Old Lady Perfumes

Mamie Eisenhower

“That smells like an old lady.” Nearly everyone who wears perfume has heard it said — and maybe even said it — at one time or another. Usually it’s said with disdain. It’s time to give it a rest, people.

First, let’s deal with the term “old lady.” Most older people I know Skype with their grandchildren, get involved with political movements, and plan trips to Turkey. Clearly, the idea of blue-haired ladies who sit around drinking sherry with the vicar is a thing of the past.

Some of you might rebut, “By ‘old lady’ I mean ‘old fashioned.’ You know, perfumes that were popular in the past.” Perfumes that were popular in the past include Guerlain Shalimar, Robert Piguet Fracas, Jean Patou Joy, Bourjois Evening in Paris, Prince Matchabelli Wind Song, Chanel No. 5 — you get the point. They’re diverse. If they’re old fashioned, then so is everything except laundry musk fragrances, aquatic fragrances, and fruity florals with patchouli.

It might be that a certain fragrance evokes an actual old lady you know or someone — say Mamie Eisenhower — who is to you the ultimate old lady. Then why not say, “That fragrance reminds me of Aunt Charlotte before we moved her out of her trailer full of cats and figurative Avon cologne bottles” or “I bet that perfume put a gleam in Ike’s eye”?

Much fragrance takes time to learn to appreciate, as does art and music. Initially, an opera might sound like tuneless wailing and a contemporary art installation might feel suspiciously like a gimmick. Similarly, it’s easy for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with perfume to sniff something and pronounce it as smelling like an old lady. The argument many people use when they dismiss music and art right off the bat is that they “know what they like.” Well, sure. But why not be open to the possibility that with experience and exposure you just might end up understanding and even liking something that baffled or even repulsed you initially?

I didn’t like Guerlain Mitsouko, Miles Davis, Scotch, Morbier cheese, andouille, or even coffee (imagine!) the first time I tried them. Had I, for instance, labeled Miles Davis as “too random” and given up on him, I would have foregone a world of mood and passion. If I had tossed aside Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion during its first inscrutable pages, I would have missed out on one of my favorite books.

The thing is, we all know Miles Davis is a genius, so most of us will give him more than one try. Fragrance, on the other hand, doesn’t get the same respect. The average person on the street feels no compunction to give perfume a second chance. So, many people, on being challenged with an aldehydic floral, say “old lady” and don’t give it another thought.

Here’s what I propose: The next time a fragrance strikes you as particularly old ladyish, ask the person wearing it what it is she enjoys in it. Maybe you’ll see it in a new light. And the next time someone intimates your perfume smells like an old lady’s, ask, “Which old lady? Marlene Dietrich, maybe?”

Note: top image is Mamie Eisenhower in her inaugural gown, painted in 1953 by Thomas Stevens [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.

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210 Comments

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  1. Rappleyea says:

    “That fragrance reminds me of Aunt Charlotte before we moved her out of her trailer full of cats and figurative Avon cologne bottles”

    OMG! That was a tea-spewer!! :-D

    Great post. I love and wear many of the classics, so I would never tar and feather them with the “old lady” label. But ironically, to my nose what has the musty smell of Aunt Charlotte’s trailer are the ubiquitous musk-based laundry scents. And they are much harder to avoid than the classics!

    • Angela says:

      That laundry musk is everywhere! Mostly what it reminds me of is–well, laundry. Not very exciting.

  2. Jennifer1977 says:

    “Clearly, the idea of blue-haired ladies who sit around drinking sherry with the vicar is a thing of the past.”

    Actually, this sounds delightful. As though mysteries are about to be solved.

    • Kelly Red says:

      Or one too many glasses of sherry are consumed and suddenly you and the vicar are rolling around on the rug!!

      • Angela says:

        Wow! I want to read chapter two of this novel!

        • olenska says:

          I predict the final line would go something like this:

          “Well,” said Mrs. Dalrymple, straightening her girdle. “That was certainly enlightening.”

          • Angela says:

            Excellent! I love it! I wouldn’t be surprised if “Praise the Lord” were muttered now and again, too.

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        *snort*!!!!!!!!!!
        I want to be THAT old lady some day!

      • mutzi says:

        I’m sorry you have just given me visions of Miss Marple and Rev. Clement engaging in very un-Marple like behavior.

        • Angela says:

          Now we’ll have to think up some action for Poirot!

    • Angela says:

      I’m a sucker for those kind of mysteries, too, to tell the truth. England must have been chock-a-block with vicars at one point.

    • Lys says:

      “Actually, this sounds delightful. As though mysteries are about to be solved.”

      Agree!!! I want to meet these old ladies!

      • Angela says:

        These days, that kind of lady has become almost a mythical creature! Except in fiction, of course.

        • capillary says:

          Less so than you’d think in England, I’d say. Tea with the vicar is not so unusual for a certain kind of older lady. And my landlady is a bit of a Miss Marple character herself – she hides her sharpness under a fluffy manner!

          • Angela says:

            I’m glad to see the type still lives!

  3. Kelly Red says:

    On a different note, I have been guilty of the “old lady” comment in the past but now realize it’s really CHEAP that I don’t like, not old lady. I adore some now that 10 years ago I thought too old for me. YIKES! Maybe that’s the horrid truth! I’ve become that old lady and now smell like her. (My husband always says old lady when I wear anything with a hint of rose.)

