Tuesday, May 31, 2011

...And You Smell Like a French Whore.

I'm a total perfume junkie and I always have been.  When I was in junior high, I had a collection of about 12-15 different perfumes that I managed to acquire through gifts and trades and I remember my mom making the comment, "How many perfumes do you need?  You can only wear one at a time."  Which is not necessarily true, but I see her point and I'll raise her a, "no shit!"  Perfume lovers don't collect perfumes to simply have them and use them up like some ubiquitous beauty supply.  I didn't need 20 bottles because I was bathing in the stuff.  I just wanted to smell them.  The sense of smell is powerful.  Scent is actually the strongest trigger when it comes to memory so it's no surprise that when we get a whiff of vintage Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson, we're instantly transported back to 5th grade and remember the cost of an issue of Tiger Beat.

That being said, my current scent collection is painfully slim.  A combination of  abject poverty and pickiness will do that.  But here is a rundown of my arsenal:

Coco by Chanel

Looooove yoooooou.

Jasmine, peach, frangipani, mimosa, orange blossom, cascarilla, rose, clove buds, and angelica, labdanum, sandalwood, tonka bean, leather, and opopanax...

Good God, If I could bathe in this stuff, I actually would.  This, for me, is the holy grail of perfumes.  I remember when I bought my first bottle.  I was 19 and had recently had one of those tragic breakups that stupid girls get upset about, and to cheer myself up, I went shopping.  I always ended up at Chanel even though the only Chanel I had owned up till then was Un Fleur de Chanel and Gardenia, but that day, I wanted something less demure and more in-yo'-face. The salesgirl, sensing tragic desperation, pointed me towards Coco.  Big, 80's, voluptuous, dark, distracting  - Coco.  Something about Chanel's packaging always seemed womanly and sophisticated and even though I was a total dirtbag, I bought the set on a whim after a single, casual whiff.  I didn't expect too much but after I began wearing it, I was floored.  To this day, I haven't found anything like it.  To call it a classic is an understatement.


"You said you'd give me everything to make my life a feast. You didn't give me anything -- not even Arpège, you beast!" - Eartha Kitt sings in Champagne Taste

Not for the inexperienced or shy

Aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, peach, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, ylang ylang, coriander, and tuberose over a base of sandalwood, vanilla, tuberose, vetiver, patchouli, and styrax.

Arpège always makes me laugh, probably for the Eartha Kitt song alone.  It was French, but affordable so every woman had a bottle at some point during its heyday.  This is definitely not a perfume for little girls or the impatient.  It needs time to develop on your skin.  It's floral, aldehydic, dizzying, and boozy but it packs an elegant punch once it has warmed up.

This is an oldie from the 20's and I only have experience with the 90's reformulation but word on the internutz is that new Arpège is an honorable take on the original - which is pretty unusual since fragrance houses like to use reformulations as an excuse to fuck everything to hell.  Thanks Lanvin, for staying classy.

Speaking of fragrance houses fucking shit up...


Dear Maja,

I had no idea our time together would be so short.  I considered you ethnic and cheap, though you were anything but.  I didn't treat you with the respect your deserved.  

Love you,
I want to build you a little casket and throw you a nice, tasteful funeral.
 The original Maja perfume.  1921 - 2007.
I hardly knew ye.

I discovered this Spanish perfume, manufactured by Myrurgia, through a random recommendation.  I had actually never heard of it.  I looked it up and found the Spanish dancer on its label quaint.  Thankfully, it was on the cheap side so I waisted no time ordering myself a bottle.  Sniff-sniff.  I wasn't dazzled or wowed but I considered it an inexpensive alternative to Coco for work (not that Coco is ever really appropriate for work) so I fit it into heavy rotation.  It ended up growing on me, though, and I was shocked that I got compliments from men every time I wore it.  Surprising, mostly because it didn't smell like what everyone else was wearing, especially what girls my age were wearing.  Often, if you mention Maja, someone will say how their Nana wore it in the 60's and always had the black wrapped soap in their chonie drawer.  Well, guess what, your Nana must have been fucking cool.  It's a pretty amazing perfume:  Incensy without smelling like a head shop.  Masculine, without being unisex.  Feminine without being girly. An Oriental with notes of nutmeg, carnation, patchouli, cloves, vetiver, rose, oakmoss and geranium.  Maja was a spicy wow!

That is, until, Myrurgia sold Maja to Puig.  You want to know what Puig did? Basically, Puig asked Maja out on a date, spit in its mouth, and never called it again.  Oh my god, what is that smell?  Is that lime? Oh god, yes it's lime and maybe bubble gum.  It's like a fruity men's aftershave and bad margaritas in a pool hall on Hombre Night.  Did I mention that it is no longer manufactured in Barcelona.  Yes, it moved to Mexico and died a horrible, undignified death. 

