Chanel No 5 Body Cream : Between Silk Sheets with Marilyn Monroe

“I know what we need. We need a bed, and we need white silk sheets – they must be silk. Frank Sinatra records, and Dom Pérignon champagne.” When the young photographer Douglas Kirkland arrived to photograph Marilyn Monroe for Look Magazine, he had no idea what to expect when meeting a mega star. Least of all did he expect silk sheets and champagne. In his book, With Marilyn: An Evening/1961, he described the photo shoot and shares the images he took. I can’t think of another photographer who captured better Monroe’s vulnerability and sensuality. It’s almost paradoxical. Even in the moments when she looks surrendered, she’s in control.

Monroe was known to say that she wore to bed nothing but a few drops of Chanel No 5. Although I’ve known this for a long time, I always found it hard to associate No 5 and Monroe. No 5, though elegant and beautiful, struck me as uptight and austere. Monroe, with her voluptuous beauty, fragility and intensity, somehow seemed to belong to another universe.

It was a small jar of Chanel No 5 Body Cream and the images from Kirland’s book that made me reconsider. I might have received the cream as a sample, and since I don’t often wear No 5, I tried it when I ran out of my usual body lotion. It had a bright start similar to the perfume, but with a milder scent of hot starch that the famous No 5 aldehydes have. The cream had a pleasant, velvety texture. It absorbed instantly and left no trace, but when I touched my skin over the course of the day, it felt soft and hydrated.

The best part was the lingering aroma. The scent of Body Cream is like Chanel No 5 in soft focus. Everything is made lighter, creamier and more pastel toned. The rose and ylang ylang unfold gently as in the perfume, but they retain an airy, radiant feel. Much stronger are the vanilla and musk, which together create a languorous, wrapped in silk sheets effect.

And the scent lingers. It’s mellow, but it’s present. I don’t wear another perfume when I use No 5 Body Cream, but if you like more sillage, you can definitely layer it. Moreover, you don’t have to use it only with No 5; No 22, Bois des Iles and even newer florals like 28 La Pausa and No 18 harmonize with the Body Cream well.

Can I imagine this fragrance on Marilyn Monroe? Absolutely!

With Marilyn: An Evening/1961 by Douglas Kirkland, Glitterati Incorporated, 2015. Images by Douglas Kirkland from the book.

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60 Comments

  • Austenfan: Dear Victoria, you’ve got a typo in the title. Marylin in stead of Marilyn. February 10, 2020 at 9:05am Reply

    • Austenfan: Forgot to say that I would love to try the body cream. I think I once had a small tester of it. February 10, 2020 at 11:37am Reply

      • Victoria: That’s how I came across it. February 11, 2020 at 9:38am Reply

        • Austenfan: I’ve since located my sample. I’m sure I was given it at Place Vendôme. They are so generous with samples there. February 11, 2020 at 11:16am Reply

          • Victoria: They really are. My sample came from them, I’m now sure of it. February 11, 2020 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Fixed! February 11, 2020 at 9:35am Reply

      • Austenfan: Good! I’m always hesitant about whether or not I should point them out. They are so easy to make though. My most common failing is forgetting to type entire words. 🙂 February 11, 2020 at 11:15am Reply

  • Marsha: Dear Victoria! What an incredibly lovely article! February 10, 2020 at 9:15am Reply

  • Victor: The camera really loved her.
    I always imagined she would wear an innocent floral like White Shoulders.
    I was speaking to a woman in Japan who spoke very good english but was unfamiliar with the word photogenic. I explained it meant the camera loved you, she understood instantly. February 10, 2020 at 10:48am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s been such a long time since I’ve smelled White Shoulders. February 11, 2020 at 9:36am Reply

  • Elizabeth Uy: I was wondering if you could use the Chanel No 5 body products with the new L’Eau or would it overpower it? February 10, 2020 at 10:59am Reply

    • Victoria: It should work well, I think. February 11, 2020 at 9:36am Reply

  • Cyndi: I have the Chanel No. 5 body cream (I’ve worn it for years), and it’s one of my favorites. As you stated, the scent is wonderful and lingering and my skin feels very silky and soft.
    As always, Victoria, another lovely post. Thank you. February 10, 2020 at 11:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I like its finish. It really makes my skin feel like velvet. February 11, 2020 at 9:38am Reply

