Bvlgari Pour Femme ~ perfume review

Bvlgari Pour Femme fragranceKate Moss for Bvlgari Pour Femme

It was interesting to read the various opinions on Bvlgari as a fragrance house in the comments to Kevin's article about their Aqva line for men. I think of Bvlgari as one of the better mainstream brands. No, the fragrances aren't all wildly innovative, but to my nose, they're all (ok, mostly) so nicely done. A perfect example: Bvlgari Pour Femme.

Bvlgari launched Pour Femme in 1994. It was the line's second fragrance, following Eau Parfumee au Thé Vert, and it was originally known just as "Bvlgari". They introduced it slowly in the United States, restricting it initially to about 40 stores, and I can't resist quoting this oh-if-you-only-knew statement from a Chanel representative (a Chanel subsidiary was in charge of the US distribution):

We think that things are becoming a little too fast, easy and gimmicky in the fragrance business. Perhaps the best way to cut through the clutter is to be more quiet and tasteful about a launch. (via Women's Wear Daily, 6/17/1994)

We'll leave aside consideration of how well a "quiet and tasteful" launch would work in 2008, but do note that Bvlgari is still investing in Pour Femme today; in 2006, they relaunched it with Kate Moss as the new face.

The original fragrance was developed by perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Sophia Grojsman. The opening is citrusy but quiet about it, with touches of fruity sweetness and a hint of bitter green (notes: rosewood, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, bergamot, jasmine tea, violet, mimosa, rose, iris, vetiver and musk, possibly peach, raspberry, tuberose). The heart is a straight up floral; to my nose the rose and violet are most prominent, but you'll notice the jasmine and mimosa as well. In the early stages it is mildly powdery, but the longer it is on skin, the more powdery it gets, and I assume it is the powder that earns Bvlgari Pour Femme the dreaded "old lady" tag* in some of the MakeupAlley reviews. The base is middling warm and woody-musky.

Bvlgari Pour Femme isn't quite what I'd call sexy, but it has a little edge of something earthy and dark in the base that elevates it above plain old "pretty-feminine-romantic" (although it is all of those things too). It is sophisticated without being in the least aloof, and it's just plain nice. Like Michael by Michael Kors, it just doesn't suit me, but I like knowing it exists.

Bvlgari Pour Femme is available in Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and Parfum. The Eau de Parfum is the only concentration I've tried (do comment if you've tried the others), and for that matter, I haven't tried it since they relaunched and repackaged it in 2006 so I don't know if it has been reformulated recently. The lighter concentrations can be found easily — and cheaply — at the online discounters. There is also a lighter Eau Fraiche version; I do not know if it is still in production, but it can be found online as well.

* Don't shoot the messenger! As someone who is rapidly (and proudly) approaching old-lady-ship, I do not much care to see the term applied pejoratively to fragrances, and there are battles on the fragrance board at MakeupAlley from time to time over the issue. I'd rather see the term "old fashioned" or "mature", but I wouldn't be at all surprised if I've used some equally contemptuous terminology when describing "young" scents.

Note: image via Images de Parfums.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Yes, they did a good job on the Rose & Jasmin scents as well. But if they've hired Kate Moss, they must be done with “quiet & slow”, right?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have a little bottle of this. It is really nicely done, it's not wildly innovative and people forget about it. I am grateful I don't get much powder. It's one of the few straight-up floral fragrances I wear. I find myself wearing it in spring and summer when I just want something pretty for a social occasion or party where I don't want to smell weird. :-) It's the kind of fragrance (like Michael) that gets positive comments from others, and there is room for that … although I'd mostly rather smell like Eau d'Hermes or John Galliano or some such …

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bulgari Pour Femme, is IMHO, one of the best feminine fragrances of the 90's.

    A friend of mine used it and I was surprised, as it smelled alluring (that I think is the best word to describe it) seductive and mysterious…

    I mean it was a floral, slightly powdery yes, but modern and so “90's” in a way I cannot describe.

