Oh, to Smell Like a Duchess (by Nava)

OK, admit it: you got up at some ungodly hour last Friday morning to watch the royal wedding. I did, and I was glad. I watched Lady Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles 30 years ago, broken wrist and all (I’d fallen off my bicycle 2 weeks earlier), with one of my best friends. Even though we were less than fairy princess material, we couldn’t help ourselves. So, it was only natural that I watch Prince William, Charles and Diana’s eldest son, get hitched to Kate Middleton.

All in all, the wedding did not disappoint; I loved everything: the pomp and circumstance, the dress, the ceremony…the entire show. I didn’t regret the sleep I missed, and I breakfasted on a bagel with tuna and a mug of tea at about 5 am. Pure class, I know. But hey – I am a citizen of the commonwealth so I felt it was my duty. The bagel with tuna was a distinctly American touch.

I found myself wondering what Kate, now the Duchess of Cambridge, smelled like in her Alexander McQueen dress (hello, Grace Kelly!), and I was thinking that it must have been some flowery concoction; Penhaligon’s Bluebell or, gasp! Chanel No.5. I logged on to People.com yesterday to read this about the scent she wore. Given her down-to-earth style, I was surprised to read it was something I had never heard of. I don’t know what I was thinking she’d wear. Hell, I don’t even remember what I wore on my own wedding day. I was sure it wasn’t going to be something pedestrian like Estée Lauder Beautiful, or one of the Vera Wang scents, but this sort of surprised me.

The scent is White Gardenia Petals by Illuminum, and it is backordered until August at LuckyScent. The notes are lily of the valley, white gardenia, jasmine and amber. Typical for a bridal scent; but the niche-ness of it and the fact that she wore it has the entire world in a tizzy. It kind of reminds me of the Club Monaco lipstick Monica Lewinsky wore when she was interviewed by Barbara Walters. You couldn’t get a tube of it for about a year after the airing.

A quick Google of the brand led me to their Web site, which shows an entire stable of scents besides White Gardenia Petals. Knowing the intrepid boys over at LuckyScent, I’m sure they’ll have the whole line in stock before too long. According to the site, the brand was created by British hairdresser Michael Boadi, who is also responsible for the Boadicea the Victorious line of scents. I’ve read mixed reviews of those, but according to the copy, Illuminum is supposed to be a “revolutionary, cutting edge concept in fragrance”.

The Illuminum site is rather clumsily laid out, and I wasn’t too keen on poring over the notes of all 16 scents. Yes, there are 16 of them. I guess between this line and Boadicea, Boadi ascribes to the “go big or go home” way of life. My nose is exhausted just typing this up.

If I remember correctly, the last sold-out fragrance frenzy came courtesy of Jennifer Aniston, when it was published somewhere that she loved Chantecaille Frangipani. Of course, this was way before the creation of her eponymous scent, and you couldn’t barter for a bottle of Frangipani for months. I happened to have some in my stash, but it instantly lost its appeal when I found out the entire world was clamouring for it. That’s typical for me, because I never want popular culture to dictate anything I do. I’ve fallen off that wagon a number of times, but it’s different with fragrance. Why do we have to completely lose our crap whenever we find out that a certain famous person loves a certain scent? To be honest, I’d rather look like Jennifer Aniston than smell like her. I only want to smell like me.

So Kate and Wills are back to real life as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the rest of us are now chomping at the bit to smell like her. I’m hoping  the two of them will enjoy the “happily ever after” that Charles and Diana never did, fragrance be damned. Being a full-time cynic exhausts the hell out of me, and I find myself rooting for them to be happy.

God Save the Queen.

Fess Up Time: Have you ever bought a scent or scents because a certain celebrity was reported to love it/wear it? I’m not talking about eponymous celebrity scents.

68 Comments

  1. There was probably a time when I might have done so, but I was last an impressionable college student in 1990. And I was broke then, and I had a stable of two scents: the last remains of my 1978 1-oz. dabber bottle of original Chloe (kitchen-sink white floral with rich mossy base), and Revlon Xia Xi’ang (nice soft cuddly rose-amber thing). So I didn’t, actually, buy whatever it was that Kathleen Battle* might have worn, even had I run across a mention of it.

