One Thousand Scents

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Everything Everywhere: 1985, Part 3

My experience of scent took off with something rapidly approaching the speed of light after my twin epiphanies of Obsession (a fragrance can possess you) and Poison (men can wear any scent they want to), so everything past this point is likely to be kind of a muddle. I tried everything new and old, I pestered the salespeople for bucketloads of samples, and I bought everything that appealed to me that I could afford.

I can't guarantee that I wore all these things when they were launched in 1985; I may have run into them a year or two later. (I had a lot of back-catalogue to catch up on, after all.) But I sure wore them:

Anne Klein II, a warm rich oriental not unlike Obsession, but less obvious--less slutty. (Not that there's anything wrong with being slutty, I hasten to note: but Obsession really put it all out there, while AKII was, while not demure, a little closer to the vest.)

Estee Lauder Beautiful, a big pushy Sophia Grojsman floral which I never wore in public (it's really floral) but which was so attractively constructed that I just wanted to smell it.

Fendi, a massive ultra-eighties floral oriental with a molassesy thickness and darkness.

Creed Green Irish Tweed, a classic masculine fougere (and one of very few Creed scents I consider worthy of the house's reputation).

Perry Ellis for Men and Perry Ellis for Women, two scents that everyone was wearing: I wore them both. The men's version, which I have a huge bottle of, was and is a smart and presentable leather chypre, Krizia Uomo in a casual suit and tie. The women's was a radiant aldehydic floral barely masking a cozy wood base, in the Vega/Wrappings/No. 5 mode but, like the men's, more polite, more reserved--a knowing smile rather than a huge gleaming grin.

Some older things I remember wearing in or around 1985 include Paco Rabanne Calandre and Metal, and Chanel's No. 5 and No. 19. I haven't smelled most of them in years and I'm not even going to try to describe them. At least not right now. I wore the hell out of 1982's KL by Karl Lagerfeld, a very dark, very spicy oriental not unlike Opium and Cinnabar but far less aggressive, more luscious. I also couldn't get enough of Dior Eau Sauvage Extreme from the same year, which I remember being puzzled by--it had hardly anything to do with the classic Eau Sauvage (which I wasn't wearing yet but which a friend at school used to wear to great effect, considering that she was female and it was a men's scent). The original of course is a classic bright citrus, but the Extreme was actually a chypresque thing that started out as a sort of lavender fougere and just got darker and woodier and frankly a little scary in the best chypre style. I loved it. (Eau Sauvage Extreme has been re-released, by the way: I smelled some in London last month, and it is not the same, at all, though you probably didn't need me to tell you that.)

I tried absolutely everything I could get my hands on, and I wore anything that appealed to me. But my big huge deal that year was 1983's Salvador Dali, which got a big splashy launch at the perfumery not twenty minutes from my home (a dangerous place for me, a profitable location for the perfumery). Dali is a typical mid-eighties overscaled scent into which the perfumer threw everything but the kitchen sink: it reads as a chypre, an oriental, and an aldehydic floral all at the same time, so I guess it's a floral chypre oriental, one of those hybrids that started to show up a lot around that time. I don't know what you would get if you bought a bottle today, but I have some eau de parfum that I bought about three years ago, and it doesn't smell significantly different from my memory of it;

I also have a vintage bottle of the parfum, and though it's the colour and almost the consistency of apricot nectar (even though it's hardly ever been out of its box and the bottle is black glass, or really a dark bluish purple glass that looks black unless you hold it up to try to look through it), it smells spectacular: big juicy citrus and glowy aldehydes at the top, a tumult of indefinable flowers with a bare wisp of wood smoke curled around them (cedar sometimes has a wood-smoke component, I've noticed), a lustrous, not-too-dark woody base that can't decide if it's oriental-sweet or chypre-dry. The EDP is, as expected, a little brighter and sunnier than the extrait, but also smokier, while the extrait reads a little more definitely as a chypre: there's no telling what reformulations the thing might have gone through, or the damage that might have occurred to the parfum. But they're both gorgeous.

When I discovered Dali in Halifax, it was available as (among other things) a 30-mL EDP for $24. Not only did I buy it, I convinced a plurality of my friends, male and female, to buy it, too. It was (relatively) inexpensive, it smelled amazing and was packaged in an amazing bottle, and most of all, despite being at least in part a floral, it expertly bridged the gap between masculine and feminine scents.

I think that more than any other scent, Dali was the smell of the eighties to me, and unless it has been drastically altered in the last three years since I bought some, if you were to smell it today, you would understand another crucial aspect of mid-eighties perfumery: the sheer scale of it, the complexity, and most of all the what-the-hell freedom.


  • Wow, we have very similar tastes.

    In the past, I have loved and worn: Wrappings, Calandre, No.19, KL, Cinnabar, Eau Sauvage and Dali I stopped wearing Wrappings when I was told it was being discontinued (I had no idea Harrods had it in stock all year round) and Dali because I couldn't bear the bottle (just couldn't hold it comfortably). All those fragrances had wonderful drydowns.

    I sniffed Dali quite recently and recoiled in horror. It's been completely wrecked. So what else is new?

    By Blogger Bela, at 1:50 PM  

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