Imagine the jaws dropped when Christina Hendricks, the one of voluptuous bosom, retro colouring and glamorous role in Mad Men, the cult TV-series, revealed some of her favourite things on People magazine, naming a fragrance among them: The fragrance was Premier Figuier by L'Artisan Parfumeur, a fig fragrance. It's quite usual to think of perfume in the way of a glamour accessory meant to evoke a specific image, but how can this astound us when a perceived connotation of a specific fragrance is shattered by its actual use; especially when it is by someone famous which we envisioned a specific way. For many seasons fans of the series imagined Hendricks oozing sex-appeal in something that was come-hither and ripe of the seductress, in the context of a 1960s classy one, not withstanding.
It's an automatic reflex to think of fragrance as a very specific symbol of self, the most pliable perhaps of all, since it does not evolve neither a sanctimonious financial overlay (like a condo would), nor an extreme make-over. Spray and you're good to go; or so the thinking goes. After all, we have been told that a fragrance wardrobe should be our goal, fitting scent to time & place and to outfit, not to mention our mood.
What happened with the above scenario is that we had pegged Christina a certain way: the curvaceous glamour puss and we -more or less- refuse to believe that she is a living, breathing woman with tastes of her own who chooses an outdoorsy, intelligent scent that is reproducing something that is not meant specifically for seduction, but for one's self. It might have helped that we saw a shot of Christina as Joan Holloway (office manager of the advertising agency Sterling Cooper) in front of a mirror preening, applying lipstick, with an array of glamorous bottles in front of her, one of which was the seductive Shalimar by Guerlain in one of the stills from the TV-program. Premier Figuier has its own special sex appeal, but it lacks the edge that a certain mythos over the decades has given to Shalimar. We have come to associate the actress with the role of the sassy femme fatale, as if she is incarcerated in her DD-cup and her cinched waists, smart reply hanging on rouged lips. And yet, her style is not without substance. On the contrary. But like in many cases of projecting a certain image in olfactory terms, it's another example where the mold is broken and we raise an eyebrow in surprise.
I hear similar pronouncements all the time perusing some of my favourite perfume-discussing boards: "Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the epitome of elegance, it all fits she wore Joy and Jicky". (But not only!) "Maria Callas was so loyal to Chanel, she must have worn No.5, her style was so timeless." (We'll never know for sure though the hypothesis holds water) "I can picture a chypre perfume on Katharine Hepburn". (and yes, she scored one or two, but not only!).
In our above exercise, Peggy Olson would wear the cool, brainy chypre fragrance. "Keira Knightley must have an endless crate of Coco Mademoiselle, oh look here, she says she only wore men's scents before!" (absolutely not true). Madame Sarkozy, previously known as Carla Bruni, is an Italian aristocrat who modelled for a hobby, so it fits she would wear something with a pedigree of taste and quality. (voila, indeed!).
I had the easiest time while composing my Vetiver Series picturing each and every one of the vetiver fragrances featured on the visage of some male actor (even though they did not necessarily wear said fragrance in real life): smart and facially rugged Hugh Laurie, alluring and insinuating Jeremy Irons, straightfoward old-school Gerald Butler, virile and seemingly cocksure Russell Crowe, suave but enigmatic Ralph Fiennes. Was I guilty of free-associating thanks to no more than the persona they project? Most certainly.
To cut a long story short, celebrities choose what they choose for various reasons, one of the lesser or grudgingly admitted ones being that they are people like us with their own set of criteria, tastes, memories and dislikes. But try to take that out of our heads? Not so easy...
And on to YOU: Are you guilty of associating specific fragrances to specific people and why? Share your thoughts in the comments!
*Note on picture of Christina Hendricks as Joan in Mad Men bathroom scene in front of perfume display: The AMC photo is from Season 3, Episode 3: “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”. The fragrances tray includes for sure Houbigant's Demi Jour, a Lauder bottle (same shape as the later Estee but it's probably Youth Dew) and Intimate by Revlon.
Christina Hendricks photos via wikimedia commons, Huffington Post and Haircutting in High Heels