    • Angela says:

      It seems like rose, violet, powder, and aldehydes especially draw the “old lady” comment, but I swear I’ve heard it applied to everything from Obsession to Giorgio.

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        Violet nearly inevitably feels old-fashioned to me–I think that is why I prefer it in scents where it’s competing for attention then when it’s the main attraction.

        And sweet, clear, purified rose (not that messy, head in a bloom, getting stuck by a few stickers, version of it) smells either very old OR oddly, very young to me.

        • Angela says:

          I can completely imagine a pure, watery rose smelling gamine!

  4. Ginny M says:

    I go to yard and estate sales every weekend during the warm months, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spied, from a distance and with a frisson of excitement, a collection of perfume bottles, only to discover upon close examination that they’re ALL old Avon scents — figurative or otherwise. That said, I’ve gotten lucky and picked up NIB vintage bottles of Toujours Moi and Bellodgia — both of which qualify, I think, as Old Lady-ish.

    • Angela says:

      That door-to-door Avon thing must have really worked at one point, because you could fill swimming pools with Bird of Paradise alone, I swear. But Bellodgia and old Toujours Moi are great finds!

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      Yes, I’ve done some estate-sale finds, too, and it’s the Avon that keeps me feeling like maybe it’s not always worth the effort. “Perfume bottles” on the listing nearly always seem to mean Avon. I wish they’d be more specific!

      • Angela says:

        Some of the shapes are pretty great, really. But how many parrots filled with Cotillion does a girl need?

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          So far, my trip down this rabbit hole has pretty specifically been a pursuit of scents. I am hopeful that I can remain mostly disinterested in bottles for bottles sake! Thus, not a single parrot filled with Cotillion in my collection! :)

          • Angela says:

            Probably a good move on your part!

          • bookwyrmsmith says:

            I tend to get the kitty cat/kittens or dolls of the world Avon bottles (and some birds-no parrots yet though).

          • Angela says:

            I did buy a parrot full of Moonwind once, which is why I brought that up. It was a cool parrot, though! I ended up giving it away to a friend whose mom likes parrots. Perfect.

          • poodle says:

            Oh I’d love a parrot bottle. A friend once bought me a poodle bottle with a bit of Sweet Honesty in it at a yard sale for me.

          • Angela says:

            I remember some darling poodle bottles. The poodle’s head was the cap. You had to do a sort of Exorcist maneuver to get in the bottle.

  5. Filomena says:

    The only smell I associate with old ladies of the past was the smell of moth balls! I can remember every fall season when my grandmother got out her winter clothing, she smelled like moth balls for weeks!

    • Angela says:

      Oh yes! I tried moth balls once but threw them all out. Ugh.

      • Dilana says:

        Try ceder balls or lavender, or just send the winter clothes for cold storage.

        • Angela says:

          I’ve heard tonka bean is good, too.

          • Rappleyea says:

            A few drops of cedar essential oil (Texas or Va., not Atlas) on a cotton ball works great too.

          • Angela says:

            I need to make a little trip to the co-op for these things. Today is my day to catch up on chores, and scenting my winter coats with cedar sounds like a nice one.

    • poodle says:

      My dad’s elderly cousin used moth balls and always had those pastel mints around. So the combo of moth balls and mint is very old lady to me.

      • Angela says:

        That sounds like a classic.

      • ggperfume says:

        I agree with Angela, that is the classic combination.

    • dinazad says:

      Even mothballs can conjure up great memories…. I was once in Venice in January, when the city seemed to be full of fur coats smelling strongly of mothballs (and enveloping tastefully coiffed and made-up elderly ladies). The fur coats were mostly local, and when they passed each other, they would greet each other with a softly wafted “zau, cara!” and then proceed onwards with a stately gait, like ships passing in the fog….

      • Angela says:

        I love that story! I see it, feel it, smell it. Lovely.

  6. Dilana says:

    I was a recent perfume launch for a new Houbigant perfume (lovely tuberose and orange) where the person at the same table, immeadiately sniffed some items for the line and said outloud, “Old Lady Perfume”

    Well, yes Houbigant, one of the oldest perfume companies still operating, is very consciously trying to maintain its very classical French perfume structures, but
    (1) I personally would never make a negative comment in front of the company or perfumers themselves, any more than I would tell the parent of an baby with a scrunched up red face that her baby was ugly ;
    (2) I am no longer young so I can’t criticize people for being old;
    (3) Since I spent the disco years listening to long deceased jazz musicians, I am hardly the type to dismiss the styles of an earlier generation (I also avoided most of the disco era perfumes because I found the ads offensive); and
    (4), There are times when I long for something beautiful and elegent; notwithstanding a life which includes little occasion for cocktail dresses, much less ball gowns.

