Sunday, September 13, 2009

Christian Dior Miss Dior

The full review is also here: Christian Dior Miss Dior (1947), a Retrospective Perfume Review

I recently learned that long before Estée Lauder and Revlon, Christian Dior was featuring images of women wearing pants in ads, but in illustration form, not photographs of models. René Gruau was the artist who drew most of the iconic vintage Dior perfume ads we recognize today. In the year 1947 when Christian Dior launched both The New Look (a return to cinched waists, full skirts and accentuated bosoms for women, harkening back to the pre-drop-waisted flapper era) and the coinciding perfume called Miss Dior, Miss Dior was known as a "debutante perfume" (yes, there actually was such a thing, in a time when differentiating Miss from Mrs. was the only option in determining women's titles). There was another famous debutante perfume born in the same year called Carven Ma Griffe ("my claw" or mark). Miss Dior and Ma Griffe were similar-smelling launches at the time, featuring fresh Green notes such as galbanum (in the tradition of Pierre Balmain Vent Vert) in the perfumey and soapy (like Irish Spring) Aldehydic Chypre form. Although both are heavy, woody, mossy and soapy scents, Miss Dior is the more patchouli-heavy, down-to-earth among the two (sweeter, less intense and sharp). Both are really retro gardenia scents, with the slightly banana-like gardenia heart boozified and made more tenacious with the addition of musky, dirty, animalic leather notes.

At this point, we are graduating and departing from Glenn Miller and getting into the complexities of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. We may find an analogy between Miss Dior and Duke Ellington's swing dance music, edgy because it was Jazz, but jazz was also the mainstream sound of its time. The opening sharp green notes (I suspect mint is a top note in many of these Green Chypre perfumes) call attention for young ladies to walk erect, and in a straight line! The mossiness adds to the foresty aroma (folkloric and dreamy, princesslike), while the leathery, smoky base feels rugged like a dirt road, dry and smoky against a candied, violetty gardenia (at one point as it dries down, I'm reminded of Guerlain Metallica and Les Secrets de Sophie for all its elegant yet intense sweetness). Miss Dior is mother to my other favorite leather gardenias, Givenchy III and Miss Balmain. Actually, if you count perfumery between 1947 to about 1979, in the time of Guerlain Chant d'Arômes (1962) and Estée Lauder Estée (1968), Lauren by Ralph Lauren (1978), and even later amid Estée Lauder Beautiful, Perry Ellis (1985) and Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve (1986), this sweet but grassy fresh (green), white flower-centered Floral has been a recurring favorite theme (we can count bestselling Giorgio (1982) in this bunch, too). However, Miss Dior has another aspect - a reason why it could be considered a parfum fourrure, or "fur (coat) perfume".

Aside from patchouli, oakmoss, amber, vetiver and sandalwood, Miss Dior's base notes are emboldened by a leather accord, balsamic and dusty, boozy, dark and inky (Molinard Habanita-like in low-pitched depth) against the gourmand candied flowers. Soap, leather, dessert and breezy green acres in Miss Dior create a commanding, majestic, icy, aloof and beautiful, textbook perfect "Perfume" accord - one that will refreshingly (mintily, greenly, as the color of monetary worth) stand out in a crowd, and one that's substantial enough to mask odors in a sable coat. These animal-derived ingredients that lend all its perceived status, are the reason the scent is a beautiful but intensely aromatic, daring and challenging one (also, sharp, dry and spicy leather had traditionally been used in Men's scents), and why it's classified as a Chypre Floral-Animalic. Today, the Chypre fragrance family would be referred to as "Mossy Woods" and "Dry Woods (tobacco-animalic)" - Miss Dior is a little of both, with emphasis on Green and Floral, as sweet as jasmine and orange blossom, to match the etched houndstooth crystal flacon christened with an understated "bridal" white satin bow.

(Images: from Parfum de Pub and