Memory lane Monday: Coming of age with Aviance

aviance2First off, let me wish everyone a very happy Memorial Day, which we’re celebrating here in the U.S. Take a moment today, if you will, to remember service members around the world, past and present.

AvianceAnd now on to the fragrant portion of our program. A wonderfully generous lady was my Perfume Fairy Godmother not too long ago and sent me some vintage Aviance cologne. I had sniffed something recently that reminded me slightly of it, so I wanted to re-try it. (Thanks again, dear!)

And as I told her: In light of the old commercial, one spritz of this and I was definitely having “an Aviance night.” It took me right back to the ‘70s. I pay no mind to the disco haters, as this turned out to be a great decade. And this Prince Matchabelli fragrance was part of the scent soundtrack then for me, just before I went off to college and developed a love of shopping and for fragrance of all stripes. And of course, it helped lead me even further along the path to our beloved perfume rabbit hole.

The Aviance commercials, like several others around that time (Enjoli, Charlie, etc.) focused on women’s changing roles and their increasing freedom and choices. And in a way, that mirrored my own circumstances at that time. My family had imploded, I was 17 and still finishing high school, and was suddenly on my own. There were to be no joyful graduation parties, no last gasps of summer; no big adventure packing up the car with my family moving me into a college dorm that September. But that was OK: I had a pretty good head on my shoulders, I was alive and I was free. My whole life was ahead of me, and it was up to me what to make of it, for better or worse. That independence felt like stepping out in a leap of faith into the unknown. In the end, it turned out to be a blessing that was both exhilarating and sobering.

So when I sprayed Aviance again recently for the first time, it smelled a little daring and risk-taking — challenging, in a beautiful way, like it was my own personal scent of freedom. Not only because of the time in my life in which I wore it, but also because it was so different from the youth-oriented fragrances of the time (Love’s Baby Soft, Lemon, Sweet Honesty, etc.) with which I had grown up.

And as hokey as this might sound, it struck me that Aviance represented a perfume “coming of age” for me.

Now that I’m enjoying it again all these years later, I eagerly delved into finding out what makes it tick — only to find that definitive notes lists for this are nowhere to be found. The site Yesterday’s Perfume says Aviance is classified as an aldehydic floral and mentions rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, musk, tonka bean and cinnamon.

Its blend of those notes, and whatever else, combines to create a scent that even to this day smells fairly original to me. Yes, it has a flowery aspect to it upon opening, bordering on bright floral and green, which might mislead you into thinking of it as a simpler, sporty-green kind of scent. But this fragrance has personality to spare. It soon enters spicier, more complex territory, sliding into a phase with the odd characteristics of being simultaneously fresh and bitter and sharp yet soothing. A little later, a broodingly sexy, dusky, almost-dry woodiness emerges.

What contributes mightily to Aviance’s appeal is something that I can only call “lighter-fluid accord.” Which I know doesn’t sound good, but it adds an unusual twist to the scent. I’m guessing that it’s from the interaction of the tonka, the potent musks they used back then and some of the other unknown notes. Who knows? But whatever it is, I find it highly addictive, and perhaps it’s that very oddness that adds to its allure. I’ve been craving this and wearing it often since I got the bottle, reveling in the scent’s quirky character and yin/yang nature.

An added bonus: I’m not likely to bump into anyone else wearing it. But most of all, I think that any perfume that helps me to remember and appreciate my past is definitely worth celebrating.

What about you? Has any vintage fragrance marked a milestone in your life?

  • Lean S says:

    Haha. “Lighter Fluid Accord”… I’m not sure I understand how that comes across but I like the description. I liked this post, very appropriate perfume related topic for the occasion.

  • Joni Dischner says:

    I could never bring myself to wear any of the Love’s or Prince Matchabelli scents. I hated all of them and could never understand why anyone would want to smell like a powdered baby, or a fruit salad, or nauseating Jovan musk. With the exception of a dab of Opium or Pavlova once in a while, I didn’t wear much perfume at all until the early 80s when I discovered Ysatis. It grabbed me by the brain through my nostrils at first whiff. It was bold and unapologetic, yet soft and demure at the same time. It was the only perfume schizophrenic enough to match my many moods all at once, and I wore it incessantly from 87 when till my divorce in 93.

