Saturday, August 9, 2008

Three from the Eighties


Oh, how we love to disparage the Eighties.

Could it be that we were having too much fun then?

Big hair AND highlights AND hoop earrings AND Madonna-esque armloads of bracelets AND, oh, hell, Madonna herself, when she was snotty and cool; ripped, falling-off sweatshirts AND tight leggings AND spike-heeled boots, AND stripes of blush on the cheeks AND…need I go on?

As for the perfumes, well, we all know that nobody could smell much of anything in the Eighties. Can you say, uh, impaired judgment?

But it wasn’t all Giorgio, thank God.

Here are three of the good ones.


Diva Ungaro (extrait) I got this as a present. I didn’t understand chypres then. I thought the orientals were the pinnacle of perfumery, and chypres smelled too sharp to me. I preferred Must de Cartier, the signature scent of the Walk of Shame, circa, oh, 1984 or so.

Now, I know better. It smells wonderful. A rose, but not a dark or musky one. This rose is high and dry. Not even red. Maybe a white rose. Jacques Polge, who is now head perfumer at Chanel, did this, and it smells a lot like No. 22, especially in the EDP. Lots and lots and lots of aldehyde.

Here are the notes: Mandarin, aldehydes, coriander; rosewood, tuberose, cardamom, rose, jasmine, narcissus, carnation, ylang-ylang, patchouli, sandalwood, oak moss, honey, vetiver, civet, musk and labdanum.

No wonder these 80’s scents were powerhouses. The perfumers made them with a cast-iron hand. Look at all that stuff! Patchouli AND musk AND labdanum, seems like overkill now. But what from the Eighties doesn’t?

What the hey. Diva smells great.


Knowing by Estee Lauder (extrait)

I’m not usually a Lauder fan. It’s all so…perfume-y. But the review in The Guide was intriguing. They called it a “mossy rose.”

Tested on blotter paper, it’s a very nice opening. Smooth and green. I got an early top note of some sort of menthol, then a bit of the perfumey base, and, and I thought, oh, no, not that! But then it settled down, put the seat back, and got ready for a good long ride.

On skin, well, my skin sweetens everything. First there was a sort of burnt note, and then a souk-like mid. Heaps of spices in the (funky cold) Medina. Orange-y and rich. Could this be an ancestor of all the incense fragrances we’re getting now?

Then the florals, mixed right away with woods and a bit of patchouli. Never did pick up the oak moss or civet, but I’m sure it’s there!

You know what? This stuff smells damned good. On me, it’s an autumn or winter scent. Warm, rich, spicy and welcoming.

Notes are: Coriander, Orange, Aldehyde, “Green Note”; Rose, Jasmine, Cardamom, Cedar; Patchouli, Oak Moss, Civet.


Paloma Picasso Mon Perfume (somewhat vintage extrait, modern EDP)

The EDP was a TJ Maxx find for me, and it immediately sent me looking for some extrait on Ebay. They’re very different. The EDP has an early brightness. It's strong and very much a chypre. But the extrait – the extrait is brave.

And I loooovvvve this. I don’t care what anybody thinks. It makes me want to drench myself in EDP, dab on too much of the perfume and go find some trouble to get into. I’m not hanging out in some after-hours hotel basement in the dark at 3 a.m. any more, but this stuff makes me feel like I could.

No way is this Martha Quinn’s Eighties. Nothing cute or sprightly about it at all. This is something dark and full of fury and, man, just look at these notes. Clove, May Rose, Jasmine. Orris, castoreum (uh, probably not, nowadays), patchouli. Amber, tobacco and – just in case the message isn’t getting through – cedar, civet and musk.

What else is there to say? Wear it if you can handle it.


Now, of course, there are Rules. Ingredients must be approved by the sober burghers of Brussels, intent upon protecting us from ourselves. Most perfumes made now smell positively wimpy when compared to the vintage scents, but we don’t mind, because we know that the Experts know what is best for us. We don’t smoke or do, well, any of that stuff we used to do. We’re safe and sound.

Yeah? Right.


All of these perfumes are still available from discounters and online retailers, and the vintage versions can sometimes be found on Ebay or in sample/decant form.

Photo of Madonna, circa 1983, by Deborah Feingold.

5 comments:

bookishredhead said...

Ha. We so totally have the same taste in perfume. I wore the Picasso in the late 80s and early 90's. It was a gift from a boyfriend. Everyone told me it was "too old" for me, but I was also wearing Chanel 5 at the time.

Perfumeshrine said...

Nice blog you got here! :-)

The 80s do get a bit of bad rep, but then, they had their moments too!
I like the ones you chose, some more than others (PP being my first choice).
I seem to recall that pittosporum is a protagonist in the Knowing composition, which might further explain the "spicy" hit you're getting.
Castoreum is synthesized today of course, so they're using that instead of the natural.

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