Trouble magnet.

There was a time when L'Aimant ("The Magnet") spoke to me only of mystical attraction. I shared my first two L'Aimants -- parfum de toilette and eau de cologne, both vintage numbers with gold crown caps -- with two friends who liked it so much they felt compelled to score bottles of their own. Thereafter we wore L'Aimant and thought of each other: a nice confluence of scent and sentiment.

The third L'Aimant broke my lucky streak. I spotted it in an antique store-- a mint-condition 1970 gift set consisting of matched flacons of pure parfum and EdC in a gorgeous ivory moiré box lined with hot pink velveteen and embossed with gold lettering. I bought it for a friend, cash on the barrelhead, no returns or refunds... but she changed her mind. Another friend accepted it with joy, but something about the whole thing unsettled me, and I stopped wearing L'Aimant for a long time.

The fourth L'Aimant also came from an antique store. A 1950s vintage extrait in pristine condition, its tiny flacon resides in a cunning presentation box of hot-pink-and-gold imitation shagreen. It expends its first minute on skin in a lusty, full-throated aldehydic bellow echoing that of its sibling rival, Chanel No. 5. But despite their visible similarity, it is possible to prefer one over another using personality as the distinguishing factor. L'Aimant is friendlier, more approachable, more good-humored. She offers the warm handshake, the courteous welcome, the mixed drink; she makes an effort to put you at ease-- while Chanel No. 5 keeps to her corner and eyes you with cold indifference. These twins are not at all identical, and thank god for it.

It's fitting, I think, that I should end VintageFest 2014 with a fragrance that has been a part of my collection almost from the first. It's also fitting to end this difficult year with a perfume which (though it smells sweet) invariably reminds me how ambivalent and unpredictable life is. You reach for and hope to touch the simpatico. I wish that for myself and for everyone this coming year.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, peach, strawberry, neroli, jasmine, rose, geranium, ylang-ylang, orchid, vetiver, sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, amber, tonka bean, civet, musk

Lys Bleu Eau de Toilette (Prince Henri d'Orléans)

Today I'd planned a critical coronation for an entirely different fragrance, but a pretender to the throne has staged a royal coup. Please forgive Lys Bleu for jumping the line of succession, but once you hear its backstory, you'll understand why I pardoned its lèse-majesté.

On Christmas Day, I received a 5ml. mini of Lys Bleu from my mother-in-law, who scored it in an online auction without knowing anything about its provenance. I, too, was stumped-- but I can understand why this graceful little bottle caught her eye. Crèe par le Prince Henri Pierre d'Orléans, the royal blue packaging proclaimed. Frankly, I suspected that the Prince himself might be crèe par les relations publiques. Could he perhaps be a figment of the same imagination that cooked up Albert Fouquet, the hapless aristocrat of Eight & Bob fame?

Nope: this royal is real!

Born in 1933, Henri Philippe Pierre Marie d'Orléans is an author, artist, banker, war hero, Légion d'Honneur recipient, Comte de Paris, Duc de France, current claimant to the Bourbon throne... and perfumer! At this final goal, he's no pretender, for Lys Bleu (1980) turns out to be a lovely bouquet of hyacinth backed with the winning combination of moss and blackcurrant in the style of Magie Noire or Chamade. (Coincidentally, the latter happens to be the perfume I threw over for Lys Bleu today; I don't feel at all cheated in this exchange.)

According to a 1983 Sydney Morning Herald article, Lys Bleu is "a generous perfume composed of over 100 separate essences"-- presumably expensive ones worthy of a Prince of the Blood. (Look at that price tag! Even allowing for historical inflation and the US/Australian exchange rate, that's some chunk o' change!) Along with the aforementioned hyacinth and cassis, Lys Bleu features verbena, rose de Mai, tuberose, ylang-ylang, crocus, clove, "a most precious wood" (probably santal), ambergris and musk. If my nose can be trusted, there may also be narcissus, galbanum, and civet in there, as well as contrasting touches of salty lily and sweet muguet. I imagine the bottle is even prettier when it has a crystal stopper rather than plastic, but so what? It's the contents that give me joy.

My only question: does championing Lys Bleu make me plus royaliste que le roi? I trow a sample of Royalissime (d'Orléans' other creation) might impel me to swear eternal fealty on bended knee.

