Three Decades, Three Diors: Miss Dior, Diorissimo, and Poison

If you are avid users of email and FacePlace I am sure you have noticed the scary way that we are being tracked these days. Well mildly scary. Mostly silly. You notice how if you go to a website or enter search data and for days afterward sponsored FacePlace posts will pop up or the right rail on your Yahoo! Mail page will be populated by ads- usually for the thing you just bought? For instance If I go an replace my Erno Lazzlo black soap I will be inundated with ads to purchase.. more black soap. Invasive, and frightening in it’s implications, but in a way reassuring: yes, they are spying on you, but they’re just as much dolts as everyone else who do these things by committee, fairly bumbling and ineffective.

I must have recently looked for something Dior since I have been getting ads all over the place enticing me to try the joy that is the “New” Dior. No thanks, said I. I didn’t fall for Crystal Pepsi or New Coke, so I will stick to the “Old” Dior.

Sadly, the “Old” Dior has been displaced by the new and the thing that passes for Miss Dior (or Miss Dior Cherie or Blooming or Cheerios) is not the same. I do see that there is an “Original” available and I haven’t smelled it- if you have please chime in. Is it the original, really? Or is it, like conspiracy theorists thought about Coke Classic, something that they held back to make us forget what the original was like and that the new high-fructose corn syrup version was not at all the same thing? (Cue X-Files conspiracy music)

Luckily, I was able to turn to Surrender to Chance and get a decant to refresh my memory about Miss Dior and her later siblings, Diorissimo and Poison.

Miss Dior was launched in 1947 and was part of the “New Look” which took the world by storm. The war was over, rationing was starting to fall away and at least in the US things were looking way up economically. The wartime fashions of severely tailored clothing (due in part to fabric rationing) and militaristic shoulder pads for women gave way to soft. feminine silhouettes that emphasized the bustline and a woman’s curves. They were probably about as comfortable as Scarlett O’Hara’s picnic outfit, but they looked fabulous. And the innocent Miss Dior, with it’s youthful green galbanum and sage opening and winsome flowers in the heart was a perfect perfume for that look. Miss Dior is powdery, but the thoroughgoing tartness of that sage keeps an edge to it. It’s a picnic on a sunny day with the spring flowers, but on the edge of a dark woods. The kind Grace Kelly would have for Cary Grant, enticing him with her cold chicken and warm.. personality. It’s hardly what I would call manly, but I love this incarnation of it and if it indeed is back them kudos to Dior for doing it.

Diorissimo is even more innocently lovely. Created in 1956 it features lilly of the valley (muguet) which is one of my favorite things. Back in New England between my parents house and the one next door was a large side yard, shaded by maple trees. Lotv would grow in the little valley between them in the dappled shade and it was an unspoken agreement that neither one of us would mow there until it’s time was up, so lovely was the delicate fragrance. Unlike the roses or the lilacs that grew there. Lotv didn’t do well cut, and I have been told that it’s not possible to distill the actual flower- what we smell in scents is a simulacrum. Diorissimo is such a good one that (this version anyway) takes me right back to a blameless New England spring, seemingly coming overnight with the trees going from buds to leaves and the spring flowers peeping out after a long, grey winter. If Miss Dior is Grace Kelly, then Diorissimo seems like Audrey Hepburn: youthful and with a ballerina’s grace. I love lotv and hate to admit that I don’t have this one. I will have to see if the new holds a candle to the old.

Which brings us to the third one I sampled: Poison. I actually remember when this came out and that I didn’t like it at all. Hated it in fact. I had a run in with a snooty pants SA at a now defunct department store who, when I asked for Eau Sauvage sniffed “We don’t carry THAT” as if I had asked for a can of gas soaked rags then tried to sell my friend on Poison (or as he pronounced it “Pwah-ssoh.”) which she loathed. He was so pushy and so jerky that I finally just said that we were not interested in it, and that it’s pronounced “Pwah-zhohn” unless he’s selling dead fish, which would smell better. Which is likely why I am going to hell.

Anyway, if Miss Dior and Diorissimo were emblematic of the fifties, where Johnny was marching home from war and Rosie needed to stop riveting and get herself in crinolines and her all-electric kitchen then Poison was the 80’s: Shoulder pads were back and America if not the world was rife with TV vixens like Alexis Carrington or Abby Ewing- big shouldered, big haired ladies who were no longer kids and weren’t about to lay down for any man unless it was on their terms. They had names that let you know what you were in for: Opium, Diva, or Magie Noir while ones like Giorgio were content to just throttle you.