    My new love, trying to be nice because he knew I once loved it so, bought me a bottle of it for Valentine’s day a couple years ago. Neither of us knew that they had reformulated it, and I certainly had no idea just how horrible smelling it would make me feel. The reformulation is horrid but smells just enough like the original to bring back a whole 200ml worth of bad memories. I ‘m not sure I could wear it anymore even if I found the vintage.

    • Ann says:

      Oh, no, Joni! So sorry to hear about the reformulation disaster! I loved (and still do) Ysatis as many of us here do, but I have not sniffed the new iteration of it. And now I’ll make sure that I don’t. I hope that one day you can enjoy the vintage beauty again.

  • poodle says:

    Those ads were great especially the Enjoli one. I used to love Ciara, Navy, and Ultima II Sheer Scent. Those bring back memories for me. I also remember making my dad stop at the drugstore before dropping me off at the school dances so I could grab a spritz of Scoundrel because I thought that was sure to make the boys want to dance with me.

    • Ann says:

      What a cute memory, Poodle! And what a clever way to smell wonderful for free! I can’t recall two of those you mentioned, but I did have a bottle of Ciara and I remember that yellow print box it came in. Also, Cerissa, which had lavender packaging, if memory serves. Anyone recall that one?

  • Musette says:

    What a beautiful post, Ann! You are such a strong, lovely woman. You triggered an early scent memory – Heaven Sent! OMG, we all BATHED in that stuff!

    • Ann says:

      Darling A, thanks so much! Alas, I missed the Heaven Sent train for the most part, but I can still smell it in my mind’s (nose’s?) eye. I know all you cool chicks were the bomb wearing it back in the day 🙂 !!

  • Suzanne says:

    Ann, you’re such an amazing and strong woman. I love that you can look back at that period in your life and see past the heartache to celebrate your triumphs. I wish you many Aviance nights!! … and if I ever meet you in real life, let’s put the disco records on! I was just telling another blogger recently, who confessed that she liked 70s disco, that I love it too. 🙂

    Have a great Memorial Day! Do the Hustle! <3 <3

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, sweet Suzanne! I wlll do a few steps of the Hustle in your honor (and throw in some “Disco Inferno,” too, while I’m at it)! “Let’s Groove Tonight” in honor of the ’70s, ha!

  • Portia says:

    Hey Ann
    Love your trip down olfactory memory lane. Jazz is that for me but sadly it doesn’t smell like it did
    Portia xx

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Portia! So glad you stopped by. I’m sorry to hear about the Jazz, but I hope that someday you’ll come across a big vintage stash that you can enjoy. I’ll be on the lookout as well. Safe travels to you, dear!

  • Sherri says:

    Thank you Ann! I love these scented milestones in our lives. Love’s Fresh Lemon, Love’s Baby Soft, Sweet Earth Compacts…these all remind me of all the best parts those awkward middle-school years, namely having friends (my bff Rosalind and I used to collect and compare our “collections” in study hall), my mother’s love (I remember her buying those little compacts for me as surprise gifts), and my dear aunts (who handed me down beauties such as Rive Gauche (lots of people remembering that one today), Mitsouko and Miss Dior). I later “graduated” to Enjoli in high school, and Chloe in college. What a gift scent is to let us recall these sweet memories! Thanks for reminding us, Ann!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Sherri! And what sweet memories! I adored Chloe in college as well, and my-then boyfriend bought me the beautiful little 1/2-ounce perfume bottle, which I still have somewhere. It’s so funny how so many memorable times in our lives are tied to fragrance.

    • solanace says:

      Dear aunts are the best!

  • Jackie b says:

    Oh you have opened Pandora’s box, full of scent memories I had forgotten till now! I do remember the Aviance ads, but never smelled the scent. My coming of age was marked by Charlie and something called Justine (Feraud?) I was so grown up!!
    Then I got a bit older and richer and discovered Rive Gauche and Chanel no 5, when I was about 25.

