The following excerpt on how to wear perfume comes from a charming little book called “A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions.” Written in 1964 by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, a longtime directress of Nina Ricci couture salons, it is a fascinating glimpse into the fashion mores of her time. While some advice may be outdated, the book is filled with many interesting ideas. So, for your reading pleasure, Madame Dariaux’s thoughts on perfume…
“Humanity has always felt the need to flatter its olfactory sense, and as proof you only need to visit the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum and admire the cases full of antique perfume vials which date from the most ancient civilizations. However, taste in perfume has taken many different forms throughout the world and throughout history…
At the time of Louis XIV, when it was necessary to mask the body odours that resulted from the general lack of hygiene, perfumes were much stronger than they are today. In fact, the modern trend has been more and more toward lighter scents, and toward an increased use of toilet waters and colognes in preference to more concentrated essences. Today it is considered very bad taste if a woman’s presence can be perceived by scent before it is observed by sight, even if her arrival is announced by Miss Dior. It is also inelegant to leave in one’s wake a trail of heady perfume, like the exotic heroine of a pre-World War I novel. Because of this vogue for lighter scents, many women who remember the perfume their mothers used to wear claim that modern blends are less lasting than they used to be. This may or may not be so, but in any case it cannot be too great an objection because the perfume industry is booming.
Two principal factors influence a woman in her choice of a perfume. First, the container–which she enjoys displaying on her dressing table if the bottle is elegant, obviously expensive, and if it bears a famous label and secondly, the scent itself, if it underlines her personality and adds to her allure. In this regard, the only danger to beware of is a chemical incompatibility between certain perfume essences and certain skins. Consequently, the best way to select a perfume is by a method of trial and error the best way to apply it is with an atomizer, and the height of refinement is to have your toilet water, perfume, hand soap, bath salts, dusting powder, and even sachets for your lingerie drawer, all scented with the same perfume.
In my mother’s day, once you had discovered a perfume that pleased you as well as your entourage, it was advisable to stick to it. An elegant woman usually considered it a point of honour to remain faithful to her perfume, which she considered as a sort of signature. But now it seems that perfumes follow a more varied pattern; some are designed for young women or for not so young ones; some are made for summer, others for cooler weather. So an elegant woman, thought she cannot change her scent every other day, because her clothes would become impregnated with a dreadful mixture, is not as faithful as she used to be. On the contrary, she is always delighted to receive a gift of a new perfume.”
Dariaux, Genevieve Antoine. A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions, Doubleday & Company, New York, 1964 (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.) Available from Amazon.com.
Photography by Waldehuth via vintage-glamor.ru