Notes on hedonism and weil zibeline

Musette’s post yesterday about hedonism (in a double dose! That’s hedonism) was interesting and kind of coincided with the arrival of my latest foray into “Stuff that Tom has Never Sniffed” from Surrender to Chance: this time Zibeline, a 1928 release from Weil. Zibeline was released in 1928, the year “Our Dancing Daughters” was released to the cinema. Zibeline had notes of aldehydes (then new and pretty hedonistic in themselves), and (from fragrantica) Tarragon, Coriander, Bergamot and Lemon; middle notes are Iris, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Gardenia and Lily-of-the-Valley; base notes are Civet, Honey, Musk, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Tonka Bean and Amber. Weil was a furrier of some renown, and their original perfumes were meant to scent the fur coats they sold, apparently to mask the natural odor of the pelts. (another reason to wonder why people wore those, but I eat meat, so who am I to judge?)

Smelling the juice I got from StC I am reminded of a scene in the beginning of “Our Dancing Daughters” where our dancing heroine Diana (a young, vivacious flapper recently renamed Joan Crawford in an MGM sponsored contest) Black Bottoms her way into her mother’s Art Deco palace of a dressing room, only to filch her newest perfume, telling her that it’s far too old or her, and positively “vicious.”

Probably the last time fur was acceptable in clothing..

My friend Mimi was 14 when this perfume and this movie came out. She had just moved with her mother and twin sister from Seattle to Los Angeles to the home of her uncle, a local doctor, upon the death of her father. She told me some stories about what it was like at that time and how society was changing from the staid, almost Victorian ideas of the early 20th century to the hedonism of the flapper: Girls wearing skirts showing knees was a scandal, girls bobbing their hair was a scandal, girls driving cars was a scandal. Pretty much anything girls did after the 19th amendment passed was a scandal.

Of course, hedonism is in the eyes of the beholder. That which rocked society back in the 1920’s seems charmingly quaint in the 2020’s. We’d like to think we have more pressing issues to think of than skirt lengths, but that’s as much of an oversimplification as the plot of “ODD” where “Dangerous” dancing Diana is deep-down a good girl who prevails at the end because of her virtue while fake-nice-but-really-rotten Anita Page takes a drunken (and convenient) tumble down a staircase to her demise, leaving Johnny Mack Brown free to declare his love for Joan.

Now, I am completely unsure of the vintage of this sample and can pretty much state that it likely isn’t quite what it would have been in 1928. I’d bet that it had a lot more sparkle in the aldehydes back then and that the civet and musk would have made it properly vicious. What I tried on was, however, wonderful: the opening is bright and a little medicinal, with a note that reminds me a bit of cherry heering liquor. It could be age that keeps the base notes at the fore at the expense of the white flowers, who do their best but only peep out of the forest of spices and musky pelts. Were this released right now, as is, that opening would draw in bunches of modern consumers perhaps ready to move up from the fruity-floral fad to play with the big girls and would certainly have me panting at the counter at Bergdorfs, card in my teeth, panting “gimme.” I am not sure that there’s anything I can think of that does this in quite the same way, and since I believe it’s almost forgotten then someone should revive it. Where’s Frederic Malle when you need him?

Anyone tried this one? Did you find it sybaritic? Soporific? Know any modern equivalents? Just want to chat about pre-code movies? Let us know in the comments.

Zibilene if out there on the interwebs, at prices rivaling black-market Ozempic. My sample was from Surrender to Chance. Photos are mine, Pexels, and Wikimedia Commons.

  • Portia says:

    So much to love in this post.
    I’m going to grab that Lanvin Murders Tom. Sounds heaven.
    Portia x

  • March says:

    “Wouldst fling a hoof with me?” LOVE that clip. I swear I’ve smelled this (probably from Patty) and I don’t remember it except I liked it very much. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go back in time and nab some of these wonders? I’d start at the Guerlain counter, of course.