    Oh, by the way, I remember, when I was a kid, seeing those blue haired ladies wearing mink coats at Broadway plays (even when it was 70 degrees outside).
    Blue haired ladies don’t exist anymore,. I still go to Broadway plays and see ladies of similar age and class. These are probably the daughters of the blue-haired gals who are now senior citizens themselves. However,hair coloring products have improved. Rather than blue hair, they have gorgeous dyed and highlighted tresses. If they wish to show off fabulous stuff, they don’t wear unseasonable minks, but carry exquisite purses. They also don’t wear too much “old lady” perfume, because true sophisticates know to moderate the sillage at crowded events such as theatres. If they meet the Vicar for tea; it is probably Chai and they are probably discussing spreadsheets and budgets.
    Hmmm. Maybe the “old lady” perfumes are so “old” that true seniors (aging baby boomers, after all) don’t wear them, and they will return as young, and hip, just like the Channel style jackets, pencil skips, and tweeds of my grandmother’s day are now hip.

    • Angela says:

      That’s so funny! I didn’t even think about “granny chic.” Hmm. Maybe “old lady” for a perfume is actually a compliment.

      (I loved your comment, too, about chai and spreadsheets. So true!)

  7. Dilana says:

    Ooops, I hit send. I was about to add, that I do sometimes see blue haired ladies (and gentlemen), but they tend to be in their teens and twenties and have added cobolt locks. Come to think of it, doesn’t Katie Perry usually have blue hair?
    Wouldn’t surprise me if these “non-conformists” start wearing Shalimar, the same way they favor really vintage clothes and bakelite bangles.

    • Angela says:

      I hope you’re right!

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      HA! Should I walk away now in my non-conformist shame? *I* in fact have lovely cobalt blue streaks in my hair and one of my all-time-favorite fragrances is some vintage Shalimar that I acquired at an estate sale! :)

      Honestly, I *do* feel pretty non-conforming with the Shalimar! The counter-culture crowd, of which I fail to belong because I’m too main stream (I’m a teacher), seems to abhor perfume as a genre, at least here in the Pacific NW. You get some natural oils (not JUST patchouli, although it’s in common use for sure!), but perfume still seems to hold some kind of taboo!

      • Angela says:

        I know just what you mean. I love it, though, when I meet someone who has all the Portlandia signposts, but who wants to know more about perfume.

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          Have you encountered many? I don’t know what I’d do without NST, since my general sense of myself as an oddball would probably be even more fully realized if I didn’t know that there were other perfumistas out there!

          Certainly, I don’t smell much perfume wafting down Hawthorne, despite the presence of Our Lady of the Scented Wrists (aka The Perfume House)!

          • Angela says:

            Yes, I’ve met a few, but I bet it’s because I spent a while working at a vintage clothing store. I remember once asking a customer if she was wearing Teint de Neige, and her jaw fell open that I recognized it. I guess you and I and a handful of others here are our own secret society!

  8. Tamara says:

    My soon to be ex- husband once told me PdE Equistrius smelled like “wrinkles”. Grr that ruffled my feathers!
    But he did like vtg. Chanel 5 parfum on me.

    My daughters (ranging from 20,18,16 ,14 and 8!!) have all told me at one time or another that something smells “ol layday”. Tsk- Tsk! You’d think they know better by now!! ;)
    But these are the same girls that love LL Labdanum 18, Agent Provocateur , Amouage Dia and YSL Y parfum on me.
    So you just never know.
    Maybe they can’t think of a better way to describe a scent at the time? Lord knows I try to teach them as much as I can about different perfumes but it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction somehow.

    I recently bought some new chonnies (undies) that were, well let’s say maybe a bit too big? I got self-concious. lol
    They are sorta high waisted and my girls have so much fun teasing me about it, “Mama’s gramma panties!”

    My beau on the other hand likes them. “You’re like Betty Grable baby, you look hot!”
    Perspective. It’s all how you look at it.
    Or smell it. ;)

    • Angela says:

      I’m liking your new beau very much! And your daughters seem to have good noses on them.

      Yes, I suppose “old lady” is a fill-in when people don’t have the language to describe something. But still!

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      Oh, I’m loving this guy! Betty Grable is a great compliment!

      • Tamara says:

        He IS a wonderful man. :)
        Believe it or not they are out there still!
        Love found me and he’s proof of that. xoxo

        • Marjorie Rose says:

          You give me hope! I’m so happy for you (and only a teensy bit jealous!). :)

          • Tamara says:

            Marjorie,
            after 20 years in a very unhealthy and unhappy relationship, I separated from my husband.(Although it was over long before this)
            Me and Danny found each other at just the right time.
            I have four daughters and tons of emotional garbage but he is very loving, patient and kind to us all.
            I will never know what he saw in me to give this a chance but in Sept. we’ll have been together a whole year.
            I have never been happier.
            So yes, it does happen and don’t ever think it won’t. <3

          • Angela says:

            I love your story, Tamara. It makes the romantic in me very happy! (And happy for you, too!)

    • mals86 says:

      D is a treasure.

  9. Marjorie Rose says:

    Angela, such a timely (and as ever, beautifully written!) article!

    I think I mentioned last week that I bought a gift set of Youth Dew at Goodwill, which is a scent I hadn’t actually experienced, but knew that it had the reputation of being a “grandma” scent! Well, given that I like Shalimar and Opium and probably several others that tend to be of an earlier generation, I was happy to add Youth Dew to the list.

    I’ve worn it a couple of times this week, and YUP, I really enjoy it! The initial blast is a bit much, but as it slows to a simmer, it feels warm and spicy and feminine without being wimpy. I’m grateful I don’t have a grandma-association that prevents me from enjoying it!

