Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vivienne Westwood Boudoir

The discussion of a number of ladylike or pretty perfumes on the fragrance blogs lately got me thinking: do I like any perfumes that express my feminine side? (For that matter, do I even have a feminine side?) I try to focus, but only get the Beastie Boys' "Hey ladies" running through my head, which is wildy inappropriate and very typical. I try again. Well, I like Farnesiana in extrait, which the Caron website describes as "maternal". I love Annick Goutal's Passion, the only scent from a line of delicate water-colours that actually works on me. Frederic Malle's Parfum de Thérèse and Mauboussin's Histoire D'eau Topaz are favourites of mine, but I almost prefer their radiant elegance sprayed on to a tissue or fabric. As for the Chanels I like, No. 22 is proper in a youthful sort of way, but I think of Bois Des Iles as a more quietly daring, amused fragrance, perfect for the older or darker girlfriend of a young man with conservative parents. I like some of the Diors, particularly Diorella, but favour vintage Dioressence, just from the description of it.

You may be able to guess from the preceeding comments why I generally dislike pretty fragrances. Ladylike perfumes, almost by definition, do not buck convention - they lack the cheeky edge I normally enjoy in a scent, that sense of something being just a little bit intentionally and humorously "off". Have you ever swept past someone and heard them mutter into your sillage, in a suspicious and undecided tone, that something "smells funny"? The only way to wear a scent that causes that kind of reaction is with confidence, bosom prominently displayed and one eyebrow cocked. Boudoir is the sort of scent bosoms were invented for. Released in 1998, the notes may include: viburnum, bergamot, marigold, orange blossom, hyacinth, orris, rose, jasmine, narcissus, tobacco flower, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, amber, vanilla, civet, sandalwood and patchouli. Oh yes, and a partridge in a pear tree.

It is a big, bilgy fragrance with all the old-fashioned sauciness that is suggested by its name. Jan Moran apparently labels it a "Green" oriental, a category probably corresponding to Michael Edward's "fresh" tone in this case. It is very hard to describe the effect of whatever is floating over top of the fragrance's legendary creaminess, but "fresh" does come closest: there is a certain breath-spray or toothpaste quality to it. This effect is the "offness" I like, and is likely the overtone that turns off all those reviewers who complain about Boudoir on Make-up Alley. I think it is quite possible that hyacinth could be the contributing factor here, but it is just as possible it is not. I'm fairly certain that the cardamom is in there because there is a moment where it smells very much like an Indian dessert, and as Jeffrey Steingarten has suggested, Indian desserts taste like your grandmother's dressing table: orange and rose water, sweet spices, lemony zip, vanilla, oil, wax, powder, milky lotion and cold cream. Boudoir is a cosmetics buffet. The whole thing is actually preposterous and that is what I like about it. It smells very "closed" and the different threads (spicy, creamy, sweet, fresh, animal, buttery, bright, etc.) competing could easily be smothering if over-applied. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about the unashamed seduction of Boudoir; certainly, I think it earns its man-killer status. It is one of the few perfumes my husband can remember the name of, and therefore one of the few perfumes I can forgive for being feminine.

6 Comments:

At 4:55 a.m., Blogger chaya ruchama said...

We agree...
Often, that which disturbs, also fascinates, creating dramatic tension.
As we've so often witnessed [hence, the disgruntled mutterings of passers-by], some prefer more traditionally submissive scents.
I like both ; but then, I'm nuts for the barnyard, the zoo, you name it- it's all educational and fun !
I make no apology for my malady...

Supreme confidence is our only defence...
Wear it like you MEAN it, dammit !

 
At 7:09 a.m., Blogger colombina said...

Definitely big and bilgy. I can't wear this one. Not because it's not ladylike, god knows 90% of perfumes in my collection aren't suited for a lady :-) Boudoir is just too cloying on me, too opaque or something.
Now, there are some ladylike scents that have an edge. Miss Dior, Diorling and all of those classic chypres are both ladylike and edgy. I think. :-)

 
At 10:35 a.m., Anonymous AngelaS said...

There's something about about wearing a ladylike scent in an unexpected situation that gives it the "cheekiness" you mention, too. Imagine, for instance, wearing Arpege when you're crammed cheek-by-jowl in a smoky bar listening to your favorite band. You're wearing suitably punk clothes (all easy to throw in the wash first thing in the morning), those Frye boots you've spent years breaking in, and a cocktail bracelet from the early 1960s.

 
At 10:43 a.m., Blogger Erin said...

chaya: We are (at least I am, I know)the ladies that they create those "no scents make good sense!" signs for. I used to have a perfume-loving prof who ranted about those signs. She said to me: "I don't mean to be rude, but *I* am particularly sensitive to B.O. and you should smell some of the students who come in here to talk to me. I can't make everyone on the bus bathe, so why should they make me use "scentless" products?" I agree, though, that there is a time and place for a more traditional scent: a perfect spring day, or someone else's wedding, for example.

 
At 10:49 a.m., Blogger Erin said...

colombina: I knew I would get in trouble with you over the Diors. :> I hope I didn't offend you with my rant on ladylike scents - most of them just don't suit me, that's all. I admire the women who can carry them off! Miss Dior doesn't work for me, but I remember liking Diorling. Isn't it no longer in production? Diorella is still marvelous, but I wish they still made the parfum version Luca Turin mentions. The ladylike scents of the past (probably like the ladies of the past) had more of an edge to them...

 
At 11:00 a.m., Blogger Erin said...

angela: Yes, this is an excellent point. Wearing a classic demure scent while wearing my Fluevog boots would definitely give me the inappropriate edge I aspire to.

 

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