    In Argentina (although it was a time for consumerism-bonanza, with the dollar pegged 1to1 with the peso) it was also hard to get.

    The frag suited the girl who wore it very well, so I must add that in my opinion she was assertive, sexy, bright and feminine.

    The adjectives are good for the fragrance too.

    p.s.: In case you are wondering, I did have a crush on her (my pre-coming-out days of confusion,hehehe) but she was dating a coworker. ;-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    What I missed was the wow-factor! I wanted to smell a typical Bulgari Rose or a typical Bulgari Jasmine scent.

    I like what you write about it Kaos. It is all very personal, I realize that. If Bulgari had had the 'Thierry Mugler effect' for example, I would at least have remembered what Bulgari's perfumes smell like.

    Have never tried any of their mans fragrances and maybe I should for that matter.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I'd like to have one of the cutesy little BPF travel bottles they sell at Sephora. And one of Michael. It's nice to wear pretty once in awhile, totally agree.

  6. Anonymous says:

    P, that is funny, I would go for all of those adjectives except mysterious, and so have to wonder if it just no longer smells that way because of the fragrances that came after — sort of like how Angel is no longer shocking. Or, we just disagree on that one aspect.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I understand your point… no wow factor, but a subdued allure. :)

    I guess that as perfume is so linked with memory, in this case I have perhaps associated a “wow” person with a not-so-wow smell… and that is a good point to make, and also to remind us how subjective this perfume obsession of our is, no?

    I encourage you to smell the man's scents..

    I do not care for the BLV, although I love the concept and packaging, same goes for the black tea (which smells too much as a mechanic's workshop for my taste) Try “Aqua de Bulgari Pour Homme” and Bulgari Pour Homme Soir.

    The regular “Pour Homme” is too bitter for my taste too.

    Damn, am I picky! hehehe

  8. Anonymous says:

    We are posting at the same time… read my response above, I think that solves the “mysterious” part :D

  9. Anonymous says:

    Kaos, I will try the mens scents and maybe I will curb my opinion, one never knows..:)

    I do like their bottles, they are heavy and certainly give a luxurious feel.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I agree that Pour Femme is subdued. Tried as I might, I didn't like it. I wore it on one arm last week, and White Tea on the other. I had my sons smell both, and both immediately liked Pour Femme. Their eyes actually lit up. lol But, I'm not a fan of rose, and I'm very particular about jasmine. And powder is not something I want at all. When I wore Pour Femme, it seemed to 'buzz' from my skin, and that indicated the jasmine was too strong for me. So my bottle of Pour Femme was passed on to a friend, and I'm hoping no one asks why I'm not wearing it again. lol

    But yes, I agree Bvlgari Pour Femme is well done and it is a subdued, feminine scent. There's nothing 'old-ladyish' about it (for me old-ladyish has nothing to do with perfume and is more about wearing housecoats and lipstick as rouge).

  11. Anonymous says:

    R, I'm just glad somebody else thinks Bvlgari is one of the better mainstream, department-store lines. (I often like Kenzo, too.) I like a lot of Bvlgari's stuff: Omnia and Black, in particular, but also, to a greater or lesser extent, all the “Teas” (green, white, red). My husband has bought me three of their perfumes and knows it's a “safe” line when he wants to brave giving me perfume. I can't say this one (PF) lights me on fire, but it's nice.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that your sons like it! It is hard to overdo jasmine for me, but powder isn't always my friend.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Will 2nd Omnia & Black, and also like Omnia Crystalline & Green Tea & White Tea. Would be likely to wear any of those before Pour Femme (you're right, it isn't a “light me on fire” kind of scent), but still think this is so nicely done and maybe not as widely appreciated as it ought to be. The flankers (Jasmin & Rose, and granted they're nice too) seem to have taken some the attention away from it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I'm 33. I have worn this in the past and really like it. Men love it! I would hardly call this an “old lady scent”.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Nor would I, but I think in some forums “old lady” is shorthand for almost anything that doesn't smell geared towards women under 25 — old style chypres, classic aldehydic florals, you name it, they all get called “old lady”.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I need to preface my comment on pour femme by saying I *greatly* admire the house of Bvlgari in general as a mainstream perfume house. Even if I'm not particularly wild about one of their scents, they are all elegant, chic, and classy – as are the bottle designs.
    That said, pour femme is one of my least favorite of the line, but then again I am not fond of florals. If I were, I think I would be ga-ga over this one, though. I do admire it, but wouldn't wear it.
    As always, great review Robin!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I've often wondered about that “old lady” appellation as well. As someone who is no longer pushing 50, but dragging it (and the chain is getting longer and longer), I vacillate between thinking “if you are lucky, you, too will get to be 'old,' ” and thinking that old must be at least 75, at least until I get there, at which time I will revise it.
    I call those perfumes that are musty-fusty, and too much for me “Aunt Madeleine perfumes” after my adorable, but colorblind aunt, who favored bright colors, hats, big cheery purses and pin-on floppy flowers, oven in an abundance. And mean no respect to the name Madeleine, or relatives.

