Monday, July 18, 2011

Arpège vs. My Sin

Wardrobe malfunctions are nothing new, as this infamous photo of Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield, taken at Romanoff’s restaurant in 1958, proves. I chose it to illustrate this post because it comes from the era of the knock-em-dead perfumes, formulated to stand up to a room full of other ones and a fog of cigarette smoke, the ladylike-at-first Arpège and the don’t-mess-with-me My Sin. Also, let’s face it, “versus” had to be the reason why these two ladies were seated (and photographed) together!
My mother wore Arpège, but I don’t remember ever smelling My Sin. I suspect that My Sin wasn’t supposed to be applied while children were around, while Arpège could be worn, by the daring, during the day. In my own time of madly collecting the classics, I got a nearly full quarter-ounce bottle of My Sin extrait. I received the matching bottle of Arpège not too long ago from a generous perfume pal. Both are vintage, in the rectangular flacon with the squared Bakelite top. My best guess is that these bottles are from the Fifties or Sixties. 
Of the two, the My Sin is by far the most abstract, the most modern, in the sense of modern art. It’s nearly non-representational, and hugely aldehydic.

 I waited for the florals to appear. And waited. And waited. They really never did. Instead, there’s incense, clove, more aldehydes, an abstract idea of flowers -- and it’s only an idea. “My Sin” is a chewy, challenging perfume, one I’d be very unlikely to wear in daylight. Maybe to an after-hours place. This is a night perfume. Late night.
Arpège opens aldehydic too, but the abstract notes are less so, and within a minute or two I can detect rose, and a sweet suggestion, probably of ylang-ylang. These are flowers, not a cubist painting of them. It’s much sweeter than My Sin. Much more pleasant, but also less challenging. It could be worn during the day. It could be worn to the bank, in a time when people actually went to banks, and although it fades faster than My Sin does, that errand-running Fifties housewife might want to get home before the drydown kicks in, because that part is, well, not quite, um,  nice
When I think of the aldehydic florals, the spinsterish Madame Rochas comes to mind; the equally abstract Chanel No. 5, and this.  My Sin would take them all out in less than one round. That said, it is the most intellectually interesting, the most demanding, the least wearable in our time, but the most essential as a reference.
I noticed in researching Arpège that the notes list “Ambrein” as one of the ingredients. (Just how many variations on the phrase “fake ambegris” are there?) Ambrein, according to one source, is a conglomeration of bergamot, vanilla, coumarin, civet, benzoin, opoponax, Tolu balsalm and labdanum, all standing in for real ambergris. Another source says it’s merely extracted from purified landanum. Who to believe? At any rate, I think that this Ambrein contributes softness and smoothness to Arpège, while styrax, civet and those gargantuan aldehydes make My Sin a rough ride.
What are these vintage perfumes to us, anyway? To me they are a way to touch the past, and I love wearing them. But I’m careful about where, because, truth be told, I’m actually a wimp when it comes to offending others. I can just imagine what a guy in his thirties might say about “My Sin.” I did wear it once, though, to a late night art opening, but I layered it with vintage Habanita. I know, that sounds strange, but it got compliments. Lots of them. Mostly from men, mostly of an age unlikely to have ever smelled “My Sin,” or “Habanita” for that matter. 
But back to Sophia and Jayne. “Arpège” just seems like a blonde’s perfume, while “My Sin,” with all its darkness, would be better, more fitting, somehow, on a dark-haired woman. Sophia, I’d say. (But, geez, Jayne, that dress!)

If you want to try these vintage perfumes, leave me a comment by midnight, U.S. Eastern Daylight time, July 25th. I’ll pick a winner at random, and send her (or him) a generous sample of each.
The photo of Jayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren is from Wikipedia, and its usage here falls under Wikipedia’s fair use definitions. 

“My Sin,” called "Mon Péché" in Europe and  introduced by Paris couturier Mme. Jeanne Lanvin in 1925, was discontinued in 1988. The perfumer was one “Madame Zed,” who was apparently a White Russian exile who created a number of perfumes for Mme. Lanvin prior to 1925. “Notes” include aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, clary sage, neroli, ylang-ylang, jasmine, rose, clove, orris, Lily of the Valley, jonquil, lilac, vanilla, vetiver, musks, woods, tolu, styrax and civet.
“Arpège,” also from Lanvin, was introduced in 1927. It’s still available, albeit in a 1993 reformulation. The perfumer was Andre Fraysse. “Notes” include bergamot, neroli, peach, rose, jasmine, Lily of the Valley, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, the accord “Ambrein,” vetiver and musk.


Ines said...

