No. 19 Eau de Toilette (Chanel)

For a person, an object, or an image to become an icon, it usually takes decades of cumulative worship. Keira Knightley won the prize in an instant by appearing in a backless bias-cut jade evening gown (and little else) in the 2007 film Atonement. In what seemed like seconds, she and her emerald ensemble triggered a global gasp. Was there ever a woman so lovely, so touchable and untouchable all at once?

In the original Ian McEwan novel, Cecelia Tallis chooses this gown out of pique-- toward the man she secretly loves but cannot approach, toward a closetful of other dresses too immature to match their blossoming owner, and above all, toward the blistering heat wave gripping the countryside. Donning the green dress changes everything. She slips it on over her head in one motion and emerges from her room cool as a river, remote as Artemis.

Wouldn't we all like such a talisman against the heat of the sun?

Chanel No. 19 is a pale green glass bottle sanded to frosted perfection in a thousand oceanic wash cycles. Inside, of course, is a message: water is always cooler than air. Though No. 19 is built upon an earthy foundation of iris and galbanum, its every molecule somehow encapsulates the idea of sea foam: water relieved of its own weight by sheer turbulence. Even its flowery aspect seems compounded not of petals, but of different-scented mists born across the surface of the ocean. Every spray takes one's inner temperature down a good notch, a trick which guarantees that demand will never wane... at least until the angle of the earth changes, and the mercury in the thermometer retreats south on its own.

Scent Elements: Galbanum, bergamot, aldehydes, violet, lemon, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, iris, carnation, rose, ylang-ylang, narcissus, vetiver, cedar, sandalwood, musk, amber, oakmoss