    Great post for bringing back those memories, sob.
    Yes, wasn’t our skin good too!

    • Ann says:

      Jackie, glad you’re enjoying our walk down memory lane. I don’t recall the Justine (but for a while there I was in a perfume wasteland) so I probably missed a lot of good stuff. But loved me some Charlie, too! And it did seem like we could wear anything at all, didn’t it?

  • solanace says:

    This is very touching, Ann. I relate to your story. As a kid, I were that Avon perfume with a peach lid, which the new Kilian reminds me of, btw. But the real deal were some candomblé vaguely inspired scentend candles that came with a little perfume, sold at the local pharmacy. For hooking your man, opening your paths in life, getting rich, getting laid, anything you can imagine! I loved those when I was ten. (And in the end, I got into real Afro-Brazilian espirituality, which is fascinating and an amazing source of wisedom, but those candle/perfume combos were funny. Can’t find those things in Brazilian pharmacies anymore… But I digress.) Then, when I was fifteen, a family friend brought me Anais Anais from abroad (still love it, but my husband’s gradma wore it, so it’s a no). It was my perfume until I went to university, 700 miles from home, and my mom got me a Magie Noire. (The family was imploding too, it was great to just go away!) I felt so adult. So free, the possibilities were infinite. (And my skin was great.) I’d read Bukovsky and go to bars, I’d go biking farther and farther away and study anything that came to my hands. People would call me old lady because of my perfume ways, and I’d enjoy! I miss the old Magie Noire, this Lancome add with Julia Roberts is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.

    • Ann says:

      Thank you, Solanace. I love your memories and know just what you mean about the freedom of being on your own. Those candle/perfume sets sound so cool — wish I had seen them. And Magie Noire was great, wasn’t it? I could only wear it sparingly, though, or use the body cream.

  • Lexi says:

    I wouldn’t say vintage, but every time I smell Estee Lauder’s Pleasures it instantly takes me back to my teen years and the simple days of high school life. Even though it’s been a long time since I’ve owned a bottle, I still love the smell of it. In fact, I may have to look for it the next time I’m in Macy’s 🙂

    • Ann says:

      So glad you have a nice memory scent like Pleasures, Lexi! I, too, enjoyed wearing it, although I was older. Stop by the EL counter sometime, get a sniff and let it take you back. Enjoy!

  • Lisa D says:

    I remember those “I can bring home the bacon” ads for Enjoli – what a funny blast from the past! I was an Opium girl, myself.

    • Ann says:

      Many of those ads were a hoot, weren’t they? Lisa, you were way ahead of me — it took me a few years to wear Opium. I adored the body cream, which came in a heavy, elegant frosted glass jar. Ahhh …

  • Mary P. says:

    I love these perfume memoirs and I do remember Aviance… those Prince Matchiabelli ads…. My favorite as a young girl was Love’s Fresh Lemon, then there was Bonnie Bell’s Skin which was a musk scent I think. I forgot all about the Sweet Earth compacts, yeah…. When I got older I graduated to Charlie, Poison, Obsession and Giorgio – loved them :)))

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Mary! I remember craving that great blast of citrus you got from Love’s Fresh Lemon. Somehow, I must have missed the Bonne Bell scent, although I do recall their Lip Smackers — my fave was the Dr Pepper one. Mmmm … I loved and wore several of your “graduates,” too — that was some good stuff!

  • Heather A says:

    This is beautifully written and it struck such a chord with me. I remember that time period vividly. I moved from Love’s Baby Soft and the Coty Sweet Earth solid perfume compacts to Rive Gauche in a big awkward leap towards adulthood.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Heather! I loved those Sweet Earth compacts, too; wish we could still get them. My late mother wore Rive Gauche (along with Ma Griffe), so I could never wear those, although I appreciate them. I always loved that beautiful black, blue and white striped metal atomizer the RG came in — the height of French chic!