Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Optical Scentsibilities: The Imaginative Vintage Perfume Presentation

The enrobing of a perfume in a glass mantle is analogous to the draping of fabric around a beautifully formed body. The outer presentation should complement the interior magnificence. It was just a few years ago that only the lower end of the fragrance market had flamboyant and over-gilded bottles to balance the cheap impression left by the low price asked and the less luxurious smelling experience. The chic stuff circulated in architectural bottles with relatively sparse lines, like with Chanel. But then niche perfumery boomed aiming at a more discerning customer.

Captivating not only the aficionado, who dreams in perfume and can have their beloved elixir dispensed even in a milk carton for all it's worth, but also the loaded purchaser, who views perfume as a precious fashion accessory that completes their luxurious lifestyle or as a gift to be given with the desire to please the eye as much as the nose. Ergo fancier bottle styles have become desirable and coveted again, ranging from the extravagant, like the crystal creations by Agonist or the Swarovski crystal containing Hedonist by Viktoria Minya, to the artistically hand-made such as the Martine Micallef bottles or the glamor of the 1001 Nights of Amouage. But back in time, the imagination of the fragrance bottle designers run into patterns which remind us more of Limoges and Lladro porcelain figures (or in the case of drugstore items of Barbie playthings) than of perfume bottles.
Everyone recalls the model dummy for Schiaparelli's Shocking, reprised by Jean Paul Gaultier in the 1990s. But I have unearthed a few more vintage examples on Ebay to share with you on a rainy day. Here they are.

                 Vintage Novelty Windmill for "Devon Violets" Perfume by Delavelle

                        Vintage Novelty Harp "Heavenscent" Perfume by Nikki de Paris.
             "The Perfume for Heavenly Times" as tagged on the box, depicting a taking aim cupid.

               Vintage Spray Perfume "Malibu Musk" Bottle Palm Tree 1980s

Do you know of any fanciful shaped vintage perfume bottles you'd like to add? Feel free to share in the comments.


  1. I'm a big fan of Rochas bottles: the space-age look of Tocade and Tocalilly, Absolu, the curvaceous Femme and Poupee. Gres Cabaret with it's flames is another favorite. We all need more fanciful fun in our lives during these dark times, don't we? I like the kitschy novelties you featured. Avon had some great ones back in the day.

  2. When I was young I had a beautiful (believe it or not) collection of Avon perfume bottles. Some were truly lovely and tasteful and I kept them on a fancy, gold metal- framed, oval mirror tray in my bedroom on a vintage dressing table. I think I still have a few of them, and now want to rescue them from storage. Thanks for the memories...

  3. Agonist always riled me with those really cool looking glass bottles but god awful prices. Until fairly recently, if you wanted a refill, you had to have the glass bottle and even the refills were not cheap. Thankfully, they got rid of that idea because I don't have $500 or more sitting around for a lot of glass.

    Didn't Amouage used to have some really fabulous bottles way back when? I would get it if Amouage did put tons of time and effort into a bottle because the perfume itself does warrant a really fabulous bottle.

    Some of those vintage bottles rock my socks.

  4. Not fanciful in the least, but I'm lucky enough to have my great-grandmother's full flacon of Eau de Coty. Yep, the classic Lalique bottle, and it is, quite simply, beautiful.

  5. annemariec05:08

    I'm from the milk carton end of town so I have nothing to offer by way of fanciful bottles. My bottle appreciation tends to be for the plainer sort and I have a fondness for the 30 ml size of SJP's Lovely. It's about the same size and shape as an egg - one of the most beautiful objects in nature - and indeed I remember reading that an egg was used as a reference in the bottle design for Lovely.

    The prettiest bottle I own is probably my 30 mls of 24 Faubourg. Elie Saab is a nice one too.

  6. Rosarita,

    those are good too, thanks for mentioning them. I think they cannot surpass the -ahem- imaginative shape of the Rochas Man bottle :-D
    But their repackaging leaves something to be desired in that regard, no? Fragrantica has the designs in their database, they're not pretty. At least they're honest though and mention the date on box.

    These kitschy novelties are simply eye catching. There are hundreds more of course. I kinda like the windmill myself!

    Yes, have heard good things about Avon in output in previous years, but my experience in that is limited. I would love to have more vintage Avon in my collection. (Timeless is a favorite).

  7. JW,

    like I said above, Avon used to make good things and the bottles were fanciful. I wish I had known them first hand, but neither age nor proximity allowed it.
    Glad I inspired to go unearth those!! Enjoy!

  8. Eld,

    thanks for saying this.

    You know, I think there's a pattern in this. If you recall Kilian also did that and so did MCDI. They first introduce the full blinged out bottles and presentation and then when interest has been sufficiently piqued they add the travel refills, the plain vials, the discovery sets etc. Only they don't advertise those, but they leave them there for people too obsessed with perfume to do their homework to discover them and partake of the brand. ;-)

    Amouage had glam bottles, but then I find their current bottles glam too. (The moire effect on the new Fate is fanciful isn't it?)

    "Rock my socks" is an expression I'm going to pinch and use from now on! ;-D

  9. Erika,

    aaah, Lailique. True genius. I love his bottle Les Elves. So graceful and dreamy. Keep your treasure close and revel in its beauty!

  10. AMC,

    heh, yeah. I have said it myself many times here. I also prefer the rather cleaner lines and not much bling (Lutens or Hermessence bottles are ace as far as I'm concerned).
    BUT that said, the bottle, the actual bottle does complete the concept and the experience of the fragrance. It acts as a link between the senses: tactile and visual coupled to the scent of course.

    Lovely is a beautiful bottle indeed, very pretty, and a very pretty scent too. I'm proudly displaying it as well. The 24F one is very classy and I love their limited editions of those (the one with the brightly colored ribbons is especially nice). Can't say I was too impressed with the ES one though I like the scent, but it's a nice enough design I guess.

  11. No, no, no, no, no! (Cue a picture of an angry feline.)

    While I'm a sucker for pretty bottles, I like them bottle-shaped, preferably rectangular, or, if it need to be, sculptural like Parure or the Art Nouveau styles. I can't stand most of the Guerlain bottles, or, well, most of the bottles. They often look like something the creative department of the sales department made from plasticine and threw at some poor innocent glassmaker to polish up. At best. I saw Marc Jacobs' Honey somewhere and I guess that there's a line or two in DSM-V dedicated to things of this sort. I've been known to decant perfumes to other bottles for aesthetic purposes.

    The other day, I scored some Art Nouveau(ish) bottles made from uranium glass. Alas, empty, but, Art Nouveau and uranium glass, that's fair enough for me.

  12. annemariec22:08

    'A line or two in DSM-V dedicated to things of this sort'. That has made my morning. Thank you!

  13. Helg - it was Max Factor and they have a little cat in it . Also Max Factor has a daffidol on the top. It was in the 60's too .

  14. L,

    the Parure one (the original) is breathtaking, so very elegant...I have cradled it in my hands and swooned. It doesn't hurt that the scent is pretty lovely as well.

    As to the MJ ones they're the epitome of kitsch. I don't care if he says he finds beauty in oddness. That's not the oddness I had in mind myself. (Dot is just as bad as Honey).
    Your line is hilarious!

  15. AMC,

    it was incredibly scathing and funny in the same breath, true!

  16. M,

    darling, you're much better I see!!! How wonderful!!
    I was very worried seeing what had befallen you out of the blue. Keep well and stay relaxed. :-) ((((M))))

    I think I remember seeing the MF cat but not the daffodil one. Will search for it! Thanks!!


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