Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rose Violets

I once had a favorite sachet gifted to me by a friend: a heart-shaped, lacy, girly thing by Victoria's Secret. I'm not a fan of frilly, bridal-Limoges tea sets-and-petticoats-learn-to-be-quiet-and-willing (as opposed to willful)-girls-type things at all, but I liked the smell of the sachet which eventually faded. The potpourri inside had dried petals in hues of dark pink and purple, and I had always longed to find out what that scent combination was. Years later, I've come to understand that the blend was a classic Victorian posy-type of rose and violet (and possibly jasmine) combination. I also now know that many cosmetics, lipsticks and glosses in particular, have been scented with this smell, which is why whenever I smell it, I'm reminded of young girls' makeup. Maybe it's all part of the industry's plan to remind us of all girly things whenever we smell it. The scent is sweet, even hypersweet, like violet candies made sweeter with the robust, bright smell of a colorful rose, married classically to jasmine to make it full. Here are some of the rose-violet fragrances I've come across and particularly liked:

Les Parfums de Rosine La Rose de Rosine (relaunched 1991): According to 1000 Fragrances blog, it was Poiret's first fragrance, created in 1912. This is a pure rose-violet to me with equal parts of each, a balance which I admire and haven't found in many others. On dry down, I get a dazzling jasmine note to make it extraordinarily queenly and sensual. Overall, this is very close to the smell of the Victoria's Secret potpourri smell I was after, and it also smells very much like an oil-based lip gloss I used to have as a young tween--the roll-on type that made my lips very, very shiny. It also reminds me of the hypersweetness I found in some late '80s-early '90s Florals like Burberry Society (1991), Princess Marcella Borghese Il Bacio (1993), Liz Claiborne Vivid (1993), Gale Hayman Delicious (1993) and Fred Hayman 273 (1989), but this is still rather sophisticated, even for such a sweet, candied flowery scent.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Drôle de Rose (1994): Imagine the above but a little more subdued, and by that, I mean more ethereal. I love the balance of equal parts rose and violet in this, too, but for me, it's too musky. If you like powdery White Musk, I think this is a lovely fragrance--sweet with a light touch of that old-fashioned posy / lipstick smell. It's sweetened enough that it doesn't smell like sharp violets, as many violet-scented products tend to smell. This one is soft and pretty, with a leather base that adds to the baby oil-like muskiness of it (if you've tried Habanita or Bandit, you might have an idea what that type of base can smell like). WIth a bit of orange blossom in the mix, it's like an angel-on-a-cloud, not too stuffy and a bit playful like cotton candy.

Other rose violets I would reccomend are Guerlain Meteorites (2000) and Escada Sentiment (2000), both of which are more violet-focused but are sweet scents in the same theme. These are greener than the above and slightly sharper, yet they are densely powdery. Since we're more or less on the subject, Penhaligon's Victorian Posy: There are two types. While neither one smells to me like rose-violet, the older formulation (1979) in the dark green packaging is a spicier, richer Green Floral Chypre. The newer one which is barely recognizable to me is a sharp green floral like Sarah Jessica Parker Covet or Red Flower Wild Cherry Blossom Rice Scrub.

Personally, I think if I didn't attach the scent of rose-violet to the concepts it represents in our society, I might wear it more. I wish being a girl didn't come with a specific rule book on how to behave to be considered girly, especially if that rule is about quieting down. I want girls to be empowered and able to fend for themselves in their daily lives, something you can't do fearlessly if you're taught your job is to be a wallflower, that it's only virtuous to let men take all the glory. I wish boys would be taught the same virtues as girls--if we're going to teach humility and servitude at all.

Let this charming violet serve as an image of humility~
"In the flowers which Mary most loved, her Father was accustomed to point out the emblems of those Christian graces which adorns the character. Once in the early part of March, when, with transports of joy, she brought the first violet, he said, "Let this charming violet serve as an image of humility, of reserve, and of ready, though always discreet, disposition to oblige. Its clothing has the colour appropriated to modesty; it loves to flourish in places retired from common observation; and from beneath the leaves which cover it, it embalms the air with the most delicate fragrance. So, my dear child, may you be, like the violet, a lover of silence, disdaining the show of gaudy colours, never seeking to attract unnecessary notice, but striving to do good, without parade, so long as the flower of your life shall bloom." -- The Cathedral by Joris-Karl Huysmans, translated by Clara Bell, Chapter VII, First published in France in 1898.