Perfume Fashion History
There has always been a trade in scents and by the year 2008 perfume had
become a $10 billion industry. Today women have fragrance wardrobes of at least
six different perfumes, rather than a single signature perfume, keeping one
special perfume for occasion moments.
People have used perfume, oils and unguents on their bodies for thousands of
years in lesser or greater amounts dependant on fashion whims. The early
Egyptians used perfumed balms as part of religious ceremonies and later as part
of pre love making preparations. Myrrh and Frankincense were exuded gums from
trees used to scent the atmosphere in rituals. Other plants such as rose and
peppermint were steeped in oils until a perfumed unguent formed. The unguent was
then rubbed into the skin. It's interesting to note that perfume has come full
circle today as more and more of us seek out high quality aromatherapy perfumed
oils to use in exactly the same way as our ancestors did.
Products that enhance the feel of skin and the smell of the body have been
highly valued in every culture. Trade routes introduced spices to other parts of
the world and a wider range of scents could be made. In the past people often
mixed their own potions using home methods creating their own aromatherapy
products. Many homes had a still room where essences were steeped out of flowers
Left - Lavender field in Grasse France.
Perfume fell out of use during early Christianity, but was revived in the
medieval period. By the 1600s scents were applied to objects such as furniture,
gloves and fans. In the Georgian Era non greasy eau de cologne was developed and
it had many uses from bath essence to mouthwash.
The late 19th century was the first real era of perfume as we know
it when new scents were created because of advances in organic chemistry
knowledge. Synthetic perfume products were used in place of certain hard to find
or expensive ingredients. At the same time a similar chemical knowledge
development happened in textile printing dyes.
Grasse in Provence, France became a centre for flower and herb growing for
the perfume industry. The men who treated leathers in the same area found the
smells so bad they perfumed themselves and the leathers. They were knowledgeable
about making the botanical essences and were the early perfume noses. But it was
only in the C20th that scents and designer perfumes were really mass
produced. Before that, the few trade names that existed were Coty and Yardley
who made fairly light scents with familiar smells.
Perfume is made from about 78% to 95% of specially denatured
ethyl alcohol and a remainder of essential oils.
Perfume is the costliest form of fragrance with 22%
of essential oils.
Eau de Parfum (EDP), comes next with between 15 and
22% essential oils.
That's followed by Eau de Toilette (EDT) with 8 to 15%
The weaker Eau de Cologne has just 4% essential oils.
For those who crave super subtlety Eau Fraiche with 1
to 3% essential oils, is the lightest dilution of fragrance.
Many new perfumes are promoted as EDPs and an EDT is not
always produced as there has been a vogue for Eau de Parfum as individuals want
a more lasting signature.
There are major fragrance categories - Floral, Oriental, Floriental, Chypre,
Green Marine and Fruit. Typical plant products include anise, bay leaf,
bergamot, cardamom, cedar wood, eucalyptus, frankincense, gardenia, geranium,
iris, jasmine, lavender, lemon, lilac, lily, lily of the valley, magnolia, moss, neroli, orange, orris, patchouli, pine, raspberry, rose, sage, sandalwood,
tuberose, vanilla, violet and ylang-ylang.
The memory of a scent left by violets.
Typical animal products used in perfume include musk from the male musk deer,
ambergris from sperm whales, castoreum a secretion of the beaver and civet from
the civet cat. All are used as fixatives and add an indefinable mystery to the
smell at the same time.
When you apply perfumes apply them to pulse points such as the folds in the
crook of your elbow and back of knees, wrist, neck and cleavage. Make sure you
do not rub wrists together as this crushes the smell. Spraying a little into the
air is also good if you walk straight into the perfume. This helps to diffuse it
over your body. Do not simply apply to the neck always work up the body as the
scent rises. Also consider wearing in your bra a small ball of perfume
impregnated cotton wool.