  18. Anonymous says:

    We have about the same take on Bvlgari as a fragrance house, then! And thanks :-)

  19. Anonymous says:

    LOL at “dragging it”, and it is so true that “old” all depends on where you're sitting at the moment. Now you must tell us what perfumes your Aunt Madeleine actually wore?

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think Bulgari is sort of underrated for their perfumes. Although I haven't bought any, I've been pleased with all the scents I've tried – Pour Femme in particular. Thankfully I don't get any powder from it – it's more like a nice mix of Bulgari Rose & Voile de Jasmine. Your post is reminding me to go sample it once again!

  21. Anonymous says:

    Cheezwiz, I agree with you completely – it's a like a nice mix of Jasmine and Rose together.

    The 'old lady' comments bother me, too… I don't think it's limited to perfume, but certainly shows itself more with perfume because of the emotional response. It seems to me (as a woman) that my view of women growing up were fully adult, sophisticated, in control. My mother was of the Sexual Revolution, and I couldn't wait to grow up and put on a heady chypre and dancing shoes and wrap dress and go out on Dates like her. Who could have anticipated that instead, there's a sort of backlash against being fully adult and so many women are striving to be 'young' despite how silly it all seems. Argh. Elegance has been pushed to a sad corner, I think. And that includes perfume.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Nicely put!

  23. Anonymous says:

    I agree about the “old lady” stigma. It's quite disturbing that in this day and age, that it's considered a pejorative. I plan on enjoying my old ladyhood, when it gets here.

    There is a note in BFP that ruins it for me. I think it might be violet, but am not sure.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You know, I really gotta look around on this site and see if I've ever used something equally pejorative like “candy for teeny boppers”, or something. I'll bet I have. The “old lady” thing gets my back up, but I'm probably not fair on the other end of the age spectrum.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Aunt Madelein was fond of “blending” pefumes. She word Evening in Paris mixed with Emeraude. Arpege with Shalimar. But she knew her stuff. When she wore Chanel No. 5, it was just that. Nothing else.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Well, you won't get any complaints from me. In all seriousness, one does try to be fair and all, but the “old lady” thing is annoying, both from a societal perspective, and from the perspective of dealing with people who are dismissive of any scent that doesn't smell like a trip to the candy store. If you want to smell sweet and fruity, great, but don't be so contemptuous of things you don't understand.

    Rant over!

  27. Anonymous says:

    I believe that 'old ladylike' overherehas slightly a different meaning, more something like a lady who is at least in her '80s and who got stuck in time when it comes to taste.

    And even a lady in her '80s can have a great taste and knowlegde of scents.

    So oldladylike is merely being stuck in time and being very unwilling to change or to be open to something else.

    The excessive idolation of youth and being young is a little less extreme overhere. I do worry a bit that for very commercial reasons those ideals will also manifeste themselves here more and more. Let's hope that that won't happen.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Wow, those are some strong layering duos! Cool.

