Tabulous Tastemaker: Pierre Balmain

May 18, 2016

By Tab Byrum


The architecture of movement is how today’s tastemaker, Pierre Balmain, described his work as a fashion designer. Balmain was born on this day 102 years ago in southeastern France, his father was in the drapery business and his mother ran a fashion boutique with her sisters. Pierre’s father died when Pierre was seven years old and he developed his love for couture fashion after spending weekends with his uncle in the resort town of Aix-le-Bains and watching the women and what they were wearing. Balmain did not set out to be a fashion designer, he began studies in Architecture but after visiting the design studio of Edward Molyneux he was offered a job, he later worked in the studio of Lucien Lelong where he met Christian Dior. Pierre Balmain opened his own design house in Paris in 1945 following the end of WWII, he instantly became known for bell-shaped skirts and small waists on his creations, Balmain’s first collection was featured in Vogue magazine and which helped ensure his success. (above image via)


Balmain was one of the first designers to do a great deal of self-promotion, traveling to Australia to promote his clothes as well as setting up an operation in 1950’s America and selling ready-to-wear clothing. He also designed outfits for flight attendants as well as uniforms worn by Olympic athletes at the 1968 Winter Olympics.


Queen Sirkit of Thailand on her 1960 tour of the United States, Balmain designed the Queen’s wardrobe for the trip. (via)

In 1960 Balmain designed a wardrobe for Queen Sirkit of Thailand to wear on her successful tour of the United States and his perfume Vent Vert, created in 1947, was the most popular perfume of the late 1940’s and 50’s. Balmain and his partner, Danish designer Erik Mortensen, were together from 1948 until Balmain’s death, Balmain is also credited with discovering the young Austrian designer, Karl Lagerfeld. Balmain enjoyed great success around the world with his house of fashion, the house of Balmain is still known today for its beautiful clothes. Balmain died in July of 1982 of liver cancer, reportedly he had just finished the sketches for his Fall 1982 collection, he was 68 years old. Here’s to a wonderful Tastemaker whose genius and name live on. Enjoy!!!


Balmain studies a work in progress on a model, 1951. (via)


A Balmain dress from 1950 with bullion fringe as the finishing touch. (via)


This 1953 image shows a Balmain black and beige tweed jacket over a black wool dress. The jacket is trimmed in astrakhan and the model is also wearing an astrakhan stole and hat. (via)


The blue is a Balmain creation from 1951. (via)


A Pierre Balmain ballgown, 1952. (via)


The bodice of a 1953 gown by Balmain. (via)


Balmain drapes and fits a gown on actress Ruth Ford, 1947. (via)


Balmain enters the swinging 60’s with this 1960 creation. (via)


In 1962 satin, feathers, gloves, and high updos were all the rage. (via)


Balmain and a house model pose as she models one of his newest creations. (via)


Audrey Hepburn in her Balmain wedding dress, 1954. (via)


A 1954 evening dress by Pierre Balmain. (via)

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