Cream of the Crap

I like Betsey Johnson a lot, I think her style is fun (although she’s maybe a little bit of a wack-job), and I really wanted to like her new fragrance. And I guess I did, sort of.

First off, there´s that bottle – which is bright and brash and very Betsey-ish. Like some of Betsey´s designs, the bottle is a triumph of fabulousless over utility – the top half of the bottle is almost too big to hold and spray one-handed.

I´ve seen this fragrance described several times as a fruity floriental, which didn´t give me tons of hope, even if it´s from Betsey. But she did come through to some degree – it´s a fruity-floriental I actually like. Notes are: pear, tangerine, grapefruit, currants, freesia, muguet, cedar, sandalwood, amber, musk. It is sweet but not insipidly so; I found myself being charmed by the opening fruit notes, which are tangy and “girly” with a nudge-and-wink, rather than something that smells like it came in one of my daughter´s birthday goody bags.

The drydown gets much better – there´s enough of a musk/sandalwood base in there that I wonder how the fragrance will fare with those who want their fruity-florals unadulterated and headache-sweet. My guess is that this base is just enough over the line to discourage them.

Based on first sniff, would I buy it? No. But I´d wear it if someone gave it to me. And I think this is potentially a fragrance like Insolence that grows on me over time. I did try Insolence again, on the same trip, and if I didn´t find the opening and that bottle so off-putting I´d own the damn thing already, because the drydown is beautiful.

On the other hand, I won´t be wearing F by Ferragamo, even if you gave it to me. Both times I sampled it the SAs pointed out enthusiastically – look! – it´s shaped like a shoe, isn´t that cute?!? But I can´t suss out the shoe resemblance no matter how hard I squint at the bottle. Here’s a photo. I’m a bonehead. You explain it to me. Anyway, each time the SA and I were too busy trying to figure out how you actually make it work – if you aim the nozzle at the two straps, the spray hits those straps coming out of the atomizer; how´s that for design brilliance? If you turn the nozzle the opposite way, the straps are in the way of your hand so you need two hands to spray it. Which works out okay with the SA standing there to help, but since my lady-in-waiting seems to be on permanent vacation I’d need a third arm. The only way to make it work is to twist the sprayer sideways, which just seems weird. (Okay, I understand perfumers are ever more desperate to make their scents stand out in a crowd, but does anyone ever try to see whether the bottle design works?)

I can´t find any notes at all, but to me it´s just another fruity-floral, with an opening that´s tart, like grapefruit (the first 30 seconds are the best part, so enjoy them). After 10 minutes on my skin it´s a thin, sharp mess that would have been a scrubber if its wan presence had ever mustered the energy to get up off the couch and claw at me. But it didn´t. It just picked at its cuticles, sulked and slunk off without my noticing. And good riddance.

Finally, there’s Desperate Houswives Forbidden Fruit. Hey, I like cheap trash as much as the next person, and I was expecting something gloriously over-the-top — in-your-face sexy and/or dirty. I mean, don’t the ladies on Wisteria Lane make you think of Fifi Chachnil? But this. I’m not even going to look for the notes. It’s an insipid fruity-floral that makes Vera Wang Princess look good by comparison, and how low is that bar? The opening notes reminded me faintly of Kate Spade’s LOTV flower-bomb (remember that one? I loved that one, but I guess nobody else did, because she pulled the plug quietly last year, I think) but it morphed immediately into a floral … thing that smelled cheap and mean and plastic, like sniffing scented rubber toys at Wal-Mart, with a bitter rubbing-alcohol-and-eraser drydown. Those vixens wouldn’t be caught dead in this crap. Ugh.

  • March says:

    Victoria — I asked Patty to fix the Bloglines, thanks for pointing it out.

    If DH smells like Lovely to you, I must be unable to smell some entire aspect of it — I couldn’t smell musk at all. It would make sense that I wasn’t smelling it right — I couldn’t quite believe it was that awful.

  • Victoria says:

    Great post! I thought that BJ was in the Britney Spears Fantasy league, while DH seemed like Lovely to me–pretty musky floral. Granted, neither was my cup of tea, but I was pleasantly surprised by DH.

    BTW, is it just me, or do your posts not come through Bloglines anymore? Since I rely on Bloglines almost exclusively for my reading, I was wondering why you guys were silent. Apparently, I was just missing out on all the fun. 🙂

  • March says:

    Tigs — Okay, my money is on Sous le Vent. It’s really, really different. You may not like it, but you won’t be sitting there sniffing candied violets.

  • March says:

    Robin — really, I think you would find it humorous. And maybe I am completely off base, but I actually think you might like the fragrance too. It is sweeter than you like at the opening, but the drydown is creamy and musky. If not, yeah — I am picturing it nestled among my classic Guerlains. They will probably try to snub Betsey and make her feel bad about herself. She will flip them the finger.

  • March says:

    Lisa — I studied the pic with your instructions.:-? I guess I can see it, particularly the bound feet part (yuck.) Yeah, maybe I could fit my finger between those straps… on the other hand, I am not sure I will be spraying it ever again.

  • March says:

    Chaya — I know, I know… I am a meanie. But I deserve better.:d

  • Tigs says:

    I actually like Betsey Johnson too – she is a complete wackmobile, but at least she knows it (a rare thing in fashion). I finally smelled Insolence today and am so sad – I’m afraid it smelled like those English violet candies to me. Not so terrible, and nice drydown, just not the great vindication of the “younger” Guerlain that I hoped against hope it would be. Will save my money to test Sous Le Vent and Bois D’Armenie, I guess.

