Bill Blass (Bill Blass)

I have never liked Bill Blass. No, let me amend that: I liked him from 1965 to 1967, when his fashions were spare and subdued-- youthful enough not to be patrician, but characterized by the type of serene, grownup composure that comes with having A Checkbook Of One's Own. However, somebody must have talked Mr. Blass into taking the Brown Acid, because thenceforth spewed forth a river of cringe-inducing frocks that made grown women look like certifiable circus clowns. (Four words: multicolored maribou feather hems. Phyllis Diller was a huge fan!)

For the next thirteen years, whatever Yves Saint Laurent, Geoffrey Beene, or Halston did beautifully, Bill Blass managed to turn into a patronizing punchline: fashion designed to undercut feminist self-esteem. But when Nancy Reagan achieved First Ladyhood, you could hear him breathe a sigh of relief. No longer would he need to pander to Women's Lib while subtly working to erode it. From here on out, it would be nothing but dowdy frumpwear for aging Smith alumnae who had ascended to the halls of conservative power-- a place where (despite all the early psychedelia) Bill Blass probably wanted to be all along.

Blass' attitude toward women is best summed up by this infuriating advertisement for his eponymous perfume, ably skewered by Barbara of Yesterday's Perfume. Just reading it makes me want to punch him in his self-satisfied, smirking face. (Is that too much?) The only thing I agree with is the tagline, squeezed in down at the bottom like an afterthought: It really is wonderful.

I recently found two vintage carded samples of said fragrance sitting on the display counter of a local thrift store. The cards themselves are fashioned from satin ivory stock embossed with Blass' distinctive monogram. In black ink appears the tagline: "Fashion, drop by drop. By drop." (Classic Blass overkill! Any other designer would have stopped after the second "drop"-- but not the Dean of American Fashion!) Immediately I knew two things: I had to try this nifty old '70's chypre, and I would include it in Sssseptember on account of it being Blasssss.

Verdict? It really is wonderful. Bill Blass by Bill Blass manages to graft together two dominant perfume trends of the 1970s -- the milky-metallic lactonic floral (à la Caron Infini) and the bitchy, take-no-bullshit galbanum (à la pretty much every other fragrance of the period) -- while adding to it the tender, sexy, tropical scent of meltingly ripe pineapple. This green queen can bring home the bacon... but as she's frying it up in the pan, she's wearing a silk muu-muu and toking a big old spliff while Desmond Dekker plays on the eight-track.

Damn you, Blass. It figures that you'd get to me through my nose.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, pineapple, hyacinth, tuberose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, carnation, iris, galbanum, cedar, oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk