Perfumes for a Dame

I was kicking around ideas for perfumes for a dame with Angie at Now Smell This and Alyssa at Perfume-Smellin´ Things, and we decided to do a multi-blog post on the topic.  I´m looking forward to seeing what they had to say on the subject, and I bet you are too, so be sure to check the links.   Here are my subjective, random thoughts on the topic.  

Dames are broads, but not all broads are dames.  Dames are larger than life.  They demand and command respect.    Some dames are beautiful; some are wicked; some are wicked smart; and some are all three.   Dames can stand up to men like Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart.  Whether they´re obvious or coy about it, dames are running the show.

Perfumes for a Dame - lauren bacall

Perfumes for a dame are by definition big fragrances.  They have sillage; they have personality; they have power.  They are often classic fragrance and if not, they may have retro overtones.   Perfumes for a dame may not be for everyone, but whether you´re channeling Lauren Bacall or Dame Edna, there´s probably at least one dame fragrance in your wardrobe.

Trouser Dames can wear pants, and may even wear the pants in a relationship. 

Trouser dames include Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall, Kate Hepburn.  They´re a little … bent.  Love and fear them.  As I type this I am wearing a lovely gift of Chanel Cuir de Russie in extrait, and there, my friends, is a fragrance for a trouser dame.   How can you resist its earthy powers?   Trouser dames wear:  Chanel Cuir de Russie, vintage Rochas Femme, Caron Tabac Blond or Caron Narcisse Noir, Bulgari Black, Knize Ten, Vero Kern Onda.  Lips: MAC Film Noir or Ruby Woo, NARS Red Lizard, or (for a neutral look) MAC Twig with Chanel nude liner.  Nails: Revlon Raven Red or Sephora OPI Never Enough Shoes, or just short, buffed nails or maybe some Essie Ballet Slippers, depending.

     “A dame that knows the ropes isn´t likely to get tied up.” – Mae West

Lipstick Dames are at the opposite end of the spectrum from trouser dames. 

They are all about the pretty, although they´re still not to be trifled with.  Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, and Ava Gardner are lipstick dames.  Lipstick pretty scents conjure up dressing tables and silk robes, but they´ll throw a drink in your face and stomp you with their stiletto heels if you misbehave.  Lipstick dames wear:  Piguet Fracas; Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose or Iris Poudre; Fifi Chachnil; Cuir de Lancome; Patou Joy, Molinard Habanita; Guerlain Apres l´Ondee.  Lips: Christian Dior in Red Premiere, MAC Bombshell, NARS Schiap.  Nails: Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Zoya Morgan, NARS Schiap.

Perfumes for a Dame - greta garbo

Greta Garbo

     “You treat a lady like a dame, and a dame like a lady.”  — Frank Sinatra

Corsage Dames love big white flowers, maximum sillage, fine champagne, and Tahitian pearls. 

They are elegant but tough.  Corsage dames include Billie Holiday, Rita Hayworth, Jean Harlow, and Elizabeth Taylor. Corsage dames wear: Strange Invisible Perfumes Lady Day; Frederic Malle Carnal Flower; Donna Karan Gold; Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia; Parfums de Nicolai Eclipse, Montale Jasmin Full, Christian Dior Poison, Serge Lutens Un Lys.  Lips:  MAC Russian Red or Brave Red, Lancome Absolute Rouge.  Nails: OPIMalaga Wine or Blues for Red; Chanel Gold Fiction.

     “I´m the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.” – Bette Davis

Corset Dames wear their fragrances like a force field. 

All dames wear fragrance to please themselves, not necessarily to attract those around them – and this is especially true of Corset dames.

Perfumes for a Dame - bette davis

Bette Davis

They can be as aloof as they are beautiful; they are not everyone´s cup of tea.  They can be dangerous or difficult.  You may only find them alluring if you´re a bit jaded and like a challenge.  Corset dames include Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.  Corset Dames wear:  Guerlain Mitsouko; Frederic Malle Noir Epices, Musc Ravageur or Une Fleur de Cassie; Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles; Vivienne Westwood Boudoir, Mona di Orio Nuit NoireLips: Chanel Vamp.  Nails: OPI You Don´t Know Jacques or Russian Navy, Sephora OPI Metro Chic.

I could have added dozens of perfumes to my lists, so please chime in with your additions and comments, and thanks to Louise and Musette for their thoughtful suggestions as I wrote this.