    • March says:

      And that MUSIC. I listen to a lot of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s because my dad did, and then my kids did too (mostly Christmas music for them). What a wonderful time for popular music.

    • Tom says:

      The movie is pretty good- you can see why Crawford became a star. Those clothes and interiors are wild!

      I’d love to go back and hit several places!

  • Maya says:

    It’s interesting that you are writing about Weil Zibeline. I have been wondering on and off for quite a while now whether I should try this one or not. You just settled it – yes. And yes to old movies……love love love them!

    • Tom says:

      I’d love to be able to try the other ones that they marketed as perfume for furs. Doubt they’re out there though..

      • Maya says:

        There is one other one from Weil that was actually my #1 and Zibeline was #2. It was Secret de Venus. I had heard a lot of positive things about it. I think it’s still around on ebay but I don’t know prices. I will find out. I may as well happily do both – unless they are crazy outrageous.

        • Tom says:

          I saw that one. It wasn’t as crazy as some of the prices for Zibeline, but not cheap.

  • ElizaC says:

    I tried a tiny sample of Zibilene years ago and thought it was wonderful. If I am remembering correctly, it reminded me of perfumes like Aroma M’s Geisha Noire, Caron’s Nuit de Noel or Neil Morris Prowl. I don’t know much about pre-code films but hubby is a huge film noir fan – “Sudden Fear” with Joan Crawford and Jack Palance was amazing!

    • Tom says:

      I really need to try some of Neal Morris’ scents- so many people adore him.

      “Sudden Fear” was great, and a great boost for Crawford. She quit Warners, went independent and did the project on her own. Apparently she didn’t care for Jack Palance and didn’t want him for the part. She wanted Brando- who didn’t? But he rudely turned her down, reportedly by saying he wasn’t interested in doing any “Mother and Son pictures.” But Palance was perfect- exactly what the part called for physically, and I think he’s sexy as all get out.

      If you haven’t seen “Crime of Passion” with Barbara Stanwyck go rent it right now.

      • ElizaC says:

        Palance was great! We are going to watch “Crimes of Passion” this weekend. Barbara Stanwyck and Raymond Burr – that’s a combo! I’m assuming that you know about the Film Noir Foundation and their film festival….

  • Dina C. says:

    I haven’t tried Zibilene, but I really enjoyed the history lesson about it and the vintage movie clip. Hilarious! I finished “I’ll Take It!” and enjoyed every bit of it. Such a fun summer read. Thanks a bunch!

    • Tom says:

      Oh, I am really glad you liked it! You might like Joe Keenan’s “Blue Heaven” about two unscupulous people who decide to get married for the gifts. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious and part of a 3 book series. Keenan went on to be a producer and writer at “Frasier”

  • rosarita says:

    Zibilene sounds wonderful. I’ve never tried it but I could talk about pre code movies all day, I’m watching Red Dust with Clark Gable & Jean Harlow as we speak. I love those old Joel McCrea movies where he was so clean-cut and handsome, long before the westerns he was known for later in his career. While I’m way more of a Bette fan than Joan, Joan got to marry Doug Fairbanks Jr, my old time boyfriend. The pictures of those two and the fabulous clothes they wore! Swoony. TCM is such a treasure.

    • Tom says:

      TCM is the only thing I miss about giving up cable. If you like pre-code, have you seen “Baby Face” with Barbara Stanwyck? She plays a girl who sleeps her way to the top, quite calculatingly, and is great in it.

  • cinnamon says:

    That sounds so interesting — and a bit good weird with the medicinal thing. I recently read a mystery series based around a woman who runs a vintage clothing shop and how she endlessly finds great vintage perfumes at estate sales. By the way, looks like a new Malle is coming out — called Heaven Can Wait. No notes on the post I saw.

  • Musette says:

    I got a little scrab of this in a fabulous Box From A Friend – I remember it being all that and a firecracker!!!!