Flapper Perfume

The 1920s was an influential decade for perfume, though striking changes in fashion began in the years immediately after World War I. The dust was settling in Europe after the war which had laid waste not only to infrastructure but also political alliances and the young male population, and everybody was tired of wartime bleakness and deprivation. There was a feeling that the old ways were gone and done with, and young women in particular were ready for a change. Gone were old-fashioned morals as well as those complicated hats, hairdos, and long dresses over rigid wasp-waist corsets.

The modern young lady was wearing tube dresses with little underpinning and tank-style bodices and short skirts, as well as dramatic makeup. She was drinking, not tiny ladylike glasses of sherry but potent cocktails in jazz clubs. She was cutting her hair and smoking! in public, yet! She could vote (as of 1918 in the UK for women over 30, and as of 1920 in the US). She could drive. She could — gasp! — possess her own checkbook.

And she wasn’t wearing her mother’s perfume, either.

She wasn’t wearing a soliflore  — lavender toilet water, or a simple floral like Coty’s Jasmin de Corse. She wasn’t wearing a simple floral bouquet like Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, or a soft floral oriental like Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. No, she was wearing a decadent, sensual oriental, a sharp and bold chypre, a sparkling aldehydic floral, or a gender-bending leather or tobacco scent. New directions in scent abounded, and aren’t we glad?

Here are some fragrances that graced many flappers’ wrists and décolletages, and which are still in production today (albeit in changed form). Try one, or a handful, of these, and smell history.

Guerlain Mitsouko (1919, fruity chypre) This more elegant take on the chypre is such a classic among perfumistas that it is hard to imagine it being daring, but it is. It has the bold chypre tripod structure of bergamot-oakmoss-labdanum, rounded with peach undecalactone, and it smells not only formidable but also kind of . . . ripe. I’m guessing that those flappers who danced the night through smelled a bit like this on their way home at dawn.

Millot Crêpe de Chine (1925, aldehydic chypre) Crepe de Chine was a mashup of the bold three-part chypre structure and the modern-at-the-time aldehydic floral. It is bold, but in a well-groomed, exquisite-tailoring kind of way. Where Chypre was a little, well, tribal, Crepe de Chine is much more civilized. This is for the flapper who only drinks her cocktails out of proper glasses, rather than resorting to a hip flask.

Guerlain Shalimar (1921, oriental, came into wide release in 1925) It was once said that there were three things a respectable woman did not do: smoke in public, dance the tango, or wear Shalimar. With its almost chiaroscuro contrasts of bright bergamot-lemon top and dark smoky, leathery, vanilla-balsamic base, it is striking… and sexy. Louise Brooks wore Shalimar; ’nuff said.

Corday Toujours Moi (1920, spicy oriental) This one is a kitchen-sinky oriental similar to Tabu (1932) with some green notes, and it is extremely bold. It wafts. It is a Liberated Woman scent very far from, say, the very-Victorian Berdoues Violette. It goes perfectly with its name, “Always Me,” and the attitude “Look, I have my own checkbook! and these great T-strap shoes!”

Caron Tabac Blond (1919, tobacco/leather) There is no tobacco listed in the notes, by the way, but the effect is at least somewhat tobacco-like. This scent seems to me to be an androgynous, “let’s steal all the things that smell like a gentlemen’s club,” appropriation of notes that had been regarded as traditionally masculine, softened by traditionally-feminine florals.

Molinard Habanita (1921, leather oriental) This scent began its life as an additive for cigarettes — you were supposed to dip the glass rod into the oil and stroke it along the length of your cigarette, so that while you smoked, the fragrance filled the air. Leaving aside the reason this was A Thing (you didn’t want Mumsy dear to know you were smoking? I mean, presumably she also knew about the hip flask and the lace step-ins, so you weren’t fooling anybody), Habanita probably smelled good with the tobacco smoke. Here’s Robin’s description at Now Smell This, because it’s pretty perfect: “If you can imagine dousing yourself in baby powder, donning an old leather jacket and then smoking a cigar in a closed room with a single rose in a vase 10 feet away, you’ll get the general idea.”

