(Rose 8) – Parisian Roses: Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi?

Parisian fashion loves to impose structure and absurdity on beauty in about equal parts.  Don’t ask me why.

Oh well, go ahead. Ask me why.

Maybe it’s the French love of logic that requires the structure, and possibly the fondness they have for the offbeat that imposes the absurdity, cf Frenchie Bulldogs, the whole concept of the Jolie Laide, and Jerry Lewis.

The cumulative effect is at once mannered and a little strange, and so it is with that most Parisian of florals, the rose bouquet.  To be French the bouquets must be extravagant in their rosiness, but to be chic, they must impose just a little peculiarity on their inhalers. 

Joy perhaps is the quintessential example, composed by Henri Almeras in 1930 for Jean Patou and famously made from a horrendously expensive formula which practically emptied Grasse of roses and a great deal of jasmine besides.  Joy was permission for wealthy ladies to conspicuously consume during the Depression years, and somebody must have, because it has been with us ever since.

The oddity in Joy, if you’ve ever smelled the scent, is the way that it breaks down on different skins.  On some people Joy is nearly all roses, and on others Joy is nearly all civet.  I can attest to the fact that it can take another route altogether and in the eau de parfum, become largely Spring flowers followed by jasmine, jasmine, and still more jasmine. I have yet to detect any rose in Joy because the rose always disappears on my skin.  This impression is now complicated by different formulations  required because of changing regulations on ingredients; but re-formulations have long been a fact of life for classic scents.

Even Jean Kerleo  (in house perfumer at Jean Patou for many years) did another version of the Eau de Toilette of Joy in 1984 to create a more wearable option, as he explained in a 2005 interview with the Financial Times.  So the effects of Joy on skin are rather unpredictable, but Joy is quintessentially a perfume that needs skin to bloom.  It is not suited to fabric or paper.

Paris done by Sophia Grojsman in1984 is another iconic rose bouquet.   Much rosier than Joy, and because it probably contains more synthetics,  more stable on skin, Paris has an expansive effect on your clothing as well.  The formula belongs to the period of time when perfumers dizzied the public with notes.  They are listed as: Rose petals, orange blossom, mimosa, cassia, hawthorn, nasturtium, bergamot, greens and hyacinth in the head, followed by: Rose, violet leaves, jasmine, orris, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, lily, linden blossom and in the base: Sandalwood, amber, musk, moss, cedarwood, heliotrope.  I don’t honestly know from most of that, to me, to the public at large I think, Paris smells of roses, and  does so in a predictably lovely way.  A favorite of many people, and rightly so, there is very little strangeness in the scent, only the linden blossom protrudes, to my mind rather oddly, and gives the perfume a charming, slightly rural touch, not that there is much that’s rural in cosmopolite Paris, but perhaps there are a lot of linden trees in the Bois de Boulogne?

Finally, there is Caron’s Bellodgia from 1927.  That to my mind is hands down the chicest of the options listed here.  Never mind the extravagance of Joy or the conventional loveliness of Paris, Bellodgia is  the perfume of the woman who can make anything look good simply by scrutinizing it for two minutes and then slinging it over her shoulders.   She has no respect for labels, and none for provenance either, she makes clothes work for her, not the other way around.  She is the cool girl and she annoys the rest of us who simply pray to button our pants every day.

Bellodgia however, is the cool girl’s perfume.  The formula is simple and warm: rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, then carnation all the way home. (However, please note that the Bellodgia I wore has been re-formulated to come into compliance with IFRA  restrictions on rose oil and eugenol, and now features vanilla in the dry down. The rose note is consequently much smaller.) The CG wears Bellodgia anyplace to do anything and never apologizes for it, because Bellodgia is likeable and versatile.

If there is anything off plumb in this perfume, it is the green transition between roses and carnations, when the lily of the valley note tends to interrupt the strong pink tonalities of the fragrance like some Lily Pulitzer designed fabric cutting the hot pink with splotches of lime green, but the strangeness is passing.  Bellodgia in a word, is jaunty.  Like all Caron perfumes, it needs to be smelled in extract form.  Just don’t bother with the eau de toilette.

By now you’ve grasped the meaning of the title of this post.  All of these perfumes are in their different ways seductive.  That by the by, is the difference between Parisians and all other women. Parisiennes feel it’s incumbent upon them to be seductive.  Who knows, maybe they’re right.  Their rose bouquets are like them: not precisely pretty, not always very nice, but decidedly chic and perennially alluring.

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3 Responses to (Rose 8) – Parisian Roses: Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi?

  1. Mals says:

    I’ve been intrigued by these three grand classics for some time now, but as of this moment, Paris is the only one I found really wearable.

    I have now tried Joy in three formulations (modern edt, 1990s edp, 1950s extrait), and I don’t like it: it is really filthy jasmine on me, with the civet noticeable but the jasmine raunchier. I call it Ho Panties. I tend to like a little bit of civet in my fragrance, and I get on fine with jasmine sambac, but grandiflorum seems for some reason enormously pornoderific.

    Bellodgia I have tried only in vintage parfum, which seemed to have gone off, and in modern edt, which was booooorrrring. I do love real carnations, but it often seems to me that so-called carnation fragrances smell unpleasantly soapy and harsh. I sigh for Malmaison, done to death over its clove note… DSH Oeillets Rouges is so, so lovely – perhaps more “feminine” than Malmaison, but in my book that’s no sin.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Wow, Mals you really hung in there for the ride on the Joy roller coaster. Frankly your description cracked me up. I only wish I had gotten Ho Panties because I have skin that sends every note to Sunday School, and all I ever got from EDP and EDT was jasmine and daffodils! And daffodils! And jasmine that had taken a bath and put on deodorant.

      By the by, I’m thinking they liked those, um, evocative notes over at Patou back in the day. I’ve read that both Patou and his perfumer liked to “get with the ladies” more than somewhat.

      With you on the Malmaison. Does the death of eugenol mean death to all those old spicy carnations? Blacknall

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