Big Shoulders, Big Hair, Big Perfume: 1980s Through Fragrance
September 28, 2014 12:10 PM   Subscribe

"The beginning of my interest in fragrance coincided more or less with a momentous year in perfumery: 1981. It was in that first year of what would later be called the Big Eighties that a Beverly Hills boutique released an eponymous scent housed in a box with yellow stripes that evoked the store’s awning. Giorgio was an immediate and a ubiquitous smash, a powerhouse floral so outsized that restaurants were said to refuse seating to Giorgio-wearing patrons." The '80s ushered in a new era in perfumery.

Robin at Now Smell This writes about the iconic Calvin Klein scent:
I didn't wear Obsession in the 1980s, but I remember it well. Like Thierry Mugler's Angel later, it was everywhere, and everyone seemed to be wearing one spray too many (sometimes two or three). One spray, even now, is more than I can tolerate, but a little tiny dab renders it surprisingly tame, even approachable: yes, it's still strong, but most of the bite is in the early stages, where a bitter herbal-green edge laced with spices seems to linger longer than you'd expect it would or could. As it softens, the floral notes are rich, but grounded by the amber, and the vanilla in the base is nicely dry in comparison to today's overbearing dessert-fests. To my nose, it's a pussycat next to Christian Dior's Poison, released that same year.
The link quoted above leads to Robin's present-day assessment of another iconic '80s scent that was controversial for its name: Poison by Christian Dior:
Poison represented a break with Dior's past in more ways than one. It was considerably more expensive than the fragrances which preceeded it in the Dior line, and had a more modern, youthful image. The name, however, is what caused most of the early controversy. Maurice Roger, the president of Parfums Christian Dior, noted at the time:
Finally, I realized you can afford to be a little controversial as long as your product is noble. There are some 56 launches a year in Europe and some 35 in the U.S. That's a lot of noise. You have to be exceptional to break through that wall. The name of a perfume is like the title of a book or the cover of a magazine — it has to be attractive and make a difference. (Women's Wear Daily, 6/21/1985)
Other entries in this series: The Christian Dior Poisons, part 2: Hypnotic Poison, The Christian Dior Poisons, part 3: Pure Poison.

"Does Perfume Expire?" – eHow:
Perfume has an average shelf life, or life span, of three to five years, regardless of whether an expiration date is stamped on your bottle or box by the manufacturer. After a certain period of time, the oils break down and the color may turn darker. This darkening is known as oxidation. Because fragrances are designed to unfold in three segments, each segment has its own clock. Anywhere from three to five years after the initial purchase of your perfume, the notes from each phase begin to deteriorate at their own pace. Most commonly it is the base notes that decompose first.
Making Scents of It All in the 80s by Julie Anderson at Like Totally 80s:
We loved designer fragrances in the 1980s! Remember, this was before every starlet and pop singer put her name on her own special concoction; we left it to designers to work their magic and celebrities to sell it. One little whiff would let us know if you were team Gloria or team Giorgio, or even a brazen Enjoli girl.
Mental Floss incorporates YouTube ads in "11 Iconic Perfumes of the ’80s", although they missed the memorable ad that left many Americans scratching their heads: "Rue Faubourg: Famous Chanel Egoiste Ad Jean Paul Goude Commercial", not to mention the surreal and faintly incestuous Obsession commercial. does remember the Egoist ad in "Oh, the smell of it: 10 best perfume commercials ever".

Finally, rounding out the Love's Baby Soft ad examined by Mental Floss (above): "The cultural history of Love's Baby Soft", The Awl.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (84 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
*mists thread on sample card, takes a whiff*
posted by The Whelk at 12:20 PM on September 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

Designer Imposters still makes "If you like Giorgio, you'll love" Primo! I can't help wondering who's been buying it for the past twenty-odd years.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:39 PM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ooh, 80's perfume! Ah, the memories! My mom absolutely adored another 80's classic - YSL's Opium. I preferred Fracas - not an 80's fragrance, but very strong and tuberosey. (I still like it, but it's harder to find.)

I remember it was much harder to find a unique/artisanal fragrance, this being before the days of the Internet and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Most people wore the same popular fragrances, which IME is not the case now, because it's so easy to find artisanal perfumes on Etsy and through places like BPAL and LUSH.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:42 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The 80's certainly was a time of Big Scents along with the big hair and big shoulders and oh so much fabric in the clothes! Everyone I knew wore Oscar de la Renta, I think it was. I wore it sometimes but mostly I wore Ciara, or sometimes Chloe. Now wearing such strong perfumes is akin to playing your music too loud or taking up two seats on the subway with all your gear.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

My signature scent was Halston, which was probably weird on a 16-year-old goth, but everyone else was wearing Giorgio and Obsession.

