In April 1975, Queen Elizabeth posed for a highly formal portrait by her Court Photographer, Peter Grugeon. Resplendent in the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara and her great-great-grandmother Victoria's pearls, the forty-nine-year-old monarch looked forward to her upcoming Silver Jubilee, when she would celebrate the 25th year of her reign with a loyal and adoring nation.
Or perhaps not so adoring. Once Situationist designer Jamie Reid got hold of the Royal portrait, he added one minor detail: a common safety pin piercing the Queen's lip. God Save the Queen, a scrawl of text declared. She ain't no human being. Silk-screened in two colors on cheap white cotton, Elizabeth II's vandalized visage would fly off the racks at a certain King's Road boutique run by punk impresarios Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.
Jump forward fifteen years, and you'd find Westwood -- who once described herself as "messianic about punk (and) seeing if one could put a spoke in the system" -- traipsing pantyless through Buckingham Palace en route to collect an OBE from the very woman whose face made her a legend. Jump forward once more to 2006, and you'd see her there again-- still sans knickers, a pair of tiny silver horns sprouting from her temples to celebrate her ascent from Officer to Dame Commander. Hail Britannia!
Vivienne Westwood is now 73 years old. I hope she rocks those horns for years to come (though I'm glad she stopped dyeing her naturally-white hair that preposterous Virgin-Queen-meets-Campbell's-Tomato-Soup orange). A rebel soul eternally free to adopt new dimensions, she will (I am certain) accessorize the trappings of the "dignified years" with her tongue firmly in cheek. She'll pair pleather with pearls, tailored tweeds with fetishwear, support hose with glam platform heels. Heck, she may even don a pair of underwear now and again-- just for shits 'n' giggles.
But even she would draw the line at wearing Elizabeth Arden Cabriole.
You'd never know it by smelling it -- it certainly fooled me! -- but Cabriole debuted the very year that Westwood started pairing "God Save The Queen" shirts with tartan mini-kilts and vinyl bondage gear. Even if it had debuted two decades earlier, Cabriole would have seemed old for its age. Despite the acquisition of a Second-Wave-Feminist backbone courtesy of a Charliesque slug of galbanum, this is the same old sour, pinch-lipped fragrance Elizabeth Arden had already been retailing for half a century. How could it ever hope to survive a world inhabited by Vivienne, Malcolm, David, Lou, Iggy, Joey, Johnny, Sid, Patti, and Chrissie?
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I find it extraordinary that some things (and people) never grow old, while others seem geriatric from the get-go. It startled me to discover that Vivienne Westwood was nearing forty when she founded SEX with Malcolm McLaren. By the exacting standards of youth culture, that's ancient. Her own generation vowed never to trust anyone over 30, but she did her best work after passing that milestone. When she received her OBE, she was only five years older than I am now-- and still putting "a spoke in the system" with that cheeky smirk on her face. I simply can't imagine Elizabeth Arden embracing age with the same sense of humor, when her entire business stood as a bastion against it. Yet all of the conservatism of age -- its stereotypical horror of change and loose morals and, yes, SEX -- imbued her personality from the start. (Clarification: by 'age', I don't mean 'time period'. Not when Elizabeth Arden was born the same year as Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the original youthquaker.)
Cabriole comes across as a marketer's afterthought, as though someone hoped to disguise the Elizabeth Arden we already knew in a trendy, up-to-date outfit. But underneath, she is wearing panties... and those panties are for grannies.
Sorry, Your Majesty.
Scent Elements: Aldehydes, galbanum, bergamot, anise, apple, peach, pineapple, rose, jasmine, carnation, violet, beeswax, cedar, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss