Norell Vintage Pure Parfum (Revlon)

Expectation is raised to its highest pitch: a handsome woman drives rapidly by in a carriage drawn by thoroughbred ponies of surpassing shape and action; the driver is attired in the pork pie hat and the Poole paletot introduced by Anonyma; but alas!, she causes no effect at all, for she is not Anonyma; she is only the Duchess of A–, the Marchioness of B–, the Countess of C–, or some other of Anonyma's many imitators. The crowd, disappointed, reseat themselves, and wait. Another pony carriage succeeds – and another – with the same depressing result. At last their patience is rewarded. Anonyma and her ponies appear, and they are satisfied. She threads her way dexterously, with an unconscious air, through the throng, commented upon by the hundreds who admire and the hundreds who envy her. She pulls up her ponies to speak to an acquaintance, and her carriage is instantly surrounded by a multitude; she turns and drives back again towards Apsley House, and then away into the unknown world, nobody knows whither.

The above paragraph -- published in the Times in July 1862 -- describes an appearance on London's Rotten Row by the courtesan Catherine Walters (AKA 'Anonyma' or 'Skittles'). The ensuing riot cannot be blamed on the tight fit of her habit. At a time when men's mistresses stayed discreetly in the shadows, Walters had the effrontery to show her face in broad daylight on London's most fashionable thoroughfare. If she felt any trepidation about this act of public defiance, she hid it well. Chin high, gaze unblinking, hands steady on the reins, she rode forth to face Society-- and lucky for her, they liked the cut of her jib. Not until the Beatles happened along a century later would such hysteria overrun the streets of Empire.

Imagine having Skittles as your life coach. Oh, the things you'd pick up, sangfroid chief among them! Under her tutelage, your repartee would become sure and swift-- and all the Latin you'd ever need would be illegitimi non carborundum. But being a stone-cold bitch requires not just practice, but props. Why not let perfume deliver the coup de foudre for you?

I wrote once before about the supportive role chypres play in the life of a modern-day Hippolyta. Nothing but nothing fosters the warrior-woman ethos better than a potent mixture of moss, galbanum, and leather. Jolie Madame, Ma Griffe, Cabochard, Expression, Paloma Picasso: these generous duennas bid me (as might Vincent Millay) to "walk forth Hell's mistress... or my own."

Thus has Norell extrait schooled me all this week long. I have long enjoyed the arch elegance of the cologne spray version, but the extrait really is Not Kidding. Sparkly-dry up top, leatherclad and deadly serious below, she's frightfully strict as far as governesses go-- yet at the same time, she's prone to mixing in strange and salacious lessons amidst all the posture, deportment, and needlework. Something about the connection between sex and leather... what, finishing school? We haven't even started.

Now step aside... or feel her lash.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, birch tar, cardamom, cedar, oakmoss, coriander, galbanum, hesperides, hyacinth, iris, lavender, narcissus, oakmoss, reseda, sandalwood, vetiver