I still have a strong urge to make bad decisions when I smell Drakkar Noir.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:48 PM on September 28, 2014 [24 favorites]

Drakkar Noir is pretty much the scent-soundtrack for bad decisions but really it was Fahrenheit and the men's Dolce & Gabbana that always got me in REAL trouble.
posted by at 12:50 PM on September 28, 2014 [9 favorites]

posted by Sys Rq at 1:00 PM on September 28, 2014

God, I hated Giorgio. Just too over-the-top.
All this talk of 80's scents and not one mention of Aramis? That shit was in every disco men's room in the 70's and 80's.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh god, there was Cachet as well, and Jontue. Boy I owned a lot of perfume back then.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:01 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I believe every woman I fell for in the eighties wore Halston. I'm a guy, but I may have been addicted to it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:11 PM on September 28, 2014

Man, I still remember the Exclamation stank of some of my good friends. I even avoided visiting one of them, through no fault of her own, just because of the smell in her room. (Strangely, she did not smell too strong. Just her room.)

I loved, loved my Poison, or specifically my imitation fragrance Poison pen. Clear mascara, Sanrio makeup, Poison = me trying to impress my crush in eighth grade. I would still love some Poison, although I would probably need to apply it with a Q-tip and then scrub the spot with unscented soap just to make myself bearable. I would also like some Electric Youth, which was really something, a kind of Poison-lite. Nowadays I wear fragrances with a very identifiable top-note, and usually an edible one: coconut, orange, vanilla. I prefer solid perfumes, because they're harder to abuse, even if they are harder to get, and they last so long.

Love's Baby Soft, like Jean Nate, always seemed to me like the only scents that were permitted to the girls from strict families.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:36 PM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

yeah. I remember inhaling like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet from a sweater that some very hot 16 year old girl had cried into well over 24 hours earlier.

So firmly not a candidate was I that this crying posed no risk from her point of view.

Those chemical spills took a while to disperse. I'm glad they disappeared from society so firmly that my only scent-memory spiral risk is from more innocent things like walking into a grade school.
posted by C.A.S. at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I was in college I took a committee of female friends to the local mall to help me choose a new fragrance. They chose Egoiste Platinum, and I've been wearing it ever since. When it comes to choosing fragrances for myself, I feel like my own judgment can't be trusted.

But if you're wearing H20 then please stay far away from me. That stuff is weaponized narcotic.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:42 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Obsession was the fragrance one of my exes from University wore. It didn't end well and I still flinch whenever I smell it.
posted by arcticseal at 2:03 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Too much of any perfume is a problem, of course. There are people out there who must have lost all sense of smell and seem to start the day by taking a bath in the perfume of their choice--and then pour a few extra bottles on their clothes "just to be on the safe side." I've had to move my seat at a theater because someone more than a row or two away is wearing so much perfume that it makes my eyes water.
posted by yoink at 2:07 PM on September 28, 2014

But if you're wearing H20 then please stay far away from me. That stuff is weaponized narcotic.

That's what my wife wears. Gotta agree.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:20 PM on September 28, 2014

I never even realized perfume has trends.
What kind of scent is currently en vogue?
posted by Omnomnom at 2:38 PM on September 28, 2014

The nightmare became worst when guys would use deodorant, after shave and cologne all in the same (Aramis, Polo, Lagerfeld) unbelievably strong fragrance. 50 yards away, I'm telling you. Gah.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2014

What kind of scent is currently en vogue?

None. But jerks still like to stink.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:44 PM on September 28, 2014


I dunno about the eHow piece. Vintage perfume is a thing. And base notes decomposing first makes the opposite of sense, because top notes are the most volatile; the base notes are the ones that stick to your clothes for days. I have an old bottle of Scherrer, bought on eBay a couple years ago, and its top notes are doing fine. One spritz at a time and I never wear it to work; it's loud.
posted by clavicle at 3:15 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

What kind of scent is currently en vogue?

It really depends. I don't think there are the same few popular scents enjoying huge market dominance now. With me, my friends and acquaintances, hand-blended artisanal perfumes like BPAL are in favor. That's probably not true everywhere. But, on the whole, there are more niche and specialty fragrances, more Etsy-based and web-based small-batch perfumes, and women, in particular, wear more different fragrances.

