A couple months ago Kevin at Now Smell This did a post on a Guerlain fragrance, Mouchoir de Monsieur (gentleman’s handkerchief) and the comments got sidetracked into handkerchiefs themselves, and their various delights and uses.
Well. As a mother of young children, my life (and my pocketbook, and my jacket pocket, and the glove compartment) is a purgatory of Kleenex, Wet-Wipes, paper towels, paper napkins and, occasionally, toilet paper – in other words, sufficient quantities of whatever disposable absorbent paper product is needed to stanch the flow of any substance leaking from or smeared upon one or several of my kids, leaving all further detail to your imagination in case you are reading this with your morning tea.
As I enjoyed Kevin’s post and the comments, the concept of a handkerchief – an Irish linen pocket square, for instance, pressed and perhaps tastefully initialed — had an immediate, profound, almost laughably pornographic appeal. There I was, distracted by the tantalizing glimpse of an unsullied piece of fabric reserved for my own exclusive use, possibly for dabbing my feverish brow on a sultry day or, even better, using it to wave a fond goodbye to my family from the luxury deck of an ocean liner as I departed on a round-the-world cruise.
I’ve never owned a handkerchief in my life, but I got busy online with the fervor of the newly converted and bought some, and then Anita, bless her, sent me a supply from her local post-office/bakery/vintage/perfume shop, or another equally excellent small-town combination. (In Santa Fe I used to patronize the gas station/sushi bar/video store.) I decided I wasn’t a tasteful-white-Irish-linen gal after all – you know me – so instead I’m rocking the cheerful, retro patterns of the 40s, 50s and 60s – think bright ribbons, flowers, swirls of color, embroidery, and some amazing, matching hand-crocheted edging. They are, I suppose, the Carmen Miranda or Wilma Flintsone of handkerchiefs rather than the Greta Garbo, but they’re very much me, and they’re lovely. I now rotate them regularly into whatever bag I’m carrying, and I’ve had the opportunity to put them to a variety of good uses more than once. It’s funny how such a little thing, a glimpse of one of them in my bag, can give me such pleasure.
Of course the next thing I did was experiment with dabbing them with scent. I’ve got warm summer months coming up in which to do the obvious, which is to splash them with cologne – everything from cheapo 4711 up to and including delicious Guerlains like Eau du Coq and Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat. Or, of course, I could try Mouchoir de Monsieur itself. I’m also planning to try some tea scents.
But my cold weather experimentation has been kind of a mixed bag of success. Fragrances that smell “pocketbook-y” – like makeup or the purses themselves – work great. Cuir de Lancome, Malle Lipstick Rose, even (surprise!) a dab of Fracas smell glorious emanating from a hankie.
Less successful were my headstrong classics, and I’m not sure why. For whatever reason, Mitsouko, Cinnabar, Jicky and Bal a Versailles were less appealing than I thought they’d be; maybe I really want to smell them on skin? Vintage Femme was wonderfully leathery and worked great, but Tabu was disgusting. I thought The Different Company’s Rose Poivree might work, but even a single drop of it began to get on my nerves, although YSL Paris was successful.
My traditional soft background comfort scents – KenzoAmour, Narciso, Worth Courtesan – smelled … well, kind of stupid. Again, maybe those are scents that need the canvas of skin backing them up and helping them bloom.
Apres l’Ondee was perfect, even if it makes me feel a little guilty, spraying it on a hankie.
I tried to think if I have any other personal-item anachronisms, and the only ones I could come up with are aprons, all patterned (some vintage), half or full, because what’s the point of baking if you can’t swan around in an apron? Right now I have my eye on the long one from the Neue Galerie that I’m just too cheap to buy. Also, I use the disposable Varsity fountain pens, they work fine left-handed and they don’t seem to leak, although I think a fountain-pen traditionalist would sneer. They used to be all black and more chic looking. Oh, and my Red Cross orthopedic shoes, of which I own several pairs which I actually wear, as some of you have seen.
Do you have any such vices – shaving brushes, hats, walking sticks or canes, or other objects of affection (or affectation) you care to admit to? Do you carry or scent your handkerchiefs? Red lipstick is sort of in this category, isn’t it? And as we “evolve” more as a society with perfume itself viewed in the context of annoying those around us like cigarette smoke, will scent be an anachronism in 20 years?
images: Jonathan Rhys Meyers lets his freak flag fly in Todd Haynes’ trippy Velvet Goldmine, which has a fun soundtrack (Bowie wouldn’t let them use his music, so they wrote their own, as well as some fine covers and originals from Roxy Music, Lou Reed, etc.). Ten years later and JRM’s … still wearing breeches, now in The Tudors.