    • Angela says:

      I love Youth Dew bath oil, too, as a perfume. Plus, the bottle is adorable. Make sure you pick one up if you see one in your yard sale travels!

    • Emily says:

      Marjorie Rose, you must try the Youth Dew dusting powder. A giant box is about $30, and it’s just so retro-fabulous.

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        Great suggestion! And dusting powder seems so glamourous!

        • Angela says:

          It does! I love the idea of patting away with big fluffy puffs.

    • sinnerman says:

      Huge fan of youth dew amber nude !!! What do u get when u cross a old lady fragrance re interpreted on a 30 yr old male ! Originality , !!! You simply must try the amber nude addition, it’s really boozy in the opening and the tea note is a genius addition ! Let’s not forget that “old man ” reference we here from time to time ! I myself would feel totally complimented by this term ,

      • Angela says:

        Is that one still on the market? I have a decant of it somewhere. It’s time to get it out!

        • sinnerman says:

          I tracked some down on line at fragrance x or such , the bottle is exquisite , I have a 30 ml and it’s so adorable. I feel Y D amber nude is the best of what the original has to offer but easier on the sillage and tweaked to offer broader appeal ! I wear it offen so 30 ml s will not be enough next time I order some , but I will never throw that bottle away ! Yes I does smell a little old lady but I love old ladies, especially my nan who lives on in my memory,
          One sprits of YD amber nude over m7 is a powerful combo ! I call it Tom on Tom !!!

          • Angela says:

            Wow! Tom on Tom! I will definitely try that combo. Thanks!

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        Ah, yes, “old man” smell! I think Old Spice (in the original, ceramic bottles–oh how I’d snatch one up if I found it!) or Penhaligan’s something-or-other.

        I will keep an eye/nose out for YD Amber Nude. Thanks!

      • poodle says:

        Amber Nude was awesome. Why would they ever stop making that one? It had to be a good seller. I wish they would bring it back.

  10. mutzi says:

    A heartffelt thank you for your wonderful words! I hated the term “old lady” particularly for perfumes when I was young. As I am aging myself, I find the negative connotations of most people using the phrase quite offensive. As I have said countless times, my mother wore Arpege and EL Private Collection (the original), my favorite aunt wore L’Air du Temps, and one grandmother wore 4711 and the other wore only rose water or lavender water. They are the old ladies I loved most, so what is the common thread in their fragrances?

    Kudos to you for addressing this so eloquently.

    • Angela says:

      The common thread is that they are all MARVELOUS scents! I’m glad you appreciated the post.

  11. Anne from Makeupwoot says:

    The first time I smelled Shalimar EDP, I wanted to vomit and couldn’t get to the lavatory fast enough to scrub it. Then I found a bottle of the lighter “cleaner” Eau de Shalimar for $10 at Marshall’s and blind bought it to discover that I liked it. After a month, I revisited “old” Shalimar EDP I had that mini of and discovered that it was suddenly a new favorite and immediately headed for the Guerlain counter at Dillards to buy a 100 ml bottle. I still love the lighter version but when I want to indulge, I reach for the heavyweight to revel in that deliciously dark, skanky, vanilla! ;-)

    • Angela says:

      You know, there is nothing quite like Shalimar, and when I want Shalimar, nothing but Shalimar will do. I’m glad you discovered how much you love it!

  12. Celestia says:

    Couldn’t we baby boomers come up with a similarly disparaging term for the plethora of fruity florals crowding the market that is unceasingly aimed at 18 to 25 year-olds?
    The market I work in consists of three out of four people being over the age of 65. They claim to be “allergic” or have their longtime signature fragrance already when I try to get them to try the latest launch. Some say that the fragrances of yore were “better” and I have to agree with them. A real perfumista would probably feel this way too. I can think of two LVMH companies whose juices changed drastically at about the year 2000. The general public (read “youth”) wants to know if my blotter is the “latest”. They want newness and a designer label as opposed to quality and unique creation.

    • Angela says:

      Maybe we can call the simple, fruity fragrances “tweenies,” as in, “Have you tried the new Justin Bieber scent Eau de Training Bra? What a tweenie!”

      • poodle says:

        Someone’s blog….I think it might be Fine Fragrants… called them Ho-berry juice which I though was incredibly funny.

        • Angela says:

          That’s hilarious!

        • ggperfume says:

          “Ho-berry”! That’s much funnier than “fruit-pukies”, which is what I call them.

          • Angela says:

            Fruit-pukies is a good one, too!

    • alyssa says:

      Didn’t Victoria F. of Bois de Jasmin call them some long string of names at one point? I am remembering something like: Hello Kitty Sparkle Pink Candy. But funnier.

      • Angela says:

        That’s a good one! Maybe we can find a good acronym for it.

    • Dilana says:

      I’m not sure that I agree that older perfumes are necessarily better. Most were designed for an era when alot more people smoked and heavier perfumes were necessary to get through the fumes and people’s deadened senses. (I suspect one reason french perfumes still tend to be heavier is because more French people smoke). Alot of those perfumes were also designed as evening wear. Even then, there are alot of really old New Yorker cartoons and jokes about perfumes with too much sillage. The notion of a perfume which could be worn in everyday life without annoying someone in the cubicle next to you was non-existent.

