That perfume is for old ladies!

Seduction by Jan Styka

How many times has a perfume sales associate said that to me in the past 8 years, I’ve lost count!  It happened when I asked for Joy edp by Jean Patou, for Y by Yves Saint-Laurent and very recently when I asked for Coriandre by Jean Couturier.  The conversation went something like this (albeit in french).

Me : I’m looking for Coriandre by Jean Couturier.  A friend told me you might have it.

SA : Yes, I think so.  Is it for a gift?

Me : No… it’s for me.

SA : Oh… that perfume is for old ladies!  Are you sure?

Me : Madam, I’ve never been more sure about anything in my entire life!

Let me tell you something.  Those so-called old ladies knew A LOT about perfume because they knew about seduction!  If the perfume didn’t seduce… it probably got tossed to the back of the cupboard.  And, if it wasn’t for those old ladies, we wouldn’t have the masterpieces that are still available today.  I don’t care about how great the perfumers were… if nobody bought their magical potions, then they wouldn’t have existed for long.

Up until recently, I always wondered why it is that when I go to a perfume counter, I ALWAYS seek out the oldest woman or man at the counter.  It’s because nine times out of ten, they know what they are talking about.

And most of them know about the greats because they WORE them!  If I wasn’t so shy, I would ask them which perfume they used to seduce their husband… or their lover… or their wife or mistress.  Of course today, most perfumes are about smelling clean or fruity… or like a vanilla parfait.  You know, I love mangos but do I want to smell like one?  I’ll pass.  I want to smell like a man… but not just a man.  I want to smell like possibilities… and dreams… and hope… and why not, ecstasy!   And if an old lady’s perfume conveys that, then I’m not above wearing it, believe me.  It’s not about the bottle on my bathroom vanity.  It’s about adding luxury and mystery to the long day… everyday… that doesn’t cost a week’s pay.

Sorry for this rant but I’ve been rereading Denyse Beaulieu’s The Perfume Lover and it got me going.  Beautiful book, beautiful Denyse!

Have a nice week everyone!

P.S. Buy the book whether you love perfume or not… you will by the end.  (French version coming out shortly.  I’ll keep you posted.)

Top image : Seduction by Jan Styka (1858-1925)

Leave a comment


  1. I just LOVED reading this post. So very true about old ladies and seduction. There was an old lady who wore Bal a Versailles when she met the love of her life in Rome in 1962. The place was Cinecitta Studios on a movie set, and the man in question who was seduced in part by her perfume was Richard Burton. And the old lady was Elizabeth Taylor. It was the day they filmed their first scene for “Cleopatra”.
    You can keep the laundry on the wash line and the candy in the candy store. Give me real perfume or none at all.

  2. Tara

     /  March 27, 2013

    My mom has worn Bal à Versailles extrait and L’Air du Temps all her life. Definitely not for old ladies, as she wore it all through her 20’s, 30’s, 40’s… and I think they still smell good. Who wants to smell like a fruit salad? My sexy modern favorites are Vero Kern’s Onda and Francis Kurkdjian’s Absolue pour le Soir.

    BTW, Fred used to travel to Europe frequently for his job. He would go to a particular perfume shop in Frankfurt and always head for the oldest woman in the shop for service… the young girls knew nothing, about perfume or customer service.

  3. Tara

     /  March 28, 2013

    Oh yes, the extrait is wonderful… it comes in a beautiful little silk-lined box, in a small round watch-face style bottle with the classic label of a painting of ladies on the front… very classy and traditional.

    • You know… I’ve never seen it and I doubt that it is widely distributed. I’ve seen the eau de toilette at just about every discount perfume kiosque… but never the extrait!

      Thanks for the info!

  4. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  March 29, 2013

    Only once have I had the “old-lady” perfume comment hurled at me, and that was from a boyfriend. It was about Shalimar. Shalimar is still around but the boyfriend has long been history! 😀

    Just think: thirty or forty years from now the old-lady perfumes that people will remember will be the shallow fruity, jammy, pastry and laundry-product scents of today, for they will represent the perfumes of mothers and grandmothers that formed the olfactory parameters of today’s children. Who knows what will be considered “in” at that time? It will be payback time when the “old-lady” accusers of today are slapped with the same epithet!

    • That’s a good point! Fruity will be “old lady” years from now… and the pendulum may swing back making those big chypres and ambres feel “new and young”. Cool!

      Thanks for the comment.


      • FiveoaksBouquet

         /  March 30, 2013

        Maybe by then IFRA will have come to its senses (or been stamped out). There are things banned by IFRA that I agree with like toxic chemicals but I really believe they should stop there and leave the tried and true substances used for millennnia alone. (Jumps off soapbox.)

        There is one thing I should clarify about my comment. By “shallow” I don’t mean any moral judgment; I mean it to describe the lack of olfactory depth brought about by gutting of many complex traditional ingredients.

  5. Sophie

     /  March 29, 2018

    J’adore porter Y !!!
    Et pourtant je ne suis pas encore une vieille dame!! 😆


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