Hey, baby. Want to be taken seriously? Stop being a girl.

Anita said “March is MAD” and you were worried about me and she said, no, I meant the month!  But I am, kind of.

It blows my mind a little when I think about it — women in the 1930s and 1940s who were so much younger than I was when they married and spawned, women I picture in smart dresses and proper lipstick, walked around wearing perfumes with monumental presence, some more risqué than others, with names like Tabu or Bandit, Femme or Shocking. More recently, in the perfume heyday of the late 70s – early 80s, when I outgrew Love’s Baby Soft and bought and wore grown-person scents for the first time, there were heavy hitters galore – the decadent era of Opium, Giorgio, Poison, Paris, etc.

I thought about this as I breezed through our downtown flagship Macy’s recently, taking a break from the office on a day it was awfully cold. I wandered the perfume department aisles, focusing on the new(ish) scents being given the most prominent placement on special, freestanding displays. Let’s see how it went, shall we?

goodgirlCarolina Herrera Good Girl – Carolina Herrera the woman is enormously chic, her clothes are divine, and her original 1988 fragrance is every bit the white-flower-bomb you’d expect. Considering the brand’s core, Good Girl comes across as a desperate bid for a younger, if not hipper, audience. I admit the stripper-heel bottle’s kind of a hoot, nice and hefty in the hand, and its target demographic apparently doesn’t concern itself too much with what a fragrance smells like, as long as they get to set that bottle on the dresser and the sillage won’t kill anyone at work. Karlie Kloss, the face of the campaign, is a gorgeous woman, but even by my extremely low standards for perfume ad copy this thing is stupid. (She’s a good girl except when she’s bad.) Listed notes: tuberose, cocoa, tonka, almond, coffee.   What it smells like: like it’s checking the same box as YSL Black Opium and Coco Noir, only possibly even less interesting.

shrugYSL Mon Paris – have I mentioned that original Paris is perhaps the one and only rose perfume that I truly, truly love? Wearing vintage Paris is like being smothered with a rose bouquet by a red-taloned Eighties valkyrie wearing a fuchsia blazer with exceedingly large shoulder pads. I adore it; I even wear it to the office, having applied it veeeeery lightly using the spray-and-walk-through method. Mon Paris heads in a different direction: “Red berries and pear immediately exude sensuality and femininity. The exotic white Datura flower, the soul of the fragrance, embodies desire and seduces the senses. Finally, this modern and daring floral scent is balanced by creamy white musks and patchouli. A passionate and unforgettable whirlwind journey to Paris.” What it smells like: generic clean-fruity shampoo in your suite at the Holiday Inn.  Convo with Macy’s SA: “Have you tried this?  It’s amazing!”  Me: “…. it smells like a nice shampoo.”  SA: “yes!”

1024px-Poison_HelpDior Poison Girl – “intended for younger lovers of the iconic brand, which comes in a pink bottle in the classic shape of Poison. The new fragrance is announced as a bitter – sweet floral, scandalously delicious, made for rebellious young women, pop – feminists who follow their dreams.” Hey, girl. You want to be a rebel? Wear Poison. Or even Hypnotic Poison, instead of this HP knockoff. What it smells like: something you’d find at lurking with the counterfeit bags at the night market in Phuket. What’s next, Poison Baby?

Clearly I can’t find much nice to say about these scents, so I will say this: I positively long for the day the mainstream perfume pendulum swings back in the direction of aggressively weird (or weirdly aggressive) scents. Really, it fascinates me. Take Miss Dior. Hell, take the entire Dior Classic Lineup. Miss Dior has zero interest in being a Good Girl, and I love her all the more for it, although I find her borderline unwearable. Also, can we stop being girls and go back to being women, for crying out loud?

Next time: a review of something I liked!



  • Tara C says:

    I wore Poison, Ysatis and Giorgio in large doses when I was young. These types of scents can still be found but not at department stores. Thank heavens for rebel indie perfumers!

  • HeidiC says:

    YES. So much yes. I find it extremely creepy that the perfumes that are supposed to represent allure and sexiness today smell like candy — to me, that equates with the trend of Brazilian waxing. Sexy is supposed to look/smell like a prepubescent girl? GROSS.

  • Ann says:

    Amen, March, amen! I haven’t been in a mainstream frag dept. (save for Nordstrom last week and that was mostly for returns) in ages because I know there’s nothing I need to or want to sniff. I’ve become the ultimate lazy perfumista, ha! Looking forward to next week and something you like!

  • Sarah says:

    When I was in high school, 40 billion years ago (or so it seems), I wore Poison, Opium, Tresor, Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door and Sung! by Alfred Sung. I was just telling my sister the other day, “I wore really loud perfumes for being such a young thing.” But upon reading this article, I realize I just had really great taste. In large part, thanks to my mama. A woman who wears Fracas proudly and can pull it off. Not every woman can. I know I never could. Great article and so on point.

  • maggiecat says:

    Well-said, March! I’m a college professor, and the young women at my campus frequently apply their perfume in the restroom. I have a policy of not wearing anything I’ve walked into a cloud of in this environment, and it seems to be a good sort of policy to have. I object to most forms of adulting, but not when it comes to my perfumes! I earned these wrinkles and gray hairs, darn it! Bring on the Chanel and Guerlain!