      Yes, as I said elsewhere on this thead, there are times when one wants to have an old fashioned elegance (even if the occasion does not demand it). However, I also appreciate the range of modern scents. There are excellent sheer fragrances and even “causal” ones.

      Yes, the downsize of perfume now being a major industry is that there are a lot of products which seem to have been designed for marketing campaigns (Give me a fragrance for all t hose girls lining up to see Hunger Games,* which I can sell for the equivilent of two weeks allowance for an average kid in a mid-western suburb) . And I certainly agree that all the LMHV luxury brands seem to have the same fragrance strategy (similar florals in the mid range line for Macy’s with a few “private collections” for this year’s “it” ingrediant. But I wouldn’t say that all older perfumes are better.

      *As far as I know, there is no “Hunger Games” perfume. Perhaps someone has actually seen the movie, or read the books, in which luxury fashion is actually a tool of oppression.

      • Angela says:

        Whether there’s a Hunger Games perfume or not (and I wouldn’t be surprised if one shows up!) I certainly understand your point about marketing. But would career women have more income for perfume?I’d think we’d be the more lucrative market.

      • bookwyrmsmith says:

        No Hunger Games scents that I know of but China Glaze did 12 nailpolishes .I fell hard for those.But I really liked the colours and textures of the collection.(Yes I have fallen down the polish rabbithole too)

        • Angela says:

          Much less expensive than perfume, at least!

          • bookwyrmsmith says:

            Depends on the perfume and where you shop.My mom got some Jicky extrait for $2 at a local thrift shop.CG polish runs about $8 at Ulta/Sephora per bottle sometimes on a B2G1F. I bought through ebay and paid @$5-6 a bottle.

          • Angela says:

            What a steal on the Jicky!

      • nozknoz says:

        It’s true, Dilana – we also need cubicle and smoke-free friendly perfumes!

      • Celestia says:

        What my customers were trying to communicate to me about perfumes of days gone by is that they had more depth and an indescribable character that doesn’t exist in the many of the mainstream fragrances of today. (There are exceptions, of course.) You’ve made some interesting and very good points in your reply. Some of today’s scents are good and certainly more “palatable” for the allergic noses in our midst. It’s a whole different market.
        Personally, my favourite category is usually the sheer fragrances for my own wearing, but I don’t appreciate them in the same way that I “get” the 20th century’s.

  13. bergamot says:

    “Old lady” is such a subjective descriptor, anyway. A friend was visiting several years ago when an order of fragrance samples arrived. I was excitedly crowing about it, when he opened the vial of MPG Soie Rouge and pronounced it “old lady.” Perhaps what he meant was that it’s not sheer, it’s carnation-centered, and it has a nose-prickly iris note in it that makes the texture of the scent thicker. But it’s also bright and extroverted– on me it smells like Mitsouko’s younger and happier sister, like a reference to a classic scent, rather than a classic itself (or an imitation of one).

    Unrelated to scent: Can I just say how of-the-moment Mamie Eisenhower’s micro-fringe looks?

    • Angela says:

      You make me crave smelling Soie Rouge! It sounds wonderful.

      About Mamie’s fringe–I know! That Mamie, she’s got something going on.

  14. newsitian09@yahoo.com says:

    I LOVED this article! I would like to see a follow up one of which modern day scents most closely match these masterpieces in notes.

    • Angela says:

      Sort of a “new classics” post? That’s a great idea!

  15. Emily says:

    Great article, Angela. I have to admit that I kind of hope the “old lady” designation sticks around, though — when I hear a fragrance described that way, it’s a good sign that I’m going to love it. (I regularly wear the original EL Private Collection, Youth Dew, Aromatics Elixir, L’Heure Bleue, Habanita, and Fracas, all of which I’ve seen described as old-ladyish. And I unabashedly love carnation scents.)

    • Angela says:

      It’s true that sometimes “old lady” is a tip-off that I’ll like it, too. But sometimes I think people apply “old lady” to just about every perfume!

      • Emily says:

        Well, it’s never helpful when a term becomes so widely used that it loses all meaning. (And I certainly understand the objections to using “old lady” in a pejorative sense.) My husband tends to describe a lot of the perfumes I try as “perfumey” — well, yes, that’s kind of the point.

        • Kelly Red says:

          LOL. I had a friend say that once about my Jicky! And I replied exactly as you did, sort of the point.

          • Angela says:

            I wouldn’t think of Jicky as being particularly perfumey. Just plain great!

        • Angela says:

          That’s funny! And yet some perfumes do somehow seem more “perfumey” than others. It’s hard to explain.

    • nozknoz says:

      So true, Emily: whenever I read the reviews on LuckyScent and see a series of intelligent-sounding positive reviews interspersed with, “Eewww! Smells like an old lady!”, I know the perfume is worth sampling! ;-)

      • Angela says:

        Maybe they should include an old lady indicator. You know, five stars and a sherry glass or something.

  16. alyssa says:

    My favorite line in this article is your last one. I’ve always wanted to write a similar post titled “Sophia Loren is an Old Lady.” Because come ON, who wouldn’t rather be Sophia Loren than half the young cookies out there?

    I’ve often that that “old lady” denotes not just complexity or aldehydes, but that animalic growl, the smell of a body, that is in most of the classics regardless of their genre. It makes sense to me that young people would be a little afraid of, or disgusted by the smell, but it’s doubly ironic that what they’re rejecting as “old” is really the smell of sex.

