Faberge Tigress ~ vintage fragrance review

Faberge Tigress advert, Lola FalanaFaberge Tigress advert

I admit it. At least half the reason I love Fabergé Tigress is its packaging. Although Tigress’s boxes and bottles evolved with time, most of them featured tiger stripe somewhere. My favorite packaging has tiger stripe inside the box, and the stripes are edged in gold against an orange-brown background so rich it’s almost red. The Norma Desmond in me aches for a dressing room papered in it. Faux tiger fur wraps Tigress’s wooden cap — the perfect complement to its topaz-tinted juice. And the fonts! Over the years, Fabergé ran the gamut of glamorous lettering for Tigress. I like the curly font that looks like it should be advertising poodle trims. 

Fabergé released it in 1938, but in my mind Tigress isn’t late 1930s or even Norma Desmond’s long lost 1920s. It’s forever 1970s, when Fabergé ruled the drugstore shelves with Brut, Babe, and a line of earth-toned nail polishes my mother loved. Tigress’s palette blended well with harvest gold appliances, too. When I imagine a woman with a long, sandy shag and bell bottomed pants emerging from a Gran Torino, she’s wearing Tigress. She and her mustachioed honey are off to share fondue and tequila sunrises while Seals and Crofts churns in the eight-track tape deck. 

And what does she smell like? (Besides ethyl gasoline and Virginia Slims, that is.) She wafts a beguiling blend of amber, vanilla, wood, spice, light musk, and a touch of moss lightened by rose. A top dressing of lavender keeps Tigress from smelling too much like a scented candle. Her sillage is noticeable, but not strong enough to impregnate the shag carpeting. Toward the end of the evening, when her honey is trying to lure her to the waterbed, her Tigress is, if anything, even more captivating. The amber shimmers against the cinnamon-inflected wood.

Our 1970s woman knows good value and depends on Tigress cologne to last a full eight hours. (Also because she knows good value she says no to the waterbed. After all, at work an accountant has been giving her the eye. He has a bottle of Chivas Regal in his desk drawer and a closet full of three-piece suits  — not all of them double knit polyester, either.) Given Tigress cologne’s long life, Tigress extrait must wear for weeks. Please comment if you've tried it.

Really, Tigress isn’t anything strikingly original, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful. Are barbecue potato chips original? No, but when you have a hankering for them, nothing else will do. Tigress is the same. If you find yourself hungry for a warm, woody, sweet, spicy fragrance that is easy to wear and not as cloying as it sounds, Tigress satisfies. And, of course, if you get the itch to feather your hair and craft macramé owls — well, Tigress is a must.

Over the years, Tigress changed hands many times, and the fragrance has changed, too. Tigress’s major reformulations happened in the early 1980s when Fabergé’s longtime owner sold the company, and reportedly again in the past few years when Fragrances of France bought the rights to Fabergé, Woodhue and Aphrodisia. (I haven’t smelled this latest version, but it’s easy to suss out in its “fresh” looking, non-tiger striped packaging.) This review is of a bottle I’d peg from the 1960s, judging from its packaging.

The good news is that Tigress was so popular in its Fabergé days that bottles practically clutter yard sales, thrift stores, and even antiques malls. There’s no reason a canny shopper should pay more than five dollars for a bottle of vintage Fabergé Tigress cologne. If you can't easily find a bottle of vintage Tigress, Stetson by Stetson is a good, if less spicy and less lasting, dupe. But then you'd miss out on the fabulous bottle.


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31 Comments

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  1. AnnieA says:

    It gets a mention in Rough Trade’s 1980 “High School Confidential”. Is there a list of perfumes in songs, I wonder?

    • Angela says:

      Good question! I can’t think of a single song mentioning a perfume, but now that I’ve said that surely I’ll think of at least one.

      • pyramus says:

        The only other one I can think of is Manhattan Transfer’s version of “On a Little Street in Singapore”, which has the line “My sails tonight are filled with perfume of Shalimar”.

        In addition to “High School Confidential” (“What’s her perfume? Tigress by Fabergé!”), Rough Trade had a song called “Fashion Victim” that contains a list of designer labels that could also double as perfumes: “Montana! Fendi! Lagerfeld! Mugler, Kenzo, Chloë!”

        • Angela says:

          Good one! Of course, the only songs I can think of are commercial jingles: Your Windsong stays on my mind; She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…..She’s a woman, Enjoli; etc.

      • thegoddessrena says:

        Devil with A blue Dress mentions Chanel No 5

        • Angela says:

          It figures Chanel No. 5 would get a mention!

    • My YouTube “theme tune” is a song by Sparks called “Perfume”, which is one long list of perfumes!

      • Angela says:

        Nice! Someday I’m going to a cafe with a fast internet connection, and I’m going to treat myself to a nice long run of your video reviews. Until then, I guess I’d better start on some perfume lyrics. Someday besides Sparks needs to do it.

  2. Norman says:

    Angela, you’re so right about the tiger/Norma Desmond asociation. Sometime in the Sixties, I saw Gloria Swanson as a talk-show guest on black-and-white British TV. She exploded onto the set in a tight jersey item with floating jagged panels and….it was all in tiger stripes!