Revisiting Poison I find that, when not applied by an aggressive SA like a factory worker applying paint to the side of a Trans Am on the assembly line I don’t recoil from it. Much. It’s sweet, fruity opening is like being slapped across the chops with a full on wedding (or perhaps funeral) bower dipped in honey. This may not be the only scent that got workplaces to start banning them, but it sure helped.

When applied by the pinprick I can appreciate the scent: it’s beautifully blended and when the initial “beaten by candied flowers” opening is done I can see the balance between fruits and spices with the flowers and the woods. It’s not Lutens-like, unless there was an evil twin of Uncle Serge’s out there. But in minuscule doses it’s actually quite pretty. Hey, arsenic had medicinal uses, but you wouldn’t want to get the dosage wrong. I won’t be wearing it, but I survived it. I even “gasp” sort of liked it.

All of these are (somewhat) available at Dior: Miss Dior Original is $220 for .5 of extrait or $95 for 1/7 ounce of “originale” EDT spray. I can’t vouch for it being like the real original, nor can I state that Poison ($220 for .5 extrait or $72 for 1oz of EDT) is the same. Diorissimo is listed as $118 for 1.7oz EDP and $125 for 3.4oz EDT and might be the closest looking at the site to the original, but if you’ve smelled them let us know in the comments. My samples were (mostly) vintage and from Surrender to Chance.

Photos: Mine, Pixels.

  • Zazie says:

    I’ve never smelled Miss Dior – the original and am very curious ever since reading a Vogue article about the inspiration for the perfume’s name: Christian Dior’s sister.
    You may find it if you google it, I refrain from pasting links in case it is not appropriate 🙂
    Anyway, the fragrance description makes me think how at odds the perfume must be from its namesake extraordinary muse.
    As an aseptic Wikipedia page notes, Christian Dior’s sister, Catherine, was “a French resistance fighter during World War II. […] she was arrested in Paris in July 1944 by the Gestapo, then tortured and deported to the Ravensbrück women concentration camp”…
    She survived, and her life went on.
    I wonder what she really thought about those beautiful yet constrictive dresses his brother was making…
    …and I wonder if she wore her namesake perfume…

  • Maya says:

    I can identify with the New England lily-of-the-valley. They always seem to grow in the shade around trees. You usually didn’t know they were there until you followed your nose and found them. So pretty to look at and amazing to smell. I think vintage Diorissimo comes closest to the real lotv scent. The vintage Coty is very good too though short-lived on me.
    I’m sure I sniffed Poison but don’t remember it and I never tried Miss Dior. The new Diors don’t interest me, but I have been thinking of trying some of the vintage ones.

    • Tom says:

      I think you would like the vintage ones. The old Miss Dior was really wonderful. Poison I am starting to appreciate. I wouldn’t wear it out of the house, but I appreciate it.

      • Maya says:

        PS – I was just checking vintage Dior perfumes today and saw Miss Dior. I was reminded of what got me interested in it originally. It was created by Jean Carles and Paul Vacher. Jean Carles was the creator of Tabu!

  • Musette says:

    Honeydoodle, if you’re going to hell, I’ll be sure you get an ensuite with AC, okay? And a refrigerator full of 1990 Krug.

    Diorella is the ONLY contemporary Dior I will wear. Everything else is vintage – and I can attest to the StC vintages – because I just done seen and sniffed them. Glo.ri.ous!


  • Dina C. says:

    I remember reading in one the editions of Perfume:The Guide, Luca Turin said that of all the perfume houses that have reformulated their classics, Dior botched the job the worst. He was really harsh saying they stripped the life and soul right out of those beauties like Miss Dior, Diorissimo, Diorella, Diorama, etc. Ordering the vintage from STC like you did is the only way to appreciate what used to be. I never wore Poison (I love your story about the SA!), but I do own vintage Diorissimo and wear it. It’s a marvel!

    • Tom says:

      I haven’t read that book in a long time, but it’s not surprising that they screwed them up. I am hoping against hope that “classic” Miss Dior will be decent.

  • Eldarwen22 says:

    Miss Dior original is still as fabulous as the original even though the current version doesn’t have honest to God oakmoss anymore. I like Diorissimo but it’s not me. The edp version of Diorissimo is flat out fecal and don’t smell the fecal element in the vintage Diorissimo. I don’t recall ever trying Poison, so I can’t comment on it. I wish that Dior still sold Diorling.