Chanel No. 5 (1925, aldehydic floral) Perfumer Ernest Beaux’ attempt to recreate an Arctic snow field and Coco Chanel’s affinity for the smell of starched linen combined with No. 5’s enormous overdose of aldehydes, the aromachemical that is in smell form big Hollywood klieg lights. (Maybe.) And Chanel’s famous dictum that a woman should not smell of flowers, but like a woman, played into its abstract presentation, too. (Maybe. There are a number of contradictory stories about its genesis.) No. 5 feels like a smooth marble sculpture to me. In its day it was utterly modern, and to its credit, its florals are still lovely.

Lanvin My Sin/Mon Peché (1924, aldehydic floral) Like No. 5, My Sin is an aldehydic floral, but it is dark and carnal in a way that No. 5 has never been and will never be. It’s a complicated perfume: along with the aldehydes and florals are some deep woods and an animalic base just shy of “Are there mating buffaloes somewhere on the premises?” I suspect that it got worn more often by women grabbing a little vicarious sinful pleasure than by women who were actually sinning while wearing it, but there you are. Brilliant marketing. And that cat! Love it.

Chanel Cuir de Russie (1924, leather) Again with the gender-bending for 1920s gals. Leather was previously known as a masculine note, and this leather-for-ladies boasts the enormous and expensive Chanel powdery iris as well as florals and aldehydes. Fans speak of its “good purse” leather, or its “expensive car” leather, both things that flappers seemed to enjoy.

Weil Zibeline (1928, aldehydic floral chypre-oriental) “Zibeline” means “sable” in French, and this fragrance was intended for scenting furs. As you might guess, Zibeline is heavy and rich, and yet dry and aromatic. It smells very much not of this century, but it is a luxurious scent in the best sort of way. One imagines fancy cars and diamonds and satin gowns, and that ne plus ultra sable, for a fancy party.

By 1929, with the stock market crash around the corner, the general prosperity which had allowed so many young women to taste freedom and decadence was about to disappear, and the day of the flapper was drawing toward a sudden twilight.

What the flappers left behind were some glorious abstract perfumes. Like much of the Art Deco of the period, the fragrances are bold yet graceful, natural yet influenced by humans. Chanel No. 5’s beautiful florals are buttressed on either side by the highly-artificial aldehydes and the pillowy strength of (nitro) musks. Shalimar’s combination of lively bergamot and smoky-sexy vanillin makes it round and memorable, unlike anything smelled in nature — but if you smell it on a person, even now, fifty-‘leven reformulations after its release, it has affinity for skin and does not scream I AM SYNTHETIC! the way many modern fragrances do.

There were, of course, several other classic fragrances released during the 1920s which are still favorites today, but I have not included everything here. Caron’s Nuit de Noel (1924), Bellodgia (1925), and Narcisse Noir (1925), for example, were hugely popular and remain extant, but they are not what I think of as bold and daring “flapper perfumes.” Nor are Chanel’s lovely woody Bois des Îles (1925) and satin-smooth Lanvin Arpège (1926). Coty L’Aimant (1927) is likewise a bit too prim, Emeraude (1920) too soft.  Jean Patou’s Chaldée (1927), as a perfume recreation of French suntan oil (we can blame Coco Chanel for popularizing the tan), seems to go with the flapper propensity for displaying bare skin, but it was not as widely worn as the others. Bourjois Evening in Paris (1928) is a gentle floral composition. Patou Joy, released in 1929, in my mind belongs to the Depression era.

Mia on the left, Carey on the right.

Do you have a favorite flapper perfume? Do you love Art Deco and low waistlines? Does Daisy Buchanan make your heart sing? (And did you prefer Mia Farrow or Carey Mulligan?) Do share!

If you’d like to read more about how the social phenomenon of the flapper arose, check out this post at We Heart Vintage.