  • March says:

    Pam — Betsey and Cynthia ought to get together and design some clothes — that would be a trip, wouldn’t it?/:)

    It doesn’t smell quite as sweet as Amarige to me, more musky.

  • March says:

    Jenn — I am so vindicated! There IS NO SHOE.[-(

  • March says:

    BBliss — that Kate Spade is another one available on eBay for a gazillion dollars.

  • March says:

    Veronica — wow. After reading the comments I am feeling so much better about the failure to “see the shoe.” I am now contemplating using “failure to see the shoe” as a euphemism for “failure to see the beauty in a fragrance….”

    I want those old Ferragamos. They would be perfect for fall. I also want, in spite of all logic and sense, those Balenciaga bondage-platform-horse-bit shoes in all the rags this fall. They are so ridiculous they are fabulous.

  • March says:

    Marina — I ended up sort of digging the bottle, and follow my illogic: it is so transparently plastic — not pretending to be anything else, not plastic tarted up as metal or whatever — that it reminds me of Liddle Kiddles (before your time?) It’s like a Barbie Party Princess bottle for grownups. It seemed very tongue-in-cheek. The whole cap pops off easily. I do agree it would take up some vertical space on your shelf.

  • March says:

    Sariah — the fruity-floral thing was probably just great when it was new and different (FWIW, my 12YO chose Ralph as her starter scent.) But now that every other scent seems to be that genre, I’m looking for something else.:-w

  • Elle says:

    Have been staring and staring at that damn photo. Do not see a shoe. At all. But I do see the potential confusion in spraying. However, from your description it looks like that’s just one less dilemma I will have to wrestle w/. And the BJ bottle? It looks like something that would be handed out as a party favor at a 5 year old’s birthday. Cutesy overload. Love Betsey’s Peter Pan spirit, but just can’t imagine buying that bottle.

  • Robin says:

    LOL…that BJ packaging is soooo over the top that I want to own the bottle. It would look so hilarious next to the CdG Incense series…

  • Pam says:

    You know what they say—even the great Homer nodded. Well, I had a little nap myself earlier. It just now struck me that I was thinking not of Betsey Johnson’s frag but Cynthia Rowley’s. Sorry about that. An eBayer had sent me a samp of BJ’s scent a few months ago, so I have been able to try it. It is nice, not exactly what I like to wear all day, but not bad a-tall. Long lasting, very long lasting on my skin, and rather reminiscent of Amarige in some ways. Sorry about the confusion, Betsey, but no guarantees my brain won’t be MIA again. /:)

  • Lisa S says:

    I see the shoe in it..actually two shoes. The bottom of the bottle has a heel (the narrow part that rests on the counter) and an arch and the rest of the sole (the wider part that rests on the counter) – sort of like the teeny tiny shoes that women with bound feet wore (sick thought that that is)

    On the top I get a flat sandal sole with a heel strap.

    Now as for spraying? Perhaps one could hook ones spritz finger between the two straps and leverage down on the spray mechanism with the fingertip segment of said chosen spritzing finger?

    I don’t know nothin from nothin about the juice but this was an interesting ergonomics exercise.

  • chayaruchama says:

    So, March-

    Why don’t you tell us what you think, what you really,really think..?

    Smelled the “F” yesterday…NOT impressed.
    What a wimpy lot..
    Not a promising start to the season, I’m afraid.

  • Pam says:


    I don’t see the shoe in that photo, either. Those “straps” look to me like an open mouth ready to take a bite out of someone’s wallet. Won’t be mine.

    I agree with you on the B Johnson scent. Got a samp, and while I wouldn’t be insulted if someone gave me a bottle, I’d probably rarely, if ever, wear it. I like my ‘fumes to have a bit of a growl in them, and Betsey Johnson’s scent is too tame for me. Still, it’s not bad. It’s like Happy without the hairspray accord, and I wouldn’t mind smelling it on someone else.

  • Jenn says:

    ever since I saw an image of the Ferragamo scent on Nowsmellthis I have been trying to figure out how it looks like a shoe.

  • BBliss says:

    I’m not seeing the shoe, either. Loved that Kate Spade one, but never got around to buying any – guess I’m too late! 🙁

  • Veronica says:

    You know how you can lay on your back on the grass on a pretty summer day and gaze at the clouds and after a while the clouds look like naked men engaged in all sorts of fun sports and work activities?

    Well, I’m not seeing shoes, either. It does looks like a stick drawing of a red mukluk on the lower right, though.

    A picture of Ferragamo shoes from the 1930s:

  • Marina says:

    I hate that Johnson bottle. I like the box a lot, but hate the bottle. I mean what IS that pink …thing on top of it? And won’t it break off when you try to lift the cap?
    I don’t see a shoe in the F bottle either.

  • sariah says:

    Hey March,

    I tried that F by Ferragamo last week. Why do they bother to release another boring, weak, light fruity floral that smells like dozens of other things already out there?

    Yesterday I smelled a strong melony fruity floral cloud wafting over the top of my cubicle wall, I think it may have been Ralph? That is some sillage, it was coming from the new secretary who was about 30′ away, beyond the cublicle wall. Later that day I and another co-worker could smell her down the hall a good 50 yards away. Anyways, I like the smell of Ralph, Tommy Girl (my sporty scent), and a handful of other fruity florals that manage to be distinctive, bright and fun.