What does it mean to say that a perfume is ‘dated’?
I’m interested in vintage perfume so I think about this from time to time. The other day Olfactoria remarked in a post on her blog that Chanel’s Coco seems dated to her, at least in comparison to Coromandel, the fragrance she was reviewing.
I’ve read other people who also find Coco dated, and while I don’t disagree, I also think of the question likely to spring to the mind of a novice perfumista: how can a perfume seem dated if you have not smelled it before? If you are new to it, it will seem fresh, won’t it?
Of course, with experience you learn to identify different eras and fashions in perfumery, and to search for a context within which to place a perfume that is new to you. Coco came out in 1984, in the middle of a big era for perfume. The perfumes were big, the hair was big, the music was big … no-one knew the meaning of the expression ‘less is more’. Even with its customary restraint, Chanel was on-trend, and so yes, Coco is opulent. So is Chanel No 5 EDP (1986): all that vanilla. Yum!
When you compare these to what came before (the simplicity of Cristalle, for instance, 1974) and what came after (the fruity femininity of Allure, 1996, and Coco Mademoiselle, 2001), you can really see how Coco and Chanel No 5 EDP are fragrances of their time.
But you don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of fragrance to be struck by how ‘dated’ a perfume seems, on first spritz. Memory will do it too. I spritzed Rive Gauche on my wrist a short while ago, pretty certain I had not smelled it before and that it would be new to me. Nope. I knew it. I must have known someone who wore it when I was a teenager, I just could not remember who.
RG came out in 1974 but to me it seems very 1980s, a fragrance for shoulder-padded women intent upon kicking open boardroom doors with their stilettos. Someone in my life who wore it has left me with that impression. Who was this person that I so disliked? She is still troubling me now, for she has rendered a very beautiful fragrance completely unwearable.
What fragrances seem ‘dated’ to you? Does it matter?
And – Nasty Rive Gauche Lady – what are you wearing now, eh?