The Carnations of Peace: Fleur de Feu, L’Air du Temps

The romantic Carnation

The romantic Carnation

Would carnation spring to your mind as the flower of peace?  It doesn’t to mine, either, but the fact remains that in 1948 the House of Nina Ricci released its most popular perfume ever, and the beginning of this delicate perfume is a spicy, airy, shower of carnations.

L’Air du Temps may have been your first perfume. Certainly it was mine.  I remember pestering my poor brother about the Dove bottle relentlessly one Christmas.  By then L’Air had been a classic for a few decades, and the bottle a romantic Lalique dream every girl wanted on her dresser. Continue reading

Roger et Gallet

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron Vintagevictorians.com

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron Vintagevictorians.com

Scented soap is one of my great pleasures in life.  Sometimes I take a pratfall in the suds though. My latest purchase of Zum’s Sandalwood was a case in point. It had a label that read: Channel your inner sexual siren with Sandalwood. Responsible for emotions, sensuality, intimacy, and sexuality. (AKA if you want to be a minx in the sack.)”

My brother and brother in law who read the back of the label (which was more than I’d done) were charmed by this and ran around for part of Thanksgiving weekend trying to convince my husband that he needed a shower.  My Hub was not going to be the butt of this Gallic humor and a hygienic standoff ensued.  Needless to say I really should flip bars of soap and read the back label from time to time. Continue reading

The Tidal Wave of Pollen Known as Spring

Bee and Pollen

Bee and Pollen

Spring this year is unusually pollen heavy, everywhere I go in New Jersey people have watery eyes and running noses.  My Hub is apparently in competition for the greatest number of recorded sneezes during any twenty four hour period, and even the check out people at Shop Rite can barely see out of their swollen eyes.

What is causing all this misery? Pollen, pure and simple, but also remarkably plentiful this year.  Our car is covered in a powdery chartreuse veil of the stuff.  I can’t help  but wonder, how many more floral smells can we actually endure? Continue reading

Wearing Vintage

Opium advert

Opium advert

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 Continue reading

All in the Execution Afterall?

L'Heure Bleue Advert

L’Heure Bleue Advert

As I was going through the usual blizzard of new releases this season, something struck me: no one perfects perfume anymore.  I know perfectly well that there are art directors at Amouage and Guerlain and Chanel and so on, but because the business model of perfumes has become the model of planned obselescense, with buyers most interested in the novelties (little suspecting that the novelties are often oldelties) you get a paradox, an ocean of novelty, mostly already passe. Continue reading

Mr and Mrs Satan

Sciaparelli's Mr Stan at her front door

Sciaparelli’s Mr Satan at her front door

The story goes that the designer Schiaparelli had two Venetian carved figures on either side of her front door in Paris in the thirties.  They were human scale but carved out of wood and had cloven hooves, so some wag on his way in to a Schiaparelli party dubbed them Mr and Mrs Satan.

Schiaparelli had a distinctive taste, but when it comes to red hot and devilish fun, I can understand it.  My own fondness is for any kind of red hot scent.  I really will go out of my way for peppers, or cinnamon, or carnation (provided it’s good and spicy) and cloves, so it can’t be any surprise that one of my long term loves in the perfume world is Caron’s Poivre.  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

Over to Spring

snowdropsHow many people who wear perfume are seasonal I wonder?  Many aren’t, the folk who wear perfume as a fashion accessory or who have favorite notes that they always wear.  If you adore vanilla, or if amber is your personal vice, it’s difficult to exile the essence for six months just because of a little planetary activity.  You know what you like and what you like accompanies you all the time-in one formula-or another.

This strikes me as being efficient and polished and disciplined. Selectivity makes so much sense on every level, including the budgetary one, and wouldn’t you know?  I just can’t. No matter how much I talk myself down, there are always about six to ten scents in my wardrobe every year, and I change them as soon as the seasons change.  I can’t help myself. Continue reading

Twelve Smells of Christmas – Day Seven: The Christmas Flower

Is certainly not poinsettia, which isn’t a flower anyway, only a set of colored bracts around a stunted central flower head.  The only bloom with a scent that you can easily find in December is the carnation.  It tends to crowd plastic buckets in supermarkets (along with pink and blue dyed chrysanthemums) and is the Christmas floral of choice.  It’s pretty inexpensive too, so that what with the affordability and the ubiquity, the carnation bouquet has become the discount bouquet.

Who knows if tastes in perfume reflect the availability of flowers or their rarity?  In my lifetime, the carnation has never been considered elegant.  Therefore, it has fallen out of the perfumers’ lexicon. Or, to put it another way, carnation has become archaic.   Almost any other flower is more common: lilies, roses, mimosas, jasmines even tuberoses and gardenias are more frequently reproduced in perfume (perhaps because of the banning of eugenol often used to recreate the scent of carnations).  Continue reading

What Rebecca Wore

One December about a decade ago I heard an increasingly annoyed exchange between an old gentleman and one of the SA s at a branch of Douglas perfumes.  The subject was Caron’s Bellodgia.  She said here’s the bottle and he said no, not the eau de toilette, I want the perfume!

The SA could be excused for thinking him a bit eccentric.  He was clearly at least in his seventies and no doubt he was getting picayune about something that didn’t matter.  The fuss, the codgery, the annoyance all had to do with the fact that he wanted to buy his wife a bottle of Bellodgia for Christmas.  It was her favorite and he wanted the right kind, and they were a perfume shop, so why didn’t they have it? And if they didn’t have it, why didn’t they order it?  Honestly, did he have to tell them their business?

Even I thought he was being too particular. Continue reading