The Shock of Recognition

“A truly great perfume, however,  is one which provokes genuine emotion in the person who smells it for the first time….The best perfumes are ones which ‘give us a shock’.”

from Perfume by Elizabeth Barille and Catherine Laroze

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike

If you’re a perfumista long enough you begin to drift away from the days in which you frequently got shocks from perfume.  But I still experience them and the wonderful part of each shock is that it is completely unpredictable.  I can wear something artisanal and unprepossessing and I can put on something from the CVS (Canoe actually) or I can put on some perfume that I was pretty sure I disliked, only to find the formula opening out brilliantly on skin- to my surprise.  I’m blown off my feet by a few scent molecules, and not for the first time. Continue reading

Mothers, Daughters, and Perfume

Mary_Cassatt_Young_Mother_Sewing Everyone has one of these stories, either concerning what you remember your Mother wearing, or else what your Mimaw wore, but either way, their choices influence yours.  It’s inevitable.  Some mothers never wear perfume, and their daughters react against the austerity; others had mothers who over-spritzed, and a lifetime of no scent can be the result.

However the nicest tradition perhaps, is the generational carry over of a perfume: the mother who always wore Joy, and so the daughter does as well, for instance.  It’s lovely, but seldom seems to happen.  People often want to distance themselves from what their mothers wore, more than they want to reprise them. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when remembering does take on some importance. Continue reading

That Man!

Have you ever spent two hundred and some odd pages with a real bastard?  I just have, and by the way, the description is one that Charles Revson himself would have embraced.  In fact, he did embrace it. He got ahead in his business by being a bastard, and his life story bears that one out in spades.*

He was born the son of Jewish American parents in New Hampshire and got into the cosmetics trade by selling nail polish for a firm based in New Jersey.  Then came the Great Depression. Instead of being grateful to have a job at all, he was miffed when he lost out on a promotion.

He brooded. And he decided to do something about it.

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Twist and Shout

In 1964, the year that Jean Patou’s Caline came out, I had a baby sitter.  She was very pretty and had the kind of hair that everyone wanted back then, i.e. hugely puffy.  It was shoulder length and had to be put up in curlers and then carefully back combed and sprayed to get the effect that younger people only recognize now from films such as The Blob, or old sitcoms like Bewitched.  I was in awe of Linda. She  listened to the Beatles! Wow, how fab was that?

Ratted hair, a portable record player, pale blue chenille bedspreads, and a bottle of Caline are what I remember of Linda’s bedroom.  Caline was new that year and Linda was an only child, therefore spoiled by her Daddy who was probably the source of the Caline – if it wasn’t her boyfriend,  who was about equally under her spell.

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