Scent Diary, Mar. 31 – April 6, 2014

Daphne odora
Daphne odora

Monday, Mar. 31 – Gorgeous weather today! Springy and sunny… some breeze… so nice.  Testing Oriza L. LeGrand Deja le Printemps, which is purportedly a green floral. It’s not. More about that soon.  Also testing the brand-new thing from Parfums DelRae, a floral based on the flowering shrub daphne odora, called Wit. Wit is gorgeous. Wit nearly made me cry.  More about that soon, too, but there’s a persistent yet gentle lemony cast to the flowers here, and particularly in the early stages, it reminds me quite a bit of the floral overlay of my favorite Le Temps d’une Fete. The drydown is considerably different – no woods/moss/patchouli in Wit, which is simply light musk with a touch of vanilla. (It’s the kind of musk that tends to disappear into skin on me, not the aggressively “clean” laundry type.) But the jasmine/narcissus heart shares some DNA with LTdF. I need some Wit.

Parfums DelRae is very much a hit-or-miss house with me. I like the brand’s aesthetic and philosophy, and I love it that DelRae Roth didn’t bring out a huge collection to start with, but the company seems to focus on fragrances that mean a great deal to its founder. Several of the DelRaes I don’t like – Emotionnelle is garbagey melon, Bois de Paradis’ citrusy top notes smell like turpentine on me (I’m not kidding. My grandmother painted china, and she used turps all the time. I know whereof I speak.).  Some of them I like but they’re too soft – Coup del Foudre is unbelievably lovely for two hours, and then shrinks down to a skin scent, no matter how much I ply the spray-until-wet technique. Mythique, too, is really wonderful, a leather/iris scent with the gentle fuzziness of apricot skin, but it’s barely noticeable until I’m snorking my wrist into my nostrils. I still have not tried Debut as it is focused on linden (which tends to smell like toilet cleaner on my skin), and Eau Illuminee is a cologne. I don’t do cologne. I have not tried, nor am I interested in, Panache. I do love Amoureuse very much. On me, it sings.

Tuesday, April 1 – April Fools’ Day. I’d been worried that Taz would pull something mean on me, but he didn’t.  Beautiful weather again today, too – with the windows closed, it got up to 74F inside the house toward the end of the day, and I had to open a window. Tested two more Oriza L LeGrand scents today: Horizon, and Jardins d’Armide. Hated both of them, for different reasons. Dreadful.

Got out the spring/Easter décor items, including Easter baskets, today – except Bookworm’s. I miss her. I am going to miss seeing her at Easter.

Also, was working on the novel, using the Write or Die app (which I love, in general), but about the time I got to 5700 words, it failed to save. I can’t find that stuff ANYWHERE on my laptop.  GAHHHHH. The WoD website does state that some people are having trouble with the save function – I’ve used it several times, but hadn’t had any problems before now. Am DYING of frustration.

Taz had a middle school track meet this evening, and got home past ten pm. They didn’t even stay for the entire meet – for some reason, this particular meet is always so large and so (apparently) disorganized, with four middle schools involved, that in the past the students haven’t gotten home until nearly midnight. This year they left early.  Taz only ran one event, and his time was slower than usual: he ran a 7:33 mile (1600m). His fastest time so far has been 7:14. He was disappointed to not get to run the 3200m.

Wednesday, April 2 – another gorgeous day. Hung the laundry on the clothesline to dry (ahh, the smell of line-dried clothes). This morning I tested Esther P Queen of Persia, which might be my favorite of the Esther P’s. All the same, it is nothing particularly special. 

SOTA is Jolie Madame extrait, the only version I really like. The EdT is too sharp for me, but the extrait is so beautifully floral atop the leather and moss. They haven’t made the extrait in a couple of decades now, so if you find it it’s de facto vintage, and it’s gorgeous. Bonus: those funky catercorner Balmain extrait bottles.

Thursday, April 3 – I really have to get the fans out of the attic. By 7 pm it’s 76 degrees in the house, even with the heat off and the windows open, and it stays that way until past midnight. Gah. Can’t sleep in that.  Tested the last Esther P, L’eau d’Emma – which is nice cologne, but you know me and cologne (yawn).

