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, okadi.com (I arranged them over assorted photos from Truman Capote's Black & White Ball, the society pages of an 1960 Vogue)
Balmain 1951 fashion from myvintagevogue.com