Christian Dior’s Guide to Colors, Scents and Elegance

The world moves in cycles and so does beauty writing. A few years ago magazines were awash with articles singing paeans to the ineffable allure of French women who’ve solved the mysteries of bringing up bébé and tying scarves better than other creatures on the planet. Now we learn that French style is too limiting and severe. And–here comes the major revelation–that you can’t enjoy your croissants and fit into slim jeans too. Apparently, French women do get fat along with the rest of us.

It’s true that French style has a distinctive aesthetic based on a series of subtle subtractions. Like ballet, it makes difficult things look effortless. It’s limiting, I suppose, since the way to achieve it lies in removing, rather than adding elements–paring down accessories, color palette, shapes, etc. But it’s never boring, which is why it continues to fascinate us. Once beauty magazines are finished instructing us on how to look like Scandinavian amazons and achieve hygge and lagom with scented candles, we’ll be back to reading how to breathe like French women.

Despite its vintage (circa 1954), Christian Dior’s Little Dictionary of Fashion (public library) is still a good guide to the art of French style. Fashion and the world in general have changed dramatically since Dior wrote it, but the basic premise of the attention to shape, quality and elegance holds. Mind you, at no point does Dior talk about his Dictionary as French; it’s his guide to fashion in general.

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Carnal Flowers

No fragrance type elicits more polarized reactions than white flowers. For some, they’re the ultimate love potion. For others–a bottled nightmare. I realize that the term “white flowers” covers too many botanicals to be useful, but let’s pretend we’re talking about night-blooming plants like jasmine, gardenia and tuberose. Jasmine can smell like horse sweat. Gardenia has a distinct whiff of mushrooms. But at least jasmine and gardenia can be tamed and made pretty and gentle. Tuberose, on the other hand, doesn’t do demure well and it also stands no competition. Add a touch of tuberose to a perfume, and it takes over everything with its warmth and luxurious heft. It’s perfect for those of us tired of wan floral perfumes that smell as if they need to be on life support.

My favorite tuberose is Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower. It’s been around since 2005, and I’ve rhapsodized about it for about that long. It thrills me with the richness of the sensations it evokes, from the brightness of green notes to the warmth of the tuberose petals. But that’s not why I selected it for my modern classics series, On White Flowers. Over the past decade it has become one of the gold standard tuberose fragrances against which others are judged. Love it or hate it, but it’s a modern classic.

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Paris Exhibitions Not To Miss Summer-Fall 2017

“Paris is a veritable ocean,” wrote Honoré de Balzac in his novel Father Goriot. Balzac was conveying the mysteries of Paris that will always remain out of reach, but whenever I have a couple of days in the city and try to decide which museum exhibits to visit, I feel the same sentiment. Is it possible to see everything, explore everything, touch everything that Paris has to offer? Of course not, but trying to do so is a heady pleasure in itself. Below are my highlights from this summer in Paris. If you scroll further down, you will find an additional list of coming attractions.

Christian Dior at the Musée des Arts décoratifs until 7 January 2018

An exhibit that will make you appreciate the genius of Christian Dior and his obsessive attention to detail. Covering several floors of the Musée des Arts décoratifs, a few steps from the Tuileries Garden, the exposition traces the rise of the fashion house. It starts from the early days when Dior contemplated a career in political science and art and ends with the tenure of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current artistic director. There is a special section on perfume.

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Postcard from Paris

Anyone care to make up a caption?

The illustration was drawn by the artist Elisabeth Branly (1889-1971) in 1911. It was presented as part of the exhibition celebrating the work of female artists and artisans at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. I thought that it was ideal for our Women in Perfumery series!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is now open. You can use this space to ask any questions about perfume, including fragrance recommendations, and of course, share your discoveries.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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