Mailed Bookworm a box with the stuff she left at home after Spring Break, plus a few things for Easter: her Bible, a book, some clothes, a towel, candy… and a cute little stuffed bunny. Eleven pounds worth, eep.  SOTA was Le Temps d’une Fete again, because I love it.

Community Chorus rehearsal was very up-and-down this evening; parts of it were very good, and parts of it were really awful. This would happen within one piece, the veering from good to bad, and that’s atypical for us – usually we’ve either got a piece down or we don’t. I have no idea what’s going on.

Daffodils-HyacinthsFriday, April 4 – gosh, it’s pretty out! Not too hot, but sunny and breezy. My daffodils and hyacinths are blooming.  Side note: I usually buy potted hyacinths in bloom, and then plant them after the blooms die, but when they bloom in the ground, they are neither as tall nor as heavily laden with florets as they were, grown in a pot. Wonder if I’m supposed to be fertilizing them or something.

SOTD: Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs EdP. I snagged a mini bottle labeled as “vintage” off eBay, cheap, and I think it must be at least early 90s. The top notes have gone a little funky – I think this may have had a touch of aldehydes, and of course they, like citrus, are the first to decay – but within ten minutes, it’s the smell I remember. My mother used to wear this, in the late 70s and early 80s, and the way I remember it smelling was “relentlessly clean.” That, I am convinced, is the reason my mom wore it. (Donna/Flora, over at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, counts this fragrance as a favorite and has stashes of bath oil and parfum as well as the more readily-available EdT. The EdP was discontinued at some point in the 90s, if I remember correctly. Donna says that the parfum is richer and less high-pitched.) In any case, it’s a soft white floral highlighted with steely hyacinth, muguet, and lily, with honeysuckle, jasmine, and orange blossom keeping the scent from getting too acerbic. The basenotes are very soft, powdered woods.  Lasting power from this vintage mini is very good, sticking around for a good eight hours on me.

Saturday, April 5 – it rained last night, and it’s considerably cooler, though sunny and breezy, today. Which is probably all to the good, because of two big local events taking place today. First, there is the Color Me Cameron Fun Run, being held in downtown Pulaski. It’s the second annual running of this event honoring a friend of Bookworm’s, Cameron Fitzwater, who was killed in a car accident just two months before graduation. I remember him quite well, as he was a jumper on the track team and a student at the Governor’s School. He was a year older than Bookworm, but they’d gotten to be friends since they were at one point the tallest and the shortest members of the track team, respectively. Cameron was a Boy Scout, and a genuinely delightful person. His mother organized the Color Run (in which participants of the 5K run/walk are pelted with powdered color) as a way to remember him with joy and to fund scholarships given in his name. Bookworm, of course, could not run this year, and Gaze was busy with the other local event, but some members of our church ran, and Taz ran too.  Sirak, the track coach, and many of the runners from the high school track team participated as well. Taz didn’t get as color-pelted as SOME people did… here he is with some people from our church.

That's Taz just to the right of the stroller. Photo by Dave Farris.
That’s Taz just to the right of the stroller. Photo by Dave Farris.

The CEO and Gaze, however, were involved with the other event which was the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. This was a small Civil War battle that took place about two miles north of our farm, on May 9, 1964. The celebration date for the reenactment was moved from the actual date because the battle at Spotsylvania Court House also took place on that date. That was a much larger battle, very close to Washington, DC, and involved Generals Lee, Grant, and Meade. “Our” little battle, though it was proportionately one of the very bloodiest of the war, concerned lesser officers and many fewer men, and was the only one that took place in Virginia west of the Shenandoah Valley.  

Union cannon firing. Photo by The CEO.
Union cannon firing. Photo by The CEO.