It's also true that the really heavy scents are out of fashion - lighter, green/citrus fragrances are in. Many 80's perfumes are now reformulated to be lighter and more citrussy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:16 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been unscented for a long, long time, but still like the smell of the Grey Flannel that a young me wore from time to time back in the '80s. It's rare that I smell (notice?) cologne on a man or perfume on a woman these days - though a saleswoman was helping me the other day, and I inquired about her perfume: Givenchy's Fleur d'Interdit.
posted by Auden at 3:17 PM on September 28, 2014


Oh, man, 80s perfumes! The thing I've found in my sampling is that it is close to impossible to dose these such that you don't leave a scent trail. Leaving a scent trail is half the point of them, it seems, and radiance is the other half. But if you are very careful -- like, swab a stick through the perfume, brush one end lightly against your skin -- it can be a pleasant experience to smell the actual smell itself and see how it all works. Some of these perfumes have reviews devoted half to the method of Best Application, and it is really a consideration. And 80s atomisers were imprecise to a fault! I have an old bottle of something or other and the atomiser is like being spat on by a tobacco-chewer. The sprays from these bottles are meaty, leaky little things.

The eHow piece is kind of spot-on and kind of not. How the perfume is stored is critical to the decomposition of the perfume. A bottle stored out of the sun somewhere fairly heat-controlled, like a wardrobe or cabinet with solid doors, will last a long, long, long time. Perfume stored in the open in direct sunlight will deteriorate faster. It's a best-care thing, not an absolute rule -- some perfumes just refuse to deteriorate wholly so the first few minutes might be a bit unpleasant but then it settles into itself.

I love perfume in general, but taking care with the character of the perfume is very, very necessary if one does not wish to be impolite. I still remember the time I oversprayed Angel (one spray! with a tiny tiny sample-sized atomiser!) and people were leaning away from me in the street. I still feel guilty about that. I'm sorry, strange people I Angelbombed six years ago! I didn't know better! I promise I didn't! (I do NOW.)

These days I kind of hover between being madly in love with BPAL and madly in love with Serge Lutens with side trips through other houses, a lot of side trips through a lot of houses in general, which is okay with me, because: perfume. I heart it.
posted by E. Whitehall at 3:25 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

As sensitive as I am to people with vague chemical sensitivities, life in the post-perfume world we live in now has reminded me that people stink. It's very seldom a manly-musk or dewy lady fragrance, it's ass and balls all the way down to stinkburg.
posted by angerbot at 3:42 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

What a fun article! I totally forgot about the yellow-and-white stripes. My good friend in French class turned me onto Giorgio. She would give me a few sprays from the bottle she must have stolen from her mom. I felt like the height of sophistication for 8th grade.

And any male who wore Drakkar Noir always got a second look from me, just because of the delicious, seductive scent. That scent made me want to do things, even though I was a good girl.
posted by Pocahontas at 3:53 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I haven't really thought about it but now that I do, I can't remember the last time I noticed anyone wearing perfume or cologne.
posted by octothorpe at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Man, cultivating a perfume hobby is a great way to have your heart broken repeatedly--the undocumented, constant reformulations (whether due to IFRA regulations, material scarcity, or plain ol' capitalism) and difficulty procuring a perfume that smells the way it did when you first fell in love with it, even as little as 5 years later has been a huge bummer for me, and I only got back into the swing of things with it like less than a year ago. D'oh. And they're so damn sneaky-cagey about it too due to marketing crap, which really gets on my friggin' nerves (this bit's a derail since it's not about these infamous 18-wheeler '80s perfumes, but when all the buzz about the new-new reformulation of Mitsouko came out a couple years back, I tried to figure out how the hell to buy a bottle from a reputable source online seeing as I live in the boonies when it comes to this stuff, but wanted to make sure I got one of the new-new batches. Really nice department stores like Barney's and Nordstrom's and whatever straight up lied to email "face" saying of course they were all the same, it'd never changed! UGH.)

Fahrenheit, Antaeus, Kouros, Femme all come to mind from this era or its general school of approach at least, in terms of having been fantastic, now noticeably altered and not for the better. (And I'll admit, though it came out in 1999 not the '80s and is kind of like if those '80s perfumes were mated with that other reviled more current school, the fruitbomb florals meant to be spritzed before clubbing but smelling like something a little girl would like, I kinda like Rush for silly stupid fun nights out. It feels like a caricature of the '80s done by someone in the '90s, which I suppose it was.)
posted by ifjuly at 3:55 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

God this brings back such memories. I watched a lot of TV in the eighties and don't anymore, so maybe there are still a lot of perfume ads but I still know them all.

I can't seem to forget you, your Windsong stays on my mind...

Da da da Jontue. Da da da Jontue Jontue. Da da da Jontue da da da Jontue... Jontue.
(I think I only know the melody because it was in French)

Underneath it all, she's Baby Soft

Etc etc etc.

Personally I liked Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth and the foresty Parfum Bic pour homme (pronounced poor homey), though of course a boyfriend told me I smelled like a guy when I wore it.

The I discovered the yummy scents at The Body Shop and have literally been stuck on Fuzzy Peach ever since, though I love Cucumber too.

