The Beauty of The Old-Fashioned

Lately I’ve become fascinated by perfumes that I’d characterize as old-fashioned. Or if you don’t like the word, vintage or retro. Despite the cliches of timeless and unchangeable, many perfumery styles become associated with the time and place that gave rise to them. The aldehydic floral perfumery exemplified by Chanel No 5 echoes the early decades of the 20th century. Bold green chypres scream the 1970s, and I dare anyone to spritz on Dior Poison and not think of the glitz and glam of the 1980s. Decades later, these styles read as evocative of another time, and yet that’s part of their appeal. If I want some escapist fun, I reach for powdery carnations, shimmering aldehydes and creamy tea roses.

There are many reasons why calling some of my favorites old-fashioned doesn’t trouble me. For one thing, working in a perfume lab, I’m so used to hearing styles described as “old” or ”new” that I don’t ascribe value judgments to these terms. Perfumers don’t usually intend it. Some styles are older than others such as chypres, and they still retain their appeal. Some new styles lose their novelty after a few seasons like the savory gourmands.

In my recent video, I describe a few of my favorite delightfully old-fashioned perfumes. Some of them are classics, while others are modern but that aim at a retro effect.

For instance, Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose is meant to evoke the powdery sweetness of vintage lipstick. It could be made more modern by lightening the warm, dense drydown and adding fresher top notes, but then it would become yet another run-of-the-mill rose. Lipstick Rose evokes the sepia-tinted glamour of another era, and it’s one of the most effective perfumes for daydreaming. Put it on and you might imagine yourself as a Cinecittà bombshell.

The masculine equivalent of such an effect is Yves Saint Laurent Kouros. The formula has been changed over the years, and it’s much less flamboyant than it used to be, but it still provides enough drama. “They don’t make them like that anymore,” one of my perfumery colleagues comments appreciatively whenever we compare Kouros against some new masculine launch.

Carnation is the most old-fashioned of floral notes, mostly because it’s associated with a number of bases made popular by Caron and Coty at the turn of the 20th century–and because its main component, eugenol, was restricted at the turn of the 21st century. Hence, by falling into oblivion and remaining in the domain of the grand parfums of yesteryear, carnation attained retro status. Add it to any formula, be it a perfume or soap, and carnation lends a vintage feel to the most ubiquitous composition.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Oeillet Sauvage is my carnation of choice at the moment. It doesn’t have an opaque finish like many spicy florals of its type, which makes it appealing even on the warmest days. Its radiance and transparency is combined with a delicate sweetness. It’s not so much an old-fashioned perfume as a vintage-styled one. Either way, it’s charming.

The most important reason why the label ”old-fashioned” is not negative to me is because I wear perfumes for myself. It doesn’t trouble me that some of my favorites may smell dated to some. They smell wonderful to me.

What are your favorite old-fashioned, retro or vintage perfumes?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • JennyJo: My absolute retro favourites are Balenciaga Le Dix, Arpège by Lanvin – the ‘old’ Arpège that is, the modern reformulation I don’t like at all- and Revillon Detchema.
    Current ‘old-fashioned’ perfumes I love are Dior Grand Bal, Chanel 22, 31 Rue Gambon and Bois des Iles; Jo Malone’s Jasmine Sambac & Marigold and Honeysuckle & Davana, and Amouage Lyric Woman. June 19, 2020 at 8:03am Reply

  • Tourmaline: Vintage fragrances are my absolute favourites. To be honest, I’m so happy with my current collection of them, comprising enough to last me for the rest of my life, that these days I rarely buy – or even try – new fragrances. That’s partly because I don’t as often go into the city, where the likes of the Serge Lutens and Annick Goutal fragrances can be found. However, my own collection has a wealth of wonderful scents, and most of the time, they are enough for me. I did recently buy a new perfume, though; to hear about that, please see my next comment.

    Here are my top 25 vintage perfumes.

    1. April Violets (Yardley 1913)

    2. Tea Rose (Perfumer’s Workshop 1972)

    3. Bellodgia (Caron 1927)

    4. Chloé “Classic” (Lagerfeld 1975)

    5. Anaïs Anaïs (Cacharel 1978)

    6. L’Air du Temps (Nina Ricci 1948)

    7. White Shoulders (Evyan 1949)

    8. Rive Gauche (Yves Saint Laurent 1969/2003)

    9. L’Aimant (Coty 1927) – seriously underrated, in my opinion

    10. Le Dix (Balenciaga 1947)

    11. Trésor (Lancôme 1990)

    12. Chamade (Guerlain 1969)

    13. Phul-Nana (Grossmith 1891/2009)

    14. L’Heure Bleue (Guerlain 1912)

    15. Bal à Versailles (Jean Desprez 1962)

    16. Oscar (Oscar de la Renta 1977)

    17. Ombre Rose (Jean-Charles Brosseau 1981)

    18. Poison (Christian Dior 1985)

    19. Youth-Dew (Estée Lauder 1953)

    20. Opium (Yves Saint Laurent 1977)

    21. Shalimar (Guerlain 1925)

    22. Y (Yves Saint Laurent 1964)

    23. Chant D’Arômes (Guerlain 1962)

    24. Mitsouko (Guerlain 1919)

    25. Femme (Rochas 1944/89) June 19, 2020 at 8:14am Reply

    • Tourmaline: P.S.

