When I lived in Westport, Connecticut, there used to be a good deal of speculation in the local papers that it was the model for West Egg in The Great Gatsby. The ins and outs of the argument geographically escape me now (something to do with the Long Island Sound and sightlines across it from certain town promontories) but in any event, the municipality preened itself on the notion.
I was unconvinced, partially because I could never imagine a creature like Daisy Buchanan summering in the sweltering hot-pot that is a Connecticut July, roiled as it generally is by truly alarming thunderstorms. Wouldn’t she be much happier out on the Island itself, surrounded by potato fields and beaches and golf courses?
I thought so. And I must say the subject of which perfume Daisy wore never really crossed my mind. Oh, something by Richard Hudnut perhaps, but if she lived in the present day I know what she would have worn: Vraie Blonde. It is the lightest puff of incense fragrance that ever blew across a summer lawn like a stray balloon, as scintillating as the bubbles that evaporated out of a champagne coupe, as exuberantly silly as Daisy’s small talk. It is a wonderfully inconsequential perfume, therefore, perfect for Daisy.
By the way, the other Etat Libre d’Orange perfume I recently tried, Jasmin et Cigarette is correspondingly perfect for Daisy’s rival, Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan’s mistress. You can just smell Myrtle, too heavily perfumed with jasmine, trailing smoke from endless cigarettes screwed into a holder. Her perfume tailing her, too, like a nicotine flatfoot hired by a deceived wife. The whole thing would smell like that impromptu party at the apartment Tom keeps for Myrtle in the city. The one at which everyone gets drunk on bath-tub gin, and shares revelations: “Neither of them can stand the people they’re married to. It’s so sad!”
For those of us latter day Daisies and Myrtles, both perfumes seem adapted for summer, either for skipping over oppressive air, like effervescence or for weighing it down, like smoke. Both tactics will help to make heavy summer humidity bearable. And of course, the Great Gatsby is all about summer, and summering, in the waterlogged air you find on the east coast of the US from July to September. Those days are simply made for anomie and love affairs and games of croquet.
To return to the subject of Vraie Blonde, though, it really is reminiscent of champagne and reminds me too of a very Gatsby-esque game of croquet my mother-in-law once invented. If you got through a wicket, you drank champagne. She called it Champagne Croquet, and it was a very good game for a summer’s day. I can imagine Daisy and Gatsby playing it on the clipped green lawn of his huge estate, as the shadows lengthened across it, and the law, an outraged husband, and consequences approached.
But Daisy would have blown through the wickets and laughed, and danced the Charleston without a care. That is what beautiful blondes should be in the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald: unpredictable, silly, and reckless during their scintillating moment, suspended in time like a champagne bubble about to burst over a summer lawn.*
* My sample comes from the lovely Sigrun of Ryktig Parfyms, as did the smoky Femme Fatale perfume, Jasmin et Cigarette.