    • alyssa says:

      *I’ve often thought that…

      • Angela says:

        I know what you meant!

      • Rappleyea says:

        Excellent point, Alyssa!

    • Kelly Red says:

      I wish I could post a link to a photo today on “OMG!” of Jane Fonda in a deep red sequin gown. She looks FABULOUS and she’s somewhere in her mid-70’s!! I would sell my soul to look that good NOW let alone her age LOL. And I’d bet you $10 she doesn’t wear a perfume that smells like laundry.

      • Angela says:

        She does look amazing, I agree. I see her rocking Givenchy III.

      • farouche says:

        I read somewhere that Jane Fonda’s signature scent is Obsession, and she has worn it for decades.

        • Angela says:

          Obsession, huh? I’d like to have a word with her about changing it up. I’m sure we could get her into something that would suit her better.

      • nozknoz says:

        I googled this – she looks AMAZING! And the funny thing is that that dress looks a bit “old” on the much younger Elisabetta Canalis, and so va-va-VOOM on Jane!

        • Angela says:

          O.K., now I need to google it, too….

    • Emily says:

      And on top of that, consider how many fragrances of the Hello Kitty Sparkle Pink Candy variety purport to be “seductive” and “sultry” and “noir” and whatnot.

      • Angela says:

        Oh yes. “The sexy modern girl who knows what she wants and how to get it.” blah blah blah

    • Angela says:

      Oh yes, I’d rather be a Sophia Loren than a Kardashian any day of the week! Nice observation.

  17. ChocolatEyes613 says:

    This was such a beautifully written, and eloquent article, Angela. Thank you, so much for writing it.

    I am 24, and hate the term “old lady” used to describe perfumes. My 22 year old sister uses it a lot to describe my ease in fragrance. I just smile and say “you are entitled to your opinion”. Though, if she still continues, I then knock to her taste- or lack of.

    When browsing the perfume counters in department stores the salespeople always try pushing scents like D&G Light Blue or MJ Daisy on me. I, graciously, answer that I like more mature scents. So, they then try to push Miss Dior Cherie or Chloe. I then answer that I do not like fruit or laundry, and they look at me like I fell from Mars. That is when some have said to me “oh you like ‘old lady’ perfume”.

    • Angela says:

      If I worked a perfume counter and you were my customer, I’d be thrilled! I saw an interview with Dita von Teese where she said when she was in her teens she went to a club in L.A. and saw a bunch of tanned blonds with the same look. She knew she could stand out right away with pale skin and dark hair. It’s much better to stand out, I think.

      • ChocolatEyes613 says:

        I totally agree with Dita von Teese’s statement about standing out! I adore her retro pin-up look.

        The ironic thing about “old lady” perfume, is I smell scents like Juicy Couture on just as many “older” women as I do on “younger”. Do nt even get me started on Pink Sugar…. bleh, on anyone.

        • Angela says:

          Hmm. Good point!

          • ChocolatEyes613 says:

            On the opposite side of that….
            My favorite salesman at the Bloomingdales Chanel counter loves when young girls ask to smell Chanel No.5, and comment on how beautiful it is. He said, “it is nice to see them learn so young”. I could not agree more!

          • Angela says:

            That’s so nice!

    • Lys says:

      I recently had an SA tell me I wouldn’t like Ysatis because it was a “mommy perfume.”

      • Angela says:

        Wow. I don’t know which I like better–that the salesman didn’t want you to smell Ysatis, or that he called it a mommy perfume. That would be one hot mommy, that Ysatis mom.

      • poodle says:

        I wore Ysatis in high school and college so I must have just been far ahead of my time.

  18. annemarie says:

    Great post Angela, tho’ I fear that at NST you are preaching to the converted.

    In other places in the internet perfume world that ‘old lady’ tag (or worse: ‘granny scent’) is still in common usage. How many, many times have I screamed in my head: ‘One day you too will be old!’

    One of the hardest leaps of imagination for human beings when they are young is to imagine themselves as old people. It is just about impossible, I think. Another toughie is to imagine our parents as young people. But perhaps saddest of all are the old people who have forgotten what it was like to be young.

    • Angela says:

      That’s funny–I had a line in the post about preaching to the choir, but I took it out.

      Perhaps the toughest is when the older can’t accept it and won’t let go of their 20s. I’m all for staying young in attitude, adventure, and curiosity, but why not celebrate the wisdom, too?

  19. Aparatchick says:

    The “smells like an old lady” comment one often sees in reviews on MUA really annoys me since it’s so often clearly intended to be disparaging. You know, old = irrelevant, sexless, dowdy, something to be mocked.

    Well, step right up, folks. Here is an “old lady”: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1035510/Helen-Mirren-bikini-queen-reigns-supreme-63.html.

    Now if someone wants to describe a fragrance as dated or old-fashioned, or reminiscent of a certain era, fine. But “old lady” has got to go.

    • Angela says:

      Well well well! A picture truly is worth a thousand words, in this case. Point well taken.

  20. Nlb says:

    I’m sick of child-like inocence being a sexual ideal in American society. It’s so creepy. When someone calls a complex, sophisticated fragrance an “old lady” fragrance, I imagine they’re thinking a sexy scent is one that smells like lollipops and children.

