Friday, January 14, 2011

Balmain- Miss Balmain (Vintage Extrait de Parfum)

I used to spend many a Friday night watching old movies during my nerdy tween years and awkward adolescence .  I loved hearing the dialog, looking at the  dressed and bejeweled, decidedly grownup couples dancing to some beautiful music. Smelling and wearing Miss Balmain makes me think of the magic these party scenes held for me, hoping to be just like them, live in the city, wear beautiful dresses and hang out with other people in vintage clothes. Well, at least when I wasn't too busy trying to be Madonna.

But back to Miss Balmain. It was released in 1967 but could have easily been the product of a the previous decade or two. A Germaine Cellier creation, it's a dry floral-leather chypre that seems related to Cellier's 1947 Bandit. Given these characteristics it's quite amusing to realize that Miss Balmain was created and released for the young market, the daughters of the ladies wearing  Cellier's 1953 Jolie Madame. While Jolie Madame is quite heavy and violet-sweet, Miss Balmain is crisp and and somewhat... cynical. It might be entirely in my head, but I think of this mother-daughter thing as a clash between the 1950s woman and her daughter who is about to come of age in the 1960s. She's rejecting the little white gloves, the pearls and the hats, but hasn't quite reached Woodstock.

And that's a very good thing, because the more well-dressed and coiffed romance of the 1960s, the magic of perfumes like Caleche, Azuree or Norell is based on these chypres. Miss Balmain is closest to Azuree, I think, but these impressions rely on which version/vintage/formulation one holds in his or her hand. My bottle of the vintage extrait opens with a light touch of aldehydes (the husband classifies it as "smells a little vintage but not too bad" and actually loves it on me once the aldehydes are fully gone). It's green and spicy- not astringent as Vent Vert, but still holds it own, thanks to something that smells like hay and tobacco (neither one is listed, so who knows). The heart is floral but dry- orris, narcissus and jonquil, and reminds me a little of the modern version Bandit in extrait de parfum. The dry-down is all business- an animalic leather chypre, all oakmoss, vetiver and who knows what else (since it's a vintage bottle I might not want to know for sure). This young lady doesn't have a curfew or rules about boys in her bedroom.

The extrait of Miss Balmain has been gone for a while. The EDT is widely available for $30 or less, but I have no idea what's been done to the current formula.

Miss Balmain perfume ads from 1967-1973, (I arranged them over assorted photos from Truman Capote's Black & White Ball, the society pages of an 1960 Vogue)
Balmain 1951 fashion from


  1. Oh wow, Gaia, how psychic! Just last night I ordered samples of Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame because they're in so many 'leathery chypre' lists and I'm Addicted FOREVER & EVER to Bandit. Thanks for yet another lyrical and insightful review! :)

  2. I have several iterations of Miss Balmain (and am a devoted vintage Jolie M wearer). They are both very structured and I like that they add a touch of polish to my toilette. The contemporary scent that comes closest, imo, is Malle's Fleur de Cassie. I cannot imagine wearing it with scruffy sweats or jeans.

    Lovely review! Thank you!


  3. Ah, the days when Balmain wasn't sinonym with bedazzled blazers - which I have nothing against, but Michael Jackson did that, like, 30 years ago...

    I was incredibly lucky to find a still sealed extrait of Jolie Madame a couple of months ago in a vintage store, for a ridiculously low price. I still lack the courage to open it but I definitely will soon! Perfume is meant to be worn and sensed, just as wine is meant to be savored: none are honored by gathering dust on a shelf...

  4. I loved loved loved Miss Balmain so much. Is there anything else out there that smells more or less similar?


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