One Thousand Scents

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten: Dior-Dior

I'll just start off by saying that I probably would not even have heard of Dior-Dior if it had not been for the blogger Helg, whose Perfume Shrine is something you should be reading on a regular basis. Not only did she write about the scent, she offered to share it by sending a sample to one lucky reader, and I was the winner.

Dior-Dior was launched in 1976. It was not a success. It's hard to even find information about it on the Internet: I think it was kept alive for a decade or so and then discontinued in the late 1980s. Not only is it nearly impossible to find information about it, it's nearly impossible to find the perfume itself, no surprise if it hasn't been manufactured in a couple of decades. You can imagine, then, my anticipation as I opened the generous vial and put a few drops on my skin, and oh my god it is so good!

I have next to no experience with vintage scents, but I've often read that the top notes, the first to go as a scent ages, can take on a sort of nail-polish-remover scent, and that's the case here. But if you can ignore that until it disappears--see through it, as it were--you are treated to a fruity floral with the barest intimations of the chypre base; nothing like the modern-day fruity florals with their chemical-ozonic overtones, but something full and rich and appetizing. Alongside the peach and plum note in the top which Mitsouko, Femme, Gem, and the like have conditioned us to expect from a fruity chypre, Dior-Dior surprises with a big slice of cheerful, summery melon, rind and all.

And then the whole scent simply opens out as would a bouquet of paper flowers in a pop-up book: the whole thing springs to life, a huge abstract floral scent: if you pay close attention you can tell yourself you're smelling paperwhites and lilac (other floral notes include jonquil, carnation, jasmine, and lily of the valley), but mostly it's very abstract. And it is enormous in a way that modern scents are not: without being suffocating or room-filling, it announces itself and its wearer to the world. It's the olfactory equivalent of a big Dior gown.

The drydown is chypre, that luscious earthy-dirty scent of oakmoss you can't find any more, made dirtier with civet and rounded off with ambergris.

As soon as you smell Dior-Dior, you know that this is not something that could have been created in the last ten years, perhaps even twenty. It has a magnificence and a breadth that don't really seem to exist any more, the sort of grande-dame perfume that would nowadays be interpreted as "old-fashioned" or even "old-ladyish". The days of such scents, I think, are gone; they might come back, but they haven't existed since the demise of the eighties. If Dior ever decided to resurrect the name, the scent would smell nothing like it did when it was invented: the top would be freshened, the oakmoss gone entirely (as it is from nearly every scent) and the base cleaned up, the flowers thinner, paler, more "accessible". The whole thing would be very modern and perhaps very likable, but it wouldn't be seventies perfumery and it certainly wouldn't be Dior-Dior. Those days are gone, more's the pity.

4 Comments:

  • I love Dior Dior. In my dreams (the dreams where Sean Connery is on my arm, I'm wearing vintage Balenciaga that mysteriously appeared at the back of my closet, and I can eat macaroni and cheese by the bucketload without gaining weight) I have a lifetime supply of Dior Dior.

    By Anonymous AngelaS, at 12:43 PM  

  • Nice dream!

    I figure that when Dior-Dior first came out, there were probably at least a couple of dozen scents that were quite a lot like it; it was just another floral-chypre in a marketplace saturated with them (in the same way that we had a hundred fruity florals last year). I bet it attracted a small core of devotees and was dismissed by everyone else as more of the same, until it was finally killed off by Dior.

    Now, of course, there isn't anything like it on the market, and it's acquired the status of a minor legend. Very minor, but legendary nonetheless. And so so good!

    By Blogger pyramus, at 7:46 PM  

  • So glad you liked it and paid tribute to it in such a lovely way! :-)
    It needs to be more appreciated, although it wouldn't do it much good anyway, as -were it resurrected- it would undoubtedly get the unfair treatment you just described...

    By Blogger Perfumeshrine, at 5:00 AM  

  • I have a small sample bottle of this perfume in its original box. anyone intersted in it could contact me at; nick.j.cunningham@hotmail.com

    By Anonymous nick, at 4:30 AM  

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