    (*Disclaimer: this was *before* she started pitching her Lyric Coloratura Soprano Diva snit-fits, or at least before she started to pitch them in public. And I *still* love her voice.)

    So far, no celebrity-worn scent has pulled me in, for the reason of being a celebrity-worn scent. Disclaimer 2: I just read about one today that might change my mind: Mary Chess Tuberose, worn by Lana Turner. It’s not even La Lana pulling me, even; it’s the Tuberose, and the fact that nobody would even mention this scent now except that it is, apparently, a bombshell tuberose. Worn by Lana Turner. Drawback? Long discontinued. If I *find* a bottle, it will be MINE (cue evil, chilling villainous laughter).

    Disclaimer 3: I just tried Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds in parfum – and was surprised at how good it is. I mean, it’s definitely dated, a big-shoulder-pads 80s white-floral thing stuffed to the gills with every note you can think of, including the unlisted but definite Ashtray Note. But still: surprisingly good. And yep, I wouldn’t have tried it if La Liz were still with us.

    Disclaimer 4: I blush to admit that I jumped in on a split of White Gardenia Petals. Didn’t watch the wedding, but I was certainly googling for pix of the Dress and the Bouquet and the Cake. And the Hats. (Saw a big teal picture hat with black pheasant feathers – I think – on some random wedding guest; I’d have cheerfully icepicked her and stolen it.) I mean, really – gardenia? Lily of the valley and other miscellaneous white floral thingies? It Shall Be Mine. (cue Vincent Price laughter again)

    • (Whoa. I wrote a book… sorry.)

      I lied. My stable also included the aquatic/ rich floral/ woody weirdie Aspen for Women. Which I *still* cannot figure out the notes for.

      • No worries, mals. If I listed all my disclaimers, I’d be trying to sell them to a publisher! :d

  2. I didn’t get up early to watch the wedding, but I did spend hours last weekend pouring over the videotapes on the royal website and photos of all the hats. Loved everything about it – so relieved it was such a success and very happy for them, and of course happy to see niche perfume get a boost!

    Can’t remember buying a FB because a celeb or famous person loved it, but I may have added such scents to my sample orders. Generally I tend to think, oh that would be cool, when I read that some cool person wore it, but it’s not that important and then I forget about it. I will be curious to sample this one if I haven’t forgotten all about it by August.

    I’m MUCH more likely to try something because one of my most admired bloggers loves it!

    • Child perfume had something of a celebrity endorsement-fest, and I’ll admit that I was curious to smell it. When I finally did, it was such a let-down. Totally not my thing.

  3. Years ago I tried Trucco lipstick in Blood because I heard Madonna wore it and I was always on the lookout for the perfect red. And it turned out: IT WAS THE PERFECT RED. So I’ve been wearing it ever since, getting compliments on it all the time. Once I walked into a Chanel boutique in NY to sniff perfume, and the SA said, “What a great lipstick. I hope it’s one of ours!”

    (It is getting harder and harder to find, so I keep a little backup stash in my fridge.)

    • I remember that! My old salon in Brooklyn carried Trucco cosmetics and they could never keep that lipstick in stock.

  4. I remember Monica’s lipstick, it was just beautiful. And I use Jicky sometimes in honor of Jackie O.

    • Nothing wrong with honouring Jackie O.

      Monica sort of reminds me of Diana because both made some serious mistakes as young, naive girls.

      • I thought Monica was really treated badly, aside from her sleazy affair with an older man. The FBI scared her and newspeople called her fat when she was a really pretty girl. I dont know if I would call her naive, tho, or Diana either. Have you read “The Diana Chronicles” Tina Brown wrote it, really good.

  5. I steer clear of scents that are ” all the rage ” .
    Knowing Boadi’s aesthetic , I felt I would be disappointed by this White Gardenia Petals – though I watched the gi-normous split going on ….
    The gardenias are in full bloom in my neighborhood and I have been huffing mightily when I ride my bike . That will have to do on the gardenia front .