      I adore Lipstick Rose as well. I would wear it more often if it were a little less expensive… June 19, 2020 at 9:20am Reply

    • Tami: Oh, how I love Tea Rose! It’s the first perfume I purchased as a teen. I loved smelling like a rose… and it had a lime-like dry down on me. June 19, 2020 at 10:51am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Hi Tami,

        Tea Rose is so lovely – great for with pink rose-print dresses and blouses.

        What a great dry-down you get!

        Tourmaline June 20, 2020 at 3:45am Reply

    • Peter: Hello Tourmaline. Your vintage perfume collection outrivals your soap drawer collection! I have fond memories of a friend in the 1970s who lavishly wore White Shoulders. June 19, 2020 at 4:55pm Reply

      • Tourmaline: G’day Peter,

        You are right; my vintage fragrance collection is also excessive! As with my soap collection, I must begin using it on a daily basis, rather than saving it for going out. Lord knows, I have enough to last me for two lifetimes; I shouldn’t waste it or allow it to go rancid.

        I love White Shoulders, and I especially like the bottles that have the lady pictured in relief on the glass. In a sense, White Shoulders is a fragrance that I can wear with almost anything, because I am extremely pale! June 20, 2020 at 3:52am Reply

      • Tourmaline: G’day Peter,

        You’re right; my vintage perfume collection is also excessive! As with my soap collection, I should use it on a daily basis, rather than keeping it for “going out”. I really have enough of it to last me two lifetimes, so it would be a shame to waste it or allow it to go rancid.

        White Shoulders is a lovely fragrance, in a lovely bottle – especially the one with the lady’s torso in relief on the glass. June 20, 2020 at 4:24am Reply

        • Peter: Aloha Tourmaline,

          The highlight of my quarantine days is my choice of perfume. Like you, and probably most of the readers, I have enough perfume to last out my lifetime. I did transform my refrigerator vegetable drawer (with some plastic inserts) to store my niche/precious collection. I also use a large black plastic bin for the mainstream fragrances. This should help to protect from spoilage in my warm climate.

          I have to confess a huge sin. During my college days in the 1970s, I had a ‘perfume imposter’ bottle of Bal a Versailles. I’m sure the real thing must smell amazing! Todays scent of the day is Papillon Salome which references your beloved vintage Bal a Versailles. June 20, 2020 at 6:01pm Reply

          • Tourmaline: G’day Peter,

            Selecting a fragrance is certainly something to look forward to on arising each morning.

            I, too, have a portion of my refrigerator dedicated to fragrance – a whole shelf! (By the way, isn’t it strange that the short version of refrigerator is spelled fridge – with the d in the mix?) Yes, you would need to be even more careful about fragrance spoilage than I, living closer to the equator.

            You might enjoy reading the lengthy comment that I wrote in Patricia’s wonderful guest post of November 7, 2014 – “How to Organize Your Perfume Collection”. Note the section about a “perfume cellar”!

            Oh, don’t feel bad about your imposter fragrance. When you are a poor student, you gotta do what you gotta do! Better an imitation of a desired fragrance than something you don’t like as much. Today I am wearing my vintage Bal à Versailles on my left wrist, and my more recent version on my right. I shall do a comparison for Gunilla.

            This is what my more recent version of Bal à Versailles looks like. June 21, 2020 at 5:54am Reply

            • Peter: Aloha Tourmaline,

              I must have seen ads for Bal a Versailles back in the day, but your photo really shows off the beautiful bottle.

              I’m just a budding collector compared to you (only @100 bottles). I did scroll back to read Patricia’s article about organizing perfume. I flagged it for further review. The photos illustrate Patricia’s smart organizing with the pretty bottles displayed behind glass. Then she had her ‘business-like” samples and box sets in the lower wood cabinets.

              Your compliment to the article was very detailed. I love how you know where everything is. Perfume drawers, rotating seasonal favorites, the “violet” study, and the cool “cellar”. Your entire flat is awash in perfume!

              Before I created my own fridge stash, I had an accident in my overcrowded black plastic bin. I had stored a newly purchased bottle of Nahema on it’s side. I do have a shelf for my current favorites and it was a couple of weeks before I opened up the bin “vault”. The most amazing fragrance greeted me. About 1/3 of the Namema bottle had leaked! It was an expensive learning experience. Needless to say, the oversaturated box wrapping scented my room for weeks. June 21, 2020 at 6:16pm Reply

              • Tourmaline: G’day Peter,

                I obtained the photo of the Bal à Versailles bottle from “Images” via my Bing search engine; it isn’t one of mine. (I wouldn’t know how to provide a link to a photo that I had taken; one might need a website to do so.)

                Yes, Patricia’s article was great, and many of the comments also contained helpful information. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the sections. I still think that, considering perfume is vastly more expensive per ml than wine, it makes sense to store it in a special cellar if one has a lot of it (and the money for a cellar)!

