A Loving, Lasting Fragrance: Iconic Scents of the Seventies (And Beyond)

Published on March 30th, 2009 in: Issues, Smell-O-Rama |

By Emily Carney

“I send thee this sweet perfume a fragrance to the fragrant, as one would offer wine to the god of wine.”

babe faberge

1. Babe by Fabergé (1977)

Babe was a musky fragrance which definitely was of its time (released during the “disco era” in 1977), and was evocative of spending time at a one-bedroom apartment with your favorite man, “The Wild Places” by Duncan Browne playing on the turntable, and a large bottle of Paul Masson Rhine Castle wine (also of the 1970s). The allure of Babe was underscored by the model in its advertisements, the one and only Margaux Hemingway. Ms. Hemingway was blonde, tall, and romantic looking, yet hugely athletic, and has the most amazing eyebrows ever (Brooke Shields had nothing on her in that department). Being associated with the undeniably alluring Ms. Hemingway made this fragrance extremely popular, and I can still say that I miss this fragrance. . . and Margaux Hemingway, who died too soon in 1996. In my estimation, she was more remarkable and glamorous than Cheryl Tiegs and Patti Hansen combined.

bonne bell skin musk

2. Bonne Bell Skin Musk by Prince Matchabelli (1970s – 1980s?)

Skin Musk HAD to have been introduced around the late 1970s and early 1980s, given its massive popularity among junior high school students around that time. While being an undeniably low-priced fragrance, it still remains highly wearable and has a pleasantly non-offensive soft, musky fragrance (one can see how musk was incredibly popular during this period of time). It is decidedly less fruity and powdery than Love’s Baby Soft, which still gives me nightmares of junior high school bathrooms (along with Rave hairspray, jelly bracelets, this AWFUL shit called “Malibu Musk,” and banana hair clips). Hell, I still admit to wearing Skin Musk every so often these days. Apparently Sarah Jessica Parker once admitted to still wearing this fragrance on occasion.

charlie ad

3. Charlie by Revlon (1973)

Charlie, like many fragrances of the 1970s, has a slightly musky smell, although it also has jasmine and floral hints to it. It eventually mellows into a powdery scent on the skin. Charlie was meant to symbolize the working woman of the 1970s; early advertisements show the “Charlie Girl” working alongside men and eventually retiring to a bar where she drinks and smokes just like “one of the boys.” The girl in the advertisement of course was dressed in chic 1970s style (I remember her wearing a camel-colored suit, if my memory serves me correctly), and she had a nice, contemporary blonde bob haircut. The advertisements made it abundantly clear that the Charlie Girl was going places, and was always doing interesting things. While I admire the original Charlie fragrance (even though my grandma wore it quite heavily), I admit to wearing Charlie Red a lot in high school, which was a “younger” and spicier scent than the original fragrance. I only stopped wearing it because a male high school classmate commented that I smelled just like his “psycho ex-girlfriend.”


4. Chloé (1975)

Chloé (the original version from 1975, not the new version) is my absolute favorite fragrance from the 1970s, and quite possibly my favorite scent of all time. It has a pronounced, deep tuberose smell and is not meant for heavy-handed use; it is an excellent nighttime fragrance for going out to the club or even going out to dinner. Its complexity makes me imagine someone like a 1970s-era Anjelica Houston wearing it while looking totally badass in some all-black designer outfit clutching a cigarette holder. However, since Chloé is a moderately priced fragrance, I am sure Ms. Houston would have worn something pricier, like Fracas or Bandit (which smells, to me, like a femme version of Aramis, and is strong and sophisticated enough to suit a woman like her).

tea rose

5. Tea Rose by Perfumers Workshop (1972)

Here’s another example of the sheer loudness of 1970s fragrances: Tea Rose by the Perfumers Workshop. Synthesized in 1972, it basically tells you in its name what it will smell like: roses, and a LOT of roses. To me, it smells like slightly mildewed roses which have turned black due to lack of rain or having not been watered for a couple of days. This fragrance has very Gothic connotations for me, as a massive Goth gal I used to be friends with doused herself head-to-toe with Tea Rose. At any rate, used in smaller doses it has a pretty smell, and can be very feminine. NOTE: Please do not douse yourself in this one, as it can be slightly nauseating smelling roses constantly within a ten-foot radius for people simply trying to enjoy themselves at a club.

gres cabochard

6. Cabochard by Grés (1959)

While Cabochard by the French perfumer Grés was not introduced in the 1970s, it definitely has a late 1960s – early 1970s vibe to it. This is not a fragrance for someone accustomed to soft floral scents or even deep musks. This fragrance straight up smells like leather and tobacco, with very few flowers (very few) sprinkled into it at some point. It is HIGHLY strong, is not meant for casual day wear, and should be used in very controlled settings in light doses (think of it as the Klonopin of fragrances). However, I have to admit I have a certain fondness for this fragrance, and occasionally I will wear it at night. It is evocative, to me, of a certain image of a 1970s woman. . . someone very strong, very stylish, probably smokes a pack a day of Marlboro Lights, enjoys a barbiturate or two every so often, and doesn’t give a shit of what people think of her. I would name certain models and/or actresses from that era who definitely fit that bill, but I really don’t want to be sued, so I will just judiciously skip that contemplation. Actually, I can imagine the poet Anne Sexton wearing this, smoking a ton of menthol cigarettes, typing poems furiously while looking casually glamorous in a shift dress. NOTE: The little cute, frosted bow on the bottle totally belies the content of the fragrance contained within.

Additional Resources:

Many more reviews of fragrances from the 1970s (and beyond) can be found at the Basenotes website.

The title “A Loving, Lasting Fragrance,” is from a TV advertisement for Babe by Fabergé.

One Response to “A Loving, Lasting Fragrance: Iconic Scents of the Seventies (And Beyond)”

  1. Popshifter » Je Suis Margot Tenenbaum: Confessions of a Secret Cigarette Fiend:
    March 30th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    […] have a tobacco-ish hint to them. One of my favorite fragrances, Cabochard by Grès (featured in the “Iconic Scents of the Seventies” article in this issue of Popshifter), starts out as a “green” smelling fragrance, but […]

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