However, I never really wear perfume anymore because it seems like whenever I do someone has an allergic reaction to it.

I never realized it before today, but the eighties were literally saturated in perfume.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:56 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

+1 for Serge Lutens as my current favourite perfumer, with scents that evolve nicely over a long period of time. I used to love Serge Noir in the winter, and Bain de Soie in the summer.

I have a lot of love for the Hermès perfumes, especially those designed by Jean-Claude Ellena, like Terre and Voyage d'Hermès.

I'm currently stuck on Eau De Jade from the Armani Privé line, but I'm on the lookout for a wintertime frankincense-based scent like the old, discontinued Gucci Homme…
posted by LMGM at 3:59 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh god. I still, very occasionally, get a whiff of the perfume worn by the first girl who ever kissed me, back in (?)1989. Never did figure out what it was, and never had the balls to ask any woman who was wearing it what it was. But the slightest hint of it and cascades of teenage memories flood my brain.
posted by notsnot at 4:08 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first boy I ever fell totally in love with used to wear a keyboard scarf that his Mom washed in Downy and he sometimes sprayed with Polo. I stole it from him after a night of making out in his room and used to smell that thing until I think the fibers went directly into my brain.
posted by xingcat at 4:13 PM on September 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

I want these brash iconic scents back.
I miss smelling Drakkar and it being an immediate signifier of .... Well, anyone that lived in this time knows what Drakkar means.
I don't want to smell like cinnamon buns, or peaches, or a waterfall.
I want to smell like a human, with thoughts and motivations and a scent to communicate that. I don't want to smell like a dessert or an air freshener.
I'm a fragrance junkie and I've been without a favorite fragrance for a few years. If something interesting doesn't come up soon, I'm just going to go back to some of these old scents. Poison and Opium are on my short list to try for this fall and winter. The mass market perfume industry has been selling water scents, and floral/fruit/food scents for much too long.
The small companies, the innovators, are going in two directions - all natural or very synthetic. They do ignore most of the mass market scent trends, but are still working within a modern framework and definition of acceptable scents.
It seems the big houses haven't produced anything recently to stop the juggernaut of Celebrity Scent of water/fruit/white flowers.
A few amber scents have been popping up, and I just cannot wait for the product that will set the new trend. I think it will be a big, sexy amber for women and I'm hoping for more oud for men.
posted by littlewater at 4:22 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm still partial to Saytr from BPAL, no food overtones, honestly earthy, and when applied right gives the slight impression you own cursed rings
posted by The Whelk at 4:30 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

littlewater, you might try Tauer perfumes. Whatshisface Mr Tauer is seriously charming and helpful, and his perfumes are really beautiful. I can't wear them, they give me headaches (everything gives me headaches), but they are really grand and brave scents. Try a sampler!
posted by thylacinthine at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Malibu Musk pretty much encapsulates middle school for me. Girls used to hose themselves down in it after PE instead of showering.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yay, perfume post! I alternated between White Linen and Loulou in the 80s. I have an old bottle of Loulou that still smells fine. There's a lot of hate out there for White Linen, but I liked it because of how aggressively crisp and clean it smelled. Oh, and Obsession for Men still makes me go weak in the knees.
posted by atropos at 4:46 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about Jean Nate? My grandmother kept buying it for me but I could never get past its Kathie Lee Gifford association.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:50 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The I discovered the yummy scents at The Body Shop and have literally been stuck on Fuzzy Peach ever since, though I love Cucumber too.

I LOVED dewberry. And vanilla, although it made me smell like sponge cake.

I loved Lou Lou (and that romantic ad) even though it gave me and everyone else headaches to wear it. Anais Anais was another from that time that gives me a headache just thinking about it.

I found a bottle of Giorgio at a discount chemist for $15 and bought it for nostalgia purposes. It's just sitting in the drawer, though, I'm scared to open it!
posted by prettypretty at 4:54 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mother wore Avon scents, especially Timeless. I think it's totally gone now, but for years after she died, I'd occasionally smell a woman walking past wearing it, and tear up. Just like Old Spice will forever be my dad.

I haven't worn perfume in years...everyone has allergies, and I wouldn't know where to begin. But I did wear one in high school with a name I can't remember, that was more on the musky end. I was never into florals.

My grandmother gave me White Shoulders every Christmas, which smelled like Old Lady and so I never ever wore it.

My parents would never have bought me Obsession or Poison, I mean come on, those were like saying "Hey I'm a teenage slut!" to them.
posted by emjaybee at 5:13 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dear class of '91, fuck you and your Liz Claiborne perfume (and purses) SO HARD. SRSLY.

Avon still sells Timeless.

As far as I can tell what's popular right now is sweet fruity light floral-y? Stuff that doesn't agree with my more spicy scent sensibilities.