                It’s true that my unit has bottles of perfume everywhere – most in their boxes, to protect them from light. There is simply no one area that is large enough to store them all!

                That was a terrible and sad loss of Nahema. I won’t say that it was a waste, because you were at least able to enjoy the scent for some weeks! I had almost the opposite experience with Nahema and two other Guerlain fragrances. Many years ago, when a pharmacy at my local mall was closing down and selling off stock, I found 50ml bottles of L’Heure Bleue, Chamade and Nahema for only $20.00 each! Even with inflation, that would probably amount to only about $30 each today. That’s the best perfume bargain I’ve ever found.

                However, I am guilty of several crimes against perfume, and I shall tell you about the worst. I committed the offence at around the same time as the above stroke of luck. At the time, I apparently thought that more was better. Consequently, when I bought a 30 ml bottle of Shalimar parfum, I diluted it with 100 ml of perfumer’s alcohol. It still smelled wonderful, although it stang. Today I cringe when I remember what I did and what I lost, although I did preliminary penance last year by buying a 15ml bottle of the parfum.

                I’m still undecided about the extent of my sin, though. I put the diluted Shalimar into several empty dab-on Shalimar bottles. I still have one of them, and when I put a small amount of the mixture onto my wrist one morning recently, I could still smell it very strongly late that evening. Perhaps I really did extend my value for money!

                With kind regards,
                Tourmaline June 22, 2020 at 7:28am Reply

                • Peter: Aloha Tourmaline,

                  Thinking of you today after I read about your Shalimar “sin”. My most “precious” is a recent purchase of (modern) Vol de Nuit extrait. I just pulled it out of my “cellar”. What a dream it would be to have all the classic Guerlains in perfume or extrait! June 22, 2020 at 6:30pm Reply

                  • Tourmaline: It would indeed! June 22, 2020 at 10:50pm Reply

    • Gunilla: Lucky you to have the real Bal a Versailles. It was the only perfume I wore after I discovered it in the mid70s until I had kids late 80s. After a few years I looked for it again but was horrified how they had changed it. I still miss it. June 20, 2020 at 7:37am Reply

      • Tourmaline: It is a ravishing fragrance. Actually, I have one 120ml bottle of an earlier vintage, and two bottles that appear to have been more recently produced, judging by the different and pristine bottles and boxes. I bought those “twins” about eight or nine years ago, though, and unfortunately, I have no recollection of where. It is likely to have been a discount pharmacy such as Chemist Warehouse here in Brisbane, from which one can procure real bargains from time to time.

        Actually, I haven’t opened the original bottle yet, probably because the newer one that I’ve opened smells very good. Having read your comment, though, I’m now curious to open the old bottle and compare the scent with that from the newer one. Tomorrow will have to be Bal à Versailles day! June 20, 2020 at 8:02am Reply

        • Gunilla: Enjoy! June 20, 2020 at 10:33pm Reply

          • Tourmaline: Hi Gunilla,

            Well, today I opened my vintage bottle of Bal à Versailles, which looks like this:

            Inside, I was intrigued to find a little brochure – about 7cm x 5cm in size. It opens out to four pages, giving eight sides altogether, and has “Jean Desprez Paris” written on the front and the lyre insignia from Bal à Versailles on the back. It has photos of Sheherazade Parfum and EdT, Bal à Versailles Parfum and EdT, and Versailles Pour Homme EdT, the page next to the latter proclaiming it as the new fragrance from Jean Desprez.

            The bottle is a dab-on, and has a stopper (like my vintage bottle of Bellodgia). Soon after applying some, I smelled it, and it was simply divine. It was so lovely that I couldn’t bring myself to spray some of my newer version onto my other wrist until about four hours later. I’m not very adept at identifying individual notes in fragrances; I can only identify about a dozen at the moment, but the vintage scent appeared to have more incense in it than I remembered from the more recent version. Later, when I applied the other version, this impression was borne out. Fragrantica mentions tolu balsam, amber, benzoin and resins as some of the base notes, so perhaps there are more of those in the vintage version than in the more recent one. Perhaps for this reason, the newer one has less warmth and a slightly harsh edge to it as compared with the vintage one.

            Methinks I had best use up the old one first, while it still smells so wonderful! June 21, 2020 at 5:51am Reply

  • MaureenC: I love vintage perfumes and have quite a few. I have many modern perfumes but when I think about it they often have an older feel to them for example Andy Tauer’s Miriam and Vero Kern’s Onda. My vintage treasure is some very old Arpege still in good condition. Whenever we have watched the film A Single Man we always pause at the moment the Colin Firth character leans forward inhales and says “Ah Arpege!” Then we pass round the blotter with some of my precious supply. Of course the film was directed by Tom Ford so there was bound to be a perfume moment. June 19, 2020 at 9:37am Reply

    • Claudia: What a fun idea! June 19, 2020 at 10:41am Reply

    • Peter: Hello Maureen. Your interactive fragrance and film moment reminds me of my “Twin Peaks” viewings. We always brewed fresh coffee to go along with the donuts.

