Opardu (Puredistance)

During the turbulent years of the Great War, women's hemlines embarked on a startling adventure. After several centuries of touching the floor (or occasionally rising slightly above it, as if fueled by momentary optimism), they abruptly soared ten inches to mid-calf. Within five years, they'd make a second, hellbent break for knee territory, and the long-suffering female gender would kick up its heels at last.

Yet women didn't just leap from hobble skirts straight into tap pants and rolled stockings. There passed several intermediate years during which dressmaker-client relations must have taken on an undercurrent of strain.

The tunic dresses popularized by Callot Sœurs, Madeleine Vionnet, and Gustav Beer in the early 1920's combined mid-length skirts with trailing "fishtail" trains in the rear-- a sort of mullet in evening-gown form. The robes de style promulgated by Jeanne Lanvin and Lady 'Lucile' Duff-Gordon -- torso-hugging bodices over excessively pouffy pannier skirts -- only fueled this sense of sartorial indecision. Modern in front! Traditional in back! Austerity up top! Excess down below! If the couturier's mission is to interpret unspoken female desire, then this generation of women wanted it all without knowing at all what it wanted.

Picture a girl caught between hemlines. She's the 'vintage geek' still clinging to fin de siècle look books as she struggles to acclimate to revealing new fashions. I envision her raiding her mother's and grandmothers' vanity tables, repurposing their old lorgnettes and chatelaine brooches to wear with her newfangled drop-waists. This curious fashion blended of both past and present makes her look quaint, anachronistic... and oddly endearing.

Opardu could be her signature scent. But it's busy chasing another vision.

Who can resist the allure of the Jazz Age? This fantasy world of straight lines, sharp edges, bold colors and high-gloss surfaces is a boon for historians and designers alike. In real terms, the 1920s ushered a new set of freedoms for women, who leaped at the chance to vote, work, drive, smoke, drink, dance, and (most important) go it alone, unchaperoned. Such liberty had its own well-defined perfume wardrobe: Habanita, Tabac Blond, No. 5, Chypre, Mitsouko, Arpège.

Amidst these, Opardu stands out like a convent-school pupil in the company of chain-smoking garçonnes*. I'm not saying it's dull by comparison. But jazz hot? Not even remotely.

Opardu's name is a neologism for lost elegance or opulence perdu, specifically that of Paris during les années folles. From the first wearing to the last, it coaxed from me a feeling of nostalgia-- but not in the way its creators may have intended. For one thing, "nostalgia" is a tactful way of saying that I've worn this perfume before, and its name was Nuits de Scherrer. Luckily, I love Nuits de Scherrer, and I'm glad to see it reincarnated in a more diaphanous form. Opardu's combination of full-blown lilac and buttery gourmand notes suggests afternoon tea served in one's own garden-- high summer heat and delectable treats, both enjoyed within the shelter of a shady floral pavilion. A wistful touch of heliotrope (sans any of its tendency toward Après L'Ondée-style melancholy) ensures that Opardu's warmth never escalates into a heat wave.

(I mean this, of course, in more ways than one-- for while Opardu is a deeply affecting fragrance, I would never call it sexy. But then why would I want to, when its tranquil lilac bower is persuasive enough?)

Opardu is too tender for the Jazz Age-- and I like it just fine that way. It lacks the narrowed eyes, hardened heart, and stray-cat survival instincts necessary to traverse Kiki's carnivorous Montparnasse or young Édith Piaf's brutal Belleville. It lives at home with Mother, and I'm glad.

A sincere welcome, a warm smile, an open heart-- isn't this better than a thousand nights in Paris?

As for Opardu's hemline, it's not exactly up above her knees, but neither is it fettering her ankles and causing her dancing feet to drag. Like those clumsy dresses of the inbetween years, it achieves a workable medium.  She might not be prepared to tango her way across a glittering ballroom... but a foxtrot in the moonlit garden?

Can do!

*If I were among their number, I'd wear Puredistance M without blinking. I have grown to love it cravenly whether it's me or my husband who happens to be wearing it, and I imagine it would perfectly suit a garçonne (Does 'M' stand for 'Montparnasse'?)

Scent Elements: Carnation, tuberose absolute, jasmine absolute, Bulgarian rose, purple lilac, heliotrope, cedar