    • Tom says:

      Now I really want to smell the New, Original Miss Dior.

      I actually sometimes like fecal, but not so sure that it needs to be in Diorissimo..

  • March says:

    What a great post! Also the internet creeping: if I accidentally click on something while scrolling FB, well then there I am, getting ads for it for weeks — are you suuuuure you don’t want this hideous dress?!? Look, we have more options!!!! I think those older Diors are gorgeous but they never felt like “me” — too glamorous, too polished. I unapologetically love Poison (I have two vintage bottles and a terrifying tiny bottle of extrait, I believe, as if the regular weren’t deadly enough.) I do apologize however to everyone who had to work in an office with me in the late eighties when Poison was my work fragrance … at least I was dabbing it on!

    • Tom says:

      I think I was scared by that SA, and all of them that doused you like a dying plant. I wore Poison yesterday (lucky me- alone in the office) and while it was discernibly it wasn’t too much. And hell, I would likely go for the extrait as well.

  • cinnamon says:

    Loved Diorissimo (which apparently Mick Jagger didn’t like — at least I read that years ago) and Cherie. Poison not so much. Hypnotic Poison was mine. Thank you for this distraction. It was a very poor early part of the day and was feeling terribly stressed. Now better.

  • Alityke says:

    I used to be a hardcore Dior perfumery lover. Note used to be.
    Since Miss Dior Cherie arrived, very few have pressed my buttons. I think the first formula Addict & Escale de Portofino have been the only recent Dior’s I’ve purchased. Since then Dior have led the way in flankerism & their modern ranges are way too confusing! I know the flankerism started with the Poison family but they were considered, distinct & didn’t get released in a rush.
    Rant over.
    And breathe.
    Miss Dior Originale is worth trying. She’s still green, still a little powdery but lacks the underpinnings that held up the New Look silhouette. No oakmoss to give that pointed lift & separated, corseted, bustling outline. Miss Dior Originale now wears a sports bra & joggers. More comfy but no longer striking. Princess Stephanie rather than her mum.
    Modern Diorissimo is still the best LotV that doesn’t cost the same as a year’s mortgage. Still recognisable. Still good.
    Modern Poison is the one you should try if you find the vintage is only bearable in homeopathic dosage. Turin claimed it was the only example of a reformulation being an improvement. Once upon a time in the 90s there was Poison Eau de cologne. To my nose the modern Poison is the EdC. Everything seems to be there but is whispered in ASMR style. Personally I loved the honker & seem to have collected 5 bottles including a full 30ml bottle of the dab on Esprit de Parfum, all the complexity none of the foghorn.

    Best layering experiment I ever did? MKK with vintage Poison sprayed over. The perfect scent for Maleficent

    • Tom says:

      First off- brilliant! Your writing is soo good..

      MKK & Poison? Oooh, I may have to try that one tonight!

      • Alityke says:

        Thank you very much. I enjoy writing but I’m way too lazy now to do more than comment on perfume blogs.
        Did you try the Poison/MKK mash up? Did you survive?

        • Tom says:

          Yes, I did! I survived- wow is that a combo! Alexis Carrington at The Anvil!

          • Alityke says:

            Probably me at my most antisocial when I did that experiment.
            If Alexis & Genghis had a feral baby that is how the tent it was created in smelt.
            Insert devil emoji of your choice here

  • Kathleen Smith says:

    I love all of the original Diors. Dioressence and Diorissimo are the best.I wish I had more! How were we to know that we should have stocked up at the time! Hypnotic Poison is my more modern favorite Dior. Again, I should have stocked up. The current formulation is not as good.

    • Tom says:

      If I had a dollar for everything I wished I’d stocked up on, I’d have enough for a nice shopping spree. And smell really good.

  • Tara C says:

    I love Poison and wore gallons of it back in the day. Now I just keep a vintage mini for the memories. I also wore a ton of Giorgio. Big hair, big earrings, shoulder pads and pantsuits – those were the days baby!

    • Tom says:

      I’m surprised how much I liked it when initially I didn’t. It’s definitely a BIG fragrance, but that’s not a bad thing. I might start wearing it to bed: those spicy fruits, flowers and animal base are oddly comforting.

      I remember a recent interview with the ladies of “Knots Landing” who mentioned how much they miss the shoulder pads. Donna Mills said they made her hips look tiny.