      The off-beat director John Waters used a scratch-and-sniff card called ‘odorama’ for his film “Polyester”. Unfortunately there were a few raunchy scents. Definitely not vintage Arpege! June 19, 2020 at 5:12pm Reply

      • MaureenC: Yes we used to do the same with Twin Peaks Peter, we even used to have some US style pie to go with it! June 20, 2020 at 6:06am Reply

  • Heidi Czerwiec: I love vintage perfumes! My favorites are vintage Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit, Cuir de Russie, Caron’s Tabac Blond, Chypre de Coty or L’Origen, Diorling, Rive Gauche, Habanita, & Jolie Madame. I also enjoy Bogue’s MAAI, Papillon’s Salomé, and SL’s Iris Silver Mist, which all smell quite vintage-y to me. June 19, 2020 at 9:52am Reply

    • Peter: Hello Heidi. You could be a perfume sister to me. My favorites are also Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and Rive Gauche. Unfortunately I don’t have the vintage versions. I also like MAAI and Salome, but love Papillon Anubis and Dryad. At the moment I’m waiting for the Papillon Bengale Rouge drydown to kick in. Love the oakmoss! June 19, 2020 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Ariadne: Tabu, Bal a Versailles, Diva, and No 5. Pre- social distancing I had not encountered a young woman who did not inquire about my BIIIG sillage. Of course some of these retro beauties transcend masks and 6′ of air space. I wear ’em loud and proud! June 19, 2020 at 10:10am Reply

  • Alison: Vintage and old fashioned perfumes are my favourite next to resins and balsms. I love violet and rose perfumes. Poison, Oscar de La Renta, 47/11, Devon violet , Chantilly are a few of my favourite. June 19, 2020 at 10:54am Reply

  • Tara C: I mostly wear modern perfumes, but I do love Miss Bamlain and Jolie Madame. I wore Poison when it was first released and loved it. Amouage Ubar is one of my vintage/retro style favourites. June 19, 2020 at 11:01am Reply

  • Tami: For me there’s a difference between smelling of something “old” (not modern) and “old lady” (dated). For the sake of others who like what I consider “old lady,” I won’t mention the perfumes’ names, but the experience of spritzing something on and smelling like an octogenarian isn’t the “sensual” experience I typically go for 😉

    “Old” can—as you say—be an evocative experience. Shalimar, Chanel no. 5, scents heavy on jasmine: I feel like I’m experiencing the more glamorous elements of an era I didn’t live. June 19, 2020 at 11:01am Reply

    • Tami: * If any of you are in your 80’s, I don’t mean to offend. I am thinking of stereotypical “old ladies” and the scents that seem stuck in time, almost LITERALLY smelling “old” and gone stale. June 19, 2020 at 11:06am Reply

      • Christine Funt: I wonder if there really were any stereotypical old ladies or if that image was conjured up by raunchy old men.

        My favorite scents that are no longer available are Ecusson and Patou’s Amor Amor. June 19, 2020 at 1:25pm Reply

    • Karen A: Eeeek! I’m not in my 80s but boy, gotta say you definitely hit some of my buttons! June 19, 2020 at 5:33pm Reply

    • Xanthippe: “For me there’s a difference between smelling of something ‘old’ (not modern) and ‘old lady’ (dated).”

      For clarity, then, how about saying “dated”? It’s much more specific.

      My mother, who will turn 85 in September, has always loved Shalimar for formal occasions.

      For evenings at home, she’s expressed her appreciation of the Narciso Rodriguez for Her EDP (I bought a decant a few years ago) and my Kiehl’s Patchouli Essential Oil. I’m currently looking for a replacement for her much-loved but apparently discontinued Kiss My Face Peaceful Patchouli Shower & Bath Gel.

      The women in my family live into their 90s. I hope to have more occasions on which to bond over fragrance with Mom, and I hope to become a fragrance-appreciating old lady myself. July 20, 2020 at 12:24am Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you for this thoughtful reply! That’s often been my point in these discussions–why not use the word “dated”? That’s far more concise and precise. July 20, 2020 at 1:59am Reply

  • Wanda Rawski: Chanel No. 5 I have worn this since I was 17.
    I remember Joy, I grew up with a cousin who wore it, but I never added it to my collection. June 19, 2020 at 11:06am Reply

  • deanna: Interesting that Victoria should choose Pillet Sauvage by L’Artisan Parfumeur, as I just bought a bottle of the EDT from EBay, following last months discussion about carnation perfumes.
    I was a bit disappointed as I can hardly smell it! It was unboxed, is the EDT that weak? Or could it just be old? Anyway I did raise my doubts with the seller and she suggested I might have Covid!! So I’d be really interested to hear others views on this.
    A beautiful old fashioned perfume, a re-creation, that I really love, my current favourite, is Isabella La Route d’Emeraude June 19, 2020 at 11:10am Reply

    • Victoria: She actually said that?!! No, it’s probably old. It shouldn’t be that weak. June 19, 2020 at 11:48am Reply

