Patty invited me to comment on my recent foray into vintage perfumes for those of you thinking about exploring that direction. I have never been to Las Vegas. I don’t feel the need as so many of life’s other experiences hold some of the same thrills: By way of example, the roll of the dice when you buy a bottle of vintage perfume. There are many possible outcomes:
Roll #1: The Trip Down Memory Lane. If you’re old enough that the perfumes from your high school days are now “vintage”, this is a possible experience for you. After all, scent is considered to be the highest form of memory trigger. You smell that old familiar smell and all the experiences or feelings rush back to you. I get this with a vintage Chanel No. 19. So many perfumes have been discontinued or reformulated into something unrecognizable from its former self. Original Chanel No. 19 was hugely popular when I was in my late teens in college studying business, wide-eyed and taking in all the possibilities the world had to offer. Classy menswear ala Chanel was en vogue as women were making new strides into the corporate world. Chanel No. 19 was the scent I associated with this time in my life. Not sweet, but a little edgy and green-tweedy. I wasn’t sure I liked it at the time, but I was drawn to it. I recently purchased two vintage miniatures. This taught me an important lesson in vintage perfumery – buy quality. The EDT was simply awful and had “turned” while the extrait sent me rushing back to the ‘80’s in every good sense without the big hair.
Roll #2: The Trip To The Old Lady’s Home. I recently learned a new word to describe certain perfumes – a “scrubber”, as in a perfume that sends you screaming for the sink to scrub it off, hoping it will not linger. With vintage perfumes, you have to learn patience and sometimes you have to fight the chance to scrub prematurely. Perfumes age quite differently, some with grace and some with vengeance, and a few just go quietly into the night. Some age badly because of their formulations and some age differently bottle-to-bottle, perhaps because of the size of the bottle, the strength of the perfume, or how they were stored. The top notes take the age-related damage first and sometimes “turn” to what has been described as an “old lady” scent. As a result, you have to display a little patience. What starts out to seem like a “scrubber” might be a gem after fifteen minutes or so. Then again….you may just smell like everything all wrong with badly-aged little old ladies. Vintage perfumes are definitely not to be experimented with before an out-of-house event!
Roll #3: Leaves you wondering. A Perfumista Peer insisted that I absolutely must purchase any bottle of Mary Chess Tuberose I ever found. I read the reviews and it was described as a “gas-huffing” tuberose. In my stumblings about eBay, a bottle came up on a Buy It Now and I obeyed. It took forever to arrive as my curiosity grew. I promised to at least share the bottle. I grew pensive with the question of whether I would be willing to share as promised. It arrived. I cracked the bottle… and… nuttin’. It just didn’t strike me as anything like my anticipations. So, the question arose, why? With vintage perfumes there is always the chance that you have been duped and you are not getting what was advertised. There is a chance you got a bottle stored in some sweaty attic that has suffered all the damage therefrom. There is a chance the particular perfume has simply been lost to time because it’s essences were too delicate to stand the test of time. Without having experiences the fragrance of the original, you have no reference point. So, was it me or was it a problem with the Mary Chess? Nothing pointed toward the seller being dishonest. Only someone with experience with this scent would know what it was supposed to smell like. Perhaps my expectations had simply been overinflated, but this was no “gas-huffing” anything. Vintage perfumes can leave you with a lot of questions. Should you roll the dice again and get a different bottle? This means, like a trip to Vegas, you should never invest what you’re not ready to lose.
Roll #4: Waltz In Classy Old Hollywood. I wouldn’t trade living in my technologically blessed place in the timeline for anything, but I can appreciate in awe the craftsmanship of yesteryear in a beautifully handcrafted antique. People used ingredients and invested time in creating objects d’art that we just don’t see today. A vintage perfume can be a time-suspended waltz with Old Hollywood glamour. That was my experience with a vintage bottle of Lucien Lelong Tailsman. I was exhausted and going to bed early with an achy arm. The Tailspin seemed from a bottle sniff to be very iffy. I figured it was a good time to test it out when I wasn’t going anywhere. It went on very old man in a Classic Old Spice sort of way, which to clarify, is not a compliment from me. Then my fatigue took over and I fell asleep. I slept through that fifteen minutes of damaged top note judgmentalism and then my aching arm woke me up. I awakened to all the depth and craftsmanship and classic beauty that can waft from a vintage bottle of well-crafted perfume. Something fabulously non-synthetic and timelessly graceful. And it’s the thrill of finding something like this, something not every woman next door now has, that keeps me intrigued with vintage.