My life in perfume

My earliest encounter with perfume was the bottle of Lentheric Tweed which resided on my mother’s dressing table alongside the matching talcum powder in its distinctive tin. Google tells me that the top notes were bergamot, cinnamon and geranium, with middle notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine, lavender and orange flower. To me it simply smelt of my mother going out for the evening. Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass  and Helena Rubenstein’s Apple Blossom (how cheap the pink plastic squeezy bottle of hand cream now looks – hardly the image that a major cosmetician,  who became one of the world’s richest women in her day, would wish to cultivate nowadays!) were great favourite’s too.

 

Occasionally, as a treat, I was allowed a tiny dab on my wrist or behind my ear. Thus began my love affair with perfume. I would probably need no more than the fingers of my two hands to count the number of days in my entire adult life that I have not worn perfume of some kind. But forget pulse points: for many years, I have not let it come into contact with my skin. I only ever spray it onto my clothes.

The first perfume (I use the word loosely – I expect it was a much watered down eau de cologne) I can ever remember having specifically as my own was Avon Pretty Peach. I’m sure many women my age will know of this. Launched in 1964 when I was eight years old, I can still remember the joyous surprise of finding the full range in my Christmas stocking: cream perfume, bath foam, talcum powder and soap on a rope.  I suspect that my mother had ordered it bit by bit from the Avon lady who called regularly with her booklet from which Mum would order items that would be delivered a few weeks later. My second perfume was purchased in the same way. I presume that I had by then decided that I was too old for ‘little girl’ products! Honeysuckle cream perfume cost 10/6 (55p) for a little hexagonal pot. Why on earth do I remember that? A little later (c1970) I rather liked Charisma which came in an elegant dark red bottle and seemed terribly sophisticated.

 

Around the same time I discovered Goya’s Aqua Manda. I used that for a while, and also flirted briefly with Hobigant’s Quelque fleurs and Lanvin’s Arpege.  And then in 1973 came Revlon’s Charlie. Nowadays it comes in various varieties and I’ve not smelt any of them but I loved that original one in it’s marbled blue box and wore it for several years. Whilst at college I had a Christmas job in Boots, and joy of joys, I was allocated to the perfume counter. A special edition of Charlie was produced – twice the normal size and we were encouraged to offer it to anyone interested in the smaller size. The rep promised a gift to each of us (four girls) if we sold out. We did and each received a small bottle just after Christmas. One memorable day I served a man to two of the large bottles. “One for the wife, one for the mistress,” said my boss.

 

My mother had by now moved onto Je Reviens by Worth, and we both used Cacharel’s Anais Anais for a time. I tried a sample of this recently and it smelt too sickly sweet. Mum also liked Estée Lauder Youth Dew – a popular fragrance but one which I have never liked, much preferring the less popular, and now discontinued,  Private Collection which Lauder had initially developed for her own use.  This, along with Coriandre by Jean Couturier made it onto my dressing table during my late teens and early twenties.  There were many others of which maybe one bottle was bought and enjoyed but I still had no scent that was really ‘me’.

 

 

And then in 1990 it happened! I fell in love with the perfume that I still use to this day: Giorgio Beverly Hills. The first luxury boutique of its kind to open on Beverley Hill’s Rodeo Drive, the perfume was launched as its signature scent in 1981.   It came to prominence in the UK some years later where it was reputedly banned in some establishments due to its intensity.  In those days I reckon I paid more for it than I do today! Somewhat out of vogue, it can now be bought very reasonably and although I use several other perfumes (some of which I really love  like Chanel Allure, Dior’s J’adore and Estée Lauder’s Pleasures), I am never without a bottle of Giorgio in use and at least one spare. It remains my all-time favourite and is my signature scent.

 

 

My most recent discovery is Swarovski’s Aura, one of the most unusual scents. Interestingly Next produce a perfume called Eau de Nude which is not dissimilar. I keep a bottle in my drawer at work – useful for an emergency scent-spray!  Just one other perfume is going to make it into my hall of fame – Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger. My daughter used this as a teenager and the upstairs of the house always seemed to smell of it. She always sprayed  it a little too heavily as we are wont to do before we realise that ‘less is more’. Happy memories.

 

 

 

24 comments

  1. How I love perfume! Aqua Manda was one of the first I remember and then Charlie. I also loved the Biba perfume which is no longer made. I remember wearing Poison, Opium and other such heavies, as a teacher, in the eighties. My pupils used to say they knew when I’d walked along the corridor! My current favourite is ‘La vie est belle’ by Lancôme.

    Like

    • I used to manage an engineering apprentice programme and one of the trainees said, “We always know when you’re here cos we recognise the smell.” I wore Giorgio almost exclusively at the time and I think it was a compliment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post on perfumes, since I’m an avid user and collector myself 🙂
    I remember the deep red bottle of Charisma on my mother’s dressing table, so also Charlie and Youth Dew. I have used Georgio too in the past and liked the scent.
    I think perfume has the ability to take you back in time when you get a whiff of an old favourite or read about it…and that’s exactly what this post did for me. Thank you 🙂

    Like

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Kavitha. I thought that tne bottle of Charisma on my dressing table was trendy, though that wasn’t a word we’d have used back then! Perfume, more than most things, takes us back and evokes memories, but it’s not only perfume. Other smells like ‘Anne French’ cleansing milk (which all my friends also used) was a smell I loved. I recently saw some in a shop called ‘Bodycare’ and eagerly opened it hoping to be transported back to being fifteen. Such disappointment…it smelled nothing like the original.

