What Claudette Really Wore

Claudette_ColbertBesides, of course, that famous pencil skirt she flipped up ever so slightly in order to hitch hike more efficiently in It Happened One Night.  I’ve always read that in perfume it was Vol de Nuit or some such impeccably elegant oriental, but it seems that later in life Claudette liked lilies of the valley.

She’s one of those actresses who really did understand all about clothes, too.  I can’t help but respect her for her hands on attitude towards fashion.  Claudette knew a thing or two about construction, and she did not hesitate to take an entire suit apart and lay it out, in order to correct something in the fit.  She was knowledgeable enough to do this, and improve the look in the process.  Imagine someone saying this to Selena Gomez now?  It would be, like, majorly not happening! is my guess.

Anyway, Muguet de Bonheur, the choice of Claudette’s later years, was a Caron released un-characteristically quickly by the house, in order to coincide with May of 1952.  Felicie Vanpouille, who was in charge of Caron in those years, asked Michel Morsetti, the successor to Ernest Daltroff and his assistant in the laboratory, to compose a lily of the valley that recreated the scent of the bouquets her female workers gave her every May.

(Caron was not the first into this arena by the way.  Coty used to hand out sprigs of lily of the valley every May 1st to his workers for luck. After his untimely death in 1934, his perfumer Vincent Roubert, composed Muguet in memory of his boss, a best seller ever afterwards for Coty.)

Muguet des Bois has remained young, fresh, and green, even when superceded by Diorissimo, surely the greatest lily of the valley ever coaxed into a bottle by a perfumer.  Despite that mammoth competitor, the sweetness, and the slightly more round, liquor-ish quality of the Caron lilies found favor with a certain kind of customer, fond of spring time, but not so fond of the slight chill in Diorissimo’s dewy May morning.

Maybe that was what attracted Claudette.  There was something girlish about her right up until the end of her long life, something enthusiastically young and optimistic, even though Claudette could be stubborn, even calculating.  She would only show one side of her face to the camera, this when her directors needed multiple shots.  One director told her that if she’d had a neck, he’d have wrung it, but somehow, and in the end, Claudette managed to stay on the right side, of both her many directors and the camera.

Maybe there was something magical in being born in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century? With  her gallicized Betty Boop looks, and the greatest legs of anyone in the Western World (except Marlene Dietrich. Or Betty Grable),  Claudette Colbert did luck out. Late in life she seems to have chosen to bolster that luck, with the scent of the flower that the French always trust to when they need to wing something: careers, clothing collections, even perfume.

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6 thoughts on “What Claudette Really Wore

  1. I beg to differ about the legs – Cyd Charisse had the greatest legs in movies, followed by Ann Miller!

    LOV is my HG note, and Muguet des Bois was a favorite until it got reformulated into a sour shadow of its former self. Diorissimo gets it right, even in its modern formulation (never tried the EDP, the berry note makes me suspicious). I’ll have to re-try Muguet de Bonheur.

    • Ann Miller, oh yeah! She did that marvelous spin in the living room in You Can’t Take It With You when she was fifteen? Something ridiculous like that. Also Cyd Charisse did have the legs to die for-well anyway I’d love to be reincarnated with Cyd’s legs…

      What Claudette wore was old Muguet des Bois, and so you had that in common. I remember buying my Mom a bottle of edt in the nineties, but suspect that even then it was not the same, and Miss Colbert wore the parfum, naturally, so another level of luxury there.

  2. I did not care for Muguet de Bonheur, but I really have no idea how old the sample I tried was. Unfortunately my memory of Muguet des Bois is probably 30 years old at this point – I’m quite sure that I smelled it and wanted it as a teenager, and my mother told me no, I had plenty of perfume. (I had three perfumes – no, four, if you count Sweet Honesty. Which I didn’t.)

    I don’t like current Diorissimo, and even the 2006 version can get a little screechy from time to time. I hardly ever wear it; I should sell my bottle. The LOTV I turn to most frequently now is Tauer Carillon pour un Ange – I really love that dark base, it makes the little bells glow.

    • Oh I love the image of the little bells glowing. Brings to mind pictures like the best children’s book illustrations. Also the name Carillion Pour un Ange is so perfect, but Tauers are too strong for me generally. Bet my Mom would have adored it.

      She also LOVED Diorissimo, and her last bottle from around 1991 smelled fine to me, same freshness, dew, great wafts of actual lotv. Gorgeous stuff, and Dior has refo’d again. Honestly, they never stop over there. “Oh they’ll never notice,” seems to be the corporate mantra. But those refos are like changing your underwear in Times Square, people may look away, but trust me, they noticed.

  3. I had no idea Colbert wore this; I have to admit it is tough to associate her with lily of the valley, for me. I like them in nature, but in perfume they are a note that I don’t like at all. Quite sickening to me. Vol de Nuit, on the other hand … !

    • Sorry to be so slow to reply. Sometimes I don’t notice comments on older posts but anyway, I had this story from the lady who used to run the Bloomingdales Caron boutique where apparently Claudette was a customer!

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