Scent Elements: Verbena, galbanum, rose, tuberose, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, narcissus, crocus, lily-of-the-valley, lily, iris, cassis, clove, woods, civet, ambergris, musk

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Intimate (Revlon)

Why wear it? What on earth is stopping you? You're a mammal, I presume. If not, you are hands-down the smartest amphibian I've ever met. Look at you sitting there all web-footed, surfing the internet and everything! Whatever you happen to be, if you've got a pulse, Intimate is the adorable floral you were put on this earth to worship body and soul.

What does it do? It delights. Really. No matter what version you own (I myself own EdC, EdT, PdT, and huile, and I have also sampled the parfum spray with my pal DC) the pleasure is all yours. Intimate's aldehydes are more champagne punch than chemical iceberg, and they give way readily to a delicious skin scent redolent of the grand triumvirate of warm-blooded animalics-- civet, castoreum, musk. I could wear Intimate every day for a year, and there's not a season, reason, or sentiment it wouldn't suit.

How do I feel? Mmmmmrrrrreoooow.

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Via Lanvin (Lanvin)

Why wear it? "In celebration of going", as an early-1970s advertisement for this chic galbanum floral proclaimed. "For the woman who lives and lives and brings a breath of fresh air into every place she walks." Or in my case, a fog of fear sweat as I struggled to run an understaffed Saturday shift on the tail end of a countywide ILS crash.

What does it do? With a blast of galbanum and lemon, it keeps a lady cool under pressure, while jasmine and sandalwood remind her that there's a soft end in sight. But more: emotionally, it girds a girl's fortitude-- a tangible effect on an intangible inner resource, without which one would flop like a ragdoll.

How do I feel? Oy. I have long adored Via, but today my love goes beyond simple appreciation of its merits and borders on helpless gratitude. Without it, I don't know how I would have gotten to five o'clock.

Émeraude Vintage Pure Parfum and Parfum de Toilette (Coty)

I can't believe it's taken me this long to write up Émeraude! True, I reviewed the EdC almost three years ago-- but that was before I obtained the extrait I'm currently wearing. I first spotted it in an locked vitrine at the antique store. I coveted that tiny bottle desperately but refrained from purchasing it due to what I felt was an obscenely high price tag. (Forty dollars for something no bigger than my thumbnail?! huffed I.) Eventually, it disappeared from the display, and I imagined -- with tears streaming down my face, naturally -- that a smarter someone had claimed this treasure. But the consigner had merely moved it to another vitrine... and marked it down to $22.

This time, no dithering. My wallet and I chorused Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. And in a way, we're STILL saying it.

You won't catch me making the same mistake twice-- which is why I pounced upon a specimen of the parfum de toilette with scarcely a first (let alone second) thought eighteen months ago. Full, untouched, in perfect condition, and the most gorgeous shade of sprout green within its gold-crown-capped mini-flacon, it sat in an indoor display case at the Columbus Farmers Market quite as if it had been expecting me. I was the first person to open it... and it was the very scent of paradise.

What is the difference between the extrait and the parfum de toilette? Well, I suppose if hell has layers, heaven does, too. The extrait might be described as one storey above the PdT. But the PdT is on the 1,000th floor, and the elevator walls were mural-painted by Marc Chagall, and when you step off into the penthouse vestibule, Saint Peter himself hands you the mail and offers to take your coat. To reach the extrait, you'll have to go up, up, up-- past the Russell Hotel, past the Jellicle Moon, to the Heaviside Layer.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, orange, lemon, tarragon, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, rosewood, sandalwood, patchouli, opopanax, amber, benzoin, vanilla

L'Heure Bleue Vintage Extrait and Eau de Parfum (Guerlain)

I shall come back without fanfaronade
Of wailing wind and graveyard panoply;
But, trembling, slip from cool Eternity-
A mild and most bewildered little shade.
I shall not make sepulchral midnight raid,
But softly come where I had longed to be
In April twilight's unsung melody,
And I, not you, shall be the one afraid.

Strange, that from lovely dreamings of the dead
I shall come back to you, who hurt me most.
You may not feel my hand upon your head,
I'll be so new and inexpert a ghost.
Perhaps you will not know that I am near-
And that will break my ghostly heart, my dear.


--Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
L'Heure Bleue -- that heart-breakingly beautiful dirge of a perfume -- has numbered amongst my favorites from the earliest days of my perfumistahood. But as time passes, what I find most astonishing about it is not its fabled tears and twilight. Like its sister scent Après L'Ondée, L'Heure Bleue makes a dramatic entrance with its shiver-inducing fanfare of anise, neroli, and heliotrope. For those who prefer tragedy to comedy, that's all very well. But what L'Heure has that L'Ondée does not is a sturdy base of pure animalic raunch-- an unmistakeable whiff of sex beneath those widow's weeds. One divines that her diaphanous shrouds are temporary; mentally, spiritually, and above all physically, she is too well-anchored to Mother Earth to lose herself in the incorporeal world of eternal bereavement.

Mourn she may, but not for long-- and not alone.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, aniseed, carnation, neroli, orange blossom, iris, violet, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, Bulgarian rose, tuberose, vanilla, benzoin, tonka bean, incense, musk

Vintage Parfum du Jour: DiBorghese Vintage Cologne Vivant (Princess Marcella DiBorghese)

Why wear it? Because every woman from my childhood who sported a dry galbanum chypre like this one was so inexpressibly sophistiquée, how could I not want to emulate her? Plus, consider that the finest galbanum came from the mountains of Persia. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and all the trade sanctions that followed, it seems to me that women in the West stopped smelling quite so imperious-- humbled by history, as it were. Sharp, fierce, and intractable, DiBorghese returns me to an era when goddesses roamed the earth.

What does it do? It juxtaposes cool (galbanum, oakmoss, iris) against hot (sandalwood, civet, leather) against cool (Are you talking to ME?) against hot (Strike a pose!) until the line between tension and pleasure dissolves. Stupid line... who needs it anyway?

How do I feel? Like I've just gotten home from an exhilarating night at Studio 54 instead of a tedious day of labor at a public library.

Capricci Vintage Eau de Toilette

As fragrance houses go, Maison Nina Ricci -- the venture launched by the great couturière and her son Robert in 1946 -- is somewhat of a cipher. Some houses churn out works so recognizably of a piece, you can identify them at a hundred paces. Not Nina Ricci. So many wildly different scents -- L'Air du Temps (a classic fresh green floral), Fille d'Eve (a slyly suggestive parfum de peau), Deci Delà (an upscale fruit salad), Signoricci (Incontestably Male! as the advertisement states), Fleur de Fleurs (a bizarre blend of nectar and bilge), and Les Belles de Ricci (the Breakfast Club of teen perfume collections) -- under one roof is remarkable. It shows a willingness to adapt, explore, renew, reinvent, and always keep pace with the times.

Capricci is an aldehydic chypre from 1961, a year in which the future seemed bigger, brighter, closer, and somehow scarier than ever before. Youthful, stylish, and idealistic, the Kennedys had just been inaugurated America's First Family-- and would soon usher us into a terrifying new age of ICBMs and Cuban crises. Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard cut the ribbon on the frontier of space, while the Civil Rights movement shook the foundations back home on Planet Earth. At Liverpool's Cavern Club, the Beatles fired their first shot across the bow of popular music; on bookstands, Joseph Heller's Catch-22 did likewise for literature. Like a prairie tumbleweed, a twenty-year-old skinnamarink name of Bob Dylan blew into Greenwich Village-- enough said. And while even he may not have known it yet, the times they were a-changin'-- growing more hopeful, more cynical, more polarized (and polarizing) by the day.

Apropos of such turbulent times, Capricci is both sparkling and bitter, verdant and metallic, memorable and fleeting. On one hand, its jasmine and narcissus have a dewy quality that puts me in mind of tender April. On the other hand, Vincent Millay called April an "idiot, babbling and strewing flowers"-- and brother, she knew the score.