That dress is extremely brave. I keep thinking how much of her decollete kept getting out of it because that's what it looks like from here. :)
I love the way Sophia is looking at here (with slight censure). :)
After your post, I would love a chance to try these, especially My Sin, I just can't imagine what it might smell like.

waftbyCarol said...

Yikes - that look on Sophia's face is priceless !
No wonder I have no breasts to speak of , Jayne got them all !
i own both , so no need to enter me in the draw . I find My Sin unwearable , but wear Arpege extrait frequently !

queen_cupcake said...

I love the photo. Sophia's expression is priceless and so is Jayne's joyful, unwitting exuberance. I have a goodly supply of Arpege, and love to wear it once in a while. I've been looking for (an affordable) bottle of My Sin for some time now, and have long wondered how it compares to Arpege. So thanks for this report!

Joseph the Butler said...

Honestly, as a man, maybe as a woman too, where do you allow your eyes to go when confronted with such an invitation/assault?

Anyway, My Sin--what a name.

Would love to give them a try.

Maureen said...

I seem to remember my mom having Arpege. I remember it smelled like Perfume with a capital P. Going out stuff, that I would get a wiff of when she kissed me goodnight. I doubt my mom would have worn a perfume called My Sin, being a devout Catholic, but it sounds cool to me. I would like either one. Thanks for the review and the memories.

Nigar said...

super posteded

Patty said...

That is one funny photo. I'd love to try both of these, since they are such classics. Thanks for including me in the drawing!

Carrie Meredith said...

This was a wonderful read, and I have always loved that photo of Loren and Mansfield. It perfectly illustrates your ideas! Thank you for the draw, I'd love to be entered. I've yet to sniff either of these legendary vintages.

museinwoodenshoes said...

No need to enter me in the draw, as I own a small bottle of vtg Arpege extrait and a sample of My Sin as well (thanks to Donna H, another vintage ho).

Arpege is difficult for me, not because of the aldehydes, but because of the thick, heavy florals. At the middle stage of wearing Arpege, I always feel that I've eaten waaaaay too much of something. Luckily, that stage gives way to the most gorgeous sandalwood-heavy drydown I've ever smelled. It's truly wonderful.

I'd seen that photo before, but it was terrific to run across it again - what a hoot!

Nancy said...

What a story that photo tells. I would love to try these vintage perfumes so please enter me in the draw. My mother had both of them and I would love to see what they would conjure up memory wise for me too. Thank you

womo531 said...

I would love to compare these 2 classic vintages =)

Lucy said...

I would love to enter the draw. I see that era partly through the lens watching my much older sisters as a child, that style, those cinema bombshell heroines of femininity were the ideals and that photo is the perfect illustration of your words.

Rappleyea said...

Fabulous review! Believe it or not, I wore My Sin in my teens (and that would have been what is now considered "vintage")! lol! Who knew? It was readily available at the Gardenside Pharmacy (they had a wonderful perfume counter) and on me, it was a nice, not too sweet, floral. My skin must eat skank because years later, I also wore Bal a Versailles - another civet laden beauty.

No need to enter me in the draw, but thank you.

anotherperfumeblog said...

Great reviews! ! I have been trying to get a bottle of My Sin on ebay for a while, but I keep losing. Drat. Would love to be entered in the draw.

tarleisio said...

Someone else above commented on how anyone would even dare to wear such a lowcut dress...I'm not sure I would, and just like Jayne and indeed Sophia, I have the cleavage for it! I remember my mother wore Arpège for a while - she was big on orientals - but I don't think I've encountered it in years and as for My SIn...never. Something tells me - I missed out! ;)

Aparatchick said...

What a photo! Jayne is perilously close to a nip slip there.

Arpege was in my mother's small perfume collection. She was as ladylike as they come, so I'm wondering whether what we interpret as "not quite, um, nice" would have registered differently back in the day. Or was her generation sexier but more discreet about it.

HOA Mgr Lady said...

What a classic pic! I'd forgotten about it. Since Ms. Loren is still alive and well it would be fun to see or hear her reaction to that photo. I am Chanel #5 fan and wear the oil after bath which is a lovely softer fragrance which still smells slightly at the end of the day. Am also a Cinnabar fan and would liked to be entered into the drawing!

Irina said...

I would like to try them, please, include me in the draw
thank you

Nechtan Alba said...

I would love to have samples of both--I remember how these perfumes were always held up as what French perfumes were all about when I was a little girl!

olenska said...

Fantabulous article about two of my favorites! I own them both, so no need to enter me in the draw-- may someone else discover them with love!

sean's jo said...

I have the new version of Arpege and would love to compare it to vintage.....and who wouldn't want to try a perfume called My Sin. Thanks for the draw.

Natalia said...

i love this photo.
always makes me think about how many different type of beauty exists in this world!

just starting to explore vintage and would love to try these. thanks for the draw.