Also, those bastards at Chanel discontinued No. 22.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:17 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

fbk I saw that they sell it, but since lots of people mentioned that perfumes get re-done over time, I wonder if it's the same? Maybe I'll buy bottles for my sister and me for Christmas and we can test them out.
posted by emjaybee at 5:21 PM on September 28, 2014

fluffy battle kitten, Ormonde Jayne may have some (high-priced) scents you'd like. Comme de Garcons' Kyoto is also quite nice.
posted by orrnyereg at 5:26 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

littlewater, I second the recommendation of Tauer perfumes. Super gorgeous stuff. L'Air Desert du Marocain is (IMO) incredible, and Lonestar Memories is amazeballs. I lean more toward the hot dry spicy perfumes and I consider these two the pinnacle, but I've tried his florals and they are so rich.

I'd also look into Lutens and Etat Libre d'Orange, if you haven't already! Lutens does a lot with amber, and ELdO have awesome and strange combinations that simply work. I'm wondering if you might like ELdO's Rien. To me it smells like a fantastically goth secondhand motorbike jacket with tarnished studs, which I personally adore.

(For perfume sampling without breaking the bank, I love and recommend Surrender to Chance.)
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:32 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

And I don't care what anyone says...I loved Cher's Uninhibited perfume.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:34 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing L'air du desert marocain. A top 5er for me (along with Bandit, the good versions of Mitsouko, and a heartstoppingly beautiful Frederic Malle that will remain unnamed because it's my signature and I get squirrely about being specific when people ask) for sure. Bonus, Andy Tauer is like an adorable, brilliant-but-shy version of Alton Brown for the perfume world.
posted by ifjuly at 5:40 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

prettypretty, because of Dewberry I had to stop going into The Body Shoppe for years. In fact, I'd have to cross the mall to avoid the toxic cloud that hovered outside that place. They've toned it down a lot since then. Now, because of The Body Shoppe, I can't get enough of the scent of bergamot. Holy Hannah. Does anyone know if bergamot was one of the elements of the 80's men's cologne Trussardi for Men? My reaction to the scent would indicate "yes.'
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:06 PM on September 28, 2014

I blend scents and have sold a couple of formulas to boutique smelleries, and I admit that even now I love the scent of obsession in the bottle or on a wand. But very few people could wear it well. That said, when I wear scent, which is rare, I tend towards earthy and spice notes with a citrus to keep it from cloying, right now I'm working on a clary sage, bergamot, ylang ylang blend that I think has a lot of potential.

Also real perfume can last decades. Toilet water and cologne not so much, but a true perfume...properly stored is forever.
posted by dejah420 at 6:10 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The trend right now, for sure, is Flowerbomb and its ilk - light, sweet, candy-fruit-florals. I'm not sure if Miss Dior Cherie ushered that in (strawberry, caramel-pocorn, come *on* now) but it definitely has hold of the market. Some current, easily-sourced favorites on my little tray of perfumes include Shalimar Parfum Initial (the pink juice - "not your Mother's Shalimar", but I also love your Mother's Shalimar), Oscar de la Renta's Esprit de Oscar (smelled it in Milan before it hit the States, had to have some), Narciso Rodriguez - the EDT of For Her, the discontinued Musc Oil (though I'm told it's back?) and the NEW Narciso Oil which is vetiver and cedar and light musk, Miss Dior Blooming Boquet, Chanel No. 5, Prada Amber, and Valentino's Valentina. Without looking, I'm guessing there's also a bottle of Bobbi Brown Beach there, and probably something from Tokyo Milk. I still keep a bottle of Bonne Bell Skin Musk in the bathroom cabinet, and wear it under LOTS of these.
posted by ersatzkat at 6:24 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Former BPAL addict here, just saying my new jam is Tokyo Milk.
Oh, and whoever said that Baby Soft was for girls from strict families gets my vote. Almost everyone wore that shit in catholic school.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:38 PM on September 28, 2014

Love's Baby Soft smelled very clean and very feminine. Just like a Catholic girl.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2014

80s and perfumes! Two of my favorite things. I suspect when I get home and have a chance to read and watch all the links, I'll be drowning in nostalgia.
posted by immlass at 7:11 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wore Enjoli until my college girlfriend told me I smelled like Gottschalks' mother-of-the-bride department, and I switched to Shalimar ("This one is much better, you smell like mysterious dessert") until I both switched to a scent-free doctor's office (and also transitioned, but it was the scent policy that actually halted my perfume experience.)