If anyone would like to purchase another original bottle for me on ebay, feel free.  The new version is being relegated to the bathroom on chili night.

Black Rose

"Exquisitely melancholy. The background scent to an ancient exequies. Heavy, dark and floral: a blend of roses, with a touch of amber and musk."

This is an oil blended by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.  They're esoteric, dark, a bit gothic, well-read and poetic. and they do some really interesting work.  In a review, someone commented that Black Rose smelled like the mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and that is EXACTLY what it smells like (hence why I usually call this Hollywood Forever.)  Not to sound morbid...well...okay, it is morbid, but this smells like years and years of rose bouquets wafting through cold, dark, silent hallways.  Not like hospitals, or a florist's refrigerator.  This is darker, and heavier - beautiful without being pretty.  This isn't grandma's Crabtree and Evelyn rose toilet water; powdery and ladylike it is not.  If rose perfumes were put on a spectrum, this is would be the exact opposite of prim and polite.  This resonates with the faded grandeur of Old Hollywood actresses.  It's Art Deco and very noir.

Unfortunately, that is all I have at the moment.  Hopefully, soon I'll add some decants to my repertoire and review some perfumes of Classy Broads Past.

Scents on my radar:

Tabac Blond (I've heard so much about this, I'm afraid its been too built up.)
Jicky and Mitsouko. (I was never fond of Shalimar but I want to like other Guerlain perfumes)
My Sin (A Lanvin classic)
Casma (Curious.  Sounds classy.)
In Bloom (if just for the bottle alone.)
My Insolence (About as girlish as I get)
Fracas (I WANT to like this.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

From The Classy Broad's Bookshelf

I'm a regular at the flea market.  I'm willing to risk sunburn and a case of scabies to sift through junk in the hope that I might strike gold - and yes Kittens, I did strike gold.  Mad Men-style.  A book dealer, who may or may not have been an angel, sold this gem to me for $3:

The Secretary's Guide to Beauty - Charm - Poise.  Milady Publishing.  1962.
(soak all that in)


It even gives do's and dont's for smoking.  Hearts and stars.

Like smoking, fashion is very important in the secretarial field.

Now, let's get down to brass tacks.  This is a text book for what looks like an early 1960's charm school.  Contrary to popular belief, young women had several choices back then.  You could get knocked up around April of your senior year in high school and subsequently marry your beau hunk right after graduation and try to pass your baby off as premature, you could go to college and get your MRS degree, or you could be totally modern and enter the work force.   Obviously this is a text book for the modern woman and flipping through it almost makes me want to drop everything (and by everything, I mean, abject poverty, Judge Judy reruns, and pajamas till noon) and become a secretary right now.  But then I remembered that I actually once was a secretary and it totally sucked balls wasn't as glamourous as it sounds.  I wore Old Navy Polar Fleece to work, ate Lean Pockets at my desk, and the only flirting I did was over the phone with our middle-aged leasing agent in Georgia.  Obviously things have changed since the 1960's but, Dammit Janet, that doesn't mean I can't pretend.

Another treasured tome from my hastily constructed Ikea Blürgen bookshelf is 
The Bombshell Manual of Style, by Laren Stover.  

Judging by the cutesy watercolor illustrations, I don't think this book was meant to be taken as seriously as I've taken it.  The author basically watched a bunch of old Jayne Mansfield, M. Monroe and Kim Novak movies, and then consulted a friend's mom who sounds like she may have been a bit of a putita, and decided to write a book outlining why a bombshell is so irresistible and what makes her tick. Jayne Mansfield, I am not, BUT, I do feel like I have an inner bombshell locked away under heavy layers of yoga pants, old sweatshirts, and life-long snark.

So why am I talking about these books?  Alright,  I'm 31 29-ish (forever,) and I've never been very lady-like.  It never bothered me until recently.  Maybe it's because my fancy brother called me "ghetto" but then said "just kidding" even though we all know that's Passive-Aggressive 101 for "I'm trying to be honest.  You're seriously fucking ghetto."  Or maybe I'm just growing up and realizing that I'm not aging like a fine wine, but more like a rancid bottle of MD 20/20 that's been in your fridge for a few years and you have no idea where it even came from (warning: don't drink it.)  Le sigh.  I don't know.  I think I just see certain traits in other people that I admire and we all could use some self-improvement.  Don't get me wrong. I don't want to change who I am.  I'm probably still going to drink (quite) a bit and drop a creative swear word here and there (and everywhere) but there's no reason I can't be well-mannered while doing it.

So this is my project.  Let's get classy as fuck Let's get sophisticated!