Like other ambassadors of her small-yet-formidable genre, Capricci projects a severe sort of handsomeness, at once attractive and intimidating-- like someone you admire so much that the thought of their slightest displeasure makes you break out in a cold sweat. From the first hiss of her aldehydes to her glowering oakmoss drydown, she makes it clear that she prefers plain truth to bouquets of silly flowers. Were she a person rather than a fragrance, Capricci would be Galatea Dunkel from Kerouac's On The Road... or Mad Men's Peggy Olson, forever given the short shrift... or Inside Llewyn Davis' Jean, perpetually radiating incandescent rage at odds with the sweetness of her singing voice. In other words, one beautiful, whip-smart, angry chick.

I hear the sound of zeitgeist... and if I were you, I wouldn't give her any lip.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, rosemary, galbanum, rose, hyacinth, jasmine, gardenia, geranium, lily-of-the-valley, narcissus, iris, tuberose, ylang-ylang, benzoin, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, musk

We Three Queens: A Vintage Gift in Triplicate from Bouquet Lenthéric.

I have before me a Bouquet Lenthéric "Three Silent Messengers" gift set found at one of my usual antique haunts. If the advertisement at left may be admitted as evidence, it dates back to 1937. Its hatbox-style presentation case is decorated with a panorama of happy, Jantzen-clad vacationers frolicking amid seashells, palm fronds, and lemon-yellow grosgrain ribbons. Inside: three nearly-full two-ounce flacons of Miracle (1924), À Bientôt (1930), and Tweed (1933).

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Lenthéric sold a dizzying selection of such trios priced at $1.95 ($32 today; far less than I paid for it). With evocative names such as "Exposition", "Bal Masque", "Crème Bouquet" and "Le Triangle de Fleurs", the Three Silent Messengers/Three Musketeers coffrets provided a handy introduction to the Lenthéric fragrance library: Tweed, Miracle, À Bientôt, Shanghai, Cabaña, Confetti, Repartée, Muguet, Gardenia, Red Lilac, Carnation, Jasmin, or Violette pour femme; Tanbark, Onyx, or High Hat pour homme.

Three classic perfumes in one gorgeous package, available for a pittance? Count me in!

Like Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass, Bourjois Evening in Paris, or Evyan White Shoulders, Tweed is one of those fragrances every modern perfumista knows about but few actually wear. Our grandmothers speak of it fondly, but then, they're ninety. With so few active adherents to its cause, Tweed has fallen to the status of profumum non grata in Perfumeland. I find that very sad, because it's the venerable ancestress of Imprévu, Azurée, and many other light "handbag leathers" we adore.

A peal of neroli starts Tweed off on a heavenly note, but you have to be quick to catch it-- it's as fleeting as the dawn, a gift meant only for the wearer at the moment of application. Henceforth, Tweed quickly settles into a powdery, carnation-tinged suede with a suggestion of somber woods. It doesn't produce much sillage-- but then, a sportswoman on a countryside ramble won't necessarily wish to throw off much scent. As its name implies, Tweed is uniquely designed to complement rather than vanquish the wilderness and can be worn without fear of offending the local flora and fauna (or polluting their airspace).

À Bientôt ("Until Next Time") leaves no doubt that there will be a next time, if only because the impression it makes is so compelling that one wants to renew the acquaintance again-- and soon. The citrus note with which it commences is bright and bell-toned, bergamot and lime with a soupçon of airy lavender blended in. But just as you think you've got a regulation herbal cologne on your hands (or rather, wrists) À Bientôt lets out a throaty growl of civet that even a jaded perfumista might find exciting. The drydown is a standard soft Oriental accord of vanillic resins, but it's that sybaritic civet that lingers, both on skin and in memory. If you like it -- and I mean really, REALLY like it -- you'll want to try Miracle, which is À Bientôt turned up to eleven. A bit much for me, but evidently not for its previous owner, judging from the fact that it's the only one of these Three Silent Messengers that appears to have gotten some play.

Lenthéric today is a sad-looking affair, hawking fragrances with names like Junkie and Hoity Toity in what look like hygiene product spray cans, like the French version of AXE. Grim, yes? Bien sûr! When you have a concrete example in front of you of what used to be, it makes you wish that this little hatbox doubled as a fully-operational time machine. But since that's silly, you can always spritz and dream.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, rose, violet, jasmine, carnation, iris, lilac, magnolia, sandalwood, civet, benzoin, leather (Tweed); bergamot, lavender, benzoin, opopanax, styrax, civet, sandalwood (À Bientôt); bergamot, iris, lavender, cedar, eucalyptus, civet (Miracle)

Sortilège Vintage Extrait de Parfum (Le Galion)

I first spotted this beauty in a vitrine at the antique shop downtown. Its lovely olive-green box embossed in white with a guipure lace motif charmed me instantly. Based on design value alone, I probably would have been smitten even if I hadn't seen the name emblazoned on the top.