I could talk about the Civil War and why it still interests Southerners for… well… weeks, probably. But for now, let me just say that one does not have to admire the moral stances of the Confederates to find their doings significant. Briefly, this was history. It took place right here. Members of my family and The CEO’s family were directly involved in it, and that makes a huge difference. My mother’s great-uncle served as part of the Pulaski Home Guard in this battle, leaving home with a Revolutionary-War-era smoothbore musket and a powder horn, and without the benefit of shoes, to defend his home. As for The CEO’s family involvement, the old homeplace (his great-aunts lived there until the early 1970s, and the house still stands) served as a hospital for Confederate officers, and the women of the family served as nurses.  I won’t tell the story again – see this post if you want to read it – but it really is a fascinating story.

Reenactment of the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain. Photo by The CEO.
Reenactment of the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. Photo by The CEO.

The reenactment, headed by the 24th Virginia Rifles and the 1st Stuart Artillery, took place for the first time ever on a part of the actual battlefield. It was the first time I’d ever been to a reenactment, as well. I had been a little bit leery, to be honest, of people who focus so much on the Civil War, to the point of spending weekends dressed up in period clothes, sleeping in tents, firing reproduction weapons… but seeing it gave me chills. To people accustomed to modern war – automatic weapons, guided missiles, firing from a long distance – it was a shock to see how close the combatants got to each other. And indeed, in this particular battle, when weapons failed, there was very close hand-to-hand fighting, leading to heavy casualties. The Union side, numbering about 6100 troops, lost 688 men (approximately 11%). The Confederate strength ran about 2400 men, including Home Guard as well as regular Army, lost 538 (23%).

We met some really lovely people at the reenactment, and I’m hoping the event will take place there again. SOTD was Chanel No. 19 EdP.

Sunday, April 6 – I got sunburned yesterday. Really sunburned, and I feel awful. I even stayed home from church and did a bit of laundry and took a nap. Ugh.  SOTD: nothin’. Nada. Didn’t wear a THING until bedtime, and by then I wanted the coziness of Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, which is a beautiful tuberose-ylang-and-cream fragrance, with a dark thread running through its base.


80s Scent Week FAIL


Epic FAIL photo from failblog.org, by Will Vega

And I mean utter FAIL!! I’d been planning to follow a 1980s Scent Week plan this week. Some perfumista friends on Facebook tossed out the challenge, and I thought I could do it.  I mean, I lived through the 80s… I was actually doing pretty well in the 80s, what with being a teenager who didn’t care much that I was geeky.  (If you are a geek, but all your friends are geeks too, life is pretty good.)  I don’t have a lot of 1980s fragrances, actually, but between ebay minis and decants and samples, I figured it would be easy enough. I made a plan, based on what I had available to me:

Monday – Lauren by Ralph Lauren (vintage)

Tuesday – YSL Paris

Wednesday – (Original, Karl Lagerfeld) Chloe

Thursday – Dior Poison

Friday – Givenchy Ysatis

Saturday – Coty Sand & Sable

Sunday – Balenciaga Michelle

Lauren and Chloe were both originally released in the late 1970s, not in the 1980s, but a college friend of mine wore Lauren, so it has a connection to my very-80s coming of age and I think of it as being an 80s scent. Likewise with Chloe, except that I was the one wearing Chloe, all through middle and high school and into college: again, very-80s to me personally. Paris was released in 1983; Poison started choking us in 1985; Sand & Sable hit the drugstore shelves in 1981. I had a high school friend who wore Sand & Sable, and I spent a lot of time dodging people wearing Poison in auditoriums at college, but I don’t remember Paris at all, unless what I was smelling at the time was not in fact Coty Exclamation!, but Paris itself (the two are fairly similar in structure, except that Exclamation! is more peachy-powdery, less green than Paris). Ysatis, released in 1986, I did not recognize by name. But the smell, when I picked up a tiny vintage bottle for $3 on ebay, was very familiar; a different college friend wore it, and I immediately connected Ysatis with my freshman Spanish class. I never smelled Michelle when it was new in 1983, but it fits in with the decade, in its smoldering bold florals atop a woody-mossy base. It’s a favorite of mine.


