'Taglioni' evening dress, Pierre Balmain

  • Pierre Balmain

  • Gift of the Société de l’Histoire du Costume
  • Autumn-Winter 1955–1956
  • Orlon and silk satin by Hurel, embroidered with Swarovski 'aurora borealis' crystal rhinestones, coloured thread, foil and coloured glass beads
  • GAL 1983.32.3
  • Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris

The dominant influences of the 1950s were Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga, but Pierre Balmain should not be overlooked: after founding his couture house in 1945 he made a major contribution to the shaping of the female silhouette of the following decade. Trained, like Dior, by Lucien Lelong, he would in turn help budding designers and couturiers, among them Karl Lagerfeld in 1954. Notable for his attentiveness to his clients' aspirations, he developed the 'Jolie Madame' concept: elegance with a discreet hint of insouciance. With its festoons and embroidered bouquets, his silk and cream satin 'Taglioni' evening dress is an excellent illustration of the look. Full-skirted and with an exquisitely cut neckline, it expresses all the charm of a decade entirely devoted to feminine curves. In the classical manner, the bouquets of flowers surround the dress and highlight its sensual forms. Hurel's embroidery – beads, "aurora borealis" crystal, silver thread, paillettes and pink bugles – complement the satin's subtle gleam.