  29. Anonymous says:

    My first post here, though I've been reading with great interest for a while. I am finally moved to comment because this perfume, which others find nice, inoffensive, ladylike, alluring, subdued whatever, absolutely repulses me. I got a sample of the EdP and sprayed it on — coughing, searing, cloying, settling down into something merely offensive. I don't have the vocabulary to explain why this was so repellent. Help an aspiring perfumista out — why does this fragrance, so pleasing to others, make me want to scrub, scrub, scrub? (And of course, it lasted forever on me.) Was it the rose? The powder? Wish I knew…

  30. Anonymous says:

    If I had to guess, I'd guess the powder & the mimosa. But that's obviously just a guess.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I am sorry for replying to this so late but it has been so frightfully busy lately only now I get the chance to comment. And I *do* want to comment cause this is a favorite of mine! :) I am glad to see it described as powdery cause that is what I get from it too. Not in the opening, but progressively as it develops indeed. And the drydown has this gorgeous 'your skin but better' quality. As for it being forgettable…hmm well it sure does not make an impact like, say, Aromatics Elixir or Carnal Flower or what have you. BUT having said that, it *is* very very unique in my opinion. It's noone's smell-alike. Bulgary does go for understated anyway – none of their scents scream. I think it is very appropriate for a jewelry company of their caliber. None of their scents is vulgar. Thanks for reviewing this! It needs the attention.


    PS: I hate Kate Moss but she looked absolutely divine and elegant in the ads. It was hard to believe this is the same creature that looks so trashy in the Rimmel ads.

  32. Anonymous says:

    So agree that “understated” is in keeping w/ the rest of their line, and they've really kept the women's side very elegant, much more so than most brands. I don't know their jewelry at all, but have always assumed it was in the same sort of feel.

    Agree on Kate Moss, although looking at the old Bvlgari ads, her's was not my favorite at all.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I first asked my wife to sample BPF when I read that Sharon Stone wore it. She tried it and we both loved it-it continues to be her daily favorite. She probably wears it more frequently than any other scent in her collection.

    What I notice is that BPF has many “faces” that is, it changes or morphs into distinct phases all of which I appreciate. Yes, its powdery, particularly later, but I like that.

    As far as this “old lady” epithet is concerned well, just ask Sharon Stone. BPF is not a Ferrari ,it's a yellow Rolls-Royce convertible with the top down.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Glad you & your wife love it :-)

  35. Anonymous says:

    i have such a strong scent association that i absolutely cannot wear things that other ppl wear as their “signatures.” i thought i was sniffing BPF for the 1st time last month, but i was instantly transported to when i was like 13 and thought my older sister and her friends were soo glamorous (10 year age gap), who happened to wear BPF. even though BPF smells really nice, i won't buy it because it reminds me of her friends. i'm so weird.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I don't think that's weird at all — many of us have similar scent associations. Nice that you remembered it so well!

  37. Anonymous says:

    I agree that it's powdery in the heart. In fact, I got such a stale, musty scent in that stage that it completely overpowered the rose and jasmine. (What IS that — the violet? mimosa? My sample of Borsari Violetta di Parma doesn't smell like that on me.) Bleah. Smelled like the stuff my grandmother bought ca. 1945 and was insisting in 1993 was “still perfectly good!” although the liquid had turned brownish and had clearly suffered from age. That's my personal definition of “old lady” perfume: stale and musty. I did really enjoy the drydown, though. And the bottle is pretty… glad I tested before I bought that little mini on eBay.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Interesting — it doesn't smell stale or musty to me at all — don't know which note struck you that way.

  39. Mirabella says:

    I like Pour Femme. The violet and tuberose seem to stand out most when I wear this one.

  40. Hmm says:

    The time is December 2011…I am out of my perfume…MMMmmm… I have been wearing Pour Femme off and on (mostly on) for at least five years. I, without a doubt, receive more compliments with this perfume than any other I have ever worn…Men LOVE it.
    I am even tired of it but never have the results from any other.
    I have purchased this for numerous friends and family & they say it does not smell the same on them.
    I am lucky…I think it is sexy and soft…perfect for me.

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