    • Nothing wrong with huffing the real thing. 🙂

  6. I have never sought something out purely on the celebrity cachet but I have to admit that if Dita von Teese ever comes out with q fragrance I would sniff it because she LOOKS like she should come up with a great old- school chypre or oriental. Fingers crossed!

    • I love Dita von Teese. I would totally sniff a scent from her. I don’t think I would wear it, but I would likely be impressed by it.

  7. I’ve never bought anything because a specific celebrity wore it, but I admit being intrigued by the “Hollywood” tropical oils–Monyette Paris, Child and Kai. I might not have tried them were it not for all the hype. I actually did end up loving all three!

    Thanks for a great article on Illuminum, Nava!

    • Hi Sherri! I, too, have tried all of the “Hollywood” tropical oils in my search for a hot-weather scent last summer. All were nice but Kai won, hands down, as it smelled absolutely divine on me (if I do say so myself, as I did get several compliments on it).

      • A friend just bought Kai – she thought I turned up my nose at it but in truth I’ve only smelled it once or twice and, if I recall, it smelled great for what it was (that is not faint praise – Mitsouko smells great for what it is – and so on)…

        The others I’ve not experienced, alas.

        xo >-)

        • Ah, the Hollywood tropical oils. I’ve often thought that the air in L.A. is redolent of them, just like I’ve always joked that Chanel No. 5 wafts out of the sewers of Paris.

  8. In short – no, but I will admit to being intrigued by Carthusia’s IO after reading that George Clooney wears it.

    • Clooney would be swoonworthy if he didn’t shower for a month.

          • Fact: one of my younger brothers was born at approximately the same time, and in the same hospital, as George!

  9. As of this morning I now own a bottle of this! Much against my usual opinion on celebrity scent, I actually thought the notes sounded rather nice, and caved in after getting carried away watching The Wedding. I can report that it is a really pleasant fragrance and not at all what I imagined it to be (of course). Can’t detect the coconut, and my first impression was that it smelt like Prescriptives’ Calyx, only softer and more floral. After a couple of hours, I would say that it is the younger, gentler sister of Calyx with none of that perfume’s sharpness, but with a slight salty undercurrent. I can’t make out the gardenia note either, so don’t get it if that’s what you want, but can smell a mellow lily of the valley rising up. It seems to manage to linger, in spite of appearing to be light. To my surprise, I think I am going to really like this.

    • Hi, Nava, great post! Hope you had a terrific birthday yesterday.
      And a big hello to Jillie — thanks so much for reporting on this scent. I used to love Calyx back in the day (still would, I think if I ever got around to getting some), so the Illuminum being related to it definitely amps up my interest in it. Darn! I thought I could just ignore it. :)

      • So glad to fire your interest, Ann! Actually I think I prefer the Illuminum to the current formulation of Calyx – I bought a bottle last year and was sorely disappointed as it has become so “thin”. The Illuminum seems closer to the original and lasts longer on my skin than new Calyx. But of course is three or more times as expensive ….

        • Thanks, Ann! 😡

          Jillie, I’m really surprised that this is similar to Calyx. I would never have thought that had you not described it. Thanks. 🙂

    • Innnnteresting. I cannot take the rotting-fruit aspect of Calyx, though the rest of it’s nice – so I’m looking even more forward to receiving my 5ml of WGP.

    • Thank you for posting this! I’m even more excited now to try it, as Calyx was half of what I wore for my own wedding (I wore it layered over Ava Luxe Morrocan Mint.) What you describe sounds even more exciting than the notes on the sites!

    • Gee, I love Calyx. I have been thinking about a summer scent recently and although I have spent hours at Scent Bar, nothing is striking my fancy and just this morning I’ve been thinking I’ll just go to the dreaded “Mall” and buy me some Calyx!

  10. I’ve never run out to buy a scent because a celebrity wore it. But I was already a lover of Diorissimo, and hearing that it was a favorite of ballerina Margot Fonteyn made me love it even more!

