Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spoil the Perfume?

The New York Post has a very intriguing snippet regarding perfume use, containing two quotes from people famous for their perfume lines: Chanel and Guerlain.
Coco Chanel once said that "it was the height of arrogance for a woman to think that she smelled good enough to go out without perfume", while Jean Paul Guerlain has been known to say "you can put all the perfume you want on a smelly beggar but it will not conceal his odor and it will also spoil the perfume."

Excuse me, are we on serious mode now?
Because I find nothing wrong with a clean woman's scent which doesn't need adornment if she and her partner do not wish to go that route. But that wouldn't help the perfume business along, would it? I guess it is the same thing as with makeup: we have been so much conditioned to believe that a naked face is so shockingly nude that we feel the masochistic need to plaster on various unguents in a futile attempt to conform to someone else's standards. And this is no mere feministic parlance, because The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolfis rather old news by now (although still quite true!). It's nice to play charades and reveal facets of oneself through the use of artificial means, but let's admit it as such: a game; not a necessity!

And considering the poor beggar: what cruel soul would offer perfume in lieu of a decent bath and clean clothes? Makes you think of American Psychosomehow...
Is it certain we're not in Pygmalion-mode? I was a bit flustered there for a second, not sure if Eliza Doolitlehad been offered perfume in that attempt to conceal her humble origins, posing as to the manor born. And on top of that the audacity of spoiling a perfectly good perfume by putting it on a low-class amoebidae form of life...Mon Dieu! The nerve!

Pic courtesy of Athinorama, with apologies to the -I am sure- innocent bearded man who is certainly not a beggar. But it might look like one to Jean Paul.


  1. The art, design and expense contained within a bottle of perfume is invisible to the average consumer. They cannot identify the real ambergris or imagine the many stages of design, the hours spent creating the scent.. no it's just a bottle of a certain price full of liquid. To make it desirable you have to imbue it with something rarefied, elitist. It is SUPERIOR to how you or any other woman could possibly smell without it. It is not for everyone, some will never be worthy of it (but you, dear consumer, are..)

    Really it's a lot harder a sell than a handbag. Elevating it into fake elitist realms seems to work. It's fun to play along with this game, a kind of dress ups, but the quotes you post reveal some actually believe their own schtick!

  2. You're so right dear J!
    You delineate how the thinking goes very well: this is exactly the illusion of the consumer being admitted to the realm of the priviliged. How funny it is though when people who make it say things like that!

  3. Perfume is a bit like jewelry, I guess. It has no real relation to necessity, only perfumers (and crazy people =P) live by perfume alone. It has almost a pure decorative role. I guess it is inevitable that some will take that distinction too far...

  4. Good point!
    Only jewels do present a tangible value that can be measured or liquidified upon request in times of need.

  5. Let's all bathe, shall we?
    Everything else is extra-

    I love these posts....

  6. Thank you darling! They do lend themselves to some citique, don't they?
    Nothing wrong with a decent bath

  7. Anonymous22:09

    All I can say regarding those quotes is, what arrogance!
    Just blatant, elitist, arrogance.
    I love and totally agree with the points you make, Helg! It is always such a pleasure to read your writing!
    Molly :)

  8. Molly,

    elitist is one thing, I guess, outiright insulting is quite another.

    Thank you for your most kind words and for your profuse compliments on my writing. Glad it provides some pleasure :-)

  9. The flu seems to have put you in a debunking mood, E--first the Chanel post and now this. Go get 'em!

  10. My reaction is not as strong. I take it to mean a woman who wants to look 100% put together to "go out" would do well to include fragrance along with elegant attire and artful makeup. Fragrance is simply part of the package. That's not to say every woman must use artifice. However, in my observation, it's difficult for a woman to look polished when she is entirely au naturel.

  11. True enough about the "polished look" thing, Iris!
    I guess those short aphorisms do not leave much room for elaboration, hence their tendency to sound a bit offensive. If they had cared to clarify how different it would have been......


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