Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ghosts

I recently salvaged a stash of old perfumes which included some vintage Chanel No. 5, Miss Dior and other more contemporary scents from the 70‘s and 80’s. It was such a pleasure to experience them, knowing they were no longer in production, at least the way they were formulated at the time. They reminded me of old buildings; we continue to inhabit them, but they are shells of their former selves. And yet traces of the past can be sensed like ghostly reminders.


I was surprised to discover that some of the unknown scents had murky bases full of labdanum, oakmoss, vanilla and patchouli. Contrast that to the metallic brightness favored today. These old perfumes actually unfolded on my skin, leading me to believe they contained high percentages of naturals.


Another surprise was how these old compositions were all about the base, exuding richness and complexity in lieu of lightness and transparency. Some might associate this with an “old lady” smell, but I realized that at some point in time, base notes were treasured in women’s perfumery. The leathery Miss Dior reminded me of a handsome satchel worn with a houndstooth suit and black stilletos. This Miss Dior could kick the crap out of any modern day sylph and yet her ladylike persona defined restraint.


When my mother smelled it on my wrist she said it instantly transported her back to New York in the 1950’s, when Miss Dior was a popular choice for young women with new found jobs. I may not have known my mother back then but I was able to imagine her as a 22 year old music school grad working her job at RCA and for a moment was connected to her in her past.

10 comments:

margihealing said...

Maggie...Great post! I LOVE that your Mother articulated everything we know about fragrance, emotion, connectedness, and memory!

margihealing said...

Maggie...Great post! I LOVE that your Mother articulated everything we know about fragrance, emotion and memory!

Ellen said...

Maggie, Good to see that you're back to blogging again!

Lori Curry said...

Wonderful! I love your writing style, a very enjoyable post.

Anya said...

Maggie, my ex-husband brought me some Miss Dior from a duty free shop on one of his biz trips, around 1980. I was fascinated by it, it was so different from any perfume I had smelled before. It became a favorite, and I still dab some on from time to time.

My first love was Chanel No. 5, and I have many vintage versions. If you ever make it to Miami, I'll pull out my vintage perfume stash. I have some incredible stuff in there, and yes, many have a high percentage of naturals.

Sonsa Rae said...

I love base notes, especially vanilla and patchouli. Thank you for this wonderful post, Maggie. Glad to see you're writing again. :0)

Ragna said...

I love all those fragrances of the past. I have an old Carven perfume bottle that still has scent of my mother from the 60's. There is nothing like that connection.
Glad you're back Maggie!

Lyn Ayre said...

Hi, Maggie, wonderful post; so happy to read it. That's quite a find; good for you. I still have a few of my Mom's and Grandma's perfumes here: tabu, crepe de chine, oscar, to name a few; as well as my old evening in Paris, which ages very well. It's always exciting to experience those older formulations with the naturals in them. Much love and light to you and your sweet family.
Warmly, Lyn Ayre

Aub├ępine said...

Thank you Maggie for sharing the delightful Miss Dior Ghost with us. I could smell it....
Once, I was lucky to meet Mitsouko (Guerlain), a very old bottle, it was FANTASTIC...

janelc said...

Hi Maggie: So glad that you are blogging again, I really love what you have to say.