I still have the last bottle of Shalimar in my bathroom cabinet. I gave up on scents until I got a sample of some Tom Ford something that I can't afford and shouldn't wear anyway (other people's allergies, etc.) I still love the big woods-oriental-floral-musk and am heartily sick of candy-flowers-fruit. Maybe I'll try again.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:12 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm actually a fan of Youth Dew and Cinnabar by Estee Lauder. I also like to wear White Linen a couple times a year. Most of the other lauder fragrances either smell like mildew in the bottle or on me.

I am also a fan of Chanel No 5, Coco (but really strongly hate Coco Mademoiselle), and I like No 19 and No 22 very occasionally.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:43 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

My 80's big date night perfume was Lauren, but I wore Bonne Bell's Skin as an everyday scent. Both worked well with my Gunne Sax dress.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:03 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

What kind of scent is currently en vogue?

As ersatzkat noted, for some reason Viktor and Rolf's Flowerbomb seems to have become super popular within the past several years. Which was around the time that my bottle ran out and I'm kind of glad. Although I like the scent a lot, I don't like smelling like everyone else.

My mother's signature scents are Shalimar and Coco and thus I cannot find either of them alluring in any way.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:16 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

If Loves Baby Soft was the good girl perfume of the 80's, then Bath and Body Works Fresia and Vanilla Body sprays were the 90's version. The former has long been absent from my nasal landscape, but I blame the latter for for triggering my gag reflex at anything faux vanilla scented.
posted by romakimmy at 9:01 PM on September 28, 2014

heh I just replied to an ask mefi recently along these lines and what I really wanted to tell the OP was that they were looking for "unusual scents" in the wrong damned decade. Heartily agree with everybody saying the "food/flowers/clean laundry" themed nonsense has gone on long enough- I am pretty sure this means the backlash against all this sheer sweet ethereal stuff means a return to big warm orientals, spices and woods maybe imminent. Can't happen too soon in my book although as noted elsewhere I am a Chanel #5 traditionalist when I wear anything anymore. Loved Obsession and its ilk back in the day but my teenage perfume was an obscure warm sandalwood spicy thing by Krizia, long since discontinued.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:38 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Krizia Uomo? Another '80s classic.
posted by ifjuly at 9:42 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

ha ifjuly that's the one!
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:45 PM on September 28, 2014

Cool! I've often wondered what it was like, as it gets compared sometimes to Antaeus. Never managed to sample it though, alas.
posted by ifjuly at 9:47 PM on September 28, 2014

oh damn I was wrong! I went digging down a memory hole on the internet and came back with Krizia's female analog to Uomo which is Teatro Alla Scalla. This makes complete sense as it debuted in 1986, the same year I graduated high school.

if you're curious and haven't ever sampled it, well all I can say is it is literally Essence Of The 80's. Think Amadeus, Louis heels and Christian LaCroix ballgowns.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:07 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

My upbringing in the 80s is pretty much the reason that, as an adult, I wear unscented deodorant and Doctor Bronner's Mint Soap, period. Just remembering the 80s makes my head hurt from the stench of chemical perfumes. And I'm not even one of those people who's allergic to everything.
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 PM on September 28, 2014

The thick scent of Giorgio flat out provoked me in the '80s. There was something so presumptuous about some high-fashion power broker lady taking for granted that we all wanted to enjoy her heavy floral musk in the elevator long after her departure.

Have they Done Something to the classic Chanel lines? My mother used to wear No. 19 (and I loved it on her) and it doesn't smell the same to me now. (I grant, yes, some of the scent is from the wearer herself, but even just the bottle scent smells different to me.)
posted by gingerest at 11:25 PM on September 28, 2014

Oh wow wow wow.

I recall Giorgio was absolutely nauseating.

I also remember Love's Baby Soft - smells like sixth grade!

Yikes. And the Designer Impostors mixed with the smell of cheap makeup and Aqua Net.

My favorite perfumes in the 80s were Stetson (my dad had some and didn't wear cologne, I tried it on, and it smelled incredible on me - not masculine, just warm and clean and good) and Crabtree and Evelyn's Millefleurs, which was one of the few florals I really liked and which they discontinued like big dumb jerks.

The trend right now, for sure, is Flowerbomb and its ilk - light, sweet, candy-fruit-florals.

IS THAT WHAT THAT SMELL IS? I recall getting on the bus one morning this past winter and I swear every woman on the bus had bathed in some cloying sweet high floral chemical horribleness.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:48 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I still have bottles of Drakkar from the 80s. I can't remember the last time I smelled it either. But I'm sure if I smelled Drakkar, Obsession, or Halston, that I'd be teleported straight back to 1988.

I like cologne/perfume, and I kind of wish it were more common.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:06 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh man memories flooding back! My perfume history starts in the 90s.
My first perfume was Sunflowers by Estee Lauder - not because I liked it but because my cousins bought me a gift pack from Macy's. I had never had perfume before so I felt very grown up and wore that shit everyday. I can not stand the smell of this perfume now but it is definitely what started me down the perfume path and I feel incomplete leaving the house without a little something.