Upon inspection, I found that the flacon was still sealed with old-fashioned baudruche and unsnipped gold thread, proof that it had never been breached. Its contents -- though diminished by time to approximately three-quarters of their initial volume --were of a healthy color and sure to be pristine. Priced at $50, the flacon was marked down 50% and would be subject to an additional discount based on a frequent-shopper coupon I'd accrued over time. (Hooray for vintage perfume addiction!)

Getting the flacon open was an multi-step adventure. As described here, I knew I must snip the cords, moisten and peel back the membrane, and apply gradual pressure to the stopper, rocking it gingerly in a clockwise fashion until it loosened and slid free. Predictably, everything worked like a charm except for that last part. I had to take the additional step of wrapping a rubber band around the outer rim of Sortilège's stopper to provide traction for one final, gentle twist. Voilà! The stopper came out in one piece, and the flacon released its very first dazzling exhale of fragrant vapors. As I had hoped, they were gorgeous-- a fitting reward for so much patience, diligence, and sweet anticipation.

Let me set one thing straight from the get-go: the Long Lost Perfumes version of Sortilège ain't nothing but a shadow of a dream of an unfulfilled wish to be anything, ANYTHING like the real deal. I'm not saying LLP's Sortilège is a bad perfume. I'm just saying that it is not Sortilège; it bears no relation or resemblance to the original perfume conceived in 1937 by Paul Vacher. True, it starts off with a similar Chanel No 5-ish breath of aldehydes-- as does Coty L'Aimant, and Lanvin Arpège, et al. But whereas LLP's dupe goes off in the direction of a mumsy opopanax accord reminiscent of Coty Émeraude, Sortilège lands on a gorgeous, buttery sandalwood-- cinnamon-dusted, dangerously heady, and fortified with a goodly helping of pure-D musk. The seductive quality of this accord must be experienced to be believed. It forces me to take back every imprecation I've lobbed at aldehydic florals for being prim, clean, and cold. In the dead of winter, I could wear Sortilège and nothing else-- thanks to that sandalwood, the snow all around me would hiss as it melted.

Despite the fact that it must have inspired more than a few others (Samsara, anyone?) I cannot say that I have experienced anything exactly like true vintage Sortilège. It literally made me bite my lip. How many perfumes -- Long Lost or not -- have the power to do that?

Scent Elements: Bergamot, peach, neroli, rose, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, ylang-ylang, iris, lilac, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka bean, opopanax, amber, civet, musk

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Nuits de Scherrer (Jean-Louis Scherrer)

Why wear it? They don't build 'em like this anymore. There are heavy metals less dense, planets with lesser gravitational fields, suns that wish they could afford this brand of heat.

What does it do? It does for lilac what Sleeping Beauty's curse did for thorn bushes: triggers a growth spurt that would leave even the bravest knight feeling timid.  Then it unleashes the amber. Hoo, the amber.

How do I feel? A little overwhelmed myself. One spritz would have been sufficient, but three? I must have been in the throes of temporary insanity. Now I feel like Sisyphus rolling a giant spherical floral arrangement up a mountain. God help those who live on the other side of the summit!

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Tatiana (Diane von Furstenburg)

Why wear it? The world is hard and cruel, and this creamy-sweet, silky-smooth cup o' custard is not... or so it's fronting. For all I know, it might be a stone-cold bitch underneath all that satin. But I'm willing to be talked into anything.

What does it do? It weaves a hypnotic tapestry of white flowers and spun sugar and thereby perpetuates the illusion that the universe may contain a modicum of mercy. I buy the lie lock, stock, and barrel-- and yet, somewhere in the back of my mind, I know it cannot last.

How do I feel? Today, I'd say "convinced". Tomorrow, I might say "deceived". Try me again on Wednesday, and I might tell you, "Willing to be taken for one more ride."

