Everybody owns at least one, don’t they? A scent you just love, in a bottle you just hate? I recently took some pictures of my ‘fume stash (eek, I have too much) and noticed that I own a relatively high percentage of ugly bottles – not bottles that are just plain, boring, el-cheapo glass containers, but bottles that were deliberately designed to look the way they do.
I’m not even going to get into the matter of packaging, with its cultural weight, its Is-it-art? freight, its gender issues, its psychology, its… Thesis Material nature. If you’d like to get into it, however, feel free to comment. I probably won’t have anything helpful to say, given that a) I have officially been dubbed The Art Philistine by my art-historian sister, and b) I avoided grad school so I wouldn’t be forced to write a thesis.
Jusferfun, here’s the list of Ugly Bottles I Actually Own, complete with pictures, and please feel free to comment on the bottles, because I’m sure gonna talk trash about ’em. (Trash I can manage; sensible thesis not. Unless I get paid to.)
Rochas Tocade. You know, the bottle itself isn’t all that bad – it’s an elongated version of the lovely shape of the Femme bottle, and feels solid in the hand – but that cap just shrieks CHEAP GARISH PLASTIC CRAP MADE IN TAIWAN FOR PENNIES!!! It gives me flashbacks to the flea markets my grandmother haunted when I was a kid in the 70’s. I’d take the cap off, but That Slut Tocade broadcasts, frightening the ladylike Chanels…
N.B. Asian countries producing the ubiquitous Cheap Plastic Crap get a bad rap for being associated with it, when in actual fact the art and culture of those countries (China, Taiwan, Korea, to name a few) is beautiful, thoughtful, and worlds away from Cheap Plastic Crap. Which, I remind you, is mostly bought by Americans. Please see Ann YM’s comment below for more discussion of the issue. It would have been easy to just remove “Made in Taiwan” from the post and have done with it, but somehow I think it’s more valuable to actually talk about the issue of unconscious prejudice.
Givenchy Organza Indecence. Somebody on NST referred to “Bene Gesserit headdresses” when commenting on the cap, and that’s precisely right. Goofy thing. I think the bottle, with its mix of clear and frosted glass, shaped to hint at a woman’s body in a billowing dress, is rather attractive if a bit awkward (it falls over a lot, even though it’s only a 15ml). But Bookworm insists on turning it on its side and likening it to a fish, so now I always think of it as “that fish bottle.”
L’Arte di Gucci (edp). It’s a nice opaque black glass bottle, with a slight curved concavity not immediately obvious in pictures. But it’s heavy, and awkward to spray (I always decant L’Arte into a rollerball – I get much less of that weird vinyl note in the top when I dab it). And that textural gold squiggle on the cap is beyond tacky. Makes me think of mob bosses and their molls, wearing flashy gold jewelry to the casino…
Balmain Jolie Madame (edt). This isn’t the current packaging, which I find a lot nicer (and more suitable to the smell inside, with its uncompromising clean edges). This round-shouldered bottle with its gilded plastic parts is all wrong for the invisible-armor Jolie Madame. I have this in vintage parfum, too, and that packaging is terrific: the small square bottles with their catercorner-applied labels are quirky and distinctive.
Kenzo Parfum d’Ete’ (the old one, with muguet). The bottle is attractive, with its frosted glass veined leaf shape. But it’s awkward to spray; you really need three hands. Also, I always attempt to put the cap back on backwards before turning it around so it’ll fit. You’d think I’d learn, but I haven’t managed it yet. In the pic at left, it looks like a little kid’s hands are holding the bottle – but it really is that large and awkward.
Jacomo Silences. This is another heavy black glass one that’s awkward to spray. It’s not ugly, precisely (I like the shape), but extremely inconvenient. My bottle of vintage pdt is slightly different than this photo – it has a cap that you take off in order to spray, as opposed to the integrated sprayer on the one pictured.
Ivoire de Balmain. Okay, this is actually one that straddles the “Ugly” and “So Basic-Boring It’s Ridiculous” categories. The old parfum bottles are really pretty – reminiscent of the classic Chanel parfum bottles, with ivory caps and/or surrounds. But the edt bottle? Dulllllll.
Any standard non-urn Caron feminine. Basically, if you can find it at a discounter, it’ll be in one of those enormous, polka-dotted bottles with the cheesy gold plastic tops. The Carons I like – Parfum Sacre and Aimez-Moi – are easily available, and cheap, and I can’t help but think that the idiotic packaging has something to do with that. Is Caron trying to go downmarket? are they stupid? Sigh. I admit that I have a special hatred for polka dots, which doesn’t help Caron’s cause. I blame… my mother. Yes, my mother and her insistence on putting toddler-age me in blanket sleepers which had non-skid plastic polka dots on the soles of the feet, and which were so uncomfortable that I kept waking up and complaining of “the bumps under my feet!”
And here are some fragrances which I only own decants of, but which generally arrive in honkin’ ugly bottles:
Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka. I love this stuff, but the larger PdN bottles are so ugly. They remind me of those bottles of hair tonic the local barber (think Floyd the Barber, of Mayberry – sometimes I think this town is Mayberry, ca. 1971…) keeps on the back shelf. I so wish PdN would do something different with their packaging.
Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete. Again, I absolutely loooove this, and own it in the small rectangular bottle – which feels pleasant in the hand. But if I ever wanted more, I think I’d just buy a gazillion of the small bottles instead of one big one. (Luckily, PdN sells 30ml bottles, and they tend to be priced at close to the same reasonable per-ml cost as the big ones. Brava, Ms. de Nicolai!)
An upcoming post will be devoted to beautiful bottles, of which there are many. But please share: what is the ugliest bottle you have in your collection?
All images are from fragrantica.com, largely because I’m too lazy to take my own photos and upload them to the ‘puter… and because fragrantica’s so nice about permissions.