French fashion designer Pierre Balmain was born on May 18, 1913. He dropped out of his architecture studies because he spent all his time designing dresses, which fortunately led to a job with Edward Molyneux. After the war, he opened his own fashion house where he designed dresses with tiny waist and full skirts. Sounds like Dior’s New Look? It should – except it was two years before Dior! He also popularized stoles for day wear (not such a good idea) and sheath dresses with jackets (still just fine). His designs were all about elegant simplicity. He designed for Brodaway, films (including And God Created Woman, starring Brigitte Bardot, which is famous for what she isn’t wearing!). He died in 1982, but the fashion house is still going strong.
Today’s expression, avant la lettre (avah lah lettruh) literally means “before the letter” but figuratively means “ahead of one’s time” just like Balmain. He invented the classic silhouette two years before it caused an international sensation under another label.