... a day when I usually stay inside to avoid the crowds that inevitably converge towards the Champs de Mars right next door, and the firecrackers going off everywhere in the streets… And try to convince the cat that the fireworks rattling the window panes do not spell the end of the world.
To celebrate the French national day, you could of course wear just about any quintessentially French perfume, from Chanel N°5 (fronted by a Marianne, Catherine Deneuve) or Coco (another Marianne, Inès de la Fressange) to Guerlain Champs-Élysées (Sophie Marceau, who almost made it as a Marianne as well).
If you want to get historical about it, you could pick a fragrance composed in the heady wake of the Libération – though there were still keen food, housing and coal shortages, couture houses celebrated the Allied victory by a slew of new scents.
Marcel Rochas’ Femme was famously scraped together by Edmond Roudnitska using whatever was on hand during the Occupation, including, so the legend goes, vats of a synthetic that had been left lying around for years, which exhibited an attractive mulled plum note. Femme was launched through a subscription immediately after the Liberation: it marked a return to femininity that was to be expressed three years later in sartorial terms by Christian Dior’s New Look, after the tough war years.
Translated in less poetic terms, this would mean that women were sent back to the salons, boudoirs and kitchens after having taken on many responsibilities, and enjoyed a measure of sexual independence while their men were away, during the topsy-turvy years of the German Occupation. Nothing expresses this transition better than the olfactory chasm between Germaine Cellier’s hard-bitten, androgynous Bandit and her lyrical Coeur-Joie for Nina Ricci, a delicate, powdery aldehydic bouquet of violet, rose, jasmine and iris. The original heart-shaped Lalique flacons designed by Christian Bérard fetch fortunes at auctions but you can occasionally find round eau de toilette flacons at better prices. Or get the re-edited heart-shaped bottle of the extrait at the Nina Ricci boutique.
Other Liberation-era scents: Balmain’s Vent Vert, also by Germaine Cellier in somewhat more biting form, and Carven’s Ma Griffe. Both express the youthful, springtime energy of an era in which France hoped to brush aside (and actively worked to suppress) the murkier memories of defeat and subsequent collaboration with the Germans…
1989 marked the celebration of the Bicentennial of the taking of the Bastille, with a colorful, multinational parade orchestrated by advertising maestro Jean-Paul Goude, crowned by Jessye Norman singing the Marseillaise, draped in a giant French flag-dress designed by Azzedine Alaïa, at the place de la Concorde, where the guillotine once stood. Not too many 1989 scents bring up that extraordinary celebration – the only time I actually went out to the parade. Annick Goutal’s Gardénia Passion, which is really mostly a tuberose, does have a soaring, fireworks quality to its white floral burst. Was Etro’s Palais Jamais, also released in 1989, ironically named after the fact that the national palaces would never again be the property of the monarchy? I haven’t smelled it… you tell me. Jean Desprez put out a Révolution à Versailles that year: I’ve never smelled it either and it’s now discontinued.
If you want to get contrarian about it, you could pick Serge Lutens’ Un Lys, a gorgeously heady blend of lily and vanilla with a greenish tinge, in honor of the soon-to-fall French royal family, whose emblem was the fleur-de-lis.
My personal pick may be, also for contrarian reasons, Histoire de Parfums’ 1740, inspired by the Marquis de Sade, an author dear to my heart since I spent a few years writing my thesis on his work. The troublemaking D.A.F. de Sade had been imprisoned in the Bastille at the behest of his in-laws, who obtained a lettre de cachet from the king, which meant he was to remain there until his family saw fit to release him. On July 12th, Sade claims he started howling that the prisoners’ throats were being cut (there were eight inmates at the time, counting him). He was promptly transferred out of the Bastille, practically naked, and so lost his most precious manuscript, the 120 days of Sodom, despite his entreaties to his wife to go and fetch it. Which of course, the poor woman couldn’t, as she tarried a bit too long…
Histoires de Parfums 1740 is an odd leather and spice blend tugged between the sweet – vanilla and the chocolate facet of patchouli – and the savory – cumin, coriander, cardamom and immortelle. Though he enjoyed a bit of a whipping, both on the active and receiving end, the actual marquis de Sade was no leather fiend (leather fetishism, while certainly older, was only identified in the late 19th century) but he was definitely a foodie, and his letters to his wife are full of lists of foodstuffs he wants her to supply him with.
On the other hand, I might just as well wear L’Heure Bleue on the wrists, Dior’s Cologne Blanche in my hair (the almond and heliotropin will marry just fine) and red on my lips.
Nah... In the end, I think I'll fall back on Jicky, launched in 1889 for the Centennial... The cat'll think it's in her honor, since it's her name!
And what about you? Any suggestions for Bastille Day?
Image: Marianne seen by Jean Cocteau for the French postal service.
I have a sample of 1740, what could be better?RépondreSupprimer
Fascinating post. Especially the part about Femme celebrating the return to the kitchen. We had a similar phenomenon in the US, urged and reflected by the movie studios; suddenly, big-shouldered 40's heroines like Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell were "out" and Marilyn began her rise. Meanwhile, there were all sorts of new housework gadgets made in the factories where the women had worked, like vacum cleaners and so on. And everyone wanted those French perfumes of the era.
I would add some vintages (could it be anything else? :)RépondreSupprimer
Jean Patou Ma liberté - created by Kerleo and featured for the 200 anniversary of French Revolution
or.... another glorious perfume from Patou, L'heure attendue - this time to celebrate the end of WWII.
There would be also a perfume that is almost impossible to find - Mamzelle Victoire from Poiret with a very patriotic design (I uploaded the photo 2 years ago).
