For me, vintage clothing falls into two categories. The first category includes dresses that make a statement because of their obviously unfashionable color, print, and/or cut.1 A Nixon-era shift in a daisy print might fit here, or a full-skirted 1950s day dress. The second category encompasses clothing that seems just a bit out of style from its color or hemline, but that’s easily absorbed into a modern wardrobe. Examples here would be a 1970s saddle leather handbag or a vintage cashmere twin set. The quality of the bag tells you it's no modern-day mall purchase, and the offbeat robin's-egg blue of the cashmere cardigan reads more as Doris Day than Taylor Swift, but is easily worn with whatever pair of pants you pull out of your closet.
Galanos from Parfums Galanos fits neatly into the second category. This floral oriental fragrance is built on the kind of elegant moss-musk-woods base that used to haunt lunch rooms at fancy department stores when women still wore girdles. Its honeyed spice and floral heart jumps forward a few decades and hints at the Yves Saint Laurent Opium-hazed disco era. In short, Galanos is both classic and dated — my kind of fragrance.
Galanos was introduced 1979, and its notes include lily of the valley, gardenia, rose, jasmine, carnation, geranium, vanilla, cedar, oak moss, tonka, musk, coriander, bay, clove and cypress. It won the FIFI in 1980 for best women’s fragrance in the prestige category. Practically no one remembers it anymore.
In Parfum, Galanos kicks off with a warm citrus, lily of the valley, and orange blossom that’s already infused with spice. It’s round and soft and wants to be ladylike with its genteel floral heart, but coriander, bay, clove, and honey — not enough to shout “bakery” but enough to whisper “souk” — give it a more modern feel. Well, modern for 1979.
Over the next few hours, Galanos lazily transitions to a lovely moss and ambered woods base with a well-behaved musk fluffing it out. At this point, it's almost the definition of the classic floral-oriental fragrance in the grand style. It burns softly and hazily along, close to the skin, until way past dinner.
The generous friend who gave me her bottle of Galanos said it turns to sour tuberose on her. Lucky for me, the fragrance’s white flowers stay carefully blended with the rest of the fragrance and don’t stand out on my skin.
From looking at ads online, my guess is that my bottle is from the late 1990s or later. If you’ve tried earlier versions, please comment! Perfumes Galanos Galanos is discontinued but is available online for less than $30 for 15 ml of Parfum.
1. In my opinion, fashion and style aren’t the same thing. I’d even argue that the most stylish people are often the least fashionable.