Le De Vintage Parfum (Givenchy)

Occasionally a perfume will cause a complete person -- real or fictional -- to spring up in your head like a hologram. For me, most aldehydic florals conjure up a chorus line of ingenues who play at prudery even if it's just for show. Le De Givenchy surprised me by producing an actual virgin, and a nun to boot: young Sister Cecily Scallon from Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede.

When we first meet Cecily, she has just entered Brede Abbey to pursue life as a Benedictine. Is her vocation real, or does it amount to an escape from her domineering bully of a mother? Timid, obedient, introverted to a fault, she quails in response to the slightest criticism. "A cloister within a cloister," the other nuns call her. "Touched by frost."

Yet even among the unworldly, Cecily's beauty stimulates the kind of idol worship that overrides stray doubts. Much ado is made over the nigella blue coat-dress she wears as a new arrival. It is, after all, 1957-- quite an exciting time for fashion. The ultra-feminine crinolined ballerina look is ceding to the more tailored silhouette typified by Yves Saint Laurent's "Trapeze" dress, designed for Christian Dior's Spring 1958 collection. It even comes in nigella blue! The very fact that Cecily is trading such youthful vibrancy for Benedictine black-and-white is perceived as a measure of her devotion. She isn't just playing nun; she really means it.

Six months and ten days later, the community votes to receive Cecily for Simple Profession-- and even then the community "reads" her appearance as proof of her fortitude:
The weather did not smile for her as it had for Hilary; the sun and balmy warmth had gone; it was grey and cold with a sky full of rain... "I only hope you don't perish of cold," said Dame Clare, but nothing could have made Cecily feel chill that day, she was so lit with happiness, and as the procession came through the church door into the sanctuary, there was something more than the usual stir at the sight of the figure in white and a cloud of lace, walking between her matrons of honor...

Sister Cecily's that day was beauty no one could deny, like the wand of a lily, or a tree in white blossom... in the sheath of white satin she seemed slim and tall, her veil of fine lace making her look taller. Old Sister Priscilla became biblical and called her a pillar of cloud... She looked young, dignified as she walked, and the scent of the white freesias she carried -- given to her by her father -- came into the choir to the nuns.

Cecily knelt before the Bishop, facing the ranks of priests and monks. "What do you ask?"

"The mercy of God and the grace of the holy habit."

"Do you ask it with your whole heart?"

Her whole being seemed to breathe as she answered, "Yes, my lord, I do."
Le De could be construed as a wedding fragrance but for its coldness, its purity, its absolute lack of sensuality. These are not qualities oft sought in a bride, unless her groom's initials happened to be JC. However, like Sister Cecily, this perfume has a vocation-- and that vocation proves very winning. An aldehydic floral bouquet composed of muguet, violet, narcissus, lily and coriander, Le De overcomes its own icy nature to strike a chord of heartbreaking sincerity and youthful commitment. I am reminded of how the earliest and most tender spring flowers must force their way through a hard rime of frost to present their green buds to the sun. Nothing could be truly "touched by frost" that kindles such a flame of hope in the heart.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, mandarin, bergamot, coriander, clary sage, tarragon, violet, carnation, lilac, narcissus, iris, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily, lily-of-the-valley, rose, oakmoss, vetiver, rosewood, sandalwood, guaiacwood, frankincense, amber, civet, musk

Vintage Parfum du Jour: My Sin (Lanvin)

Why wear it? Because a certain edgy, perverse mood has prompted it, and there's no arguing with that impulse once it's got its well-heeled foot in the door.

What does it do? It smells like stiff rustling glacé satin, sheer silk stockings, hairspray, face powder, lipstick, underarms, Old Fashioneds, cigarette smoke, mink stoles, sexual arousal, Fifth Avenue, December, and the plush back seat of an uptown-bound limousine at three-thirty in the morning.

How do I feel? Less exciting (and expensive) than the woman described above. Instead, try stretch knit cotton, Mennen Speed Stick deodorant, liquid dish detergent, balsam fir incense, coffee breath, and menthol migraine balm.

Vintage Parfum du Jour: White Christmas (Saravel)

Why wear it? For succor that does not seem to come.

