What Rebecca Wore

One December about a decade ago I heard an increasingly annoyed exchange between an old gentleman and one of the SA s at a branch of Douglas perfumes.  The subject was Caron’s Bellodgia.  She said here’s the bottle and he said no, not the eau de toilette, I want the perfume!

The SA could be excused for thinking him a bit eccentric.  He was clearly at least in his seventies and no doubt he was getting picayune about something that didn’t matter.  The fuss, the codgery, the annoyance all had to do with the fact that he wanted to buy his wife a bottle of Bellodgia for Christmas.  It was her favorite and he wanted the right kind, and they were a perfume shop, so why didn’t they have it? And if they didn’t have it, why didn’t they order it?  Honestly, did he have to tell them their business?

Even I thought he was being too particular.

Ah, but I was so naive then, and I’m cynical and savvy now. I realize now that with Carons, the extract is the business.  You really need to buy it in that form.

Oh, I suppose some of the masculines are okay as edts, but for the good stuff from Caron, you must get extract.

I wear Bellodgia and I have done for years, even though my dog hated it. But here’s the point – I wore it in eau de parfum.  You could still get that around the turn of the century, and now your choices are stark: extract or EDT.  My Bellodgia was a triple-distilled floral first rose, then lily of the valley and then a grand finale of carnations.

BUT – now that I have the old extract that Meg of Parfumieren and I found in an antique shop, well, I know why that gentleman’s wife was so insistent on the extract.

You see it’s a much more complicated story; the difference between being the drab little Joan Fontaine of Rebecca and being Rebecca herself. In other words, all the difference in the world.  The first version is fresh and slender and rather naïve, a bit of a ninny really, but the second is rich and flamboyant and decadent, with taste and seduction part of the package. Smelling like this you feel that self assurance must come with the territory of being you.  There is the invisible bouquet walking about with you, huge and extravagant and the sort of tribute you receive on a weekly basis from the men who end up enslaved by you and your intoxicating chic and wit and – oh wait, I have to take my kid to the orthodontist.

This is what the old extract does, it transforms you into to that supremely successful and wicked woman that Rebecca was and out of the schlumpy reality that, let’s face it, most of us inhabit.

Mind you, I’d rather be taking my kid to the orthodontist than grappling with an insane housekeeper, or an aloof husband, in a lovely mausoleum of an estate, but I don’t mind dressing up in all that glamor for an afternoon, and that’s what Bellodgia in extract does for you. It’s almost worth re-writing Jane Eyre for, all over again.

Be Sociable, Share!

6 thoughts on “What Rebecca Wore

  1. Love Rebecca. And the vintage Bellodgia is gorgeous, generous, confident. (If I’m reading this handwritten label correctly, it says “parfum de cologne.” Huh. But then, as I say, it’s also labeled “vintage.”)

    • Never understand what parfum de cologne means either. and keep seeing it on yes ,naturally, EBay, when prowling about auctions. Is it cologne? Is it edt is it neither one? I’m going to have to find out. With Bellodgia it’s the old extract that is the bomb.

    • Having written this post I got an impulse to re-read Rebecca, and of course right before the hurricane someone had checked it out of the library and the Nook powered down. But do try some Bellodgia, vintage if you can find it!

  2. I have been enjoying reading your blog for a few months now and, recently, have felt the inclination to comment. But neither my love for Golconda, nor my disappointing experience planting a Clematis paniculata, in New Jersey was quite sufficient to impel me to do so.

    But–desperately seeking something to read Thursday night–I picked up Rebecca for the first time in many, many years, to find this post the next time I checked your blog! That was enough to break the activation energy for commenting. I loved and wore Bellodgia long ago; my recent experience with the current EDT was disappointing–I shall check out the extract when I get a chance.

    There’s a scene in the book where the nameless second Mrs deW discovers Rebecca’s crumpled handkerchief in the pocket of an old raincoat. She describes it as smelling of azalea. None of the azaleas I have encountered had any scent–wondering if you are familiar with any of the scented varieties (and if they smell anything like Bellodgia, past or present).

    • Hi Liza, So glad you decided to comment! I must say the comments are one of the most rewarding parts of blogging, hearing what readers think. You are on average, a very well read crowd.
      Anyway, yes, I remember that scene in Rebecca, and I too, wondered do any azaleas have a perfume? Turns out yes, and the smell is predominantly clove. R. roseum grows to about six feet, here’s the description from The Fragrant Year, “the prettiest form is clear pink brightened by rose red tubes and stamens, broad petaled and many budded, the fragrance pure carnation sweetness.” How a propos! So Rebecca did wear something like Bellodgia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *