Five Ubiquitous Scents From The Seventies

Published on December 5th, 2011 in: Dancing Ourselves Into The Tomb, Issues, Staff Picks, Top Five Lists |

By Emily Carney

I was born in 1978, at the tail-end of the 1970s. Most of my formative memories stem from the early 1980s, which were basically an extension of the 1970s well into 1984 (at least in Florida—culturally we got it together kind of late, save for the space shuttle maybe). Many of the most ubiquitous scents from the 1970s still wafted around into the 1980s and beyond. Hell, you can probably walk into any Bealls Outlet store and find these scents on sale. Without further ado, here are some smells you couldn’t escape during the heady times of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

ciara

Ciara by Revlon (1973): Extremely stinky and pungent, this fragrance kind of smelled like a bordello in a Stanley Kubrick film (think Barry Lyndon). I bought this perfume (available in different strengths, no kidding) on a whim and instantly regretted it. I stank from the first spritz. While I am sure it wears nicely on some people, it instantly took me back to my Grandma’s house in the late 1970s. It does not wear off over time unless you wash it off. People with asthma will gasp for air. It’s like the 1970s White Diamonds. Its sandalwood/amber/flowery extravaganza mix is not for the faint of heart . . . then again, most 1970s fragrances are loud as hell. This one certainly fits the bill. Wear this while chain-smoking 305s at a yard sale, possibly; the smell will cover the cigarette stench.

chloe

Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld (1975): This fragrance is actually one of the more wearable ones remaining from the Golden Era of Overpowering. It is a rather sexy tuberose-based scent; in small doses, it wears down to a powdery flourish and manages to gain quite a few compliments. This fragrance is most appropriate for evening dresses and the winter, as it is VERY strong and will probably knock you over in an enclosed space (i.e., the cab of a VW Beetle) in no time. A reformulated version was released a few years back, although I have to say I like the old-school one better. It brings back images of sweater dresses, center-parted hair, and knee-high boots. Good times!

tea rose

Tea Rose by the Perfumer’s Workshop (1972): This is yet another scent which can double as pesticide if you find a spider on the wall. While I love the scent of roses, you have to basically spray this one and walk through it. Dabbing it on liberally will make you smell like the most well-meaning cemetery of all time. Do you like roses, too? DO YOU REALLY LIKE ROSES? Then you will love this one, as it only has one note and . . . smells like . . . roses. Hence its name. Wear this one only around people who do not require inhalers. Perfumer’s Workshop has several less-offensive versions of this fragrance and once had a very nice sheer version called Rosebud. Note: My sister is one of the only people in the planet who actually pulled off this fragrance nicely, which is why I think she’s not human.

anais anais

Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel (1978): Okay, I plead the Fifth. Am I guilty of still wearing this one? Um . . . maybe. Cacharel has sort of a controversial perfume history. In the last few years, they released Amor Amor, which smells like the best, classiest French Jolly Ranchers ever. (I quite like it, personally.) They also released Liberté, which smells like orange candies dipped in patchouli in the best possible way. Both fragrances have been widely panned by fragrance purists. However, Anaïs Anaïs is their most beloved scent and is rather hypnotic. It is not as overpowering as one would imagine; it mellows down to a very nice, powdery floral scent. This is actually appropriate for the office and would not drive people out of your cubicle unless, of course, you bathed in it. The unique ceramic bottle is also quite pretty and modern.

charlie

Charlie by Revlon (1973): Here’s another one which will remind you of your auntie from 1977. The classic Charlie “Blue” fragrance is heavy on the woods and sandalwood. It was created to represent the modern, liberated woman of the 1970s. While it was a watershed product for Revlon, the formula is tricky to pull off. Revlon has released other versions of this fragrance and I still have a soft spot for Charlie “Red,” which was huge in the ‘90s and still smells rather nice. Although—I am digressing here—the best, classiest drugstore fragrance ever is Coty’s Vanilla Musk. But if you really want the original Charlie, you can find it for $12 pretty much anywhere.

One Response to “Five Ubiquitous Scents From The Seventies”


  1. Bonnie:
    December 6th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I graduated from high school in 1978 and spent the next four years working and going to college. I’ll agree with all of your choices except Tea Rose (never heard of it), and I’ll admit publically that I still love Charlie. I’ll add these: L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci and Jontue by Revlon (I actually stopped someone and asked what she had on, and she said “Jontue”), and when we wanted to feel really grown up, we wore Emeraude by Coty and Chanel No. 5, of course.

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