  • rosarita: Oh, this is a lovely read on a cold, dreary Monday. I love No 5, the body powder is what I most often wear. The body oil spray is on my wishlist. February 10, 2020 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: No 5 body products are excellent. Have you tried No 5 Hair Mist? February 11, 2020 at 9:39am Reply

  • Filomena: I have also worn the Chanel No. 5 Body Cream for years, both alone and layered with a Chanel fragrance. It is wonderful and lasts a long time. February 10, 2020 at 12:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: It can be easily worn instead of perfume. Its sillage is excellent. February 11, 2020 at 9:39am Reply

  • Tara C: I can only wear No. 5 in the body cream. I also like the Coco body cream. February 10, 2020 at 2:59pm Reply

    • annemarie: Coco body cream is spectacular! No need for any other perfume. February 10, 2020 at 6:56pm Reply

      • Victoria: It’s lingering, but its sillage is not smothering. February 11, 2020 at 9:45am Reply

    • Victoria: I like the parfum, but I really enjoy the matching body cream. February 11, 2020 at 9:40am Reply

  • Sandra: I am not a huge fan of scented body products, but I do love Coco Noir body cream
    I also love Shalimar body powder.

    Marylin is gorgeous, however I never imagined her wearing No 5, I always pictured her in something more femme fatale February 10, 2020 at 3:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: I never thought that I would like it this much, but it’s excellent.
      By the way, Mitsouko soap was excellent. If you ever find it, I recommend it highly. February 11, 2020 at 9:44am Reply

    • Laurie Hood: Wow. Interesting that you see the femme fatale in Monroe, and, in another comment, someone imagines her in an “innocent floral”. What a woman to conjure
      up such a dichotomy of images.. February 13, 2020 at 9:17am Reply

  • annemarie: I too have worn No. 5 body cream for years, and love it. Worth the investment if you are looking for an indulgence for yourself, or a gift for a No. 5 lover in your life. That and other No. 5 body products I’ve tried always seem closer to No 5 Eau Premiere (without the lemony accord) than No. 5. Lovely post, thank you! February 10, 2020 at 7:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, a little goes a long way, Plus, those who don’t like aldehydes too much, the cream might be a better to be introduced to No 5. February 11, 2020 at 9:48am Reply

      • Notturno7: I love this post! Perfect timing as I’ve been wearing No 5 body cream or extrait for days. What makes it more interesting is that my husband is allergic to perfumes and chemicals and I can wear No 5 extrait around him if I apply it when he’s not in the room. I have a lot of perfumes but my mom also loves this as wore is when I was growing up so I have great scent memories of childhood❤️ February 18, 2020 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Mazlifa: I’m a Chanel No 5 Body Creme devotee. Love the lingering fragrance. When I was working, I used to keep a small jar on my table, and used it as a hand creme. It gives me an instant lift. The smell will waft through the entire office &
    my colleagues will be shouting that they know I’m applying my Chanel creme. They love the smell of the perfume too.
    I also love No5 Powder & Shower Creme. February 10, 2020 at 9:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds lovely.
      I’d love to try the powder next. February 11, 2020 at 9:49am Reply

  • Fazal: What do you think about vintage Chanel eau de cologne. I think when I first tried modern Chanel 5 edp, I was not much impressed but first sniff of Chanel 5 eau de cologne def. left a better impression on me. I must disclose I smelled cologne version much later than edp when I was more receptive to classic formulas so I def. tested cologne under more favorable conditions than modern edp. The cologne also appeared more animalic so a good chance the bottle I smelled had banned nitro musks (it was the rectangular bottle from the time no. 5 used to be sold at affordable prices in drug stores). February 10, 2020 at 9:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: No 5 Eau de cologne is my favorite, maybe even more than the other versions, but with the reformulations, it lost that ethereal floralcy that came from nitro muscs. The vintage version sometimes can be found inexpensively on Ebay, though. February 11, 2020 at 9:58am Reply

  • Sonia Querin: She is my inspiration and my idol she was so unique February 10, 2020 at 9:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Please take a look at this book, Sonia. I think that you’ll enjoy it very much. February 11, 2020 at 9:58am Reply

    • Klaas: There is another book with pictures of Marilyn that is really, really special! It is called The Last Sitting. The pictures were taken by Bert Stern only six weeks before she died. The photos are disconserting as they are forshadowing her tragic death somehow, even though they were commissioned my Vogue and were supposed to be ultra glamorous. Have a look…. February 12, 2020 at 4:05pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you, I will also take a look at it. February 13, 2020 at 8:31am Reply

  • spe: There are about 3 jars of body cream in my bathroom- Coco, Ysatis, and Ange ou Demon. And also a La Panthere body lotion. I do have a small tester jar of No. 5. Maybe I will wear it today. Thanks for the lovely post!