  11. Nope 🙂 On the other hand, by the time I got interested in fragrance, I was sort of beyond the age where I might buy a scent because Madonna wears it, you know?

    This doesn’t sound too bad. A good scent for a wedding. Better that than Angel. Man, we don’t need any more converts to Angel.

    • Funny, I once visited an oil perfumery on Nantucket that made a perfume specifically for Madonna. It was some meditative dirt-smelling concoction that was vile, and I was none the wiser for having experienced it.

      Any bride who would wear Angel on her wedding day…I don’t think I should finish that sentence. 😮

  12. Yep, got up to watch Charles and Diana, got up to watch William and Kate.

    I thought I read somewhere that she picked this because William likes gardenia, so I wasn’t interested in trying it, but Jillie’s description of it makes it sound far more appealing to me. I like Calyx quite a bit.

    I’ve never tried a fragrance solely on the basis of knowing a particular celebrity wore it, but knowing Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis was the inspiration for it did push Love in Black towards the top of things for me to sample. I’m a big violet fan, though; I’d definitely have to like the notes in something, not just want it because so-and-so wears it.

    I’d love to see what Dita von Tease would come up with, Fragrant Witch! I’d never heard of her til someone hear mentioned her, and after I Googled her, I think she’d definitely come up with my kind of perfume…that good ol’ old-school, old-lady, vintage smellin’ stuff. I can see her wearing Party in Manhattan, which is my HG.

    • “here” not “hear” for goodness sake, sorry about that.

  13. I suppose you’d have to make a distinction between a scent worn by a celebrity, a scent fronted by a celebrity, and a scent with a celebrity name slapped on the label. Oh, and there’s another kind: a scent *actually* developed with the celebrity’s input.

    The latter type interests me if said celebrity is the quirky and unusual type, like Jane Birkin for L’Air de Rien, Rossy de Palma for Eau de Protection or Tilda Swinton for Like This — yesterday the latter got the Specialists’ Award at the French Fifis (yours truly was a juror) and made it as finalist for the Perfumers’ Award, which sets it in a class apart. I got confirmation by the perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui that Tilda had very much taken part in the development.

    But buying a perfume just because it was worn by a lovely young lady whose major achievement was a big marriage doesn’t appeal. Especially anything thing put out by Michael Boadi, whose Boadicea line I find particularly horrendous. And as you say, Nava, the sheer volume of the new brand’s output doesn’t speak for stellar quality, since it’s already hard enough to put out one truly excellent product at a time. It might be a very lovely perfume: I haven’t smelled it. And most likely won’t.

    I’ve said it in another venue: if there was one British niche house to support, one that’s got any number of gorgeous wedding day fragrances, it should have been Ormonde Jayne, not the offshoot of a celebrity hairdresser.

    • My opinion of a celebrity scent is definitely influenced by whether or not the celebrity actually took part in its development. I still have not managed to smell Like This, but having read all the reviews, it is definitely something I would be into. L’air de Rien is beautiful, even though it is not my style. An Hermes Birkin bag, however…

      I agree with you about Ormonde Jayne. I think it would have been fabulous if Kate had walked down the aisle at Westminster Abbey wearing one of her scents.

    • As much as I find the Boadi pretty (which confounded my expectations, I have to admit), I just had to say I totally agree with you that it would have been wonderful if she had worn an Ormonde Jayne creation – maybe Tiare, which seems so appropriate for a wedding, or (my favourite) Ta’if.

      • I adore Ta’If. It’s my favorite rose…but I wonder if it’s too sophisticated for Kate?

  14. I didn’t get up for W/K wedding, though I did get up for his mom’s and dad’s (I was way younger and wanted to see the glass coach – that was before the prevalence of the Internet, back when dinosaurs roamed the planet)……

    anyhoo, I don’t think I’ve ever worn a fragrance because a celeb wore it, though I have been intrigued by a few associations to at least sniff them (and no, don’t ask – I can’t remember. I can barely remember what I wore for myself yesterday, alas 🙁 And like Nava I can’t remember what I wore on my own wedding day.