Consider layering perfumes. Use all the same perfume in various products. Begin with shower or bath gel and then rub in body lotion or spray with a
matching after bath spray. Finally apply the scent preferably as perfume or EDP. I find that the use of body lotion makes you feel really scented and it is
probably to do with starting at the feet and applying the scent all over
allowing the scent to rise. It also makes you feel extra special and very
Keep bottles tightly stopped, away from direct heat and out of sunlight. You
will certainly know when they have gone off as you'll notice that you do not get
that lovely boost of heavenly scent when you spray or dab and the fragrance will
look darker in the bottle. Some perfumes come in blue or opaque bottles and
these store perfume well.
Try to choose perfumes that suit you, not your friends or family. Test a
perfume in a store and then walk around for a minimum of ten minutes. Some
perfumes take more like half an hour or an hour to truly develop. For example,
Boudoir by Vivienne Westwood, Jicky by Guerlain and Must de Cartier are all ones
I love after an hour, but am not convinced on first sniff.
Put a few drops of perfume onto an oil burner to scent your bedroom. At
Christmas use musky oriental room fragrances in the form of perfumed incense
sticks, candle or sprays to enhance the familiar associated yuletide seasonal
smells of cinnamon, orange oil, pine, frankincense and myrrh.
Ernest Beaux created Chanel No. 5 for
Coco Chanel in 1921. It has a floral top note of ylang-ylang and neroli,
with a heart of blends of jasmine and rose all above a woody base of sandalwood
and vetiver. Chanel believed women should wear perfume wherever they hoped to be
kissed. Today Chanel No.5 sells a bottle every 30 seconds.
In recent years Chanel No. 5 has been
marketed as a spray with two refills in an effort to have it recognised as an
essential everyday finishing touch rather than a precious scent to be used
Right - The hypnotic scent of roses.
One of my favourites is Guerlain's Shalimar launched first in 1925 and
relaunched in 2001. It's a refined oriental feminine fragrance with iris,
vanilla, and rose. It has the wonderful Guerlain quality that never dates and
always gets compliments. I still think it's one of the very best Guerlain
perfumes. They are all particularly wonderful and each seems to develop with the
individual. Maybe it really is because the secret ingredient called Guerlinade
the X factor that is added to every new perfume bearing the Guerlain name, makes
it smell like a truly sense hitting perfume unlike later unisex creations.
In 1932 Dana made the exotic Tabu, Worth made the memorable Je Reviens which
remained popular in the 50s and 60s and in 1934 Elizabeth Arden developed Blue
Grass. All are still sold today. Later Molyneux and Schiaparelli and other
designers produced exotic perfumes in direct competition with Chanel. Jean Patou
launched Joy in 1935 and it was voted Scent of the 20th Century at
the Fragrance Foundation FiFi awards 2000.
1944 saw the introduction of
Femme by Rochas. After the war lighter fresher perfumes by Dior and Balmain
which could be worn easily by day became more and more popular with the middle
classes. In 1947 Dior launched the ever popular Miss Dior. I still love these
older perfumes such as Miss Dior and the wonderful lily Diorissimo.
At this time the working classes still rarely used anything more exotic than
the very early scents or the new perfumes produced by cosmetic houses rather
than fashion design house couturiers.
Some of the less costly perfumes had quite pleasing scents, but they had none
of the cachet of Couture house names. Everyday prices meant that the ordinary
person could afford to buy a perfume gift from ranges by Coty, Yardley, Max
Factor and Revlon and not break the bank.
Max Factor's Hypnotique and Primitif were very popular in the 1950s as was
Tweed by Lentheric, and Coty's L'Aimant. Revlon scored great success with
Intimate and Aquamarine. Intimate is still available on some Internet sites. Yardley's Lily of the Valley or French Fern bath salts and talc were always to
be found in the Christmas stockings of the masses of working folk.
Goya also produced scents in a price conscious range. Goya's Black Rose and
Here's My Heart featured regularly in full page adverts. Many people still used
4711 Eau de Cologne, with its clean fresh smell.
A 4711 roll on stick was
especially popular for summer heat perspiration before air conditioning.
Woolworth's young teenagers bought Soir de Paris by Bourjois in its small blue
bottle. They delighted in translating the French into Evening in Paris.
