Thursday, January 12, 2012

Balmain Jolie Madame (vintage perfume)





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

22 comments:

  1. Marvelous. I couldn't agree more that a man could rock Jolie Madame if he were adventurous enough. But do we want to share what's left of the vintage JM with them? Hm.

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  2. I love Jolie Madame, have a few drops of the vintage. It's gorgeous!

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  3. Thank's for the review on my favorite perfume. I bought my first bottle when I was a teen travelling abroad, and it is just so good, I still love it twenty something years later... If Tom Ford's Violet Blonde smells something like it, I am gonna try it!

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  4. Those French ads are exquisite. You'd still see old-school ads like that well into the '80s, but unfortunately now everything is very graphical (if not graphic as well) and lacking for subtlety. I just love the way those ads impart as much mystery as the scent itself.

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  5. I used to wear this ... and loved it. I have learned that even the writing about a scent brings back memories. As a result you continue to bring back many for me. Those memories are surely more fleeting that the memories that the scent when smelled bring back. They are a joy just the same. Thank you.

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  6. Ah!... I had a fairly recent EdT of Jolie Madame, but a few months ago I came across a nearly full and definitely old bottle of parfum on the window of a vintage shop (at a very reasonable price). I was almost afraid to open it, but when I did, I was delighted to discover that it was actually a sealed bottle! That was my best perfume find ever. The scent has lost perhaps a little bit of staying power, but the beauty and the depth of it are absolutely breathtaking. It's the kind of thing that makes you smell your wrist obsessively.

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  7. Olenska, that's a very good question! My husband rarely gets near my precious vintage perfumes and that's probably for the best.

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  8. Elizabeth, I wish the vintage was easier to find and acquire in quantities that would allow me to wear it regularly.

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  9. Solanace, no other perfume smells even close; I mentioned Cuir Amethyste and Black Violet (not Violet Blonde which is muskier and softer) more as a reference for adventurous guys who may want to give this a try. Jolie Madame is so much better than just about anything else.

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  10. Dain, I pine for another bottle. Or three.

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  11. LuxeBytes, I agree. Not to mention the artists who created some of the ads. Rene Gruau illustrations were amazing.

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  12. Raven, that's one of the pleasures in vintage perfumes. They take you to other times and places. Sort of like music.

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  13. Patuxxa, I've had some amazing finds in vintage shops. It's even better when the price is reasonable and you can buy these gems with no guilt and regret.

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  14. I have a bottle of vintage JM EDT. The animalics in it and the vintage Cabochard I have are awesome to behold. Too bad they banned that stuff.

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  15. I purchased my first bottle of Jolie Madame in 1962. My BFF and I had been reading James Bond novels that summer and had come across Vent Vert. So, with the illusion of being budding young Bond Girls, we went in search of it. It smelled lovely on my friend and had a sparkle that was well suited to her. But on me? Terrible! The SA, though, said not to worry because she had an even better scent to go with my sultry coloring--Jolie Madame. It was perfect! And, although I've changed throughout the decades, it's remained one of my all time favorites.

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  16. I just borrowed a book about Cristobal...love the images. He made the most gorgeous coats. The dropped shoulder peacoats is the shizzle in Denmark. COS has a lot of very 1960's Balmain-ish wool coats. Glorious. Have always wondered how that perfume smells.

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  17. Do you mean Black Orchid or Violet Blonde (instead of Black Violet)?

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  18. Rednails, vintage Cabochard is definitely favorite. I think I'll wear it tonight.

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  19. Ida, Balenciaga coats are amazingly structured. Each one is like a sculpture that has movement and grace. They used to say that to wear Dior you needed to have a waist but to wear Balenciaga required a personality.

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  20. Eileen, Vent Vert is so mouth-puckering green that I completely get why it won't work on some. I love it and wear all three formulations, but it doesn't come even close to the sexy Jolie Madame.

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  21. Jennifer, I really meant Black Violet from Tom Ford's Private Blend: http://www.thenonblonde.com/2009/12/tom-ford-private-blend-black-violet.html

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