What does it do? Oh, it's lovely-- really. It almost succeeds in dusting my sorrow with a faint, glimmering layer of hope. If it melts when the sun comes out, why, that's fine-- for then the sun will be there to finish the task of cheering me up. But if the sun doesn't come out... and if the snow continues to fall...

How do I feel? Fucking lousy. The idea of going to work (as I must fifteen minutes from now) and slapping on a prefabricated game face makes me sick to my stomach. I'd skip it altogether if I could, but since I have to go, my game face can bloody well stay at home for me.

Eau de Givenchy Vintage Eau de Toilette (Givenchy)

Today I'm wearing Eau de Givenchy as a eulogy to my friend Mary, who thrifted-and-gifted me the vintage mini-bottle now in my Scent Cabinet. Before, it was simply a magnificent fragrance for the hottest days of summer, a lavish little long-lasting treat. But on this day in cold December, it seems much less plentiful and permanent than before. I feel myself in the painful grip of a desire to keep Eau de Givenchy as a cherished memento of my friend. To do so, I realize that I will have to work very hard from this point forward not to use it up. But my preservationist impulse is not so great that I would refuse to wear it right now-- in tribute.

Right now I'm remembering being out and about with Mary-- the way we'd joke our way through jam-packed antique barns and thrift shops, me on the lookout for perfume, Mary on the make for pedestal cake plates on which to display her stupendous collection of vintage hats like a series of fancy pastries. We'd pick up one random item after another and endlessly crack wise; invariably our attitudes would soften, and many of these objects of ridicule would end up in our shared shopping basket. Once, we stood for almost forty-five minutes going through a basket of vintage photographs, making up names, backstories, captions to be spoken in customized funny voices for every single one. We could have gone for forty-five minutes longer, but there was more to see. Always more to see.
C'est si bon,
De partir n'importe où,
Bras dessus bras dessous,
En chantant des chansons.
C'est si bon....

Eau de Givenchy (1980) is an elegant, crisp floral eau de cologne for women. Packaged in blue, black, and silver, it may have reminded consumers of YSL Rive Gauche, but the scent within reads more like a tribute to Green Water-- logical, as Hubert de Givenchy received his early couture tutelage from the great Jacques Fath. Discontinued for a time, in 2007 Eau de Givenchy was added to the "Les Parfums Mythiques" collection, where it still appears to reside. I do not know if it has been reformulated. I can't imagine it hasn't... but I can hope. You see, it reminds me so much of Mary when she was alive: zingy, crisp, with a bit of bite up front for sweetness to hide slyly behind. A nonpareil. A keeper. A favorite.

C'est si bon.

Scent Elements: Grapefruit, mandarin, bergamot, mint, red fruit, ylang-ylang, honeysuckle, jasmine, narcissus, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, rose, cyclamen, iris, sandalwood, musk, cedar, oakmoss (Eau de Givenchy)

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Dolce & Gabbana (Dolce & Gabbana)

Why wear it? Nostalgia-- it's been at least a year since I donned this tragically discontinued gem. I guess that one year is just enough time to forget how yummy and rich it is. But in the twenty years that have elapsed since D&G's release, each successive fragrance from this house has shown evidence of declining standards. Used to be that the phrase "affordable couture" indicated the best of both worlds (thrift and luxury). Now the price is higher than ever, but poverty rules the creative director's roost.

What does it do? It reminds me that sometimes aldehydes work just fine. I often grouse about those which smell fishy or frosty, but here, they lend a delicious fatty candle-wax density to a powdery floral amber that might otherwise be blown flat to the ground by the next gust of wind.

How do I feel? Grateful for the satiny touch of grace on a dull and drowsy Friday.

Shalimar all over.

I'm a firm believer in the notion that beginner perfumistas ought to at least glance at the classics, even if they don't make a habit of wearing them. (They may leave that to me, if they wish.) Back in 2012, Angela of NowSmellThis posted a road map entitled 26 Vintage Fragrances Every Perfumista Should Try. She prefaced the list by stating that she deliberately chose groundbreaking fragrances that have either been altered beyond recognition or discontinued altogether-- and then she hits us with the truth: Shalimar does not make the cut. "(It) is all right in its current incarnation," she explained, "so I don't mention it."