Right - The ever popular rose and lilies of the
Throughout the 1960s ordinary people began to buy perfume in quantity. People
who had never been abroad before began to spend time browsing in perfume stores
and buy perfume in duty free shops. They came home with bottles of Madame Rochas,
Worth's Je Reviens, Carven's Ma Griffe, Arpège by Lanvin, Houbigant's Chantilly,
Guerlain's Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleu, Calèche by Hermes, Sortilege, Ecusson and
Estee Lauder's Youth Dew.
Yves St. Laurent launched Y in 1964, Rive Gauche in 1968. Guy Laroche
presented Fidji in 1966. Those old favourites Chanel No.5 and Miss Dior were
still best sellers with considerable competition from products like Avon's
perfume's such as Topaze, Coty's Imprevu and in total contrast, Faberge's earthy
daytime Woodhue. TO TOP OF PAGE
By 1977 Yves St. Laurent had put 'Opium' perfume into production and it was a
huge huge success with women everywhere. It was definitely a perfume for sultry
evenings. By contrast women enjoyed wearing perfumes like Nina Ricci's L'Air du
Temps and Nina Ricci's orange based Bigarade was popular for a while. Ô de
Lancôme, Lauder's Cinnabar, and Anais Anais by Cacharel in 1978 (the latter
beloved by schoolgirls) were all well received.
Revlon's Charlie was a top seller and the trouser wearing woman who wore it
was portrayed as a woman at ease with herself at work and play. Avon perfumes
were also popular as they were affordable, but interesting coming in huge sprays
to dainty containers for perfumed wrist creams. Max Factor's Maxi was in a
similar affordable everyday price range.
Various musk based oils and scents at quite low prices flooded chemists
shops. Aviance Night Musk by Prince Matchabelli was popular and affordable.
New designer scents were marketed fiercely in the 80s and for the first time
ever, blatant erotic advertising which generated enormous attention from the
media led to the success of the 1985 Obsession campaign from Calvin Klein. Obsession with its heavy smell of vanilla was dominant in the market.
It was equally impossible to open a magazine or Sunday supplement without
being overwhelmed by the scent of Giorgio Beverley Hills on a yellow and white
striped sample strip. Eventually Giorgio was banned from restaurants because the
smell was too dominant over food aromas.
Image and a gimmick were a specialty of the 1980s and Jean Paul Gaultier put
a perfume in a glass torso in a tin and continued to produce limited editions
and variations of the designer package. Vanderbilt a refined oriental of
carnation, rose and mimosa was put on the market in 1982 and was one of the more
affordable attractive perfumes. Lou Lou launched in 1987 was a refreshing subtle
change from the more oppressive oriental scents.
Right - The intoxication of the heavy scent of
Some scents of the era like Yves St Laurent's wonderful rose with violets in
Paris have become true classics. Sultry sirens found Givenchy's Ysatis and
Guerlain's 1989 Samsara hard to beat. Champagne the perfume caused a court case
in the champagne making industry and was eventually taken off the market under
that name. It is now sold in similar packaging, but as Yvresse.
The 1990s saw a whole new range of cleaner sharper scents which probably
began with Estee Lauder's White Linen from the 1980s. Perfumes such as L'Eau
d'Issey by Issey Miyake in 1992, Eternity and Dazzling all have a crisper scent.
One refreshing oriental fragrance was Sun Moon Stars by Lagerfeld in 1994 and
the earlier 1990 Safari by Ralph Lauren was set in one of the prettiest bottles
to grace a dressing table. Organza by Givenchy in a great bottle, launched in
1996 has the smell of a long lost much loved scent and was in competition with
the now very popular Allure from Chanel launched the same year.
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The century ended with softer scents such as Cristobal by Balenciaga or
unisex perfumes such as CK One popular with urban fashion followers. In 1999 Cacharel launched Noa Noa. Now renamed simply Noa it is a rounded floral
oriental that smells divine. New perfumes of the millennium include the lovely Kenzo Flower, Guerlain's Mahora, Calvin Klein's Truth, Rossellini's Manifesto,
Lancôme's Miracle, Boucheron's Initial, YSL's Nu, Michaels Kor's Michael, Nina
Ricci's Premier Jour and Vivienne Westwood's exotic tempting Boudoir.