  • filomena813 says:

    I love this post!

  • Patty says:

    Helpful tip – don’t try to post a comment when you are living in a construction zone. Internet seems iffy. I can hardly imagine something more dull and insipid than Coco Noir or Black Opium, and I think I will avoid having to endure it.

  • Neva says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I don’t want to sound like a snob but the various flankers and sad experiments with perfume made me turn back to vintages and if it weren’t for some of the niche houses I would never travel back to the perfume present. I’m afraid I’m not even familiar with the perfumes you mention here because I got so disappointed with mainstream fragrances in the past 15 years that I don’t even bother to try most of them.

  • Musette says:

    lol! I don’t know what I was expecting to read but I sure wasn’t expecting to laugh so hard I did that ‘blaaaart’ thing where I sound like a cat with a hairball! LOVED this!

    Focus Groups Rule, baby.


  • rosarita313 says:

    Those perfumes are as ubiquitous as fully exposed decolletage and vocal fry, and it all infantilizes women as much as baby doll minis in the mid sixties. I’m in my late 50s and wouldn’t trade it for being younger in today’s world, especially in perfume and dress, although I fear that in ten years I could easily go full on caftan and sneakers.

  • Taxi says:

    I love the original Poison. It was a shocker the first time I tried it – smelled like cat pee for about 10 minutes then dried, mixed & morphed into a fabulous & wonderful scent. I still have some of the pre-restricted juice, as well as the bath powder. I’ve loved bath powder ever since I can remember, maybe since I was 4? I’ve got enough lovely powders to last the rest of my life as I stocked up when lotions & creams became more prevalent. Besides Poison, I dust with Jpy, Quadrille, Must, Fracas, White Shoulders, Jungle Gardenia, Jardin de Bagatelle, and Diorissimo. Powder with lovely puffs (some are swansdown) is far more luxurious for me than lotion.

  • MMKinPA says:

    Great post! I walk through Macy’s and am constantly accosted by SAs to try whatever they are shilling at the moment and NOTHING appeals. I’m still a baby perfumista but even I can’t abide the banality of these new releases. You feel bad for the perfumers who I’m sure would rather make something interesting. I recently stopped eating refined sugar and as a consequence those sugary sweet things realllly smell too sweet!

  • Doreen says:

    I love these powerful vintage-style woman fragrances. The stuff that is supposed to be lighter burns…

  • bevfred says:

    Well said March. I’ve managed to find grown up perfumes in niche lines.

  • LaDona says:

    It’s the gourmand-y fruit bombs that turn my nose up. And thesugary-sweet ones. Thanks, but no. I’m not candy, and I’m not 12. So I’m going to dab some JAR Bolt of Lightening this morning in protest. Or, possibly Madame X. Suddenly, I feel quite dangerous…

    • March says:

      I like my sugar in small doses; then it’s fun and different. What’s not fun is when the entire fragrance department around you has that same sweet-fruity vibe. After a few hours I couldn’t even tell Good Girl and Mon Paris apart, and my office smelled sad.

  • shiva-woman says:

    Loved this post, and so agree. I wore Love’s Baby soft, but I was always into my mom’s Maja, Tabou, and Youth Dew. Still love them and it set my palate for life. Women need to embrace being women. Girls do not presidents make.

  • pjmcbride says:

    Wearing Portrait of a Lady to the office (official office SOP–yes, I’m in a field where we call them SOP’s–“If your perfume can be smelled by others in the room, it is not acceptable”) because–well, because I’m retiring in 2 months and am getting a head start.

    • March says:

      Heh, we have a lot of acronyms too. I mostly sit far enough from other people that they haven’t complained. That I know of. Congratulations on your retirement!

  • eldarwen22 says:

    I think that people have a fear of getting old. We all get old, wrinkly and grey no matter what. It seems to be more prevalent in women, so they dress younger than they should, wear too much make up that amplifies their age and definitely wear perfume to young for them. I love and wear vintage Bal all the time and I wear a lot of Chamade and many other more adult perfumes. I’m not 14 anymore and I shouldn’t really be wearing Happy anymore nor anything from Bath and Body Works. I say embrace getting older. An actress once said that old age isn’t for sissies.

    • March says:

      That actress spoke the truth. I’m getting older whether I want to or not. That’s why I embraced my gray hair. It’s actually pretty liberating to reach a point where you go, hey, this is who I am.

  • Love! I think we should celebrate girls- but my 16 year old is fearless, spirited, inspiring and quirky- in an earthy kind of way- she’s an old soul actually- where are those perfumes?!
    Her favorite perfume is vintage No. 19 and one of my favorites when I was 16 was a vintage bottle of Paloma Picasso I stumbled upon and something that smelled a lot like Vent Vert. Girls need to know what they’re missing!

    • March says:

      Yes, where are those perfumes? Not at mainstream stores, for the most part, unless you’re willing to brave some of the counters like Estee Lauder for the back catalog. I’m glad your daughter has found something better!

  • Millicent says:

    Oh, March, I love your posts.