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.