The Powdering Gown

“Another day I will do the same; I will sit in my library, in my nightcap and powdering gown, and give as much trouble as I can….”

Mr. Bennet,  Pride and Prejudice


What is it that the elite in rising powers crave?  Is it artwork, or fast cars, or precious stones?  It may be all of these things but if history is anything to go by, what they also crave is – powder.

Consider the facts.  Britain, upon becoming the premier naval power in the world and the possessor of an Empire on which the sun never set, and despite an altercation with their American colonists, wore wigs. Powdered wigs.

The French, always coming in second place in the empire sweepstakes until Napoleon, also loved powdered wigs.  Frederick the Great besides his other cultural activities, and in between conquering large tracts of central Europe, yes, you’ve guessed it, powdered his wig.  There must be some connection between powderiness and the acquisition of wealth and power that has previously eluded astute historical observers, but not any more.

Nonsense, you say?  But think about it-  what did millions of U.S. mothers do after World War Two?  They powdered their boomer babies’ bottoms, that’s what.  As to the popular perfumes of mid century America they were Heaven Scent (powder), Chanel No 5, (powder) and when the late seventies rolled along, White Linen (more powder).  It was only when U.S. power began to decline that ladies in the States turned to vanilla and resins and florals and abandoned powder.

Powder and power are positively correlated the one to the other.  So what do they wear in China?

There’s no great tradition of scent in the Middle Kingdom, and marketers from the larger western companies are working over time to introduce the product.  Currently  Chinese tastes run to light and flowery, and to prestige brands.

But the market is young and tastes aren’t fixed.  How will the new generation of powdery perfumes- scents like Love Chloe – do in Shanghai?

I predict very well.  China is a humid country and I’ll just bet that what the public will find a taste for is – powder.


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  1. Pingback: The 1912 Overture Part II | aperfumeblog by Blacknall Allen

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