My 1986 prom dress was a lot like the one on the left (with sleeves). Yeah, go ahead and pity me, but I had a good time. Photo of Simplicity pattern from risingfeenix.com.

The first two days went fine. Lauren is cologne strength, and not heavy in structure in any case, with green notes, rose, violet, and carnation on a soft, mossy sandalwood base. I smelled good, even in the heat. My tiny bottle of Paris is also vintage via ebay (cheap!) and it’s hard to put on the level of knock-you-down smell power that Paris used to pack back in the day, by dabbing from the very-cute mini bottle. I actually put a dab on throat and wrist and then supplemented with my Paris Pont des Amours Printemps flanker. I smelled good, even in the heat.

Let me comment just a little about that “heat” issue… for the past three days, it’s been over 90F in the middle of the day. It’s also quite humid: at 5:35 pm today, the National Weather Service showed a temperature at my local reading spot of 91F, with humidity of 74%. Now, that humidity is not ridiculous for summer – in August, we’ll have temps of upper 90s and humidity of 90%, and it will be unbearable, but it’s only June! I’m not ready for this!

I tried a dab of Chloe this morning before heading out to take the kids to school. According to Eddie Van’s thermometer, at 7:55am, the temperature was 72F; Chloe was fine. It was a bit heavy, but fine. Again, it’s another dabber. Bear in mind that I nursed a 30ml bottle of Chloe edt for about 12 years, by only wearing it when I dressed up, and alternating it with maybe three other fragrances over that 12-year period (Prince Matchabelli Cachet, a floral chypre I never loved, Revlon Xia Xi’ang, a soft rosy amber that I did love, and a teeny-tiny bottle of Coty Emeraude, which I adored). But within half an hour, I was pulling weeds outside and planning to mow, and I was sweating rather freely. At that point, Chloe was un-fine.

So I went inside and washed. I looked at my list to see if I could switch days on some of my picks. Poison? I’ve developed a tolerance, and even a mild liking for it these days, but today, nope. No can do. Ysatis? It flies the same skies as Chloe, but is bigger and even raunchier, with civet and something that smells like dirty ashtray. That’s not gonna work, either. Sand & Sable is pretty big, too, and can sometimes give me a chemical headache. And Michelle? It’s loud, too.

And because I am a geeky chicken, I gave up.  The 80s Scent Week is a MAJOR FAIL for me right now, and I don’t think I will be picking it up again until fall at the earliest. I could have gone with any of these fragrances, which I have on hand (usually in sample sizes):

Annick Goutal Eau de Camille – a green floral crisp as grass on a cool, dewy, early morning,

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise – very similar to Chanel No. 19, elegant as a freshly-pressed white blouse.

Balenciaga Rumba – Carmen Miranda drinks rum and dances until the candles burn out.

Balmain Ivoire – soap. And moss. Soap and moss and soap and moss, and then finally, amber.

Diptyque L’Ombre dans l’Eau – Green beans, with a side of raspberries, and a bouquet of roses!

Emmanuel Ungaro Diva – Beautiful rose chypre, bold and uncompromising and demanding.

Giorgio Beverly Hills – uhh… here’s my sort-of-review of it, and ’nuff sed.

Guerlain Samsara – Jasmine, sandalwood, and circus elephants with jeweled headdresses. Big.

Jean Marc Sinan– Like Diva, but with vampire fangs.

However, those lovely quiet Annick Goutals, and Ivoire, and L’Ombre dans L’Eau, seem very far from what I’d call “80s style,” and so I wouldn’t even think of wearing them for 80s week.


1985 fashion, from Wikimedia Commons

And here are a few more 1980s-released scents to go with your shoulder pads:

Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte

Calvin Klein Eternity

Calvin Klein Obsession

Catherine Deneuve Deneuve

Chanel Coco

Coty Exclamation!

