1980s perfumes: 12 posts

Carolina Herrera by Carolina Herrera : Perfume Review

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Elisa discovers another underrated gem and white floral beauty in Carolina Herrera’s 1988 perfume. But don’t say that you haven’t been warned about its big sillage and quintessential 80s character.

My mother has never worn perfume, so as a young girl I had to look elsewhere for scented role models. One was my grandmother, who introduced me to the wonders of White Linen. Another was my best friend’s mother, a beautiful, petite brunette who always entered the room in a cloud of womanly sillage. Her weapons of choice – I remember seeing the bottles on her vanity – were the original Escada and Carolina Herrera.

carolina herrera

They both seemed impossibly glamorous and “grown up” from that vantage point. But in my first year of full-on, post-rabbit-hole perfume mania, I remember realizing with a jolt that, as an adult woman myself now, I am free to drown myself in Carolina Herrera if I choose to. Not having smelled it in years if not decades, I picked up a small bottle of the EDP at a discount store (in the classic polka-dot box). I got it home, sprayed it on, and smiled in recognition: it hadn’t changed.

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Christian Dior Poison : Perfume Review and Memories

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Poison:  Nearly 30 years after its debut, the name still causes a chill up the spine or a frisson of fear among those whose nasal passages were assaulted by Christian Dior’s titanic fragrance.

Launched in 1985, Poison entered a world of big perfume.  It was the era of flamboyant, often bombastic scents.  Even in this context, Poison made an immediate name for itself.  Whether this was cause for celebration or not depended on who was doing the smelling.  Poison, like Giorgio Beverly Hills, had as many vocal fans as it did vehement opponents.

I remember the first time I smelled it.  I had recently started wearing Obsession, Calvin Klein’s new-at-the-time Oriental that had a hair tonic note in the base.  But during a holiday gathering a cousin arrived, or Poison arrived with the cousin, shrieking in like a comet to the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Gone were the typical holiday aromas:  chestnuts, turkey, and pumpkin pie.   We were served Poison alongside roasted yams and it was all anyone could talk about; even the old aunts clucked—in appreciation.

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Yves Saint Laurent Paris : Perfume Review

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There’s a twenty-year-old ad for Yves Saint Laurent Paris that says everything you need to know about this iconic fragrance.  In the ad, the model Lucie de la Falaise leans against a wall while holding a huge bouquet of light-pink roses.  Everything but the model’s face and the bottle of perfume is in gauzy soft focus, including in the background the Eiffel Tower.  De la Falaise looks otherworldly in this city of muted pinks and greens, serene, elegant, and very, very French.  Surely the City of Light is scented exactly like this, is it not?  Isn’t Paris a veritable rose macaroon, tinted pink as Yves Saint Laurent’s fantasy fragrance is?

Paris is an ebullient and romantic daydream of a scent that interlocks a fruity, jammy, and abstract rose with violets that smell the way candied violets look.  One spray and (nearly) all is revealed. This is not a perfume of special effects but one that opens big, stays big, and gives you a bit of sandalwood as a basenote souvenir.

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Chanel Coco : Perfume Review

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I might as well admit it, I originally disliked Chanel Coco.  I will be up front about that because now I won’t be separated from it. Coco is a good case for retesting a fragrance:  more compliments have come my way with Coco than with any other fragrance. Although created almost 30 years ago in 1984, Coco is far from being dated. It is an outgoing, definite statement scent, not a wallflower. It is a fragrance from the time when women adopted a signature perfume as bold style accessories. Consider Coco an adornment, a piece of jewelry, the finishing touch.

Classic Chanel scents reveal themselves through mists of aldehydes that always to my nose make a Chanel perfume smell high concept.  They are tailored even when they are meant to be sexy, as is the case with Coco.  The top notes are bright and brassy with ripe, fruity aldehydes, mandarin peel, and macerated raisins.  These notes ignite as if flambéed.

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Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau : Perfume Review

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One of the great vagaries of a perfume habit is how you can end up besotted with a fragrance that you originally disliked. Somewhere in the mid-nineties I came across Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau, a fusion of tangy blackcurrant leaf, dark rose, and white grapefruit. It was completely out of step with the perfumes I knew in those days when niche fragrances were more or less not known or available stateside.

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At the time, I was wearing one of those huge glitzy florals (Dior Poison!) and L’Ombre dans L’Eau was its exact opposite. The green intensity of blackcurrant leaf in particular struck me the wrong way, as if the edges were sharp, cold, and brutal.  The fragrance smelled not of a shadow in the water (as its name would be translated from French) but of digging in a garden in the dog days of summer, hands in the dirt around a rose bush, with a heat haze dragging the bitter, earthy and resinous smell of tomato leaf through the thick air.  It was too photorealistic, this experiential French scent, and the leafiness was such that one might experience it as both a smell and as a taste, as if somewhere in one’s memory was trapped a childhood remembrance of biting into a tomato.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • rickyrebarco in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: Tara, I would recommend Teo Cabanel’s Barkhane, a woody, spicy amber that is totally warm and comforting. Also you may wish to try Nicolai’s Ambre Cashmere Intense, a beauty. Yes,… October 14, 2019 at 10:39pm

  • Armando in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: Hi Tara, I would recommend Woodissime by Mugler, from their Les Exceptions line. It is woody, warm, balsamic, but not too sweet and entirely inedible. It has great sillage and… October 14, 2019 at 9:51pm

  • Alice in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: Oops, this was meant as a reply to John Luna’s comment. October 14, 2019 at 9:04pm

  • Alice in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: Coco Mademoiselle was 16-year-old me’s signature scent. I don’t know if I could wear it now, but it was perfect for me as a teenager. October 14, 2019 at 9:03pm

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