    Fabulous scents have layers of complexity and displaying them shows that the wearer has sophisticated, sensual knowlege and worldiness (they know what Morocco or moss smells like, they’ve had a drink of wine before, they remember many Summers with varied humidity and other conditions amongst them all, they’ve smelled coffee steeping, on a veranda, at dusk). Years ago, young women — yes, even teenagers who wanted to pretend they were older! — use to wear these complex scents to give the impression that they were refined, intellectually savvy and mature. Instead of trying to trick suitors into thinking they were younger, they tried to trick them into thinking they were older and more sophistiated than they really were :). “Mature”, seeing that it implied a fully and complete travel through adolescence, was considered sexy because at one time, sex (its innuendo in mainstream culture), had something to do with adults.

    And no, I’m not saying guys need to automatically consider a woman who is 20 or more years older than them, to be a suitable romantic partner, but they should expand their scent associations and women shouldn’t cater to the lowest common denominator of scent tastes (sorry, all you sophisticated male sniffers; the, supposed “old lady perfume” insult is most often dished-out by guys or considered by those girls who want to attract such mental lightweights). They just shouldn’t be trying to revert their own age group back to 13 years old (unless they, themselves are 13 years old).

    Now, we have Katy Perry dressed-up in cupcakes, pretending to be a “Candyland” image on a board game aimed at 4-7 year olds. I don’t mind the pleasant nod to nostalgic scents, but I find our culture’s fixation with connecting “sexy” with “as low an age as we can go”, frankly, disgusting.

    If a man calls a beautiful but sophisticated scent an “old lady” scent, I tend to think he’s a creep, who still carries images of Brittney Spears in school girl stockings in his head, fondly — as his primer of “sexy” (which, apparently, hasn’t changed since Middle School) and that I’ve avoided a lot of heartbreak just by learning that much about his subconscious desires.

    My two “scents” ;)! This topic gets me going.

    • Nlb says:

      …and I’m not talking about scents that bring to mind characteristics many associated with youth — vitality, a zippy freshness (citruses) or an age-neutral castile soap or soemthign like that — I mean men who want women to look, smell and act like little children.

      Even if you’re a creative, imaginitive person, who wants to be “Strawberry Shortcake” when you can be The Blue Fairy? In the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, “perfume” was meant to smell like elegance, itnelligence and sophistication, applied. It wasn’t about trying to give the impression to potential suitors that you would pretend to be underage if they wanted you to be.

      I blame all the sleazy oligarchs and multi-billionaires in societies where women are kept repressed and married-off by 15. It’s those creeps who are driving these trends, too.

      • Angela says:

        Oh, I know what you mean. I cringe when I hear women affecting a baby voice–and it happens a lot! It makes it extra nice, though, to meet someone who appreciates independent women with wit and intelligence.

        • poodle says:

          That voice drives me batty! Hate it! There’s a sports radio station that does a piece called “Ask a pink hat”. The idea is they go to a sporting event and find a woman/ girl in a pink baseball hat with the team logo on it and ask her some basic (and I mean basic) questions about the sport she is attending. The girl/ woman ALWAYS seems to have that annoying, nasally, little girly voice and her answers usually make me embarrassed to be a female sports fan. It does make for really funny radio though.

          • Angela says:

            Why do women do that? WHY?!

    • Angela says:

      Great comment! There’s plenty of fodder for good discussion in it.

      I especially like your point that one time young women wore sophisticated fragrances to smell older.

      With the burst of niche brands, I hope we’re becoming more fragrance savvy and start to appreciate more complex perfumes–the perfumes that so often get labeled “old lady.”

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      I suspect it is the same aesthetic that drives women to think that all hair must be removed from all body parts–a weirdly prepubescent ideal, in my opinion!

      • Angela says:

        That completely freaks me out. Besides the creepy baby-woman thing, all I have to say is OUCH.

    • bookwyrmsmith says:

      You could retaliate by calling sugary fruity scents “Eau de Sippy-Cup”and Laundry clean scents as “Diaper Sweet” to possibly get across to others the connotation of long difficult babysitting=NOT SEXY.

      PS. Creepy baby voice by an adult woman makes me want to smack her upside the head or look for her keeper it reeks of incompetance . I

      • Angela says:

        Oh, I like “diaper sweet”! That’s a good one.

        Some women do have a natural baby voice, and that’s normal and charming. 99% of the time, though, it’s a put-on. Ending sentences in the question mark lilt, putting on that high-pitched tone. Ick.

        • bookwyrmsmith says:

          Demanding hours of individual attention,and displaying massive indiscisiveness along with affected “babyish”gestures in behavior(did I mention clingyness ..in a healthy adult in her 30s? ..to her SALES CLERK? ) Definately in the 99%.Ugh!

          • Angela says:

            Uh oh! It sounds like you’ve had some personal experience with this!

  21. katiebisme says:

    I hope I live long enough to see B Spears Fantasy called “old lady”
    ^o^

    • Angela says:

      I bet someone has at some point!

      • Dilana says:

        Oh yes, she has been referred to as an older singer. I do believe she may have hit the age of thirty. Whatever else you think of her, given her personal problems of a few years ago, I hope she has matured and found some stability.