      • Laine: Deanna, I agree with Victoria – – it was either old or stored very improperly. My bottle has decent sillage & longevity, plus I bring a pretty decant for late-day refreshing. I adore Oeillet Sauvage and have one working bottle & 2 BUBS. I never want to be w/o it & a million thanks to dear Victoria for helping me find it by writing about it over the years! I also recently invested in 3 different production years & concentrations of my long-lost, beloved Bellodgia, so Oeillet Sauvage has been dethroned a bit by Le Grand Dame, lol. I also own & enjoy Lipstick Rose. It’s a transcending scent. 💄🌹

        Then there’s Cristalle EdT, for those times when I want to feel 28 again…(works every time!) ✊🏻😁💙😽🌸🌱 June 19, 2020 at 11:54pm Reply

    • Peter: Hello Deanna. I’m sorry to hear about your negative EBay experience. I hope your carnation samples from Oriza L Legrand are a help in your quest. I also hope you find a ‘good’ Oeillet Sauvage to compare with them. I would like to hear your feedback. I just ordered the OLL Royal Oeillet soap (Aurora’s recommendation) from Luckyscent, but forgot to request the L’Artisan OS perfume sample. I have too many different quests in my head! June 24, 2020 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Deanna: Of course it should have read Oeillet June 19, 2020 at 11:11am Reply

  • Marsha Smith: I adore old fashioned things and my all-time favorite perfume is Jicky. Extrait. I only have a few drops here and there but I still like to take the stopper out and take a deep sniff. Not very often though! June 19, 2020 at 11:38am Reply

  • N: For years I tried many different classic “old-fashioned” perfumes and I think I burnt myself out on them, although I still admire them. Some of my favorites, but I currently do not wear any, were Chanel No 5 parfum, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Samsara, and Diorissimo. In the late 80’s into the 90’s I wore some heavier perfumes like YSL Opium and Dior Poison and Dune and enjoyed it at the time, however got tired of that too. I’ve done a 180 and now wear mostly lighter perfumes and some of them fresher no-perfume types. The first comment mentioned Honeysuckle & Davana and I have been enjoying that for this time of year. It has a moss note reminiscent of the oak moss used in a lot of classic perfumes, but in comparison it is more modern and not heavy or suffocating feeling. I also have been enjoying Eau De Magnolia very much and it is also mossy but it’s crisper and less warm than Honeysuckle & Davana and its citrus notes are especially nice in hot weather. June 19, 2020 at 11:52am Reply

  • Kay Juricek: I saw an article recently on the LA store Bijan and remember what a popular fragrance that was years ago. On another note, as a person who, despite a few life threatening episodes, has had the good fortune to get older, I have to say that the perjorative phrase “old lady smell” is becoming increasingly offensive and shows an anti-female and anti-elder bias. I think this label needs to get banished from our vocabulary. Those fragrances lovers who use this phrase will eventually understand this perspective if they have the great fortune of living long enough to become an elder themselves. June 19, 2020 at 4:01pm Reply

    • Karen A: Here here! A while ago I made my feelings on the phrase “old lady” well known. There have been some rather spirited comments on BdJ over the years on its use.

      Most of the old ladies I know smell quite nice! June 19, 2020 at 5:07pm Reply

    • Amanda M: Kay, Absolutely agree with you here on the offensiveness of the term ‘old lady smell’..!
      I read it often in perfume reviews on Fragrantica, and it makes me literally cringe every time.
      It is a derogatory and unnecessary way to describe a perfume and implies that women who are older or in their golden years, smell bad. Such a shame some people feel it necessary to use such a term. June 20, 2020 at 12:03am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Hi Kay,

      I so agree with you and Karen and Amanda on the use of THAT term. It should disappear.

      Given the size of my vintage perfume collection, I intend to smell FABULOUS during old age! June 20, 2020 at 4:00am Reply

      • Amanda M: And yes Tourmaline, you WILL smell fabulous, especially given your amazing list above of favourite vintage fumes! 😊
        Almost every one on your list I either love or own and wear. June 20, 2020 at 7:00pm Reply

        • Tourmaline: Well, Amanda, it appears that we have both been fortunate with our fine fragrance foraging! Clearly, you, too, will smell divine in your dotage! June 21, 2020 at 5:58am Reply

    • Robin: I’ve never commented here but I also despise the term “old lady” and “old lady perfume” and always have. It’s definitely sexism and ageism out in the open – nobody blinks an eye. I think it’s horrific, needless to say…. [edited] June 22, 2020 at 2:06am Reply

      • Victoria: As most of my readers know, I also detest this term. If you want to say dated, musty, etc, say dated, musty, etc. Unfortunately, the worship of youth–and sexism–are so much part of our society that all of us are guilty of betraying our prejudices in one way or another, some are more obvious, and some more subtle. And then when you’re young, the perception of age is different. So, while I’ve already pointed out many times why this phrase is problematic, I wouldn’t judge too harshly the people who use it. I know that most of the time they don’t intend it to be offensive.
        I had to edit the last part of your comment as per this website’s comment policy. We can bring our point across in other much more effective ways. Thank you. June 22, 2020 at 2:37am Reply

  • Isreal Followay: Fracas and L’Heure Bleu June 19, 2020 at 4:09pm Reply

  • Joyce: Great post and replies!

