The end of the twentieth century was very concerned with clear atmospheres. This was probably because of crowding in public spaces which I suppose also meant crowded air. Perfume and cigarettes, those two great offenders, were sometimes banned, although the evidence that perfume harmed anyone was extremely spotty. Still what it meant for me was caution. Now I do not wear perfume anywhere that contains a large number of people e.g. airplanes, offices, restaurants, theaters. What’s left?
Here’s the odd part. I used to like shared atmosphere as a child. I enjoyed going to church and huffing whatever the lady in the fur wrap was wearing. My mom’s Tabu I avoided but when she changed to Fidji, that was quite another matter. Women on subway trains trailed something cheap and cheerful like Friendship Garden (essentially a knock off of No 5) or later there was Coty’s Sweet Earth series and patchouli made the nearness of hippie chicks bearable. Continue reading →
Air travel used to be sort of glamorous. No really, before you fall over laughing, it truly was. Clean airplanes, cocktails, pretty stewardesses in un-stained uniforms. I barely remember this, my younger sister doesn’t remember anything of the sort, and no one conceived after 1975 can even imagine it.
All we can recall now is how awful our last flight was and how we swore that next time no matter what it cost, we were definitely going to bid on a seat in business class. Yeah, right.
In the 1930’s things were not only glamorous they were dangerous. That was still the era of long distance solo flights by those impossibly thin entities Lindbergh and Earhart. A large number of people swear by Vol de Nuit as evocative of this adventurous airbourne history, but I just don’t think that smells anything like airplanes. Lovely perfume, nothing to do with airplanes even though it’s named after the St. Exupery novel. En Avion though, the Caron perfume from 1932 actually does. Continue reading →
There are a lot of scents out there these days which strike me as only one part of a perfume. Alaia which I have been smelling round me on scent strips (from Saks) is certainly one of them. I’m kind of amused that many bloggers think that it’s a wonderful modern perfume. Alaia’s the coda to a modern perfume. There’s no heart, and no beginning, you could call this linear but there isn’t enough of a high note to pull you in. It’s a base.
Alaia smells totally synthetic and there is something dark and tarry that I remember from the days when I was toying with Kate Walsh’s Boyfriend (remember that? No?) and from Estee Lauder’s Sensuous Noir, although that had more of a presence than Alaia. Continue reading →
Champagne bellinis to capture the sparkle of topnotes and the peach heart of Mitsouko
Chypres are supposed to go with food. Now this is the sort of statement I like to put to the test and since mixology and foodiness have both been brought to bear on perfume, here is my take on the problem of food, wine, and fragrance.
I could have chosen other perfumes for this little foray into the world of the palate but absent Coty Chypre, Mitsouko is the grand dame of chypres and the most venerable of her line, so I invited her to dinner. Continue reading →
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 →
Did aquatics begin with Apres l’Ondee? We are all habituated now to the inclusion of Calone and other such chemical diluents in out fragrances to simulate water, everything but the kitchen sink and the faucet since L’Eau d’Issey, but what about a hundred and ten years ago?
Nearing the end of February I find that I have not gotten around to one of my favorite topics: chocolate.
Perhaps it came to mind because last weekend I was in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and you can’t go far there without chocolate heaving into view in one form or another. Then I started to hanker after a recently discontinued Guerlain, Iris Ganache, which yearning is sure to wind up making me poorer. I’m mystified by Iris Ganache’s appeal for me anyhow, since I’m the blogger who said she didn’t own any gourmands. Continue reading →
There has never been a time for violet perfumes like the turn of the last century. No doubt their proliferation, like a purple tide through perfumery, was due to ionones, invented in 1893, and then the development of a chemical that imitated the scent of violet leaf in 1903.
By that time, violets had become the most popular scent in mass market fragrances. Sweet violets projected a delectable candor that was simultaneously edible and cozy, even though the woman wearing them might have been defiantly undomesticated, and anything but candid.
The earliest of these violet scents is Violetta di Parma; Borsari’s version was mine for years. They have replicated the scent of violets in the bottle.
Next spring I will have been at this for three years but have never discussed what is to me, the decisive reason for either wearing and keeping a perfume or letting it go: how it makes me feel.
Just to define a term or two here, I mean does the perfume make you feel healthy? Does it promote a sense of well being? Does it induce that feeling of being at home and happy in your own skin? Or does it, alternatively, give you an uneasy sense that you may have sprayed on something too synthetic, something just the faintest bit nauseating? Continue reading →