From Katharine Hepburn to Brigitte Bardot, the French couturier became the go-to costume designer for iconic Hollywood actresses of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Pierre Balmain with Brigitte Bardot for a fitting for "Her Bridal Night."
Born in a small town in the Savoie region of France, Pierre Balmain always knew he wanted to dedicate his life to fashion, however, he went on to study architecture in Paris. In the late 1930s, he released his first collection as an apprentice to designer Lucien Lelong. His designs consisted of straight cuts, simple lines, and classic patterns that soon captivated the eye of women worldwide.
Throughout his career, Balmain built valuable relationships with Hollywood’s elite, dressing prominent actresses both on and off the screen. Balmain’s glamorous designs are memorialized in films including The Millionairess featuring Katharine Hepburn and Her Bridal Night starring Brigitte Bardot. The designer went on to earn costume credits for over 50 films.
Today, he is remembered as one of the first French couturiers who influenced how we perceive high fashion.
Her Bridal Night (1956) follows the story of ChouChou, a country girl that gets discovered by a fashion magazine. Starring French actress Brigitte Bardot, the film features Balmain’s exquisite and timeless designs. In one scene, Bardot wears a beautifully made bridal gown with appliques and tulle.
Bardot and Balmain came together again for 1956's And God Created Woman. The French actress was widely acclaimed for her role as Juliete Hardy in the romantic movie. Although the film featured more casual and daytime looks, Balmain was the costume designer behind the one-piece jumpsuits and dresses worn by Bardot.
Outfitting Bardot once again, Balmain created the costumes for Love Is My Profession (1958) in which the actress plays trouble-making woman who is charged with robbery and finds herself entangled in a romance with her lawyer.
True to their friendship, Balmain costumed Katherine Hepburn for her role in the 1952 play The Millionairess which ran for 10 weeks at the New Theatre in London’s West End. One of her most iconic looks is a beautifully embroidered gown designed by Balmain, with embroidered gloves to match.
When a film adaptation of the play was made, Balmain was again tapped for the costumes. Sophia Loren starred in the movie version of The Millionairess wearing an emblematic pink Balmain dress. The designer costumed the Italian star in extravagant looks paired with dazzling jewelry to embody her character Epifania, the wealthiest woman in the world.
For some film Projects, Balmain was enlisted to create the costumes for a specific character. In this case, he dressed leading lady Rita Hayworth for the comedy-crime movie The Happy Thieves (1961). Her looks consisted of separates with Balmain's signature tailoring.
Balmain's penchant for glamour was on full display for Cyd Charisse's costumes in Two Weeks in Another Town (1962). From bold yellow to retro green, the actress' color palette stood out on screen. One unforgettable look featured dripping beading paired with a gorgeous pearl necklace.
Balmain took a laidback yet elegant approach for the costumes in Joy House, a French mystery-thriller. In the film, Jane Fonda plays Carlotta, one of two wealthy women who own a villa that a petty criminal happens upon. The actress' outfits embrace Balmain's effortless French chic.