Memory slam

It’s spring. Thank goodness.

Last week one day, I put on a lipstick I hadn’t visited with in a while. Pow. A L’Oreal cheapy that’s muted rose with gold. It’s really nice. I have fairly pigmented lips which cause many colours to pull towards magenta. Which is not a good look. I’m not high maintenance, particularly right now as I continue to wear masks, so I’m not going to be lining and filling in anyway. Thus, when I do wear lipstick it is easy on and go. But I digress.

The cheapy L’Oreal has that ubiquitous makeup smell you don’t get in most higher-end lippies. I pulled out the one Chanel lippy I have for comparison. Nope, not even close. Anyway, for me, that cheapy L’Oreal is the smell of the interior of my mother’s one true handbag.

She had one bag for decades: a big beige Coach shoulder bag that was heavy as a house and contained much of the world. I think it was a big decision when she bought it because It.Was.Not.Cheap. Maybe $100 back in the mid-70s? I looked on the Coach site and they don’t make it anymore. Unsurprising.

I looked on the net for the style and found, on Etsy, something that I think is right: a Coach Rambler Legacy? If the company still made the style I wonder what it might go for…

Anyway, this big old thing had no interior dividers, maybe one or two pockets, wasn’t lined, and my mother tended to throw whatever into it (big 1970s wallet, makeup bag [we’ll get back to that], glasses with cases [multiples], hair brush, drugs of varying sorts, keys, and a huge amount of vague detritus.

So, the connection between my cheapy lipstick and the bag? My mother wasn’t big on makeup but she wore lipstick every day all the time. It was her signature and her thing. She wasn’t interested in high end. She bought multiples of low-end stuff, all brights – pinks and reds. As noted, she had a tendency to toss stuff into the capacious bag and she didn’t usually put her lipsticks back into the makeup bag. As they were cheap, they sometimes uncapped themselves and smeared all over the interior at the bottom.

Thus, the bag smelled of old-style lipstick.

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose to the max with a hint of leather (less as the years went along and the bag’s leather smell receded).

I can’t tell you what a womp it was to open that lippy last week. Like being sucked back by the late 1970s, her asking me to get something out of her bag, opening the thing up and staring into the maw. One hand dipped in to extract whatever she’d asked for coming back with pink fingertips.

If my mother were still with us, she’d turn 97 this year. I expect if she were in reasonable shape she’d still be wearing those cheap bright lipsticks. And maybe even still be carrying that Coach bag.

Sigh. Sometimes memories really sock it to us.



  • Tom says:

    What a great post! Coach kind of isn’t Coach anymore sadly. I guess it doesn’t make much business sense to make bags that really do last forever..

    • cinnamon says:

      No, Coach really isn’t what it was. It’s both sad and really sort of weird what the’ e turned into.

  • Musette says:

    what a lovely memory! I have a Murray Krueger vintage handbag that smells persackly like that – in fact M. Malle took a whiff, back when he was at a Barney’s event, and concurred. Only mine includes wisps of tobacco, from cigarettes that came loose from their pack (or her fabulous cigarette case, which I think I still have)


  • Dina C. says:

    What a vivid picture I’m getting, Cinnamon! My grandmother’s purse always smelled like Wrigley’s Spearmint or Doublemint gum. She and my mom were also those drugstore lipstick wearing ladies. I have a Coach 1941 reissue saddlebag which I got just a few years ago. I love it. It does have lining fabric now, but it’s retained that workhorse sensibility. I also have a red vintage Coach Willis Station which is heavy as lead and unlined. Another great bag. Have a good week, cinnamon!

    • cinnamon says:

      Sigh. Coach bags. Really never one of mine but I continue to wonder what happened to hers after she died. I did all the sorting of her stuff but no memory at all of it (remember lots of other stuff). Where did you buy you vintage stuff? After I sold my Mulberry bag on eBay the only place I’ve bought stuff is Matt Fothergill, a leather company here that does great stuff. Good week to you as well.

      • Dina C. says:

        The reissue bag, which was modern, I got at Bloomingdale’s. The vintage Willis Station I found on ebay. I’ve always heard good things about Mulberry bags. Thanks, cinnamon.

