By: Tey Stiteler
What if I told you that the most memorable accessory that you can wear on your wedding day is one that you can’t see at all – and no I’m not talking about your garter or anything else you’re wearing under your dress (that’s another post entirely!) – what I’m talking about ladies, is perfume!
Your sense of smell is so closely tied with memory that even though you can’t see it, a whiff of perfume can transport you right back to a specific moment in time. So long after the cake is cut and the bouquet is tossed, the scent that you wear on your wedding day is an accessory that you can wear to remind yourself of all of the day’s special moments.
So it was with this evocative, romantic notion in mind that I set out on a mission to find vintage perfumes for the vintage bride. As it turns out, actual vintage scents are reeeeeallly expensive. The bottles often fetch several hundreds of dollars alone (so keep your eyes peeled for them at flea markets). However, I learned that many of the old perfume houses of Europe still exist and have reformulated their classic scents which a) cost less b) are often more palatable to the modern nose. Armed with this knowledge I set off to scour the perfume counters and boutiques of New Orleans.
Standing in the fragrance aisle at Sephora and gazing upon exotic bottle after bottle is like perusing the 1,000+ bottle wine list at Restaurant Revolution – I just don’t know where to start. I theeeenk I know what I want, and then I don’t. I theeeeenk…and then I don’t. Luckily, just before I was overcome by too many whiffs and sniffs, I was saved by Sephora store associate Josh who gave me a sniff of coffee beans (to cleanse my nasal palette) and helped me create this short list of four vintage inspired perfumes and the history behind them.
Chanel No. 5
A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future. – Coco Chanel
Chanel No. 5, released May 5, 1921, was the first perfume launched by Parisian couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Chanel felt the time was right for the debut of a scent that would epitomize the modern flapper that would speak to the liberated spirit of the 1920s. Chanel wanted a scent that smelled not like a rose or a lilly but like a woman. Thus the very complex scent was born, exactly to her liking. Chanel No. 5 continues to be one of the best selling perfumes in the world.
Guerlain – 1920’s – Shalimar
Have you ever wondered what 1925 smelled like? For some, it may have smelled like dust and leather or jazz and gin, but if you were wearing Guerlain’s Shalimar perfume, it smelled woodsy and sweet. Designed to emulate the orient, Jacques Guerlain’s magical perfume was inspired by the epic love of an Indian Raja for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. According to lore, the dashing Prince Khurram met a young woman in the midst of a bazaar and was immediately captivated by her beauty. Long story short, they married, had a legendary love affair, and after her death he built the Taj Mahal in her honor.
The modern interpretation of this balmy, sumptuous scent bears the same name and marries cool citrus notes with fresh floral bergamot, jasmine and May rose which when combined with vanilla, basalm wood and grey amber give way to a sweet and musky scent – reminiscent of the gardens of Shalimar which give the perfume its name.
Dior – 1947 – Miss Dior
Worn by Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich, the scents and styles of designer Christian Dior were making history in post World War II Europe. In the late 1940’s Dior took the fashion world by storm by introducing shapely silhouettes that emphasized a woman’s curvy feminine figure.
Released in 1947, Dior’s first fragrance, Miss Dior, was designed to be worn as an extension of his couture, famously saying, “I have created this perfume to dress each woman in the scent of desire, and to see each of my dresses emerging from its bottle”.
Named after his sister, the original 1947 scent includes notes of gardenia, jasmine, carnation, and oakmoss, ambergris, sandalwood, and leather. Mellowed by a light powdery scent, the fragrance is earthy, fresh, floral and soft.
Re-released and altered several times since its inception, the new scent introduces a citrusy top note and adds fruit to the heart of the perfume and finishes with a lighter musk than its predecessors. Inspired by the original and fairly different than the 1947 perfume, the new scent was created with the same joie de vivre as the original.
Givenchy – Hot Couture Eau de Toilette (Inspired by 1957 scent L’Interdit)
Josh described this scent as a hot, glamorous night in a sweaty disco – and I agree, you can practically hear Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer on first whiff.
Though this perfume bears little resemblance to Givenchy’s first fragrance L’Interdit, it articulates the same sentiment. Originally inspired by the generous spirit and romantic femininity of Givenchy’s muse Audrey Hepburn, L’Interdit launched in 1957. Its spicy fruity scent combines orange, bergamot, peach and wild strawberry and finishes with musky notes of amber and sandalwood.
Like its predecessor, Givenchy’s Hot Couture smells of ripened stone fruits and spice. Lighter than the perfume, the Eau de Toilette is a shimmering sweet and spontaneous take on the traditional floral perfume that is airy enough to wear every day.
So there you have it – four vintage inspired scents and the history behind them. Whether you’re looking for a scent that harkens to the glamour of the roaring 20’s or a modern, minimalistic fragrance that hints at the future, perfume has the power to catch the special moments and memories of your wedding day.