In case you missed it, I'm holding a giveaway for a full bottle of Aviation Club by Parfums Monsillage. Don't forget to enter it.Pierre Balmain's gowns and suits are a big part of the reason many of us (admittedly, mostly those who were not even born then) have a nostalgic twinge for the aesthetics of the 1950s. That is, Balmains clothes and perfumes. Jolie Madame, the 1953 Germaine Cellier creation, is all that we yearn for in regard to that era, exquisitely bottled.
Jolie Madame smells different depending on vintage and concentration. I don't think I've ever come across a bad version, but I didn't know just how good it was until I found a very old extrait bottle with a glass stopper and a long dauber. This one connected me immediately to all those gowns and gloves, a world where Elizabeth II was newly crowned, Dovima wore Balenciaga and Audrey floated in Givenchy while on this side of the world George Burns and Gracie Allen said Goodnight and Lucy had lots of 'splaining to do.
Perfectly coiffed ladies on both side of the Atlantic smelled of leather, smoke and violets. Balmain's Jolie Madame epitomizes all that. The leather is almost creamy (none of Cellier's Bandit dominatrix), like an expensive and timeless purse. It's also heavily animalic in a way that would make today's department store shoppers weep into their Marc Jacobs bags. A man could probably wear it just as easily today, especially if he's comfortable with somewhat fruity violet notes (think Armani Cuir Amethyste and Tom Ford Black Violet). Vintage Jolie Madame is also recognizably a chypre, with that green but slightly dried and smoked mossy thing I also smell in Bandit and possibly some galbanum.
Wearing Jolie Madame brings me a lot of joy. It puts a spring in my step and reminds me of beauty and passion far beyond my immediate grasp. One can dream, though.
Blamain Jolie Madame perfume ads from the 1950s and 60s: hprints.com
Balmain fashion ads: myvintagevogue.com