She was perfectly right to refrain. Whatever version of Shalimar you're wearing, all of its incarnations display a familial resemblance so striking as to render them both remarkable and redundant. Which is not to say you should ignore them. No, they ought to be worn, singly or simultaneously. Old and new blend together on the wrist with astounding native ease.

I own small amounts of Shalimar in a variety of concentrations and vintages -- extrait from both the 1950s "fan" flacon and the 1960s parapluie, 1980s parfum de toilette, and an eau de toilette from 2008. (I also have a goodly amount of what I believe to be WWII-era eau de parfum sealed forever in a broken-stoppered bottle from which only Armageddon can extract it.) The most recent addition to my Shalimar wardrobe is the parfum de toilette, a full mini-bottle of which my pal Mary gifted me after scoring it at a local thrift shop. (Merci beaucoup, ma sœur!) It's got pretty much everything that the extrait does, if not nearly as much of that animalic trifecta of civet, ambergris, and castoreum that makes my toes curl. (They still do-- perhaps not so tight, but enough to satisfy.)

Whether I layer PdT over EdT (or vice versa) and top it off with the extrait or wear all three at once willy-nilly, one thing I know. There's never any mistaking that creamy lemon-herb-tonka accord or the foundation which Ulrik Thomsen (AKA Monsieur Guerlain) calls "a pitchy, leathery mixture, zaftig, powdered, and musky beyond civility." In short, the collective Tribe of Shalimar possesses a certain something which no reformulation has yet extinguished.

Long may it waft.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, lemon, rose de Mai, iris, jasmine, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood, opoponax, tonka bean, balsam Peru, benzoin, vanillin, civet, ambergris, castoreum

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Diorissimo Eau de Toilette (Christian Dior)

Why wear it? Because you need coolin'. Honey, I'm not foolin'.

What does it do? In keeping with the early East Coast bloom time of Convallaria majalis, Diorissimo's lily-of-the-valley blasts you with a March wind worthy of tempering the most tropical hot flash. What's not to apply hourly as needed?

How do I feel? Perimenopausal and bloody loving it.

Rive Gauche Vintage Eau de Toilette (Yves Saint Laurent)

Rive Gauche camps in a rented room in some benighted working-class arrondissement far from the heart of fashion. Subsisting on hand-rolled cigarettes and minimal sleep, she displays too much skin and too many bones in the tissue-thin secondhand clothes she washes by hand in the bathtub. The bathtub, in fact, is the centerpiece of her entire apartment-- logical, since her apartment is actually nothing other than a bathroom, leased by itself for a song. For lack of space to fit a proper bed, she sleeps in the bathtub, too-- so if this back-alley flower sometimes smells like chrome and cold porcelain, or icy water absorbing the flavor of metal pipes, is it any wonder?

Inspired by an actual girl I once met in NYC.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, greens, rose, peach, jasmine, geranium, lily-of-the-valley, iris, ylang-ylang, vetiver, sandalwood, oakmoss, tonka bean, musk, amber

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Réplique Parfum, EdT, and Huile Pour le Bain (Raphael & Revlon)

Why wear it? I've got quite a lot of it to use up! From the original Raphael parfum in its classic "R" flacon to the 1960s Revlon EdT version, I've accumulated a goodly amount of this rich coriander-laced leather chypre over the years. The one thing I do not have (and what's more, harbor no desire to try) is the Long Lost Perfumes version. With all this Réplique, whyever would I need a replica?

What does it do? Singly, these scents satisfy. Collectively, they knock your motherloving socks off. The EdT readies you for the parfum's intense pleasures the way that matte medium primes a canvas for the application of rich hues and textures. If you've got Réplique in multiple incarnations, wear 'em all, I say. If you don't do a thing thoroughly, why do it at all?

How do I feel? Under the influence of pure, uncut perfumista catnip.

Vintage Parfum du Jour: Chypre (Coty)

Why wear it? Because a vast family of fragrances descends from it. Because the history of Western civilization as I know it used this scent as a piped-in accompaniment. Because its beauty steals the breath from my lungs. And to borrow an inspired phrase from Stephen Crane, because it is my heart.

What does it do? Glares at you sternly with remote, green, feline eyes behind which resides a thousand-year-old soul.

How do I feel? To quote another poet who knew a thing or two about a thing or two, I feel

...austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.