    I find creams to have excellent staying power. February 11, 2020 at 10:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I used to think that they were superfluous, but I’ve been finding more and more that a good body cream can be one of the best ways to pamper yourself. The ritual of a little massage alone is worth it, not to mention soft skin and a nice sillage. February 11, 2020 at 11:09am Reply

  • maggiecat: I once prepared for a hurricane by buying No. 5 body creme (which isn’t to say I didn’t do more practical things too, but isn’t being psychologically prepared also important?) I wore it when we were all out clearing the neighborhood of debris, several of us carrying weapons to scare away looters. The scent goes well with chain saws and broken shrubbery…which I think means it goes well with everything! February 11, 2020 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re a woman after my heart. I love this image of you fighting mayhem while trailing Chanel No 5. February 13, 2020 at 8:29am Reply

  • Jay: She also wore Joy and Arpege. Great photo shoot. February 11, 2020 at 2:53pm Reply

  • Karen A: No5 parfum is my go-to comfort scent. It always feels right and wears beautifully. Now I will save my pennies for the cream which seems to be getting all positive comments!

    To me it seems a perfect fit for Marilyn Monroe – she was so so beautiful. February 11, 2020 at 3:21pm Reply

    • Karen A: Well I was convinced and bought a jar yesterday. It’s wonderful! A perfect indulgence for February. February 13, 2020 at 5:58am Reply

      • Victoria: Wonderful! I’m so happy to hear that you’ve decided to go for it. Isn’t it gorgeous! February 13, 2020 at 8:33am Reply

        • Karen A: It is really nice! The cream is so rich, a wonderful indulgence.

          Years ago (20+), Bulgari had a body cream that was exquisite. I kept checking for a while, but guess they stopped making it. Was one that got random compliments when I wore it. February 14, 2020 at 7:44am Reply

    • Victoria: She really was. Impossible not to fall under her spell. February 13, 2020 at 8:30am Reply

  • Barbara Wentzel: White sheets yes, silk no, channel body cream, absolutely. February 11, 2020 at 4:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: A nice combination, silk or not! February 13, 2020 at 8:30am Reply

  • Nina Zolotow: Beautiful article! And, yes, I now want to try this. I have some vintage Chanel No. 5 EdT and I see it’s beauty, but I don’t tend to wear it. But this warmer, softer version sounds more like me. February 12, 2020 at 7:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Definitely try the cream then. It made me enjoy No 5 more. February 13, 2020 at 8:31am Reply

  • Lydia: I never think about perfumed creams but this post has definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities.

    My favorite book about Marilyn so far is the memoir, My Story. It’s not clear how much of it was composed by Ben Hecht, but the voice and the life story sound authentically hers.

    I found it, surprisingly, in the young adult section at the library (a cautionary story for teenagers?) and I wondered why it wasn’t better known. In it, Marilyn comes across as simultaneously strong and fragile, street-wise and sensitive. I was impressed that she survived as long as she did after that begining, but not surprised that life eventually became too much for her. February 12, 2020 at 10:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I will look for it. I read some articles about her life, and her circumstances sound harrowing at times, especially in the beginning. February 13, 2020 at 8:33am Reply

  • Aurora: I can’t help but be worried that she was drinking while on medication for depression. I find the idea of a beauty cream appealing indeed in your great description but I always end up not using the ones in coffrets I purchase. February 15, 2020 at 5:56am Reply

    • Victoria: It might well have been the case. February 17, 2020 at 11:32am Reply

  • Kathleen: I have worn Chanel No 5 body cream over the years and love it. Thank you for reminding me of it, I don’t have any at the moment and will replenish. Also thank you for the idea of combining it with other Chanels. February 16, 2020 at 10:01am Reply

    • Victoria: A great idea! You’ll enjoy it once again, I know. February 17, 2020 at 11:33am Reply

  • rickyrebarco: I adore Chanel Body Cream. It has the most delicious scent! I’m using up all my current body lotions and creams so I will have a good excuse for buying a new jar of the Chanel Body Cream. It’s so moisturizing and smells divine!! February 16, 2020 at 12:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s decadent in the best way. February 17, 2020 at 11:35am Reply

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