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.
Of all the old Patou perfumes, the one that many people seem to love the best is Vacances. Some smellers even claim it as their ideal scent, the one they’d pick if the perfume world suddenly turned small and ungenerous, and they had only one measly choice.
Vacances is a sunny perfume, and meant for daytime. There’s nothing remotely vampish or glamorous or hard in the bottle. Released in 1936, the year paid vacations were inaugurated in France, it coincided with the bicycle craze of the thirties. Everyone who was anyone, on that first nationally mandated vacation, climbed on a bike: “At Patou, culottes worn with a little blouse are designed to meet its requirements. Plus fours are only seen in the little season and shorts with short stockings and a little bag attached to the waist come in.”*
It’s a far cry from spandex cycle shorts. Continue reading
Parisian fashion loves to impose structure and absurdity on beauty in about equal parts. Don’t ask me why.
Oh well, go ahead. Ask me why.
Maybe it’s the French love of logic that requires the structure, and possibly the fondness they have for the offbeat that imposes the absurdity, cf Frenchie Bulldogs, the whole concept of the Jolie Laide, and Jerry Lewis.
The cumulative effect is at once mannered and a little strange, and so it is with that most Parisian of florals, the rose bouquet. To be French the bouquets must be extravagant in their rosiness, but to be chic, they must impose just a little peculiarity on their inhalers. Continue reading
“It’s an old lady perfume!” is the dreaded judgment frequently handed down by young and (youngish) reviewers.
Generally this classification is given to chypres which the neophyte perfumistas seldom appreciate. It takes time to cotton to ingredients like oak moss, or patchouli, and some people never do. Still, they recognize the style with all its clichés, and although they may not recognize the formula as artful or elegant, they know that it is not au courant.
There are whole genres of perfumes out there which are supposedly familiar terrain, only I find that in fact they’re almost completely uncharted territory, I’ve never really explored them properly at all.
Take, for instance, the green floral. The very first one was supposedly Vent Vert composed by Germaine Cellier in 1947. I had a bottle of the 1992 reconstruction and never found it wearable because there was a tendency towards thinness. In fact, I’ve always noticed this in regards to green florals, and it wasn’t until the other month or so when I read an interview with Pierre Guillaume the perfumer and founder of Parfumerie Generale on Grain de Musc that I understood why.