Gertrude Stein wearing Balmain suit

Horst P. Horst (1906–1999)
Gelatin silver print, 1946
Courtesy Horst P. Horst Estate, Miami

The haute couturier Pierre Balmain was a young man when Stein and Toklas frequented his mother’s fashion boutique in Aix-les-Bains. By 1941 he was designing and making them the warm clothes that they wore through the war years, and he became a significant member of their late circle of friends. When Balmain opened his own fashion house in Paris in the fall of 1945, he invited Stein and Toklas to the opening and asked them to help him find American clients for his new venture. Soon thereafter, Balmain designed a beautiful outfit for Stein bearing his own house label. Toklas described it as “an imperial evening suit of brown velvet heavily embroidered in jet [frogging] and a heavenly embroidered jet cap from which a long tassel flowed.”