Why Don’t You…Wear Diana Vreeland?

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

Her name was pronounced Dee-Ahn, never Die- Ann.  People who worked with her rapidly found that out.  Not that Diana was affected, she was simply, completely, utterly, and unapologetically, inner directed.  This may be a  euphemism for being eccentric, but the line between genius and madness is notoriously thin, and eccentrics frequently straddle it.

Diana Vreeland Parfums is the attempt to commercialize the reputation of the late editrix of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.  Perfume seems an odd choice for that task since I don’t remember any statement from Mrs. Vreeland on perfume, except for a lone endorsement of Glamour. Clothes and shoes I should have thought, were more her sphere. Continue reading

Contemporary Heliotrope

Heliotrope in bloom photo my own

Heliotrope in bloom
photo my own

Heliotrope is one of those floral notes in perfume that everyone thinks is old fashioned-that is if they even know what heliotrope is in the first place.  So heliotrope is that delightful annual that blooms in dark purple or sometimes white flowers and produces a delicate fragrance. Some say heliotrope smells  of almonds and others of vanilla, still others liken the perfume to a freshly baked cherry pie.  That was one of the popular names for the flower back in the 1880s in fact.

In case  you’ve never smelled heliotrope one of the best places to begin to encounter the note is Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue 1912.  The other place is Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee 1906.  Both are re-interpretations of   Francois Coty’s L’Origan 1904, which used a heliotrope base (among five others).  All of these fragrances have made it into what you might call fragrant pop culture.  Never smelled them?  Try one and if you’ve never met the scent before chances are you’ll smell talcum powder. Continue reading

The Phlox of August

A border of Summer Phlox

A border of Summer Phlox

World War I started a hundred years ago this month. In retrospect it makes me cringe when I think of all the golden afternoons of August in Flanders being shattered by shellfire and drifting clouds of mustard gas.

Even this unfortunate anniversary does not spoil the month for me.  August strikes me as being one of the very best times to smell things in gardens and one of the best smells of the August garden is phlox. I should make myself clear and point out that I’m discussing Summer Phlox or Phlox paniculata to give the plant its right name.

If you garden with perennials you know this plant well because it conveniently blooms in August when so many other perennials have shut up shop for the season, and all you are left with is annuals. Continue reading

Old Fashioned Flowers + New Treatments = Modern Perfumes?

The Hemisphere, Valencia

The Hemisphere, Valencia

So many flowers fall out of the repertoire of perfumery. The number of flowers that are not used always surprises me, outside of such perennials as gardenia, jasmine and tuberose practically every other flower I can think of has fallen out of favor during my years smelling perfume.

These days the hardest to find are lilacs, although Lilac Faith was released last year, part of the Aerin line at Estee Lauder, Carnation, and Heliotrope are little used except as moderators in some fragrances, others: Mignonette, Stock, Nicotiana, Wall Flowers, Primroses, Dame’s Rocket, and Phlox, as well as all sorts of other garden inhabitants never make the grade for contemporary fragrances. Continue reading

Domesticated Animal Musks

Sargeant portrait of the dog Pointy

Sargeant portrait of the dog Pointy

Has anyone else noticed the stealth growth of musk in perfumery?  Musk is everywhere these days, particularly in the base of floral perfumes.  It’s getting so that you have to go to  great lengths to find a flower perfume that doesn’t end in a puddle of musk.

I don’t hate musk.  Although I do  dislike the huge old heavy macrocylic musks (Globalide, Muscone) whose molecules lumber past your nose like mastodons on the extinction march.  I’m one of those people who always have free and clear detergents in the laundry room, because I can’t stand the battle of different scents fighting for dominance over one sillage. Musk always wins. Continue reading

Before It’s Gone

Soap Bubbles

Soap Bubbles

Discontinuations are one of the facts of the perfume business.  Anyone who loves perfume tends to complain about the arbitrary way in which one scent after another can bite the dust, but we have to remember after all these are businesses, not  revolving exhibitions.  Either perfumers manage to stay current with public tastes and fashions or they don’t, and when they don’t, sales decline.

Did I write that?  Yes I did, and actually believe myself, but this does not stop me from behaving like a fractious toddler when one of my own favorites ends up on the chopping block. I fuss, I whine, I ask SA’s to double check for me one final time.  Maybe there’s a bottle gathering dust at Epcot or Las Vegas?  The whole process is pretty irrational. Continue reading

Ballgowns or Jeans?

“Some of the most beautiful perfumes are like a ball gown, but sometimes you just want to wear a comfortable pair of jeans.”

Christopher Brosius

Dandelion Clocks by Pippalou

Dandelion Clocks by Pippalou

At this time of year, the ball gown analogy, though apt, breaks down to “the most comfortable pair of jeans”. Today was too lax and lazy for anything formal at all. I had been planning to wear my Guerlain LE Plus Que Jamais, but that was simply too grand. I had to roll around in Krigler’s Juicy Jasmine instead, the equivalent of a pop tune, rather than wear the complicated Miles Davis jazz piece that Plus Que Jamais is, or to continue the original comparison, shrug on a slightly slubby maxi, instead of a cocktail dress.

Does summer call for this sort of fragrance? I think so. In fact I can’t make myself wear anything that requires complication or thought. I just want comfort.

To this end I’ve compiled my brief list of End of Summer Perfumes, suitable for hammocks, barbecues, and porches. Their common denominator is the low number of easiness.  These are perfumes that almost anyone can wear and enjoy whether a newbie, a collector, or a perfumista with a perfume population explosion.  Continue reading

Spritzing with the Enemy

Audrey Volk  The Mother profiled in Shocked

Audrey Volk
The Mother profiled in Shocked

You may be familiar with Hal Vaughan’s book, Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War.  The book came out in 2012 and caused some flutter as mention of Coco’s wartime activities inevitably does.  The fact of Coco’s affair with Von Dincklage, and her attempt to emphasize her larger amount of “Aryan” blood to oust the Wertheimers from Parfums Chanel is all pretty easy to discover.  However, having a spouse who writes non-fiction history makes you sensitive to primary material, plus I have always wondered if we know some of Coco’s war activities, how much did people know during the forties? Continue reading

Perfect Peach, Perfect Nectar

Flavorcrest peaches

Flavorcrest peaches

There is no such beast in a bottle.  I keep on looking.  There is or was an aldehyde, C14 which imitated the scent of peaches and is to be found in Mitsouko (or in older formulations of Mitsouko.  I don’t know if C14 is considered kosher by IFRA regulations) and the same aldehyde came in as a  moderator in all sorts of fragrances from Joy to Lancome’s Climat, but nowhere is there a  perfect stand alone peach. Continue reading

Bare Skin Scents

Marilyn Monroe in Niagara

Marilyn Monroe in Niagara

Maybe this is an ooh la la sort of question, but I wonder what are the best fragrances for nudity?  Now I realize that the answer is going to vary a good deal because the subject of skin and what works on the skin also varies considerably from one person to another, but factoring that in, which are the very best scents for nothing at all? Continue reading