Okay, I admit that my experience with Arpège is nil. I don’t remember it being one of my mother’s favorites (she either went ultra-femme with Joy or butch with Bandit) and by the time I was a teen it was the 70’s and other scents had rolled in that were considered “Younger” and “Fresher”. Since I ordered something from that scent purveyor that draws you in with “only $12 more to get free shipping!” I thought what the hey and popped for a bottle. I also scored an older, tiny bottle of what the seller write was perfume in a handsome little display box for not a lot that judging by the packaging is A) extrait and 2) not that old.
Back in the 50’s Cadillac decided that it would produce a car like no other for the most discerning buyer. Color and trim choices made it just this side of bespoke, electronic and comfort assists were such that some weren’t seen on other luxury cars until today. In the glove box were magnetized drinking tumblers, notepad and pen set, vanity case for the ladies, and a bottle of Arpège. Finding an Eldorado Brougham with any parts of the accessory set in it is like finding a unicorn: in 2006 a seller got $10000 for an unopened accessory bottle set and was asking $60k for another one. It was that kind of perfume at the time: grand enough to be included in a car that cost more than a Rolls-Royce (and most peoples houses) and was meant to be owned by the cream of US society, but still considered to be in impeccable taste.
As for the ones I got (for far less…)
The big bottle is nice. Aldehydes and Bergamot and flowers and a little hint of peach. Which sounds like it would be some combo of Chanel No. 5 and Mitsouko, but it lacks some of the sparkle and plushness of the Chanel and the lethal edge of the Guerlain. I definitely doesn’t skew young, which is I suppose something that everyone who isn’t actually young would shrink from like vampires faced with garlic-scented sunlight. It doesn’t say old either. This version to me comes across as the scent that a well-dressed woman would wear to the board meeting (where she is President, naturally.) It says “I am supremely confident in both my achievements and my abilities- enough that I can wear a supremely confident and feminine scent. Question any of the former at your peril.”
The extrait however..
Imagine that same lady (because Arpège is nothing if not ladylike) coming back from that office and preparing for a night out. Something formal- not the Met Ball (not this week anyway) but formal with an “F” in caps. A bare-shouldered gown with a wasp waist and full skirt. Hair up and Victory Red lips. This concentration goes on initially with more force- the opening is a lot more green before the aldehydes come in (as a matter of fact if it stayed that way I’d be delighted to wear it myself) ushering in the flowers. It’s stronger, but hardly as in your face as say Tabu. Honey Bear (Ava Gardner) in Mogambo would wear Tabu. Linda (Grace Kelly) would wear Arpège.
I’d happily wear either.
Arpège is available at various e-tailers for not a lot of money and is out there on eBay. I purchased both of mine. Photo of Cadillac from Interwebs, other photos mine.