You Don’t Wear No Perfume

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

By Less Lee Moore

Geneviève wears Dior
Margaret wears Trésor
Mary Jo wears Lauren
But you don’t wear no perfume. . .
—Sparks, “Perfume”

Other than the ones that came in Avon perfume bottles shaped like princesses, I didn’t know much about perfume as a kid. I do remember liking the scent of Hibiscus when I was small although I don’t know how I would have even known about it; I might have gotten some perfume oil from a relative who visited Hawaii.


In the early 80s when Giorgio Beverly Hills was all the rage, I used to get sample vials from the cosmetic counters at the mall and douse myself in their contents. Secretly, I thought it was stinky and old lady-ish, but I figured if I wore it enough I’d grow to appreciate it, the way adults did with wine and bourbon. I believe I even had a Giorgio tote bag at one point. Ah, designer fashions.


When I was a little older, my great aunt took me on an all day shopping expedition, which included lunching at our local department store café (either Maison Blanche or D.H. Holmes; both are long gone and much missed). She told me I could buy whatever fancy perfume I wanted. For whatever reason, I picked Christian Dior’s Diorrisimo. Maybe it was the pink box with black and white houndstooth or maybe it was because this same aunt had bestowed a subscription to Vogue upon me and I recognized the Dior name. In either case, it was an extremely heady scent and in retrospect, one far too strong for a budding teenager. But I wore it faithfully.

white linen

Sometimes, I’d sneak into my mom’s bedroom and steal her White Linen by Estee Lauder. Now this I truly adored. I’ve never smelled anything quite like it since. It truly did smell like white linen to me. If you were to spritz some past me today, I’d be transported back to eighth grade parties, add-a-bead necklaces, Ralph Lauren polo shirts, and New Wave music.

anais anais

The similarly feminine Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel was the first perfume, however, that I felt was my own. It came in a pink and white bottle with flowers, perfect for someone who daydreamed about Duran Duran videos set in Sri Lanka. No matter what other fragrances I found, I always had a bottle of this in my room.

Oddly enough, the next scent I started wearing was the jasmine-y Pearls and Lace by Avon, which was probably a bit of a step backwards, fashion wise, but a friend of mine wore it and since I thought she was pretty and glamorous, I started wearing it, too. I went to school with girls who wore Yves St. Laurent’s Paris, which was more restrained than I was used to and thus intriguing. It almost felt watered-down but to me, that made it even more alluring. Then there was the aptly-named Beautiful by Estee Lauder, which for many years I thought was the loveliest thing I’d ever smelled. However, both were far too expensive. After all, I was still rocking that Diorissimo bottle from a few years earlier.


My closest male friend went to New York City one summer to visit relatives. When he returned, he brought back trendy clothes and samples of the latest scent-sation, Dior’s Poison. I couldn’t believe there was a perfume with that name, especially one that smelled so delicious. It was like grapes and velvet and what I thought opium should smell like (the drug, not the fragrance). I wanted to eat it. He raved about how it was revolutionizing the perfume world (unsurprisingly he later came out of the closet) and I didn’t doubt it. Again, it was one that was too pricey for me to purchase, but which I worshipped wholeheartedly through my dedication to gathering as many sample vials of it as I could find.


Continuing the trend of oddly named fragrances, I started wearing Calvin Klein’s Obsession a year or so later. The original bottle was squat and brown and looked nothing like what I thought perfume bottles should look like. The top twisted off, and as a result, I probably spilled more of the stuff than I actually wore. And if I thought Diorissimo was strong. . . oh boy. This stuff was like clove cigarettes and cinnamon sticks. It frequently gave me a headache but I wore it anyway, just to be contrary. I can still recall the Halloween of 1986, stinking of Obsession, and listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees on my Walkman.

il bacio

In university years, I worked for the dining commons. During the summers and holidays, when there were no students around, we frequently did catering events for the university chancellor. At one such event, pots of fresh Narcissus flowers were brought in as decorations. The smell was intoxicating and unbelievably familiar. I kept sneaking sniffs at the lovely white flowers. Then it hit me: this was Diorissimo. Back at home, I dragged out my now-ancient bottle. The fragrance had turned to mostly alcohol, but that was definitely it. I spent $50 that I didn’t have at Nordstrom’s, the only place I could find which carried it. Although I smell it as Narcissus flowers, it is apparently the only truly accurate Lily Of The Valley fragrance ever created. Whatever the origin, it’s still gorgeous.

gap grass

I tried out Amarige by Givenchy in the early 90s, and it was nice, but it just didn’t hold my interest past that one bottle. In fact, no recent high-end fragrances have done anything but make me feel queasy (a trend that started with Calvin Klein’s Eternity and never stopped). The last one I bought was in 1993: Marcella Borghese’s Il Bacio, which has similar fruity qualities to Poison, but some of the spice of Obsession. I rarely use it, however, as it seems far too strong for daily wear. I even went through a strange nostalgic phase of wearing Love’s Baby Soft in the mid-90s, but never found anything I liked as much as those fragrances of the late 70s and mid 80s, until The Gap came out with Grass in 1994.

Technically, this isn’t a perfume, but I love it anyway. It really does smell like fresh cut grass, but without all the allergens. They discontinued it not long after it came out for reasons I will never understand. I still have one bottle with a few drops left as well as two small tins of solid fragrance. In an interesting twist, the new Fresh Cut Grass home fragrance oil from The Body Shop does smell quite similar, but also has notes of Diorissimo, which of course made me yearn for another bottle.

I read online that the formula for Diorissimo has recently changed and that it no longer smells quite the same. And I’ve also learned that The Gap has reissued Grass, but one reviewer laments that it no longer smells the way it used to, either. Still, this is promising news. Maybe I’ll try some Diorissimo and if it passes my smell test, I will go back to my sample-vial-hoarding ways (do they even still make those tiny things?). If it evokes the same memories it used to, that might just be good enough for me.

One Response to “You Don’t Wear No Perfume”

  1. Noreen Sobczyk:
    April 4th, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I wore Anais Anais and daydreamed about Duran Duran and Sri Lanka. Dorks unite.

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