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    The only memory of perfume I have from anyone in my family wearing is my mother wearing Pour Monsieur. But she didn’t wear it often, only at Christmas. Now Pour Monsieur doesn’t smell like it used to. The oakmoss is missing and a few other things. Now it smells like Pledge.

    • cinnamon says:

      I smelled PM years ago. Have no memory of it. Interesting your mom wore it. Did she ever say why?

  • Portia says:

    What a wonderful story and memory Cinnamon. Thanks for sharing. Your Mum sounds like my kinda gal.
    Portia xx

  • March says:

    I know that smell EXACTLY. It’s one of the reasons I loved Sac de Ma Mer or whatever it’s called, that candle. Smells like my mother’s purse — more leather, with a hint of powder and lipstick. And I had a Coach bag like that which I’m sorry I got rid of — but it weighed a ton!

    • cinnamon says:

      I wish that candle was still around. I never owned a Coach bag. I sort of wish I’d kept hers … just because. I did have a Mulberry bag here (ubiquitous work bag) which I sold on eBay for a lot of money which I then socked into a much nicer and more interesting handbag.

  • Maggiecat says:

    The smell of cigarettes and old smoke reminds me of my parents, both of them. While I dislike these smells, they also make me weirdly nostalgic.

    • cinnamon says:

      I can see the nostalgia. My mother stopped smoking by her early 40s and for the five years prior she only did it when she was stressed. So I have always associated smoking with being stressed (and I’ve never smoked).

  • Kathleen says:

    I loved reading your post about your lipstick scent memory and your Mom’s Coach bag. Scent memories are transportive! I envy your memory, my Mom didn’t wear makeup or perfume and I adore both, especially lipstick scents. I hope thinking about your Mom left you feeling warmth and comfort.

  • carole says:

    Funny you chose to write about this. It’s the tenth anniversary of my mom’s death pretty soon. I went online and bought Je Reviens-her signature scent. I bought two bottles of parfum and they’re very close to what I remember. I have the Je Reviens Couture coming this week-it’s supposed to be as close as possible to the original. Memory is a funny thing, especially if combined with scent.

    I liked reading your post, Cinnamon. I hope you have a good week.



    • shiva-woman says:

      I’m with you. My mom’s 10 year anniversary of her death is coming up on April 20th. She liked Tabu (the real old stuff), Wind Song (which I have), and something called Autumn…(can’t remember the rest of it, but it was sold in drug stores at the same time as Wind Song. She always had the Youth Dew bath oil which I would break into and wonder how she knew…ha! She also liked a soap and a perfume called “Maja” I think (it showed what appeared to be a Spanish Flamenca dancer). She had her own sort of smell, mostly soap. My mother washed her hair with SOAP! No conditioner! She used Yardley Lavender Soap bars. She could not understand why her curly-locked daughter desperately needed conditioner in the 70’s and 80’s. Good lord how I drooled over Vidal Sassoon television ads, hair mousse, and long straight black tresses flowing sleek, straight and shiny under a hair dryer. But I digress. I have Yardley lavender soap now in the bathroom, in the house where I grew up, in the place where she passed. I also have lots and lots of hair products!:) Miss my mum! Take care.

      • cinnamon says:

        My mother had Maja too. Almost everything she wore or used on her lips came from drug stores. None of this high end stuff. Indeed, it’s been over two decades and I still think of her every day.

      • carole macleod says:

        I like your memories, shiva-women 🙂 Incidentally I have hair like you describe-black, straight, shiny. I wanted curls. Never did get them 🙂

    • cinnamon says:

      The anniversary of my mother’s death is next month. She wore l’Air du Temps, Jean Nate and a few other things but mostly she smelled of coffee (she drank a lot of it being a teacher). May your mother’s memory be for a blessing.

  • Alityke says:

    I envy your memory of your mum’s bag. Mine didn’t wear make up or even moisturised! Her bag smelt of fags!
    For me vintage Paris EdT is the ultimate “make up” scent. I haven’t tried the current version

    • cinnamon says:

      I had a friend years ago who wore Paris. It was overwhelming but it smelled really good. My association with it is clubbing in the East Village in NY in the 1980s. Funnily enough that was a period of incredible makeup wearing.

  • filomena813 says:

    Yes, Cinnamon, you are right about the memories. They are wonderful but also make us very nostalgic and sometimes sad.