Oscar Eau de Toilette (Oscar de la Renta)

You don't have to say it; I already know. Wrong designer. Wrong era. Wrong model, even. In a 1972 Gian Paolo Barbieri photo shoot for Vogue Italia, Anjelica Huston wears Halston, Bill Blass, Valentino-- everyone but Oscar de la Renta. But even though this image has nothing whatsoever to do with de la Renta, I can't help leading off this post with a mention of it. The woman depicted so beautifully encapsulates the exultant spirit of this perfume that I'm willing to quietly take whatever demerits come my way.

Look at her. Isn't she creamy? In that dress of fluttering chiffon, its saturated hues bold against her ivory skin and black hair, she looks like an Andalusian bailaora rising from a straight-backed chair at the first soft palmas (handclaps) of the flamenco singer marking the rhythm of the coming cante. Look at her expression-- so haughty and refined, yet obdurate, like a child of the city street. Her mouth stands out like a petulant red rosebud, sensuality in the midst of severity. The flower theme is echoed everywhere-- in the lush, tropical print of her gown, in the white silk gardenia pinned up high on her shoulder strap where it can kiss her milk-pale cheek.

Perfect.

"When I was really small I had this idea that if I could get up early enough, I could bottle the dewdrops on all the flowers and create a perfume,” the Dominican-born de la Renta is quoted as saying. His debut fragrance, composed by Jean-Louis Sieuzac in 1977, handily evokes dawn in the tropics even for those who have never been. This is one symphonic floral, incorporating raftloads of moist, freshly-plucked blossoms, all of them working together to crank out kilos of honey-sweet indoles. Not for nothing did designer Serge Mansau park a gigantic white flower on top of the bottle-- so large and expressive it almost dwarfs the perfume beneath.

Almost. But not quite. For Sieuzac knew his clientele: the woman of the day. Freethinking urban sophisticate, consumer (and creator) of her own culture, she might find the proposed "tropical flower garden" idea charming-- but really, can a girl get an ashtray, a whiskey neat, and a copy of the Times around here? The addition of triple-sec aldehydes and dry-woody chypre elements gives this femme the proper wry, distancing smile and adds a touch of irony to the music of her speech-- wise, for she is clearly no ingénue... no matter what pretty flowers she wears.

Scent Elements: Neroli, peach, jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, ylang-ylang, rose, lily-of-the-valley, lavender, carnation, cyclamen, orchid, rosemary, basil, coriander, galbanum, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood, vetiver, amber, opoponax, honey, aldehydes, musk, ambergris