On weekends I work at a vintage clothing shop. I love the Jean Harlow dressing gowns and Grace Kelly day dresses we stock, but I've noticed a steadily growing clientele for Pat Benatar blazers and even Debby Boone gauchos. Yes, for some of us the '80s are back. You wouldn't catch me dead in an ultrasuede shirt or leggings, but I have to admit that I adore a whopping 1980s rose chypre. At the top of my list are Ungaro Diva and Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum.
Jacques Polge, the current house nose for Chanel, created Diva in 1982. The notes include mandarin, aldehydes, coriander, rosewood, tuberose, cardamom, rose, jasmine, narcissus, carnation, ylang ylang, patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, honey, vetiver, civet, musk and labdanum. Diva is beautifully blended, silky, womanly, and supremely French. If Diva were a real-life diva, I'd peg her as Renee Fleming, wending her voice seamlessly through Schubert lieder.
Two years later, Paloma Mon Parfum, created by Francis Bocris, hit the market. If Mon Parfum (often called, simply, Paloma) were a diva, she'd be Maria Callas smack in the middle of an Italian opera. A combination of Basenotes' and Osmoz's listing of notes for Mon Parfum yields hyacinth, citrus, coriander, angelica, cloves, rose, mimosa, ylang ylang, jasmine, patchouli, honey, civet, oakmoss, sandalwood, and vetiver.
Diva and Mon Parfum have a lot in common. They are both demanding, complicated, spicy rose-centered chypres that last hours on the skin. Once you've smelled either of them you'll always know them (and once you've tried them on your skin, you'll always apply sparingly). But, like sisters, despite their similarities they have different personalities.
Diva is softer and more feminine than Mon Parfum. While Diva pours tea in a drawing room outfitted with couches covered in silk brocade and lets you leaf through her first editions of Marianne Moore's poetry, Mon Parfum serves spicy demitasses of espresso and leaves the next room's door ajar so that you see a rumpled kimono on the bed and spike-heeled leather boots tossed on the floor. Diva is knowing in an emotional way. Mon Parfum knows physically. But both scents are constructed grandly, solidly, and with the self-regard that made the 1980s the glory years of both Wall Street gamblers and Lower East Side street artists.
You can keep the 1980s slouchy boots and pastel earrings. I'll keep the perfume. Ungaro Diva and Paloma Picasso Mon Parfum are both bargains at online discounters.