122 Comments
elizablue January 27, 2009

thanks so much--i love your blog and so look forward to reading it! this topic truly is bottomless. Have to say I think Miss Ross is really more in the diva than dame category, but maybe there are diva dames? Wearing big larger than life perfumes that fill a room before they even enter it, haha...

elizablue January 27, 2009

Much as I love her, Angelina is not dame material for me...but what about Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Edith Piaf, Anne Sexton, Sandra and Sarah Bernhardt, maybe Jerry Hall and Bianca Jagger, Diane Von Furstenberg, Coco Chanel, Evita, Celia Cruz, Wallis Simpson (is that right?), Paloma Picasso, Judy Davis, Isabella Blow, Mata Hari--has anyone mentioned Marlene Dietrich? Kristen Scott Thomas, Billie Holiday, Colette, Anais Nin, Iman, Marguerite Duras, Ingrid Bergman, Candace Bergen,Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Karen Blixen, Gertrude Stein, Frida Kahlo, Monica Belucci, Whew!I do think Maggie Gyllenhal, Chloe Sevigny and maybe Reese Witherspoon and Heath Ledger's partner, maybe Drew Barrymore all have some dame potential... Miranda Richardson, Toni Colette and Natasha Richardson, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave and Emma Thompson, Amelia Earhart perhaps...can you imagine the perfumes these strong ladies wear? I could go on and on...what a great topic!

elyse January 27, 2009

please excuse my over-commenting but I love this. I would say J-LO is dame material and I'm hoping that Tina Fey can one day be a comedic dame like Lucielle Ball or Diane Keaton or Mae West or the bajillion other underrated funny ladies. I think Oprah is a dame, too, if for no reason other than her being queen of the world.

elyse January 27, 2009

I would love to see Paris Hilton trying to shove a leopard into a handbag

elyse January 27, 2009

I think I'm a secret dame or something. Really nice and easy-going until you say or do the wrong thing, then you're in trouble. I think Elizabeth Taylor is dame material, even now that she's a little nutty. I have to say that I don't see too many hollywood dames at all, especially under 40. What do you all think of Dita von Teese? I can't decide.

pavlova January 26, 2009

What a great and thought provoking post March --- I think you need to include Ann Bancroft as a dame. (?) And perhaps Kathleen Turner....

Rappleyea January 26, 2009

Well if this wasn't a fun party to come home from work to! Absolutely fabulous post, March. Extremely imaginative. A few modern women came to mind for Dame status - Debra Winger, Kathleen Turner (might be those great voices!), Emma Thompson, Catherine Zeta Jones, Minnie Driver, and a French one - Audrey Tautou. I *think* Keira Knightly may qualify in a few more years as well. In the original category, I think Irene Dunn was also a dame. I loved her with Cary Grant. Perfumes.... I respectfully suggest that Mitsouko is more Trouser Dame than Corset, but that's just me. And what about two other Guerlain's - Nahema and Chamade? Lipstick? Corset? I love them both and I think they are both Dame scents.

rosarita January 26, 2009

Where's a forehead smacking emoticon when I need it? Catherine Zeta-Jones is the modern dame that's been niggling around at the corner of my brain as I've been reading (and thoroughly enjoying) this post and the fabulous comments.

perfumeshrine January 26, 2009

Wonderful categories and great writing, M! Fun!! My only gripe is that Apres L'Ondee is no dame. She's so charmingly a debutante.:">

Suzanne January 26, 2009

Angelina Jolie to me is the quintessential, modern Dame with a capital D! She became that for me even before her Lara Croft roles and everything she's done since then. Loved this series of posts, March et al! Absolutely fabulous.

Nika January 26, 2009

Modern ones are definitely lacking something. How about Judi Dench, though? She's a dame!

mochachoc January 26, 2009

How very interesting. I found myself falling squarely in the 'trouser dame' category. I love my Tabac Blond and Ruby Woo combo. I however never wear trousers. They're just wrong on me.

Patty January 26, 2009

Love this. I think I dame all over the place, depending on my mood. Can we have Chameleon Dames?

Kathryn January 26, 2009

March, I'm so glad you have some Cuir de Russie extrait. It makes lesser concentrations seem almost demure. I am treasuring my last few drops since, apart from the evil Bay, it seems to have almost vanished from the face of the earth. It was offered on the Chanel website as late as last fall, but now it's gone and I've just been told that it isn't even available in Paris any longer. Do anyone one know when/if it will be back ? Or if it is being reformulated?

violetnoir January 26, 2009

What a fun post, March! I love it! You mentioned Billie Holiday. Some other dames of color include Lena Horne (Corsage Dame), Dorothy Dandridge (Lipstick Dame), Josephine Baker (Corset, or lack thereof, Dame), and Rita Moreno (Fiery Dame! What a great actress!). I love Bette Davis, and have seen almost every movie she made. I even read a biography on her. I do wonder what fragrance she wore, but it may have been something rather pedestrian. Hugs!

elizablue January 26, 2009

I was thinking chloe sevigny, isabella rossellini, definitely cate blanchett--in the writing world faye weldon and margaret atwood for sure! Ivoire de Balmain would have to be in there, and Joy by Patou...