Nowadays my obsession (heh) is Balenciaga Paris, which is unfortunately a bit heavy for daytime wear. I've been using Prada d'Iris for that but I'm still on the hunt for the coveted "signature scent".

If we're going to be reminiscing about perfume pop icons, I must also drop an honorable mention to CK one (unisex perfume!) and although Drakkar Noir is definitely my favorite of the teenage boy throwbacks, in my time it was more Davidoff Cool Water that swamped the locker filled hallways.
posted by like_neon at 1:40 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

1987. Liz Taylor launches Passion
posted by mikelieman at 2:46 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh good God. THE HORROR OF THIS POST. I graduated from highschool in 1990, so this was very much the era in which I was wearing my perfume, my mother's perfume, and the perfume of every woman I babysat for.

My mother wore Jean Nate in the summer -- the afterbath splash, the kind you literally doused yourself in -- and Opium in the winter. One of us must have had L'air du Temps because I can still feel the EDT bottle with the birds in my hand.

My grandparents kept sending me White Shoulders but I wore Anais Anais because I was a rebel like that. Later I wore Poison and LouLou because my mom flew internationally and would buy me the six pack of mini perfume bottles on the plane, which I now realise must have all been Cacharel perfumes. I can't remember what else was in those packs, though.

My highschool boyfriend wore Drakkar Noir and while I freely admit it is revolting, I also have no shame in admitting that 25 years later, the rare, rare passing whiff still turns my panties into a puddle.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:07 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Heh - Love's Baby Soft is not just sixth grade, it's sixth grade AFTER GYM CLASS. The first year, as girls, we had to change clothes twice a day in a large, communal room with other girls, many of whom would notice and comment if there was ANY part of you (clothes, body shape, hair didn't feather quite right) that didn't fit the norm, and then mock. Is it any wonder I don't like candy-floss scents?
posted by ersatzkat at 3:45 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

the surreal and faintly incestuous Obsession commercial

Which echoed the style and atmosphere of Last Year at Marienbad.

And went on to inspite this. (Bonus: Phil Hartman)
posted by gimonca at 5:56 AM on September 29, 2014

When I think of modern perfume sensibility, I think of smelling like a candied baby or something. Berry/candy/amber zzzzz and then I would end up talking like this. I like perfume as a warning. "Hey I am a grown ass woman who smells like a black widow/musk ox/parking lot assassin. Lookout." My selection criteria is "Would Gloria Wondrous boost this?"

There is a woman at my work (maybe not alive in the 80s) who is not a steamroller, but somehow has found Georgio and she wears it so lightly, it's just lovely.

Also my daughter, who has newly mutated into a teen, has latched onto Angel. She and I talk and swap perfume a lot (I give her modern Katy Perryesque samples I get and she smells Estee Lauder Azuree on me and is like "only you mother"). I thought about trying to wean her onto something that doesn't evoke the halcyon years of Britney Spears, but somehow the dirty chocolate sweetness matches her level of eyerolling and sarcasm.

I feel people when they say this hobby is a fool's errand with reformulations and discontinuations. I believe we are entering a period of lasting (if slightly dull) stability, now that natural ingredients are becoming endangered or unavailable. Especially now that manufacturers are blatantly marketing "one molecule" scents. Someday there will be a molecule for every fragrance, and it will be stable and kind of soulless, but then we can finally stop the fiction on "ooh my body chemistry is fussy." It's okay if you just think it stinks on ice, you don't have weird skin. I'm trying to move forward and buy the new stuff. Serge Lutens is interesting. I didn't like one of his most recent releases but I like that it was named after insulation(?). This after Fille de Berlin. What an awesome troll.
posted by Lardmitten at 6:22 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait wait wait... did anyone else wear Paloma Picasso or did I just have unusual taste for a 16 year old?

(Also I just remembered one of my best friends wore Rive Gauche -- I still like the packaging.)
posted by DarlingBri at 7:29 AM on September 29, 2014

It fit right in with an outfit I wore frequently as I attended college classes: neon blue suede skirt and matching bolero jacket, with a pair of dark purple Joan and David heels that had an accent of green snakeskin.

I need this outfit immediately.
posted by sallybrown at 8:01 AM on September 29, 2014

My first perfume was 'My Sin' by Lanvin, when I was 14. Went through the obligatory 'Charlie' phase and then it was 'Chloe', 'Anais Anais', 'Red Door', 'Lou Lou' with a few cheap musks and assorted other scents thrown in. The smell of the perfume department at David Jones in the City or Myer at Indooroopilly is permanently etched into my brain.
posted by h00py at 8:24 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

> (Also I just remembered one of my best friends wore Rive Gauche -- I still like the packaging.)

