A couple of weeks ago John and I were driving home at dusk and he told me about a cryptic monologue his friend Steve had delivered on a recent evening, about that hour when the sky goes deep blue and the tree branches look black against it (I've always loved the silhouette of trees at dusk) and how it's the saddest hour of the day. I smiled and told John that there's a classic, well-loved perfume called L'Heure Bleue supposedly inspired by that hour and considered to be a beautiful and melancholy scent. He was intrigued that a smell could be melancholy.
At the time of our conversation I hadn't yet smelled the perfume. But recently I had a few minutes to kill after work and I wandered through the beauty counters at Sak's. I wanted to try some of the older Guerlain and Dior scents they don't carry at Sephora and stuff, but I saw a lot of bottles sitting out and nothing to test them on. Someone saw me poking around and asked if I was looking for something and I said, Yes, did they have any paper smelling strips? The old bitch gave me a thousand-yard stare. So I was like, "...for perfume?" She kind of sighed and idly opened a few drawers and then said "We're out, just use a tissue, it smells better anyway." (???) So the first time I smelled L'Heure Bleue, it was sprayed on a Kleenex.
There's something inscrutably complex and antique about all the old Guerlain scents, something that comes across as reference old lady -- and I don't mean that in the "ew, gross, nursing home" way that girls who wear Pink Sugar would mean it, I mean that especially at first sniff you have the strong impression that some older woman from your past wore it, if not your actual grandmother. At this point, relatively early in my perfume education, I find them intriguing but difficult, evocative but hard to imagine wearing.
Lo and behold, this morning John gifted me with a gorgeously wrapped (reptilian green paper with a red ribbon, tulle poof and a little fake violet) gold box of L'Heure Bleue (purchased from Harvard Square's adorable Colonial Drug). I spritzed a bit on my wrist so we could experience the magic & the melancholy on skin. In the first blast and for the first hour or so, the bygone-era miasma was strong, very powdery and almost medicinal, the diametrical opposite of a fruity body spray from Bath & Body Works. This is the acquired taste part, the part I can appreciate but that I'm not sure I want to smell like. Now, about four hours later (and after a brisk run, no less), my wrist smells rather delicious -- quite like that sweet, smoky scent in the air when it's cold outside (which I've always associated more with snow than fire), and the faintest hint of vanilla at the edge of perception. Need to spend some more time with this one.
So, remember how I said Angel smells like bug spray? I know why! Imported silks were once wrapped in patchouli leaves to keep away moths, because patchouli has a camphoraceous smell, and insects hate the small of camphor. (What does camphor smell like? Carmex. And moth balls.) The scent rubbed off on the silk and came to be associated with luxury, so rich women wanted to smell like it, and patchouli was repurposed in perfume. (I don't know why it was later appropriated by hippies and potheads.) Angel is constructed as a candy-sweet fruity floral overlaid on a masculine patchouli base, which is why, to my nose, it smells like raspberry cordials and bug spray. (NB: I love it.)
Some more recent purchases:
Envy: As previously mentioned. This is a frosty green floral that smells like women more important than you. If I ever had cause to wear a suit, this is what I'd wear with it. Downside: It doesn't last very long on me.
Parfum D'Ete: Another Kenzo purchase, this is also a green floral but with a friendlier more open nature.
Some more perfumes I want:
Broadway Nite: This brand (Bond No. 9) is too expensive for me (>$100 for the smallest bottle) so I need to hold out for a gift or a good reason to treat myself. Broadway Nite, as the name suggests, is bright, trashy and brassy, reminiscent of the 80s, like what "Mama's Fallen Angel" would have worn in that song by Poison.
Pure White Linen: Clean, breezy, summery. I want to wear this with the gauzy white linen lounge pants I've had for three+ years and have yet to wear, because I'm sure once I do I will ruin them. This one is tres affordable so it won't be long now.
For further consideration:
Hypnotic Poison: Heavy, overtly sultry orientals don't feel at all like my style (or that of anyone I know, really) but it seems like I need something on this end of the spectrum to round out my collection. This is readily available so I'll keep sniffing until I figure out if it might suit me.
(Photo credit: Ctd 2005)