AngelaS January 26, 2009

Terrific! I love the lipstick suggestions, too. I think you're totally right leaving Marilyn off the list. She's something else altogether. I feel like building a dame shrine on my dresser--put out some perfume, a few lipsticks, maybe a silk stocking.

Musette January 26, 2009

This is an absolute delight! I agree with sweetlife about Mmes. Kelly and Monroe but I would argue for Mmes Colbert and Loy - one of the hallmarks of a dame (and they would be 'classy' dames) is that they do know what they do and they do it with class....but they also Keep It Real. That's why I think Jacqueline Kennedy (and again, Grace Kelly) are not dames. We don't love them because they are dames - we love them because they are not. They are our American Princesses and their feet do not touch the ground. Both are fabulous but neither are dames - a dame could (and would) go work in a factory or dig a ditch if she had to! I cannot think of a single contemporary American celebrity who qualifies for Damehood - they're all too 'common'. It's a fine line between Real and Common. Of course, all of this is only my dameish opinion! But then y'all go and start up on British dames. Stop it! I have to get back to work!!! ;) ps. I am aghast....I cover ALL of the dames, scent-wise - something tells me a lot of you do, too! xo>-)

helenviolette January 26, 2009

The dame posts are TOPS...based on my favorite of these dame perfumes, I get to be Lipstick Trousers. I will add Parfum Sacre to the list (And Maggie Gyllenhaal has a dame-y quality, don't you think?)

Carol Sasich January 26, 2009

I like where this is all going...

Lee January 26, 2009

Where does Dame Judi Dench fit? Maggie Smith? Is Tilda Swinton too classy to be a dame?

Lee January 26, 2009

I'm like totally hot for trouser dames...:">

sweetlife January 26, 2009

Wow! This was so much fun! I'm really glad we didn't read each other's things ahead of time, as all your categories would have thrown me into a dither, Miz March. I think my idea of a dame is much narrower than yours. For sure I would exclude anyone with too much upper class polish, which leaves out Grace Kelley, Myrna Loy, and Claudette Colbert (not to mention Chanel No.5) and to me Marilyn Monroe is also far, far away from dame category, since her whole persona depends on Knowing Not What She Does, and she's always something of a romantic. To me, a dame can giggle if she has to, but she always knows exactly what she's doing. I think my definition affected some of my fragrance choices, too, though we overlap a lot more there. But I can't see, for example, Apres L'Ondee on a dame. Too melancholy. A dame never looks back! LOVED your post! :x @};-

Liesl January 26, 2009

An uncle used to compare me to Katharine Hepburn...this all stopped when I grew up and he discovered that there were no discernable cheekbones in my future /:) I used to be a corset dame, until I found a man who would tolerate such behavior. I have since mellowed into somewhere between trouser and lipstick. Hey, he deserves it! @};- I'm about to embark on a journey into the Carons. Nothing I've smelled thus far (which isn't much) seems dame-worthy, unless you count the two that I call my personal favorites....

Nava January 26, 2009

You nailed the "Trouser Dame" category, March. I would move Joan Crawford to that list and Faye Dunaway by proxy since she played such a kick-butt version of Joan in "Mommie Dearest". That happens to be the only non-Exorcist type movie capable of giving me nightmares. Fifi Chachnil is a classic Trouser Dame scent as well as VIP Room, if there is still any out there to be had. Tom Ford's Vanille Tobacco would also work. MAC Twig is my all time favorite lipstick and I love to wear Spice liner with clear gloss or lip balm. And what more could possibly be said about Essie Ballet Slippers except that I am in desperate need of a mani-pedi. :)

Melissa January 26, 2009

I am intrigued by Louise's post about the lack of modern-day dames. Helen Mirren absolutely! And Bette Midler would make a perfect dame, although her star faded years ago. As for the younger set, I do believe that the two she mentioned qualify, as long as they don't have too many undue run-ins with the paparazzi. Madonna? A broad I believe, but sometimes a dame. As for fragrances, I was surprised that you didn't mention No 5, but then I realized that I was having some trouble categorizing it. I guess Lipstick Dame is the closest. I also thought of the wonderful La Nuit de Paco Rabanne for Corset Dames. My tastes cross dame categories all over the place, with Corset and Trouser taking the top honors. I wear a few Lipsticks and occasionally go for a Corsage. What a fun topic March, and I will be looking for Angela's and Alyssa's posts on the subject.