Coty Lady Stetson

Estee Lauder Beautiful

Estee Lauder Knowing

Estee Lauder Pure White Linen

Gloria Vanderbilt Vanderbilt

Guerlain Champs Elysees

Houbigant Raffinee

K de Krizia

Krizia Krazy

Krizia Teatro alla Scala

Montana Parfum de Peau

Paloma Picasso

Prescriptives Calyx

Yves RocherIspahan

Yves Rocher Venise

Yves St Laurent Opium (1977, but in spirit close to the big 80s smells)

I never liked Opium, Obsession, or Poison. Or Coco, either. Giorgio I tolerated, probably because it kept passing me in small wafts down my high school halls, not asphyxiating me in elevators. The thing about Opium was that I kept getting trapped in movie theaters, auditoriums, concert halls, church pews, sitting next to someone wearing much too much of it, and it was awful. It smelled to me as if it were decomposing into oily dust. Obsession I hated because it smelled a lot like Opium, except less spicy and more dusty. Coco I hated because it smelled like Opium too; it was less offensive because it smelled more alive, slightly less like decomposing into oily dust. Poison I hated largely because it was loud, but also because it smelled, well, poisonous. Like it could reach out its purple-gloved hand and throttle anyone within wafting distance – which, for Poison, was considerable. I still don’t like that resiny stuff that smells like oily dust, but I’m developing an appreciation for Poison these days. That might be because of Poison’s luxurious white floral underneath the Cough Syrup of Death.

It certainly isn’t nostalgia that allows me to appreciate it now.

The other thing about all of these is that back in the day, people wore too much. Much too much. Much, much too much. I’ve talked about sillage before: I like some, but not a lot. If you can smell me from six feet away, I’m wearing too much. I like to be smelled within a three-foot radius, i.e., by people standing right next to me. If you’re that close to me, there’s probably a reason for that and we’re not encroaching on each other’s personal space. As my grandmother Nell always said, usually when I asked for another cookie, “Enough is enough, and too much will make you sick.” (She always said it just like that; I sometimes wondered if it was something her own mother had said, but I didn’t ask. And now, of course, I can’t.) That goes for perfume too: in my world, enough is enough. And too much will… all together now… make you sick!

Fragrances from the 80s were big and loud and rich and complex and bold and striking. That’s not very… me, as an aesthetic, and some of these scents were the kind of thing that entered the room before the wearer did. I hate that. I mean, okay, fine, it’s kind of exciting to have someone walk through the hall ten minutes after you’ve been there and say, “Hey, she’s here! I smell her.” But I would much rather leave that impression on people that have enough affection for me to hug me and smell my perfume; I prefer the more intimate recognition of my fragrance.

So I’ll try this week’s plan another time. Maybe some week we’re expecting snow… that ought to be comfortable enough.


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

















I am not, technically, Irish.  Nor am I Catholic, and saints’ days don’t have much significance for me in the traditional way. 

 But at least some of my ancestors came to America the hard way, on ships with sails, in the mid-18th century.   They landed in Philadelphia and worked their way south down the long valleys, looking for land they could make their own.  They found it in Southwest Virginia, and they settled.  Got married – to Scots and Germans and English and other Irish – and had children and grandchildren.

At least one branch of the family was casual about religion in Ireland, changing from Catholic to Protestant and back, depending on the political situation.  Another branch was Protestant before they left Ireland.  But all of them seemed to have gone whole-hog Protestant in Virginia.

 I don’t have a single Catholic relative (unless you count the lapsed-Catholic brother-in-law).  And we’re all what I like to call “standard Colonial mix,” that mid-Atlantic blend of Scots and Irish and English and German, with a bit of Welsh and Dutch thrown in.  That’s us: Daughertys and Powerses and Strawns, most of us fair and freckled and blue-eyed, or Black Irish dark.

 They came here for many reasons, according to family lore and genealogical research: Overcrowding.  Too many sons, not enough land.  Religious oppression.  Having lost their land to an English lord.  Enterprising spirits.  Escaping judicial punishment.  Simple poverty.  And they all wound up here, in the little corner of Virginia that’s as hilly as Ireland, and nearly as green.  It must have seemed like a little piece of home to them.

 I raise a glass to them, on the day people are proud to be Irish.  Slainte! 

Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org.