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The Scent of the Past

Certain fragrances recall fond memories for me. You know what I mean. A certain smell sparks a memory from the past. For instance, when I catch the scent of my favorite Parisian parfum, Guerlain’s Shalimar, I am immediately reminded of my mother getting dressed in her best gown and fur coat for an evening out with my dad. She looked like a movie star as she left the house. The smell of her fine perfume extract hung in the air long after she had departed. The bottle was unique looking with fine cut crystal topped with a sapphire blue crystal stopper. Even the bottle was magnificent! A work of art. My dad spared no expense when it came to me and my mom. He would buy her the most expensive form of the perfume he could find. For Shalimar, if was pure extract. The vanilla, citrus, iris, violet, and fresh spice main accords of this perfume remains extraordinary until this day.

There was also the smell of Dana’s Ambush, which has long disappeared from the market. This perfume came in a pretty, pink bottle and had a sweet, aromatic scent with main accords of vanilla, tropical, powdery, citrus, fresh spicy, warm spicy, floral, and rose. It always reminded me of my Aunt’s dressing room, where I could always be found playing with her make-up and wigs. She would use the scent when she was preparing to go to work or out on a date.

I loved those old-time fragrances that lined the glass countertops of the department stores of yesteryear. Unfortunately, yesterday’s fragrances, for the most part, have vanished into the past just like their iconic scents. For this blog, I would like to stroll down memory lane and revive some of the old-time scents that might be old friends to some of you.

I am a 60’s baby, so I can remember fragrances such as Prince Matchebelli’s Windsong (1959), Tabu (1958), and Chantilly (1965). These powerful fragrances all had unique scents and could be found on any lady’s dressing table back when I was a child. Some of these fragrances that are familiar names today got their start in the early 1900’s. Some have even stood the test of time and are still popular today. The most iconic fragrance that comes to mind is the classic parfum that transformed a Parisian fashion designer into a fragrance mogul. The ever popular, Chanel No. 5, was the first fragrance that Mademoiselle Coco Chanel created for her high society clientele in France. Mademoiselle Chanel has always been of great interest to me. She is an interesting character, for sure! It has been rumored that she secretly created No. 5 in Grasse, France, the capital of fine fragrance. She asked the perfumer to package the scent in small, unmarked vials. When she would attend a high society party, she would casually pass one of the vials to her lady couture clients as a small token of her appreciation for their business. When they asked what the fragrance was, she would just say, it was just something she came up with and it was nothing special. Coco was a master marketer. She knew exactly what she was doing. She was building supply in demand for No. 5. As the buzz began sweeping through Paris about this unidentified parfum, woman began demanding that Coco produce the product for sale. And that was how a perfume icon was born. Till this day, Chanel No. 5 remains one of the most sought-after fragrances in the world.

In the 1920s & 30s, Shalimar and Chanel No. 5 were the most used perfume by ladies. In the 1940s & 50s, Miss Dior and Yardley’s Lily of the Valley were the signature fragrances of most women. Today, woman have their favorites as well, such as JoLo’s Glow, Rolf’s Flowerbomb, and Marc Jacob’s Daisy Eau So Fresh Spring. Unlike the 1920s, today’s fragrance market offers an array of scents at various price points. You can even buy an inexpensive knock-off of a classic scent for less than a fourth of the cost.

For me, I still remember my mom’s dresser being filled with fragrances such as Bourjois’ Evening in Paris (1940), Faberge (1944), Tabu (1958), Joy De Jean Patou Paris (1955), Coty’s L’aimiant (1941) and Emerade (1940), and Chantilly by Houbigant (1965). Occasionally, I will run across these perfumes in an antique store. Their original packaging is still intact, but their once sweet scents are now strong and unbearable. Places like the Vermont Country Store still sell versions of these once popular scents including the lovely Evening in Paris. They are not the original perfumes but are a good substitute for those seeking these vintage scents.

Every now and then, I wish I could hop into Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine from the movie “Back to the Future” and magically transport myself back to my childhood so I could wear and enjoy these classic and timeless scents, which made ladies smell simply glorious. Oh how I wish these timeless fragrances still lingered in the air instead of just lingering in my sweet-smelling memories of an era gone by. 💋

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