tan floral weave lace which exemplifies his desire to make every woman feel feminine – like a delicate flower.
While most well known for his eveningwear, he also understood the necessity for practical daywear such as this black wool suit featuring a slight peplum skirt trimmed with braid as well as this grey herringbone checked weave jacket. Both were reflect the popular slender silhouette of the 1950s.
He once said, “Keep to the basic principles of fashion and you will always be in harmony with the latest trends without falling prey to them”. This philosophy rang true for the House of Balmain, even after his death in 1982 as evident in this example which fell in line with the glamorous return of the shoulder pad in women’s fashion.
This dress seems to leap from an episode of the popular 1980s serial drama Dynasty with its plunging V at the back, beaded waistline and draped hip. All true to Balmain’s desire for femininity and structure.