    What I did see of the royal couple, later, was charming!

    xo >-)

  15. I would never buy a fragrance because a celebrity wore it. But I would be intrigued to try something known to be worn by an historical figure I admired or was intrigued by. I was compelled to seek out Coty Jasmin after finding out it was the perfume of the tragic Grand Duchess Tatiana, the most elegant of Tsar Nicholas’ daughters.

    I would love to know what Anne Boleyn wore. Pre-chopping, of course.

  16. I watched some of the wedding when I was up early to go to New York for Sniffapalooza. Then in NY was visiting a friend who wanted to watch a bit of it that he missed. That was fun, he made color commentary and pointed out how hot Harry was… From now on I will only watch Royal Weddings with gay men.

    I wouldn’t wear a fragrance because a celeb did. But I am always up for recommendations from my perfumista pals with good taste. So I am easily influenced by those with niche collections!

    BTW at Sniffa met some cool Canadians from Toronto that will be contacting you!

    • That is a great idea. I’ll make a point of watching the next royal wedding with a gay man!

      I can’t wait to hear from the Toronto Sniffa crew! Thanks Kate. 🙂

    • I agree! I read these boards because I want to know what “everyone” else is sniffing and loving – and I often buy a sample (very occasionally even a bottle!) because I know from what I’m reading that other folks have posted that I will like it or even love it!

      I have an odd relationship to popular culture – I feel no particular need to swim against the current. I never quite manage to be like everyone else no matter how hard I try, so I’ve learned to stop trying, at least TOO hard, but also to enjoy taking part in things that “everyone” likes that I also enjoy.

      Last night I wore a floor-length gown to a formal fundraiser in the New York area – I should have realized everyone else (ALMOST. EVERY. ONE.) would be in black. I was one of the two or three people in Something Else – and I was perfectly happy not to be fitting in. Used to be it would have given me fits. I loved my dress, in a dusty lavender, and it looked gorgeous on me. C’est tout!

      (And I deeply admired the woman completely coated in silver sequins. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, MAMA!)

  17. I watched the ceremony for six hours straight, pausing only to get lunch, and loved every minute. Cried a lot. Laughed at the silly hats etc. White Gardenia Petals smells very pretty – not too heady or anything – I was impressed, and think it lives up to the hype (if you like pretty scents, as I do). Yes, it is just what I might choose if I was headed down the aisle!

  18. I’ve liked a couple of the Boadicea scents and am definitely looking to try the “wedding” scent – but not because Kate Middleton wore it. Because I like light white florals. That’s why. And it doesn’t matter to me who wears what, thought it’s always nice to find that a scent I love is loved by someone else. I think most of us like a perfume for the perfume’s sake, rather than the wearer’s.

  19. Only kind of related: I read somewhere recently that Billy Idol wears L’Ombre dans L’Eau and it totally made my day.

    • That is interesting. I would have thought of him wearing some kind of leather perfume. Like Black Bvlgari. I love some of his songs. Thanks for sharing this!

  20. I was a newlywed myself when Charles and Diana married and my son was born within days of William, so I’ve always felt a fondness for the young prince. I watched bits of the wedding as I was getting ready for work and later poured through the internet photos because I am an enormous Phillip Treacy fan. Not sure I’d ever have the chutzpah to wear one of his creations, but I enjoy their whimsy and the way some of them make me catch my breath in the same way that some modern art pieces do.

    I liked what I saw of the wedding. If you peeled away all the pomp and circumstance, you could clearly see that the bride and groom were in love. Will’s ‘You look beautiful’ to Kate as she joined him at the altar was clearly heartfelt and Kate’s ‘I’m so happy’ to William as they drove off in the carriage post-wedding was equally sincere.

    I know public marriages are tough, but I find myself really wanting these two to make it.

    I’m neutral on the subject of celebrity fragrances. I can’t imagine myself seeking one out because a celebrity wears it or put his or her name on it, but I wouldn’t not wear it for that reason either. Makeup is a different story, though. I am really lusting over the shade of pink lipstick the T-Mobile brunette wears in the commercials. :”>

    • Another Phillip Treacy fangirl here.

