A disclaimer here, I’ve always worn vintage clothes. I did stop after the age of forty, but in my twenties I never wore anything more recent than the fifties-why? Contemporary stuff was much less chic. So my take on old perfume tends to follow the same pattern, if it works why not wear it? Perfumes are not antiques, you can use them. The question is where and how? Some old perfumes have become cliches and everyone knows what you are wearing or thinks that they do- which can be worse. You don’t want to be walking around in a personal atmosphere which shrieks, “I’m from 1983!” Unless you were born later than that, or have great presence, or are a guy wearing a woman’s perfume, which suggests a kind of bravado and if you have it-good on you. Curiously, the older a perfume is the more likely it is to be perfectly usable and the more recent it is the less it may be amenable to re-introduction in party air-space. For instance, Opium which is a well known perfume if your Mom wore the scent in the eighties or nineties, might not do so well now on a woman in her thirties or twenties. Here’s what happened when I tried though I’m older.
“Old rose soap,” says my fourteen year old helpfully, of the vintage Opium sample I have put on. “Is that right? It doesn’t really smell of anything except strong old soap.”
“”Soap.” said my husband,”That’s all I get.” So the message is that to the uninitiated old Opium seems currently to smell …hygeinic, the fragrance message has been over-ridden by familiar knock-offs in the industrial perfume business.
You need to find things which get past this soap and powder association problem. My own preference for vintage is Guerlain’s Fleur de Feu which is a delicate cousine of Mettalica/Metalys and so like a cloud of white carnations hovering around my wrist I keep checking to see if there’s a corsage pinned to me somewhere. The old perfume has been out of production since some time in the sixties I think, but is still perfectly wearable.What else would I wear that was vintage? Here’s a list:
En Avion: Don’t scrub this off. You smell the leathery takeoff and that is an uneasy combination of materials birch tar anise and a slightly gas like odor. Wait till you’re airborne , you get orange blossoms and anise, airy delicacy at high altitude. This is Futurist Apres L’Ondee. A fragrance for Amelia Earhart.
Balenciaga’s Le Dix: NO 5 with Violets. That’s it but think how this softens and feminizes
the old white wonder of No 5.
Tabac Blond: Leather rolled with tobacco and darkness, an uncompromising perfume, very dry, and an excellent choice for men.
Old Bellodgia: Spring rain puddle spalshing with an arm full of lilies of the valley, roses and carnations home from the market. A beautiful perfume that requires patience but will not be confused with anything made recently.
Pour un Homme: This is functionally immortal. Vanilla and then lavender but in older bottles the midsection is wonderfully complex.
Bois des Illes: A perfect sandalwood perfume also a good choice for men.
Bal a Versailles: This is the animalic that I think still works better than either Opium or its predecessor Tabu, strong but very refined and wearable by either sex, flowers and civet over leather-how erotic is that?
Arpege: Because although you may love No5 Arpege is now rather less of a cliche, and who does not like the satin smooth formula with a hint of vanilla in the end?
Caleche: This is one of the most perfectly rounded and worked out formulas ever and very much worth seeking out in vintage form. I wore it for years and still cannot tell you which flower predominated-it was that subtle.
Eau de Hadrian: Don’t touch the modern version, search out the old bottles and you smell Tuscany, lemons, herbs and cypress trees. A gorgeous evocative perfume, good for men or women. Petrarch would have worn this one.