Charleston All the Way Home

daisy buchananWhen 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.

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8 thoughts on “Charleston All the Way Home

    • Why thank you, and am I ever with you on the summering! Where is the warm weather ? Here it is more than half past March and it’s 40 degrees here in Jersey. Even the cat won’t stay out for more than ten minutes.

  1. Not ready for summer, so not ready for summer. I don’t even LIKE summer. And it occurs to me that perhaps this is due to my summer associations not having any connection with golf courses or elegant croquet or champagne or Charlestons, or the delicious sensuousness of a bead of sweat slipping delicately down one’s cleavage, to be soaked up by one’s gas-blue silk charmeuse teddy. No, my summer associations involve the sounds from the loudspeaker at the fairgrounds two miles from my house, and tomato leaves, and running cows around a field, and the efforts of weeding and canning, and maybe, if I reach far enough into the past, the chill of a spring-fed swimming pool at 7am practice.

    Vraie Blonde should have worked for me, but turned unconscionably sour as old milk halfway through. I can picture Daisy in it (assuming it works properly on her), but I wonder if something… hmm… cooler? more silvery? might be more appropriate for her. However, nothing both silvery and inconsequential is coming to mind. Jasmin et Cigarette I did not like, but then I do not do well with emphatically-jasmine fragrances; nevertheless, it sounds appropriately smoldery for Myrtle.

    I am, as a matter of fact, very much looking forward to the upcoming film treatment of Gatsby, having been a Carey Mulligan fan for some time and having recently become a fan of Joel Edgerton. Still think Leo’s all wrong for Gatsby based on the advance photos I’ve seen, but perhaps he’ll prove differently.

    • Can I pause here to say that I wish I had a gas blue silk charmeuse teddy? I really do.

      Of course it hit me like a Homer-ish “Doh!” after I had written this post, that Vraie Blonde is Antoine Maisondieu’s version of Chanel no 22. Doh! Or should I say “Duh”!

      Which raises the question, would Daisy have worn No 22? I’m guessing it would have missed the cut off for her since it came out in ’28. And the VB is an interesting smell suggesting some inner paradox. It does go sharp after a while. Also, it has this strange suede note that reminds me of Lancome’s Cuir. You know that one really well, and I only had a sample, but I like the combination of suede with the aldehydes very much. Altogether, VB is a weird goofball of a perfume. My Hub hates it, too bad, otherwise I’d wear it.

      And what were they thinking buttoning Leonardo into Gatsby’s spats? No, no! Ms Mulligan I think is adorable, but doesn’t have that doomed beauty, combined with determined vacuity, that Daisy cultivates. If I could have any actress play Daisy, living or dead, I would pick Marion Davies, or possibly, Constance Bennett. But oh well, never mind, both would do very well as the “faces” of Vraie Bonde. As to Jasmin et Cigarette, don’t you think Karen Black works?

  2. I must confess I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, but I very much enjoyed hearing your thoughts on it, especially paired with the ELdOs :)

    Vraie Blonde is a scent that works out very well for me, especially in winter. I wouldn’t necessarily say it makes me smell classy but it makes me smell like someone who’s trying to smell classy – and while not necessarily succeeding in smelling classy, she at least does smell good (I don’t know if that made any sense…). Jasmin and Cigarette also works, it does not smell much of cigarettes when I’m wearing it, the tobacco smells more like a robust green tea note and paired like that, the jasmin I also associate with tea. I wouldn’t have minded it going a bit more in the fatal direction on me ;)

    • VB in Winter, it sounds like a plan! To me the Vraie Blonde is a cheerful perfume with something underneath that makes you think that the person wearing it thinks. That’s a bit elegant, so I get your notion of someone making an effort at smelling classy with this one.

      As to the Jasmin et Cigarette, I thought the cigarettes referred to here were menthol ones. Some of my parents’ friends way back in the 70′s used to smoke such things, but it does also smell like jasmine tea. It’s too bad you don’t get the siren smell here, the tea reference makes it seem quite wholesome, and that’s not very Fatale!

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