Perfume Through The Decades

Fragrance, Memories

An invisible statement piece most of us wear to special events. Perfume is actually believed to have gotten its start in Ancient Egypt. First as an exclusive religious ritual, then later introduced to royalty. Is it any wonder we feel so special when adorning our bodies with oils & sprays full of heady aromas?

Scent and memory are ruled by the same part of the brain. As such, a smell can trigger nostalgia. For instance I have colognes in my cabinet of ‘California’, ‘Pregnancy’ and even a seldom used ‘Ex-Boyfriend’. This has nothing to do with the name or notes within the bottles, and everything to do with what I was doing or where I was when I was first using that fragrance.

This makes it even more fun when deciding on a fragrance for a special event, wedding or time in your life. This will be the fragrance association for life, which evokes those memories.

Although perfume has a history spanning thousands of years, and offers hundreds of thousands of choices. I have narrowed it down to reflect on a couple of iconic fragrances through recent history. Which ones have a place in your memory (or your grandmothers?)

1700’s: 4711- Mäurer & Wirtz

 ‘Smells like drinking homemade lemonade while walking through a botanical garden in summer’

It’s hard to define the smell of this one- it is light, lemony and almost jasmine and orange blossom infused. The history of 4711 is what excites me most. First made in 1792– 4711 is the oldest known Eau de Cologne that is still made to date. The original creator (residing in French occupied Germany) used a secret combination of essential oils and botanicals and sold it as a ‘Health Drink’. But when Napoleon decided that all medicinal goods must be labelled with exact contents, (great idea if you ask me) the maker did not want his secret recipe to be revealed. So he began marketing it solely as a fragrance! It’s truly a gorgeous fragrance despite the old fashioned appearance. I highly recommend having a test next time you are in a pharmacy.

1940’s: Chantilly- Dana

‘Smells like if you were the main character in ‘The Notebook’        

The WWII Era brought with it some very frugal behaviours and cuts to most people’s luxury item budget. It also saw many women come out of the kitchen and into factory jobs. Rumour has it that Dana created ‘Chantilly’ with women working the war in mind, and as such factory workers would spritz themselves with this to make themselves feel more feminine. It is known as the “Rosie the Riveter” fragrance and was priced to be accessible during the times of the tighter purse strings. It is still affordable but a little hard to come by.

1950’s: Chanel No 5 – Chanel

‘Smells like someone who wears good quality fabrics and successfully maintains white décor in the home’

Despite being available from 1928, Chanel’s classic scent arguably got its icon status after a famous line from an equally as iconic blonde bombshell. Chanel No 5 is a strong scent- it is one that stays on your skin, clothes, car seat and anything else you touch while wearing it. Wearing this perfume is a statement that won’t be missed by anyone you walk past with its woody meets powder puff base notes. Often purchased as a fashion statement, it takes a strong personality to carry this one off. I would always suggest testing this on the skin for a day before opening your purse.

1960’s: Tabu- Dana

‘The smell of wearing a leather jacket, taking a chance on that long haired barman you’ve been eyeing off all evening’

One of many old school perfumes that still upholds old school pricing. Tabu is one you can get for under $20. First launched in the 1930s, Tabu is another deep fragrance, described as ‘provocative & sensual’. I agree. It smells so much more expensive that what it is. Spicy sandalwood, warm amber, vanilla even. It is glorious and it would be equally as sexy on a man or woman.

1970’s: Ciara- Revlon

‘The smell of Fleetwood Mac playing on the record player, while you lounge on a velvet covered sofa with incense burning’

Released in 1973, another retro beauty still available on the shelf today. Ciara is an oriental, sexy smell which was popular in the 1970s (alongside Revlon’s famous ‘Charlie’) It is personally one of my favourites and super affordable. Despite my visual description, I personally find that it evokes a much more mid-century vibe and pairs perfectly with red lipstick.

1980’s: White Musk – The Body Shop

‘The smell of a hug from your favourite aunty who is wearing a big fluffy sweater’

This fragrance is still the best selling for The Body Shop despite its reign of 40 years. I like to describe it as a warm, almost maternal smell. Some are nostalgic of hours spent playing in The Body Shop after school. But many describe it as inviting, sexy and comforting. It is certainly more subtle than the previous mentioned options, but it’s linger ability is strong, and has been the cause of many a compliment from a stranger.

Quelques Fleurs – Houbigant Parfum

‘Smells like Princess Diana on her wedding day’

A special mention. One of the, if not most iconic women of the 80s was Lady Diana. Who on her wedding day to Prince Charles, wore this luxury French perfume. It has strength to compete with a Chanel fragrance, but has lighter base notes. A rich white floral bouquet with a little bit of amber. It is right up my alley, but alas I’ve only ever forked out enough money for the sample size bottle. Perhaps one day when I wear white down an aisle.

1990’s: Tommy Girl- Tommy Hilfiger

‘Smells like locking your bedroom door, and doing a Dolly magazine quiz about which teen heartthrob is your true soulmate’

Launching in 1996, if you listened to The Spice Girls- you smelt this perfume. A lighter, fresher & juicier scent than the earlier decades. Tommy Girl evokes feelings of freedom, opportunity and youth. Light and uplifting to whiff. Reminiscent of long summer days, no cell phones, opportunity and possibility. I get extremely uplifting feelings from this one.

2000’s: Anything by Britney Spears

“Smells like candy, school excursions and first kisses at house parties”

Don’t get me wrong, some of Britney’s perfumes smell decadent, albeit a little juvenile. Bejewelled bottles and enormous celebrity endorsed ad campaigns ruled this era. Introducing Gen Y to perfume through popularity, rather than by selecting unique notes to suit the individual. Britney’s Midnight Fantasy, is a sickly sweet, almost dessert-esque fragrance that lives rent free in my head as a reminder of what my best friends old boyfriend liked her to wear when we were 18. It didn’t last, and neither did her penchant for heavy Vanilla base notes… guess we can blame smell association.

2010’s: Daisy- Marc Jacobs

“Smells like having a sparkling wine during a picnic in the English countryside in spring, and you’re wearing a straw hat”

One I’m sure most of us have seen, if not smelt. Its iconic clear glass bottle with a bouquet lid. This fragrance is what I call a ‘crowd pleaser’. It is a clean, strong enough but not overpowering white floral that smells exactly how you imagine, feminine, and almost bridal. Released in 2007, this is a modern perfume with many variations to date, but I have no doubts the original will uphold its popularity status for years to come.

2020’s: Flowerbomb- Viktor & Rolf

‘Smells like being 29, waiting at a bar for your girlfriends on a Friday evening and you are wearing a brand new dress’

Whether you know it or not- you have smelt this perfume. Arguably one of the most popular fragrances of the now. Flowerbomb is a cocktail of all the things that are nice in a fragrance (if you ask me) Sherbet meets Peony meets Happiness. One of the fragrances you double back to ask a stranger what they are wearing. A balance of sweet, floral, fruit & musk sticks. A winner all round.

Guest writer: Alice Mitchell

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Disclaimer: This blog is in no way affiliated with any brand or product mentioned herein and I leave it up to the reader to conduct their own research when making decisions about product ingredients or company ethics in order to make their own personal judgements about where to spend their money. Descriptions are based on the writers anecdotal experience.

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