    I find old perfumes to be a bit melancholic – perhaps they made me think about histories and times long gone. But mostly I have terrible luck with them. Mitsouko smells like blue cheese on me; Chanel 5 mothballs; Diorissimo too sweet and cloying. I recently discovered Samsara EDP but am having a hard time distinguishing it with Insolence EDP!

    On the other hand, I have much better luck with recent offerings that smells and feels retro to me, such as Feminite du Bois, Portrait of a Lady or SJP Lovely.

    This is what makes perfume so fascinating! Highly subjective, and evokes so many memories and feelings! June 19, 2020 at 4:26pm Reply

  • Peter: Mahalo Victoria for your evocative prose. The epitome of “Cinecitta bombshell” is Anita Ekberg in that ravishing evening dress frolicking in the fountain (‘La Dolce Vita’).

    I still love Miss Dior, even in L’Originale version. A modern perfume with a retro vibe is Zoologist Civet.

    You mentioned two fragrances that are very challenging to me: Kouros and No 22. I can’t handle Kouros and eventually gave my bottle away. I think that I have a bad memory of Chanel No 22 from the 1970s. But, because of my respect for your superior nose, I’m now willing to try a sample on skin! June 19, 2020 at 4:44pm Reply

  • Nancy Chan: My favourite retro perfumes are Chanel #5 parfum, Balmain’s Ivoire (reformulated version) and Karl Lagerfeld’s Sun, Moon, Stars. June 19, 2020 at 4:53pm Reply

  • Karen A: No.5 extrait has become my default perfume these past few months – although I’ve always loved it. On me it is comforting while elegant. Une Fleur de Cassie to me is a modern old-fashioned fragrance. A bit of a challenge at first but oh my my, so gorgeous 20-30 minutes in. Chamade extrait is another I hope to never be without. June 19, 2020 at 5:16pm Reply

  • Danaki: I have many vintage and old-fashioned style perfumes, but a funny story happened to me when I once wore Chanel No.19 (vintage) to work. My colleague who sat next to me in a meeting, not realising I was wearing the perfume, whispered to me: “smells like someone old was here” :-))) June 19, 2020 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Filomena: I have lots of modern fragrances and also some vintage/old ones Chanel 22 has been a favorite of mine for as many years as I can remember and is one I wear to bed most often, even more than Chanel #5. I have it it in vintage EDT, EDP and the small dram of pure perfume. (I am showing my age by saying a “dram” which I believe was actually a quarter of an ounce. Nevertheless, it is a cute little vintage Chanel bottle, the same size and shape of my vintage Chanel #5 pure parfum. June 19, 2020 at 11:27pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: A brand new powdery violet & carnation-themed scent in old style: “Vivacious” by Hiram Green. I love his perfumes especially Dilettante and Slowdive. June 20, 2020 at 1:46am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Wow! Violet AND carnation? I have to try me some of that one… June 20, 2020 at 4:04am Reply

    • Tami: This sounds charming. I’ve been thinking about violets a lot, though I’m not sure I could identify carnation. Is it a “green” scent? June 20, 2020 at 3:19pm Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: As I mentioned, I only smelled it once. No I would not call it a green scent; it’s a powdery fragrance, sort of romantic. I also don‘t find it to have a „zing“ as such, as the blurb mentions. I’d define it as a „shimmer“ or whatever orris, violets and carnations do. June 20, 2020 at 4:21pm Reply

        • Tami: Thanks. Violet I can identify, but most of the carnations I’ve smelled haven’t given off any identifiable scent; mostly just that of greenery, or vague herbaceousness. As such I don’t think I could pick it out of an olfactory lineup. June 20, 2020 at 5:38pm Reply

          • OnWingsofSaffron: Hello Tami,
            there is a perceptible similarity between the flowers “carnation” (Dianthus caryophyllus) and the spice “cloves” (Syzygium aromaticum).
            That probably is also the reason that in my native language German, both flower and spice carry the same name: “Nelke”. This word is a derivative of the diminutive of “Nagel” or nail. This happens in many languages, take for instance Italian: Flower: garofano; spice: chiodo di garofano.
            For more information on the scent: June 21, 2020 at 2:54am Reply

            • Tami: Very helpful and much appreciated. Next time I’m around some carnations I will see what I can detect. June 21, 2020 at 11:54am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Hi Victoria!
    Very much enjoyed the short video. I really like the way you make it personal rather than a “lecture” (as an academic myself, I absolutely appreciate the place for lectures!!).

