Famous Fragrance

February 19th, 2011

My parents visited last weekend, and brought a dainty treasure. This set of perfume, eau de toilette, and talcum powder belong to my grandmother. She’s kept them on her dressing table for nearly 80 years — since her beau (the one before my grandfather) gave them to her as a gift in the 1930s. Needless to say, I am honored to have been entrusted with their safe keeping now that Gram is beginning to sort through her things and pass them on.

Evening in Paris

The legendary fragrance Evening in Paris was launched in 1926 or 1928 by Bourjois (a leading name in French cosmetics since 1868). By the 1930s, the originally-pale-blue glass bottle had developed into what was to be its signature cobalt color. The curvy silver label is also typical of 1930s Evening in Paris products. Its popularity continued through the 1950s, when it was touted as “the most famous fragrance in the world.”

It went out of production in 1969, but Evening in Paris was revived in the late 20th century, and is now available from The Vermont Country Store. An online review claims that the new stuff doesn’t quite measure up to the original version however.

Back to my grandmother’s set: the perfume in the tiny bottle is long gone — either used or evaporated — but there is still a fair amount of eau de toilette remaining in the larger bottle. And there is plenty of delicately scented talc in the glass shaker as well. The fragrance is elegance personified. It’s rather powdery, as are most from this era (think Je Reviens by Worth), but the top notes are the lightest, sweetest, most exotic florals I’ve ever smelled. Chanel No. 5 is gauche by comparison. Sorry Coco.

Lacking a ruffled dressing table, not to mention the room to keep one (you will recall that I am a bohemian garret dweller), I will likely keep the precious bottles tucked away in a drawer. There they’ll be next to my own favorite bottle of scent — the one I wore as a maid (thank you Thomas Hardy for this delightfully quaint way of describing an unattached young woman), and last used on my wedding day. I know it’s a bit sentimental, but I like the idea of the perfume my grandmother used while she was being courted mingling its fumes with the one I wore during the same interlude in my own life…

And on that (top)note, I shall bid you good evening.