      I think I am the only person on the planet besides the maker, the wearers themselves and their mother who loved the Yorkie’s hats.

      I thought they were great fun. Those who thought Beatrice’s was outrageous clearly have clearly never seen her butterfly hat.

      • I am so not a hat person, but I do admire the style and creativity of all those Phillip Treacy creations.

        Beatrice does have quite a collection of outrageous hats. The one last week was, um…especially unusual? 8-|

      • I loved the hats! Such a take-off on serious hats. I bet those girls have a lot of fun.

        • See, I think that’s the point that most people miss; both girls and Bea particularly are having fun with hats, not trying to start a new fashion trend.

          Of course, I’m Southern and we tend to go nuts with crazy hats at the Derby, so maybe I’m reading more in to it than I should be, but I just think they’re young and having fun.

          • I look like crap in a baseball cap, so the hat thing is totally foreign to me. I’m more into funky shoe/handbag forms of self-expression.

  21. Not usually attracted to celebrity fragrances I definately want to try “Like This” the Tilda Swinton fragrance from Etat Libre d’Orange because unlike Kate Middleton Tilda is talented and interesting!!!
    Not all of us here in the UK were enthralled by the wedding show but all of us had to pay for it. Actually this stuff isn’t harmless pagentry, many British people still believe that people are not created equal but that due to and accident of birth the “royal family” and their endless hangers on are inherently superior human beings. This rubbish has corroded British society for hundreds of years and I think might have contributed to you guys in the US having a bit of a revolution a few years back!

    • Tell it, sister! And as for Kate M. being “down to earth,” I think to decide you can snag the future king requires a person to have a seizable ego, like thinking you can be president; no shy people need apply.

      • You have to keep in mind that we North Americans are enthralled with the British Monarchy, even here in Canada with the Queen on our money – she literally rules.

        I remember hearing somewhere that after the Brits, Canada pays the most in taxes to support the monarchy. Maybe I should be more annoyed than I am, but it’s not every day a girl manages to snag a bona fide prince.

    • I once had a British boss who left the UK for the US while in his twenties for that very reason. That feeling of being “inferior,” he felt, is something that doesn’t go away. He was a great success in the US, but felt that his parents were stymied by this collective acceptance, so well ingrained in the subconscious of Brits, of a caste system.

  22. Nope – never bought anything because a celebrity did. Though I admit to being intrigued by Like This because of Tilda Swinton (not your typical celebrity!).

    Got up at some ungodly hour back in the day to watch Charles and Di’s wedding, but thank heaven for the DVR which allowed me to watch William and Kate’s wedding at a reasonable hour.

    Saw a picture this morning of her, back in Wales yesterday, pushing a shopping cart around the local grocery store doing her weekly grocery shopping. Trying to have a semi-normal life while she still can, I suppose.

  23. I bought Fracas because Madonna was said to love it. My first “important” scent purchase (I was probably 13 or 14) was Chanel 5 because of Monroe. The funny thing is, I never really had a desire to be either of these women. They were not idols of mine.. Now, if I had known what Vivian Leigh had worn…I would have marched out and bought that one pronto! And Stevie Nicks? Yep, would have made that purchase, too…I mean, what does a mysterious woman, twirling in trance on stage, clad in suede platform boats and endless chiffon layers of fabric wear? I’m still curious…

  24. Some of the other Illuminum scents seem kind of interesting. I hope Luckyscent stocks the whole line, once this madness dies down a little.

  25. I had the opposite thing going – I fell for Fleurissimo by Creed, than I was horrified that Madonna wore it too. It was during a particularly cringe-worthy phase of her career that I discovered this. Yikes!

  26. 8-| This has me wondering what my favorite authors and poets might wear? Jane Austen? Elizabeth Bishop…Mary Oliver…Cristina Rossetti….Bought Niki St. Phalle’s perfume because I was intrigued by her art….curious…

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