Words: Emily Venables
Vintage perfume, or a classic perfume, may be a term you hear quite frequently, but there are only a select few which truly deserve a title of this magnitude! Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to discover the iconic scents that were created between 1920 and 1940 yet are still loved to this very day! Time machine at the ready…
The roaring twenties were a time of change and prosperity. Flapper girls were challenging the way women approached fashion, jazz clubs saw a shift in the way people consumed entertainment and the explosion of the use of automobiles, electricity and telephones saw an immediate shift in people’s lifestyles.
The post-war era saw ladies eager for something new and with more and more women earning their own income, what better way to celebrate their newfound liberation then by indulging in the luxurious scents to match their raising hemlines and plunging necklines?!
There are still several vintage perfumes from this era that are available today and no discussion about scents from the swinging 20s would be complete without first mentioning Chanel No. 5.
Chanel wanted to release a scent that would satisfy the new modern women, so she set Earnest Beaux the task of delivering a perfume that would define the age. Beaux created ten samples, named 1-5 and 20-24, from which Chanel chose No.5 and the rest, as they say, is history! The sparkling scent bestows a Champagne-like aldehyde rush with jasmine, rose and vanilla to calm the ‘fizz’. It’s clean, fresh and forever timeless.
Another notable mention of the 20s that remains popular today is Shalimar by Guerlain. So very fabulous, and incredibly distinctive, the Champ-Elysee based perfumer has often been credited for ‘the birth of Orientals’ with this 1927 creation. The delicate fragrance combines rose, orchid, golden jasmine with sandalwood and vanilla to deliver yet another timeless perfume that is completely worthy of vintage perfume status.
After the Wall Street crash in 1929 times were tough, and finances were tricky. However, this did not stop many women lusting after the luxury that was owning and wearing perfume.
Scents of this era offered positivity and hope in a time that was bleak, with many perfume houses releasing perfumes that were rich and glamorous. If ladies couldn’t afford the evening gowns they desired or to adorn themselves with jewels, then a dab or two of a sensual scent would be their next best thing!
At The Perfume Shop, from the 30s, you’ll still find the likes of Blue Grass by Elizabeth Arden. Released in 1934, this classic scent was the first perfume released by Arden, who went on to become one of the biggest, most influential women in the cosmetics industry - ever!
During World War II, luxuries of life were put on hold and many designers, including Chanel, closed the doors of their couture houses. There were a very small number of bold perfume brands who went on to reveal new scents during wartime including Houbigant’s Chantilly, in 1941, and Rocha’s Femme de Roachas in 1943.
After the war ended, people were once again hungry for glamour and luxury and the beauty and fashion industries began to thrive once more. Christian Dior used the phenomenal success of his ‘New Look’ fashion line, which saw women’s wardrobes turned from drab to fab, to launch the scent ‘Miss Dior’. A chypre-based perfume that is still available today in all its opulent, feminine glory.
The revival of perfumery continued throughout the 40s with other notable perfumes which can still be enjoyed today including the flower powered L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci.
From the Jazz era of the 1920s to the struggle and strife of the 30s and 40s, perfumery has stood up and remained an important part in how both men and women indulged in and lost themselves in beauty, even when times were tough. Our whistle stop tour of the 20s, 30s and 40s may end here but next up we will be looking at how a bath oil changed the course of perfumery in the 1950s and beyond.
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