    Like you I prefer No. 22 (I have a bottle, and have No. 5). And yes, I agree that combination of aldehydes and white florals creates something effervescent and upliftingly beautiful. June 20, 2020 at 5:34am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Sorry it should say I don’t and never have had no. 5. June 20, 2020 at 5:38am Reply

  • Sandra: 31 Rue Cambon smells retro to me..
    Shalimar, I have a bottle of the cologne from the 80’s and I find it stronger than my EdP
    Fiori de Capri has a carnation note that I love June 20, 2020 at 7:53am Reply

    • Silvermoon: Hi Sandra, I love both Fiori Di Capri and Aria Di Capri. I prefer Aria, which reminds me of the year I lived in Italy. June 20, 2020 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Carolyn Middleton: I may have mentioned this before, so apologies in advance to anyone I bore! In the mid 1970s I was working in my first job in the oil & gas industry here in Aberdeen, Scotland for an American company & to my delight my Christmas gift from my employer was a £25 Harrods gift voucher (they were aware my parent lived in Surrey) – bear in mind £25 was a lot of money at that time! I duly went to London during a visit to my parents & bought a bottle of Opium – the bottle with the ‘porthole’ in the plastic covering & the tassel – absolutely loved it & was well aware that I was certainly not in a position to spend that sort of amount of my own money on such a luxury! Back in Aberdeen after the festive break it transpired my two flatmates had been given Rive Gauche & Madame Rochas as Christmas gifts – when I wrote about this ages ago in response to an article on the NST site I remember Robin (bless her!) replying & saying our flat must have smelled divine! June 20, 2020 at 9:23am Reply

    • Amanda M: What a great story Carolyn! It must have been such a thrill to secure a bottle of Opium, you must have really treasured it. I love vintage Opium.
      And yes, I saw your comment on NST and I recall smiling at it, as I agreed! June 20, 2020 at 7:08pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: I really enjoy modern but old fashioned/retro style perfumes, all very beautiful. Some niche houses do them very well, such as Memo (e.g. Lalibela), Bogue (e.g. Mai), Ideo (Weekend a Fontainebleau), Papillon (e.g. Salomé) to name just a few. June 20, 2020 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Deanna: If we’re going for old fashioned, what about Apres l’ondee, by Guerlain, I remember when I first smelt this I felt transported into a different time and place. It excited me to think that I was smelling what people had actually worn in 1906, even now it smells so different that it seems ahead of time. June 20, 2020 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Carla: I guess aldehydes make me think classic or old fashioned. Two of my favorites are Rive Gauche and Bois des Iles
    Une Fleur de Cassie is a modern one that is somehow old-fashioned too. It’s so beautiful June 20, 2020 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Klaas: Hi everyone! My mum is 80 years old, she dies green locks in her hair, she wears chunky boots and her perfumes of choice are Encre Noir, Vetiver Tonka and Coco. The term ‘old lady smell’ is inappropriate and we should not use it anymore, ever. There are plenty of other words to use……stale, fusty, musty, moldy, dusty, addled, etc. Let’s leave the ladies out of this from now on!

    Oh…..some of my favorite vintages are Anaïs Anaïs, Chant d’Arômes (melancholi in a bottle), Bel Ami and Dans la Nuit. Poison also really impressed me, as well as Chloé. Some of the other ones are still around and still kind of rocking it. The ones I mention are fragrances that – to me at least – sit in the past for some reason. June 20, 2020 at 4:03pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: Klaas, you nailed that argument perfectly. There are so many other words available, as you point out. Thank you! June 21, 2020 at 6:10am Reply

    • Klaas: Hahaha, thank you Silvermoon! Like Vicoria sais, we probably all use the term sometimes without meaning any harm. But let’s be more careful in the future…. June 28, 2020 at 4:53am Reply

  • Carolyn Middleton: Delighted to read your response Amanda, thank you. I did indeed treasure that bottle of Opium, & I remember you didn’t have to apply much for it to last all day. Chuffed that you remember my NST comment from some time ago & pleased that it made you smile! June 21, 2020 at 8:44am Reply

  • Cyndi: It took me a while to respond to this post because there are so many “old fashioned” perfumes that I love that it’s almost impossible to remember: But, here goes – these are not in any particular order)

    Chanel No. 5 (edt form)

    Chanel No. 22

    Chanel Coco


    Mitsouko (especially vintage edc)

    L’Heure Bleue


    Champs-Elysees (yes, I know Luca Turin rated it a “1” in his review, but I think it smells pretty)

    Rochas Femme (not the current version)

    Arpege – (the one I wore in the early 70s, not the current version)

    EL Private Collection

    Jean Patou Joy (my wedding perfume)


    Rive Gauche


    Chloe (from the 70s, not the current version)

    Halston (not the current version)

    Shisedo Zen (the original in the black and gold bottle)

    White Shoulders (not the current version)

    Nina Ricci L’air du Temps

    Worth Je Reviens (not the current version)

    Dior Dolce Vita


    I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the “old -fashioned” perfumes I have loved or still love, but these are the ones that come to mind. And, to be completely honest, I cannot think of one perfume created in the last 15-20 years that I can say I love. Ironically, I stay with the “old-fashioned” perfumes because the “newer” ones either smell sour on me, or there are too many perfumes that all smell the same. Many of ones I am interested in are price-prohibative for me, or the staying power is very poor. These days I have to make do with the ones I have, but I do love them! June 21, 2020 at 11:58am Reply