And because it's so hot right now, pourquoi pas a lemony sorbet splash of Eau du Coq?
I've been pondering this for a day or two (because this is what perfume junkies do, n'est çe-pas?). I like the idea of Un Lys. I'm also seriously considering Tubey Crim, which is one of my fallback I-want-to-smell-French frag. Caleche is also in the running, which I also find terribly French -- sophisticated yet approachable, just like all the lovely women I've met in Paris.RépondreSupprimer
Fahrenheit for the smell of gazoline and celebrate the new french tradition: car-burning.RépondreSupprimer
Olfacta, I know it's not terribly compatible with the national holiday, but I've been reading a two-book history of sexuality during the Occupation and the Liberation. The latter was anything but, for women, with the Catholic church and very powerful, at the time, Communist Party joining hands to usher in a return to traditional morality... As usual, after turmoils of any kind, be they revolutions or occupations.RépondreSupprimer
Octavian, Ma Liberté, of course -- haven't smelled it either. And I knew I was forgetting a Patou, L'Heure Attendue!RépondreSupprimer
Amy, yes, lily for the Royalists... Or musc for the Muscadins, who used to crowd Mlle Bertin's store after 1789...RépondreSupprimer
Pikatchou, that's a funny idea! Well, if you can't plunder the jail of the aristocrats, destroy cars? Les traditions ne sont plus ce qu'elles étaient...RépondreSupprimer
Happy Bastille Day, carmencanada! I'm wearing vintage Miss Dior in all its naughty, mossy glory in honor of the day.RépondreSupprimer
Attractive suggestions. I've always wanted to try L'Heure Attendue; the name is so lovely and evocative. It's a bright, warm day here in California, so I'm wearing Chanel no 22 for Bastille Day-- and watching the Tour de France on television.RépondreSupprimer
Am wearing vintage Femme today. If I said it was a deliberate choice to celebrate Bastille Day, it would be a lie but may be it was there at the back of my mind....;-)))RépondreSupprimer
Ou peut-être pourrait-on porter quelques gouttes de Chanel 5 tant qu'on peut encore se le procurer avec du Jasmin de Grasse! Pour défendre un peu notre patrimoine!RépondreSupprimer
Aimée, I've been celebrating the day by smelling some of my vintage collection with my friend Thierry -- Miss Dior among them.RépondreSupprimer
Gretchen, here the CRS and firemen are blocking the avenue and helicopters are whirring overhead: crowd control for the fireworks at the Champs de Mars next door... Some things are best seen from afar!RépondreSupprimer
N°22 is an excellent choice.
Silvia, I'm wearing Femme too, in the end! And Mitsouko on the other arm...RépondreSupprimer
Muguette, je viens de faire une fête du patrimoine parfumé cet après-midi avec la moitié de mes vintages... Ça arrache!RépondreSupprimer
I´d wear vintage Chanel N° 5 (if I wasn´t already doused in my sample of Turtle Vetiver that arrived today). I rarely wear Chanel N° 5 since I strongly prefer Guerlain Liu, but yet it remains the quintessential french perfume for me.RépondreSupprimer
Malena, Turtle Vétiver is a pretty good choice because it's quite revolutionary, isn't it?RépondreSupprimer
Yes, I agree. It´s a pretty rough & dry vetiver, there´s nothing clean about it which I really appreciate as I despise fresh vetiver scents. They bore me becuase they are so linear & nothing much happens. I also find Turtle Vetiver rather soothing despite of all his quirkiness, it feels very comfortable wearing it.RépondreSupprimer
Glad you love it, I've recommending it left and right!RépondreSupprimer
What a very interesting trip through fragrance history. I took the opposite tack and looked forward rather than back, and am wearing a newer French scent - Divine's L'Ame Soeur. It's not very "revolutionary" but it is very pretty.RépondreSupprimer
Have a very enjoyable holiday!
Donna, I love L'Ame Soeur too... I just never think of aldehydics in summer.RépondreSupprimer
Sorry this is very late but happy Bastille Day! I think a vintage Dior would be entirely appropriate wear. Really I'd just bathe in all of them!RépondreSupprimer
Dear D, what a fantastic post! I especially loved this sentence: "On the other hand, I might just as well wear L’Heure Bleue on the wrists, Dior’s Cologne Blanche in my hair (the almond and heliotropin will marry just fine) and red on my lips. "RépondreSupprimer
My own selection would be Miss Dior, simply because it is one of the most confident, strong and unique fragrances available. Even the reformulation did not kill it completely.
Rose, as Diorissimo is kind of tied up with May 1st, I guess Miss Dior would be it -- though I have quite a passion for vintage Diorling.RépondreSupprimer
Victoria, thanks! I haven't tried the new Miss Dior, I'm afraid... But I did dip my nose in the vintage version while presenting my collection to a perfumista friend. That was my tribute to France!RépondreSupprimer
Well, I am as usual very late to the party, but I am going to wear Un Lys tomorrow (today!) not because I've thought about it much, but rather because that's what is calling out to me from these wonderful possibilities. I am tempted by the Celliers -- always tempted by the Celliers -- and the Vent Vert definitely has the potential to pull a surprise as a last minute, come-from-behind contender, but I don't know, like one of those gorgeous show dogs who always stand out from the other equally gorgeous show dogs at Westminster, the Lutens entry is just a tiny bit more "on" and wagging with slightly more conviction than the rest.RépondreSupprimer
Popcarts: perfume as show dogs... whoda thunk. I keep my dwindling stash of vintage Vent Vert for spring, usually, but vintage Bandit is bitchin' in hot weather.RépondreSupprimer