A great deal of snobbery surrounds perfumes and they are often only
considered worthwhile initially if expensive and very exclusive. But the
consumer is not stupid however much the hype. If a scent smells unattractive on
the individual the consumer will not buy it. The selection of perfumes that do
smell wonderful is so great that no one has to wear the latest designer perfume
if they hate the smell. Whilst many perfumes do succeed, just as many do not. The perfume has to be good and marketed properly to recoup initial development
costs. Launching a new perfume costs between a half and a million pounds, so the
scent has to match the mood of the era.
The $10 billion market place is so overcrowded that to keep up with the
consumer's desire for new scents and still keep mystique and a measure of
exclusivity, design houses such as Dior, Guerlain and Lancôme are now producing
limited edition perfumes for a few months only with bottles destined to become
designer items. In 2001 Dior's limited edition perfume was called Remember Me, a
There is already a bottle collectors Internet trade for scent bottles with or
A great many individuals are now seeking out classic perfumes or specially
blended oils. A classic is a perfume that has lasted a minimum of ten years and
grown to be much loved.
Some people also find that they sneeze quite violently when they wear modern
perfumes. I include myself in this category and I've found that wearing the
older perfumes designed more than 50 years ago seems to reduce the sneezing. It's also wonderful to rediscover some of the older perfumes and sense their
depth, special individual quality and difference from the scents of today.
If only manufacturers would stop tinkering with old favourites.
This may be why many have gone back to purchasing 100% alcohol free perfume
oils and mixing their own scents. You can get high quality oils easily
There is quite a bit of Internet activity of web surfers seeking perfumes
either no longer in production or not sold in some countries. It is hard
for the consumer to
understand why manufacturers remove perfumes without warning, but their reason
for being is profit. If the profit margin does not meet their ideal they ditch a
perfume regardless of diehard fans.
Lancôme's wonderful original version of Magie was called Magie Mist. How I
wish they would bring the original Magie Mist back, so much more feminine,
pretty, softer, rounder and more memorable than the revamped version called
Magie Noir that makes me sneeze.
But manufacturers are in the game of making profits and if sales are slowing
they either withdraw the item or relaunch it as a new formula thought to be more
in keeping with the mood of an era. Two recent examples of this are Ô de Lancôme
and Yves St Laurent's Opium, both of which have been updated in 2000-1. If you
want the old versions get a stock in now. Venezia and Cacharel's Lou Lou have
also been withdrawn not so long ago, so if you see it and like it, get it in.
Always buy perfumes from reputable dealers when using the Internet for your
purchases. One site with a 20 year sales background in the UK is
directcosmetics.com which sells skincare, hair and perfume products. You can
get many famous perfume brands from there at heavily reduced prices.
Perfume is often sold in the run up to Christmas as a coffret set at a good
price. So it's often possible to buy at an eau de parfum price and get a body
lotion and a shower gel in pared down size thrown in for good measure all in one
box. This is the ideal way to try a new fragrance without breaking the bank as
you get to try the main products. Aware of the popularity of
cocooning, some manufacturers are also adding matching candles.
If you can bear to wait until January you will often find similar great
offers at even lower prices. Always check the sell by date. Always ask the
assistant if they have fragrance samples in the run up to Christmas or whenever
you buy fragrance as that's when they are most likely to give them to you.
A word of caution - some of us now think that some of these specially
produced coffret products are not as good as they used to be and that the
perfume smell is often less desirable a smell to our nostrils than the regular
stock. Why do we think this - well we have had samples given, bought the coffret
and then found that the smell was nothing like as wonderful as the sample.
One perfume marketing man wrote to tell me that the samples we are offered at
perfume counters are always of eau de parfum quality. This means we may get
confused and not fully realise at the point of sale that the coffret contains
eau de toilette plus gel and lotion, but at the price of eau de parfum. Hmmm...
us know if you have experienced this too, we are curious to know if perfumes as
opposed to butter mountains are being moved at Christmas!
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