I have a few feet of old charm school and beauty manuals on my bookshelf. This week, rather than yammer on in my usual way, I’ll treat you to some of the advice on fragrance these books have to offer:
Teen-Age Glamor by Adah Broadbent (1955)1: “Another accessory is an intriguing whiff of perfume. It’s the certain sparkle which send your spirits winging. Light and delicate flower aromas are sparkling, demure, or flirtatious. The heavy, spicy, musky, and exotic scents are ridiculous with your fresh, smooth, look, which requires a light flower fragrance. You occasionally prefer to be identified with one certain scent, but with so many alluring fragrances there is no need to be an echo of yourself. Once upon a time, all the girls in a club decided to use the same perfume. A sad mistake!”
“Perfumes and Health,” by Felix L. Oswald, M.D, from Womanly Beauty of Form and Feature, edited by Albert Turner (1900): “Is it quite inconceivable that [fragrance] counteracts atmospheric impurities, routs microbes and protects the lungs against disease germs? [….] French physicians have gone a step further by sending patients to the Isle Hyeres, where the air is saturated with the odor of flower plantations. Some half dozen different perfume factories cultivate hyacinths, pinks, roses, mignonette, heliotrope, violets, etc., by hundreds of acres, and the result in an air de mil fleurs that can be noticed miles to seaward, and pervades the lungs of visitors to the inmost cells of their tissue. The persistence of such aromas does surfeit sensitive patients, but it is probably that it affects the microbes of their ailments in a more decided manner, just as the germs of malignant catarrh are killed by frosts which only slightly affect the comfort of the convalescent.”
Women & Beauty by Sophia Loren (1984): “Perfume, like silk, wine and fresh flowers, to me is one of the necessary luxuries of life. A particular joy of perfume is that it has such a powerful effect on your mood, lending confidence and glamor, romance and elegance at a touch….As to the use of perfume, remember that ‘love and perfume you must not hoard.’ It can be one of the most emotionally appealing of all accessories. Use it freely.”
The Nancy Taylor Course, Volume One (1958): “There are three basic types of fragrance, each of which automatically suggests a certain type of personality. And, from these three you will choose the one which suits you best. They are:
- The Flowery type.
- The Spicy type.
- The Exotic type.
Perfumes with a flower fragrance usually depict the very feminine, soft and lovely woman, and create the aura of a delightful (and perhaps even helpless) personality. Perfumes with a spicy fragrance reveal a distinctly piquant, provocative personality to the world. And, of course, the lush, exotic scents usually prove to be very exciting aromas and should be used to enhance a more sophisticated personality. [….] Perfume should not be used directly on your clothes or on fur. Instead, touch lightly to the ‘pulse’ spots—inside your wrists, behind your ears, inside your elbows—yes, and behind your knees!”
Elegance, by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux (1964): “Today it is considered very bad taste if a woman’s presence can be perceived by scent before it is observed by sight, even if her arrival is announced by Miss Dior. It is also inelegant to leave in one’s wake a trail of heady perfume, like the exotic heroine of a pre-World War I novel. […] Two principal factors influence a woman in her choice of a perfume. First, the container—which she enjoys displaying on her dressing table if the bottle is elegant, obviously expensive, and if it bears a famous label and secondly, the scent itself, if it underlines her personality and adds to her allure. [….] An elegant woman usually considered it a point of honor to remain faithful to her perfume, which she considered as a sort of signature…But now it seems perfumes follow a more varied pattern; some are designed for young women or for not so young ones; some are made for summer, others for cooler weather. So an elegant woman, though she cannot change her scent every other day, because her clothes would become impregnated with a dreadful mixture, is not as faithful as she used to be.”
1. Please forgive the unconventional spelling and grammar in this and other excerpts. You’re getting the text verbatim.