      Like

  3. I have read, but I don’t know if it’s true, that perfumes like Chanel 5, are tweaked a tiny bit each year to keep them ‘current’. Blue Grass, Chanel 5, Charlie, Tweed, Aqua manda – all great memories. I loved them all, but my favourites are the heavy ones like Poison, Opium, Shalimar…. all of which I no longer have… but now I wish that I did!!!

    Like

    • If that’s the case then it would explain why some ‘old’ perfumes no longer smell as we remember them. The olfactory sense id supposed to be the sense with the most memory which is why certain smells can evoke memories and take us back in time. People do seem to have liked this post – I suppose we all have memories linked to certain perfumes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Aqua Manda,just seeing the bottle brought back memories of my youth and the smell,I thought it was the one to wear back in the day!I even wore Brut aftershave,I don’t know why. Tweed was my mother’s favourite.I think I graduated to Rive Gauche in my twenties and then onto Issy Myake which I wear every day and special days I wear Daisy by Marc Jacobs.I read quite recently that the French spray their perfume on their clothes rather then themselves.thank you for bringing back memories.

    Like

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Margaret. It seems to have evoked a few memories. I’ve come across a few of the old ones from time to time but they no longer seem to smell the same.

      Like

  5. Ooh, that took me back … especially the Avon ‘Pretty Peach’ and the honeysuckle. And Aqua Manda, which I thought was the height of sophistication. I wouldn’t have remembered them without your post, though.

    I wear perfume every day, but my sense of smell is very poor and so I stick to the same one, Chanel No 5 – I’ve used it for more than twenty years now. I’m curious, why on your clothes but not on your skin? I’ve always understood it’s the reaction with your skin that makes the scent slightly individual.

    Like

    • You’re absolutely right that it’s the reaction with the individual’s skin which makes the perfume individual to the person. It’s just me – I am (not obsessive but very careful about ingredients) concerned about parabens and sulphates and the safety implications and don’t like using them on my skin.
      Chanel No 5 is an iconic scent. I’ve tried it in the shops but didn’t feel it was me. It always smells good on other people though!

      Like

  6. My mother’s perfume was Chanel No. 5, I remember. I don’t have a particular favorite perfume, although I currently use a Gloria Vanderbilt perfume with a jasmine scent that I like.

    Like

    • Oh I remember Vanderbilt and using it for a while perhaps 30 years ago. I’d forgotten about it. I’ve never used Chanel No. 5 other than spraying a sample in store, but I’ve sometimes commented on a nice smell only to be told that it is Chanel. It didn’t smell so nice on me.

      Like

  7. Poison always reminded me of a bug spray called RAID!

    Charlie, Anais, yes, I remember those well.

    Je Reviens is still enjoyed.

    I loved Tatiana by Diane von Furstenburg. Can’t find it any where.

    Chanel 19 has been a keeper.

    For work it’s citrus scents.

    Estee Lauder is hit and miss for me. Beautiful is lovely. Youth Dew should be banned in enclosed spaces.

    Like

    • Isn’t it wonderful how we all feel differently about the same perfumes, and have memories and associated to certain ones. I’ve not come across Tatiana. My aunt felt that Gorgio (my old favourite) should be banned. She hated it!

      Like

  8. Oh, I love to read about perfume (or scent as we taught to call it as a girl) as I was introduced to what might today be considered fine fragrances by my mother who loved perfume, in particular Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Lanvin’s Arpege (she had read that Princess Margaret used that one, so that put the seal of approval on that one!) I could write reams about the fragrances I have loved, even some cheapo ones such as those produced by Goya and Coty’s L’aimant, but now my faves are Hermes’ Caleche and 24 Rue Faubourg (I mightn’t have the spelling correct there, and I’m too lazy to go and fetch the bottle right now), Chanel 19, Guerlain’s Mitsouko and L’heure Bleue ad Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs. I keep thinking I must branch out and try a modern fragrance, but whenever I sniff them after spraying them in a dept store they all smell unbelievably strong, synthetic and sickly.
    I loved Blue Grass, I might add, and I think some company now make it but it’s certainly not made by Elizabeth Arden any longer. Oh, I love Je Reviens even though modern versions simply aren’t as good as those in he 1950s (when it was quite an expensive perfume, unlike today, when it is bargain basement. And one that used to be inexpensive is now expensive, that is Ma Griffe by Caron.
    Margaret P

    Like

    • I recognise most of those names but there are a couple that I’ve only heard of via your own blog. It’s am bit like writing about books…..there’s always another one that you think of. I remembered, after posting, Nina Ricci L’air du temps. I never had the scent (wasn’t keen on it) but my mother gave me a travel soap in its own little dish to take into hospital each time one of my children was born and I thought it divine.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Your blog post today has awakened long forgotten memories. I remember many of these lovely scents; especially Charlie. I too love perfume and I always like to discover a new scent. Pat

    Like

    • I often have a sniff in the department stores but then stay with the old favourites. There are lots that I like but never quite so much.

      Like

  10. From my childhood I have vague memories of L’aimant. I’m not sure who would have worn it though. A pink bottle, if I remember correctly.
    I’m not a fan of anything sickly sweet or overpowering. My personal favourites are by Jo Malone. X

    Like

    • I remember L’aimant. Coty, I think. I’ve not tried any by Jo Malone. I’m probably being a bit of a dinosaur by sticking with the same few.

      Like

  11. Lovely to have a trip down a perfume memory lane. Most of those I remember and I used a couple of them. Great read.

    Like

  12. What memories all of those bring back. I feel sure i used all of those at sometime in the past. In fact i still have 2 presentation bottles of blue grass and one (which you didnt mention) poison.

    Like

    • I’ve not seen Blue Grass for years, Wendy. I seem to have missed out on Poison – never had any of that. Dior, I think?

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s