    • Angela says:

      That’s wild! She must have been in her 60s by then, too, I’d guess. Wow, I would have loved to see that. I’m going to give google a workout as I tried to find an image of it…

    • Angela says:

      Got it. Gloria bedecked in filmy tiger stripe:
      http://tinyurl.com/7a3f4zl

      • Norman says:

        In this clip, she is looking quite demure (almost like Jane Wyman). On the chat show, she came on last and looked as if she had been availing heself freely of the BBC whisky. Her hair was everywhere, and her make-up more like the Norma Desmond we love. But she seems to have loved her tiger stripes!

        • Angela says:

          I wish I could have seen it! It sounds tremendous.

  3. Angela, I love your references. “Macramé owl” – what a hoot!

    • Angela says:

      Hey, great pun! And I’m glad you enjoyed the short ride through the ’70s.

  4. juicejones says:

    I peg Tigress a little earlier. Probably because I am a little older. Mid to late 60s. I loved the cylinder w/ the tiger pill box top. That tiger was made of the softest velvet. I can still recall the scent. At Christmas, Faberge bought out their jewel-eyed black cat w/ colored feather packaging. I recall them lined up on the counter at Newberry’s. Wind Song came in a crown. As a little girl I thought those bottles held mysteries that would be revealed to me when I was older. Smart kid!

    • Angela says:

      I can completely see how Tigress and Windsong might embody the glamour of being an adult. Tiger stripes, royalty–sounds like my adult life all right (yeah, sure).

  5. hajusuuri says:

    Alas, the only Faberge I remember was Faberge Shampoo, the one that came in the tall golden colored plastic bottle. I used that and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific right around the same time, when it was cool to read Tiger Beat (really, I think I was too young to use these shampoos but my sister used them and I just had to be the pesky little sister). I know she doesn’t read this blog so I will confess and say that I used to sneak read not only her Tiger Beat but also her Mills & Boon books (way before Nora Roberts became a household name). I also dutifully read Nancy Drew, etc….

    • Angela says:

      It has been AGES since I’ve even though of Tiger Beat. Back in my day, Shaun Cassidy was a frequent cover story. Ay yi yi. I read plenty of Nancy Drew, too, but I don’t remember Mill & Boon. Thanks for the memories!

      • rosiegreen62 says:

        Mills and Boon AKA Harlequin in the U.S.

        • Angela says:

          Thanks! Yes, I devoured scores of Harlequins and Barbara Cartland novels on my grandma’s couch when I was home sick from school.

  6. annemarie says:

    I don’t remember Tigress but I lived through the era and I get most of your references, including the macrame owl. And Shaun Cassidy and Nancy Drew. (I actually preferred Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. I maybe even had a crush on Jupiter Jones.)

    Anyway … Tigress sounds like one of those perfumes that freed people from what might have seemed like the stuffiness of high-end French perfumery. Tigress would have been not just cheaper than the Chanels and Diors, the Carons and the Guerlains, but a whole lot more fun. Even tho’ it had a long history, the marketing was obviously very much in the moment for the 60s and 70s – liberated and quirky.

    It reminds me a bit of the huge success of Charlie! Neither Tigress nor Charlie! have really trancended that era. Butr then I don’t expect many of today’s celebuscents will transcend our era either. Or at least I hope not!

    • Angela says:

      I wonder how much Tigress and Tabu overlap there was? I can imagine the same woman buying both at the 1940s drugstore counter. She’d plunk the bottle and her copy of True Confessions next to the cash register as her big treat. There’s something great to be said for perfuming the working class girl, whether it’s with Tigress or Charlie..

      • annemarie says:

        Perfuming the working class girl – that is an intriguing idea. And you know those Grossmith recreations that sell for big bucks these days? They started out cheap, and were known as ‘perfumes for servant girls’.

        • Robin says:

          Lost comment, reposting for Angela:

          Really? Those expensive Grossmiths were servant girl fragrances? Well well well. Maybe Tigress has a future yet.

  7. fleurdelys says:

    I remember Tigress from back in the day, and I have a partial bottle of the cologne. Judging from the raggedy condition of the furry cap, I wouldn’t be surprised if it dated from the 60s. It still smells good though. I get leathery, animalic notes in the drydown. It lasts, too – amazing how much staying power a cologne from that era could have!

    • Robin says:

      Lost comment, reposting for Angela:

      That was one of my big Tigress surprises: the cologne lasts for hours and hours!

  8. Robin says:

    Lost comment, reposting for Flora:

    I got a decent of vintage Tigress in a swap not long ago – it’s awesome! Really well made, and if that was actually sold in drugstores all those years ago, things have definitely gone downhill! It’s not a style I would have worn back then, but I do like to rock it now.

    • Robin says:

      Lost comment, reposting for Angela:

      Well, we’ll be rocking it together, then!

      • Robin says:

        Lost comment, reposting for Flora:

        Indeed we will! And mine is only the cologne strength, but it is plenty strong! I would love to have this in parfum, if they ever even made it.

        • Robin says:

          Lost comment, reposting for Angela:

          I read somewhere that a Tigress extrait was made–but who knows how long ago that was? I agree, though. I’d love to try it.

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