  • Fazal: I am a huge fan of classics. If asked to choose only one category between new designer releases, niche, and classics, I will easily choose classics. I think the bulk of my perfume purchases continue to be those that were released at least 10 years or more ago though I think of those released in 1980s or before when I hear the word ‘classics’. June 22, 2020 at 3:33am Reply

  • Fazal: Now that you mention carnation, I have smelled 4 carnation perfumes that are each pretty faithful to the note and all four since last year. Fortunately, none of them cost me too much to acquire. One is original JAR Golconda which is quite rich. The second is newer version of JAR Golconda which is actually cleaner and could be best described as an EDP if the original Golconda is proper extrait. Third is vintage Bellodgia and fortunately I got a sealed extrait so pretty well preserved though half of the bottle had evaporated despite being wrapped in original Caron paper packaging. Fourth is original CDG Carnation from Red series. One could not go wrong with any of these if you want a perfume to tell you what carnation smells like. I myself have never smelled a carnation flower. Overall, I would recommend Bellodgia extrait as long as it is well-preserved. It is also relatively easier to find and at a good price as compared to the others. It is actually better than newer version of JAR Golconda if you care about composition quality. June 22, 2020 at 3:42am Reply

    • Tourmaline: Fazal, I agree with you about the beauty of Bellodgia. I, too, obtained a vintage bottle of this, which I’ve written about previously. I’m fortunate enough to have smelled carnation many times; it was my mother’s favourite flower, and the scent is intoxicating.

      Your comment reminded me that, some years ago, I bought a little tin of solid carnation perfume from Lush. I still have it. It is named “Potion”, and boy is it strong! It is quite carnation-like, but just having the closed tin in a bathroom drawer strongly scents the entire drawer.

      Let’s just say that I have two carnation fragrances, one at the fine and elegant end, the other at the rough and ready end! June 22, 2020 at 8:52am Reply

      • Fazal: I have not tried Lush Potion. But as long as one has Bellodgia extrait in the vintage version, he/she is good to go in terms of a proper carnation fragrance. June 22, 2020 at 10:55am Reply

        • Tourmaline: Indeed! June 22, 2020 at 11:01am Reply

  • Alison: I love vintage and old fashioned perfumes, anything like shalimar or chantilly, Devon violet, 47 11, I love amber perfumes as well and resins. Poison, opium and Oscar de la renta. I don’t like modern perfumes but I’m a very old fashioned, vintage person. I like Arabian perfumes too and powdery scents. I would love to have lived in the Belle epoque period or the 1920s so anything that makes me travel back to those times. June 22, 2020 at 1:09pm Reply

  • Hilde: Apart of their excellent fragrance, there is something else I like about ‘old’ perfumes: the glass cap without atomizer the older bottles had. It’s pure nostalgy.
    I still posses the Opium bottle with its plastic shell and opening in the middle and the round black bottle in glass of Paloma Picasso.

    Since I am aware that many perfume houses change the formula of their perfumes during the years (and not always in positive sense), I feel obliged to buy as quick as I can a little stock of some of them – if still available.
    I hope Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum and Guy Laroche Fidji haven’t changed since I bought them at the beginning of the 90’s.

    So here is my list of beloved classic perfumes:
    Eau de Givenchy 1980 and the re-edition of it by Les Mythiques 2007
    Jean Charles Brosseau Ombre Bleue 1987
    Kenzo Summer 2008
    Courrège in Blue by Courrège 1983
    Shiseido Inoui 1976
    Rochas Fleur d’Eau 1996
    Yohi Yamamoto 1996
    Jean-Louis Scherrer 1979
    Jean Patou Sublime 1992
    Lancôme Climat 1967
    L’Occitane Voyage en Méditerranée Jasmin d’Egypte 2008
    Yves Rocher Secrets d’Essences Néroli
    Yves Rocher Moment de Bonheur
    Yves Saint Laurent Opium 1977 June 29, 2020 at 9:22am Reply

  • Neva: I like to call my old perfumes “vintage”. My interest for perfume started in the late seventies and all through the eighties I was really passionate about it. To me it was the peak of the perfume industry. As I was very young, around 12 years of age, I was never interested in the Chanel, Dior and Guerlain classics because they smelled too mature for my age. For some reason, nowadays I still can’t get used to that style and don’t own a single perfume from these houses.
    I associate “vintage perfume” with the first Armani, Missoni, Trussardi Donna, Jil Sander III, Jil Sander Bath and Beauty, Givenchy III, Safari, the first Kenzo, Feminite du Bois, Vu by Ted Lapidus, E.Lauder’s White Linen, Estee, Private Collection, K de Krizia, Lou Lou, VC&A First, J’ai Ose by Guy Laroche, YSL Rive Gauche, Paris and Nu, Mystere de Rochas, Paloma Picasso…I easily wore Kouros, Trussardi Uomo and Cacharel for men back then. I miss the depth of the old formulations and nothing I’ve tried in the past 20 years comes close to these vintage beauties. Yet I’m always hoping to find a new beautiful chypre… June 29, 2020 at 2:23pm Reply

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