It's funny, Rive Gauche is so something that seems the antithesis of what I prefer perfume-wise--citrus, rose, and powdery aldehydes are really really not my thing!--yet something about Rive Gauche's place in time, marketing, packaging, the whole kit and caboodle just gets me, and when I spray a little from that cheerful, wonderfully designed totally-on-point-for-its-time bottle I can't help but smile even though it's so not me. It makes me think of smelling my working-woman-in-the-'70s mom's bright blue vinyl aviation-detailed hand bag she gave me as a hand-me-down plaything in the '80s. It's such an optimistic, modernity-and-huge-concrete-Brutalist-landscapes-will-be-good-for-us nostalgic dated moment in time encased in amber for me. Perfume is so wonderful like that sometimes.
posted by ifjuly at 8:49 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

The thing with BPAL and Lush both, though I love a lot of their scents (BPAL: Strangler Fig, Night-Gaunt, Violet Ray, Kill-Devil) they just don't have staying power or throw (sillage). Then again, my favorite perfume of all time is Angel, which even by spraying in the air and walking through you have to be careful not to overdo. I just wish BPAL scents would last longer than halfway through the morning.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:56 AM on September 29, 2014

DarlingBri: "Wait wait wait... did anyone else wear Paloma Picasso or did I just have unusual taste for a 16 year old?"

Yup, this was my fragrance through high school and into college. People who like bergamot will probably like Paloma Picasso.

These days just about the only thing I wear is Not a Perfume by Juliette Has a Gun. It's hypoallergenic and smells different on everyone and I love it so, so much.
posted by workerant at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Giorgio was my mother's signature scent. I remember the yellow and white striped packaging and the perfume being a reliable birthday/Christmas/Mother's Day present while I was growing up. My mother was a light applier, but it would still linger for quite a while after her departure from a room. After her death, her clothes still smelled faintly of Giorgio, even though she hadn't worn them for years because she was bedridden. I still have several scarfs of hers in a plastic bag that smell of Giorgio, and it's been more than ten years.

My first real "grown up" scent was Deneuve, I believe. I think I liked it more for the box, which was navy blue with an embossed pink ribbon. I might even still have that box somewhere. I was a big fan of Crabtree & Evelyn products too, and used to collect all of the different scent collections. I might still have those too somewhere. #packrat
posted by ElleElle at 10:59 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really miss the passion I had for perfume. My dressing table had an array of gorgeous bottles and one thoughtfully chose what one applied (Safari, Opium, 4711) according to the occasion. Nowadays I am so afraid of offending anyone I only rarely apply perfume-- it is mostly scented hand cream by L'Occitane. I still keep a bottle of Opium around for date night however.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:43 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait wait wait... did anyone else wear Paloma Picasso or did I just have unusual taste for a 16 year old?

My Nana brought me a bottle back from the US. I was 14 or 16 or thereabouts and I thought it was sooooo sophisticated. I still remember the smell. And the bottle was beautiful.

I still wear Rive Gauche, alternating it with Chanel No 19 in winter. That and Tom Ford Violet Blonde. My mum wore Rive Gauche when I was a kid so I have the lovely childhood associations, even though it smells completely different on me. And that perfect bottle. Summer is Eau D'Issey, Marc Jacobs Daisy and L'Occitane The Vert.

My dad didnt like the perfume my mum was wearing at one point, maybe in the 90s? He's a dentist so he tends to get close enough to people to catch their scent. If there was one he liked, he'd signal to his nurse to get the name of the perfume. My mum ended up with a bottle of Je Reviens, a total milquetoast scent. Lovely, but not the Chanel No 5 that is so much more her.
posted by prettypretty at 3:05 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ah, the 80s, also known as the vomiting migraine years. I curse you all.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:38 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wonder if I could make a small fortune via buying and storing a supply of short-lived celebrity perfumes, Justin Bieber's Someday and One Direction's Our Moment for example, and making them available in twenty years or so for nostalgic 30-somethings.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:12 PM on September 29, 2014

Heh - Love's Baby Soft is not just sixth grade, it's sixth grade AFTER GYM CLASS.


posted by louche mustachio at 11:00 PM on September 29, 2014

The inspiration for this post comes from a fifteen-year old bottle of Obsession for women that I discovered and had to decide what to do with it. It smelled of eau de rip off, as I had only used about 1/3.

(BTW it had definitely GONE OFF. Way, way off: even handling the cap (unscrew type) and putting back on left an obnoxious floral scent on my hands that would last for hours, like some kind of radioactive air freshener that would glow under UV light.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

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