With Valentine’s Day mere hours away, who could resist the imagery of tantalizing scents wafting in and out of candlelit boudoirs? From Marilyn’s unsolicited love affair with Chanel No. 5 to Louise Brooks’ amour of the honey and heliotrope in Amour Amour, a woman’s scent is but an olfactory prelude to her character. En Paris, a defining moment in a coming-of-age girl’s life is when her mother takes her to pick out her first, and sometimes lifelong, perfume.
For me, as I age in silks and velvets and ferment in baths of honey and fig, I dream of Shalimar by Guerlain. Bergamot, jasmine, citrus, vanilla, and iris unfold in a mysterious and magical love story set against the Taj Mahal. I could lose myself in its intoxicating world. But I must pull myself out and tell you a story of eau de colognes from past eras.
Here are some of my favorite vintage girls and their signature scents.
Marilyn Monroe & Chanel No. 5
Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli, and ylang-ylang; middle notes: jasmine, rose, lily of the valley and iris; base notes: vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber and patchouli
Bette Davis & Le De by Givenchy
Woody floral musk.
Top notes: Coriander, mandarin orange, tarragon, bergamot and brazilian rosewood; middle notes: carnation, lilac, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes: sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss, and guaiac wood
Edith Piaf & Le Cinq De Molyneux
Top notes: caraway, cumin, plum, peach, bergamot , Brazilian rosewood; middle notes: lilac, cabbage rose, orris root, jasmine, lilac, ylang-ylang; base notes: leather, sandalwood, benzoin, civet, leather, sandalwood, oakmoss vanilla
Grace Kelly & Creed Fleurissimo
Bergamot, tuberose, Bulgarian Rose, violet, Florentine iris, and ambergris
Greta Garbo & Vent Vert by Balmain
Top notes: lime, orange blossom, green notes, asafoetida, peach, basil, and lemon; middle notes: violet, freesia, jasmine, hiacynth, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, and rose; base notes: iris, sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss, sage, vetiver, and styrax
Jean Harlow & Mitsouko by Guerlain
Top notes: Bergamot, peach, and jasmine; middle notes: may rose, and spices (cinnamon); base notes: oak moss, vetiver, and wood
Josephine Baker & Joy by Jean Patou
Top notes: aldehydes, peach, and leafy green; middle notes: rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, and tuberose; base notes: sandal, musk, civet
Natalie Wood & Creed Jasmal
Top note: bergamot; middle notes: Italian and Moroccan jasmine; base notes: galbanum and ambergris
Madame Dubarry & Houbigant Cologne
Top notes: orange blossom, green notes, tarragon, bergamot, and lemon; middle notes: carnation, tuberose, orchid, lilac, orris root, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, and rose; base notes: sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, and oakmoss
Louise Brooks & Amour Amour by Jean Patou
Top notes: neroli, bergamot, wild strawberry, and lemon; middle notes: carnation, lily, lilac, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, and narcissus; base notes: honey, musk, civet, vetiver, heliotrope
toujours. always. xo.