Monday, January 29, 2007

Jean Patou Vacances

It seems funny that out of all the thousands of lines T.S. Eliot wrote, the only one that really resonates with the general public is the famous opening of The Wasteland: "April is the cruellest month". Still, despite my somewhat lengthy training in British and American literatures, it is the one quickest to my tongue, too... only I can continue: "breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land". To me, lilacs are the very scent of spring, my least favourite time of year.

Remember that "Seasons" clothing and cosmetics system flogged heavily in the eighties? With a freckled, yellow-undertoned complexion, hazel eyes and dark chestnut (red-brown) hair, I'm an Autumn, and that suits me just fine. I love Keats' "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" and all that comes with it: the climate, colours, events, food and scents of the dying year. Spring, with its chilly rain, lifeless skies and dreary, clinging mud, has always seemed to me to be the most over-hyped period, the time when we're supposed to be thrilled that "everything is awakening" - including violets, lily-of-the-valley, magnolia and the dreaded lilacs. Linden actually appears in June, but I still feel it smells suspiciously of spring.

As with any rule, there are exceptions. I can sometimes forgive hyacinth its sweetness because its spicy and metallic green sides can add interest to an otherwise opaque oriental, Annick Goutal's Grand Amour in EdP or Vivienne Westwood's Boudoir, say. Though I seldom wear it, Gucci's urban Envy proved to me that hyacinth and even (gasp!) lily-of-the-valley could smell cool instead of cold, edgy instead of dainty. I have long searched for the perfume that could rescue lilacs for me in this way. I once tried to convince myself that I enjoyed Frederic Malle's En Passant, sniffing hopefully at it and exclaiming about the dewy cucumber notes. My husband came over, grabbed my wrist and put his nose to it, and said simply and dismissively: "Lilacs."

All this to say I had great hopes that Vacances, released in 1936 by Jean Patou to celebrate the introduction of paid vacation in France, would finally be my lilac scent. It is not, lovely though it may be. There is an initial peppery waft of hyacinth with a green stem-like transparency over top, which Victoria suggests is galbanum. There is a soft, vanilla-infused musk in the drydown. But in between there is a headily sweet and creamy mix of lilac and mimosa. It will go on my list with Parfums DelRae Debut of perfumes best enjoyed by others.

8 Comments:

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous AngelaS said...

And here's my contribution from T.S. Eliot, only this one from the second stanza of his Portrait of a Lady:

Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
And twists one in her fingers while she talks.

I like Vacances, but it disappears on my skin like a flash. Once I sprayed it on my sheets when I made the bed (crisp sheets dried in the sun) and that was pretty nice.

 
At 8:38 PM, Blogger Erin said...

Good one! I was tempted to use the hyacinth girl from the early part of "The Wasteland" too - but it's really only lilacs that really worry me. I can see Vacances being more enjoyable for me on sheets. I like Bvlgari The Vert on the sheets in the hot weather - or, as you say, I like it generally, but it just vapourizes on my skin. It was still great to try Vacances...

 
At 3:07 AM, Blogger Thom said...

Whoa! I haven't checked the blog in a long, long time...my how it has grown! Eliot rules, and _The Wasteland_ was his masterwerk, so I guess I can't fault people for only remembering the first line or so. It's not like anyone is going to remember that freaky part of "The Fire Sermon" or anything...or "Journey of the Magi," which I always felt was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Anyway, I cannot comment on the perfumes; have not smelled (smelt? absorbed? huh?) any of the aforementioned scents. I hope they are all lovely, although the idea of a lilac perfume seems weird. BTW, how did you find out you were an autumn? I want to know what I am! Spring? Summer? If I'm a "Winter" I'll be sad...

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Thom: Mom is a dramatic winter - think both Disney's Snow White and her wicked stepmother, as well as celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Catherine Zeta Jones, Alicia Keys and most black and Asian stars. You are a summer, which we can see very well from your picture there, because you have a pink undertone (pink cheeks instead of peach when blushing), ash (without highlights) brown/blond hair naturally, and blue grey eyes. You are supposed to wear softer, muted colours like pastels, icy shades, "dusty" or greyed out pinks, plums and rosy neutrals like Gwenyth Paltrow or Denise Richards.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Thom said...

Holy crap! How do you know all this???!? N. Marcus awaits you, darling...

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger marchlion said...

Oh, I loved this one ... sorry, had high hopes for me. It makes me feel very goddess-y, not sure why.

PS I am a winter. God, I bet I still own my 1979 copy or whenever that was. It was fun to read, although the clothing in the original would scare me now. I wonder if there's any fragrance correlation with your "season"? People are always talking about hair color, etc.

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger marchlion said...

Uh, meant I had high hopes for YOU.

Wish these things had an edit feature.

 
At 11:21 PM, Blogger Erin said...

March: Boy, do I wish you could edit these comments, too. (Maybe I should be switching to the Blogger Beta? Is that one of the new features, I wonder?) I'm sorry to let you down on the Vacances - it IS lovely, just not me I guess. Maybe one day I'll grow into it. It's funny you mention the season/fragrance co-relation, because after my brother's funny comments above, I had kind of thought of doing a post on the "Seasons of Scent". Systems like that are kind of silly, but it works for me: I like all the spicy, woody, harvesting fruit in the mist or distant smoke kind of scents.

 

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