Carol Sasich January 26, 2009

Brilliant post March . I am a schizophrenic dame , I have fragrances from all these categories...:o

Jacki January 26, 2009

I wanted to be a lipstick dame but it seems all my favorites fell into the corsage dame category. What a great topic for a post!

Marina January 26, 2009

Ah, I am torn between wanting to be a Lipstick Dame and a Corset Dame.

Fiordiligi January 26, 2009

What a marvellous post! May I add my suggestion of Vol de Nuit as a Trouser Dame scent? I seem to own perfumes which fall into all of your categorizations, apart from Corsage Dame, but I fall down on the lippy and nail polish citations, being a pink/purple type of dame. I see myself, though, as a Lipstick Dame. Never knowingly unlipsticked.

Louise January 26, 2009

What fun! I am wondering if Dames are an extinct species? It's hard to think of true modern day Dames...I think Helen Mirren qualifies in the most classy sense, and in an odd way, Madonna...if her private doings could well remain wrapped better. Maybe that's one secret of the classic dames...they all had balls,er, guts, but whatever their nuances, there was a provocative touch of mystery about them. Hard to imagine some of our more public damsels becoming true dames( Linsey Lohan-not!) Charlize Theron does shows promise, maybe Scarlet Johansen? Do Dames hybidize? I think of us many cross-perfumers. I am no dame, I think, but rather a broad, sometimes a chick. This broad mostly wears Trousers (chaps?), but like Matt, there are often Corset underpinnings, and some days even a Corsage of Datura Noir or Divine. What about our Biker Dames...especially thinking of one who favors modern Femme? I like Shelley's Brain Dames, too. And you March, Blogger Dame, where do you fall on the Dame spectrum :-?

MattS January 26, 2009

Wonderful, wonderful post. I'm so glad ya'll did this; I know you'd been kicking the idea around. Hmmm...Cuir de Russie, Bulgari Black, Knize Ten, Onda, Musc Ravageur, Mitsouko, Bal a Versailles, Nuit Noire...Bandit. Holy $h!t, I'm somewhere between a trouser dame and a corset dame. Gotta go spritz some Yatagan and get things firmly in the trouser corner.

Nika January 26, 2009

Loove the topic! Caron En Avion is very fit for a trouser dame, and Caron Narcisse Blanc,Caron Acasiosa, Bellogia or Nahema would wear so well on any Corsage dame!

Shelley January 26, 2009

How about Brain Dames? Myrna Loy comes to mind...thinking as I write...Vivien Leigh, maybe? Might steal Bette Davis for this category, too. Sharp as tacks, those, and met all the repartee that came their way with killer comebacks. Knew when to talk their way out of a situation, and when to work other whiles. I think of them in big chypres, like the original Coty Chypre. Maybe a Bandit. Can see the right vintage Dior on them, too.

Flora January 26, 2009

I love this idea, and yes, I have a number of Dame perfumes in my collection! May I suggest, for Trouser Dames, Balmain Jolie Madame - it would also work well for a Corset Dame. And nothing says Lipstick/Corsage dame like my beloved Lelong pour Femme, with its big, syrupy sillage and eternal lasting power. I would also add Rochas Absolu to the list, probably under Lipstick - it is the very definition of feminine. Apparently I have a lot of Dame in me, and I could not be more pleased.:)

tmp00 January 26, 2009

I probably should not admit knowing this since it's perhaps the gayest knowledge I possess, but Joan Crawford wore Jungle Gardenia and later Youth Dew.

Jan January 26, 2009

I am charmed by your writing style. Where would you place Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, or Princess Diana? All three are "dames" to an extent but would fall into a category that has not been described. How about a diamonds/roses/caviar category? Dames who have the confidence and aura of understated power? They wear their femininity as a fragile but seductive gown that they've forgotten that they're wearing. They prefer coral, peach, or soft pink-red lipsticks, sleek, upscale hair, diamonds to gemstones, and dame-y fragrances such as Madame Rochas for evening, Guerlain's Jicky for sport, and Chanel's Beige for shop-hopping and private plane rides. Oh, and nail polish is always elegantly pale, because these dames are understand their understated intoxicating effect on even the most prosperous, genteel men.