        • Angela says:

          I hope so, too, for both her and her children’s sake.

  22. mals86 says:

    I confess: I’ve probably used the term at some point in my life. There is a certain musty quality that always reminds me of the houses that my grandmother (who was dear to me, but God LOVE her, who smelled like Nivea, baby powder and fo-real, Avon Cotillion) dragged me to on her weekly visiting trips. That is the “old lady” smell for me, and it’s not a particular type of perfume, but a mustiness.

    • mals86 says:

      Oops, hit “post” too fast.

      I’ve also been known to use “old-fashioned,” but in general, given my love of aldehydic florals, that’s a good descriptor.

      • Angela says:

        I like “old fashioned,” too and use it a lot.

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like you have a particular lady in mind, Mals! Maybe calling it a Grandma Trudie (or whatever) perfume would be even better.

  23. olenska says:

    I don’t know about you-all. But I cannot WAIT until Baby Phat Fabulosity is an “old lady” fragrance.

    • Angela says:

      I can’t wait until they can use proper English in advertising (o.k., now I have earned my “old crank” badge).

    • nozknoz says:

      :-)

  24. edsann says:

    Oh, come on. I’m 62 and I hate the whole idea of ‘old lady’
    perfume. A Chanel jacket or dress is timeless, and so is the
    perfume. If old ladies used to smell of mothballs, so would I if modern
    pheremone traps hadn’t been invented.
    When my grandchildren press their faces into my neck, they might
    smell Bulgari Black, Chanel 5, Mitsouko, Angel….interesting not aged.

    • Angela says:

      You smell terrific! You’re giving those grandchildren something to aspire to.

  25. donix says:

    How i love that analogy to Miles Davis and jazz… it’s funny cause jazz and perfume are my two strongest passions, really big one… I’ve started my adventure with jazz at the age of 12 and how many times since then I have heard that this is music for older people, this is music for men, what a girl like me doing listening to sth like this…. And it’s exactly the same with perfumes… People who call some fragrances old lady’s ones are those who say that jazz is for older generation, haha. Can’t stop laughin

    • Angela says:

      It’s so rewarding to develop your aesthetic appreciation–whether it’s for music or jazz or literature or perfume or whatever. It’s not as easy as floating along with the crowd and their expectations for you, but it sure is rewarding.

  26. Vincent says:

    I love what’s called “old lady” smell and when I use it there’s no disdain. I use it in the meaning of something classy, that needs experience to be appreciated.

    • Angela says:

      Well, I guess if “sick” and “bad” are actually good, maybe “old lady” should be reclaimed! Why not?

      • Vincent says:

        On my vocabulary it already is! ;)

    • SmokeyToes says:

      Vincent-an excellent point!

  27. Bajar says:

    Hello, Angela! Newbie here. What a great post! I think it’s written for me. I’m a huge fan of chypres, especially the old ones. Mitsouko, Fracas, Y, Miss Dior, Azurree, my signature perfume Cristalle and the list goes on. When I wear one of them, I get comments like ” is that your perfume? it reminds me my aunt Athena, or my gradma Georgia, or that sweet old lady in my neighbourhood etc .” OK, I don’t get why in my country “chypre” is the same as “granny perfume”. I find these fragrances so sophisticated and elegant that they can’t be old -fashioned, never will be. And yes, I love old ladies too! Sometimes I ‘m jealous of their energy, their thirst for life, the way to face so many problems (especially now in crisis), that incredible sense of humour when they tell me “buy a new bed to have a new life….” and I know many women in their mid-30s like me that would like to have the power to live like these lovely old ladies.

    • Aparatchick says:

      Yes, indeed!

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like you have a lot of wonderful older women in your life! Hurray! I love chypres, too. All of the fragrances you mentioned are wonderful, in my opinion. It’s a shame that the people who dismiss them as “old lady” don’t take the time to get to know them and appreciate each fragrance’s subtleties.

  28. Bela says:

    Lovely article, which will make some people think twice before resorting to such easy stereotyping.

    Me, it’s not so much the ‘old’ that bothers me as the ‘lady’ part of the expression. The fact that, once again, women are said to smell nasty and not be aware of it. In fact, it looks like younger ‘ladies’ don’t smell any better these days since intimate deodorants have reappeared on the shelves of supermarkets and drugstores. I didn’t see any for at least two decades. Women are once again made to feel insecure about their bodies – in all sorts of ways.

    • Angela says:

      I wonder if a resurgence of douches is next? Ugh.

      Around Portland, someone has been painting little messages on the sidewalks in neighborhoods. I’m not generally a fan of painting on public property, but the messages are wonderful: “Keep Being Awesome,” “You’re Beautiful,” things like that. It’s a sweet but small smack against messages like “you smell down there” that subtly worm their way in.

      • Bela says:

        That’s very sweet. Reminds me of all those lovely graffiti back in the ’60s and ’70s – when I was a ‘rabid feminist’. LOL!

        • Angela says:

          To loop back to old ladies, whenever I think I 1960s grafitti, I remember the Monty Python skit where a bunch of old ladies ran around spray painting “Make tea, not love” on walls.

  29. As far as old ladies go, you must visit Beacon Falls, Connecticut, and meet the stereotypical “old ladies” that inspire those snide comments on certain perfumes. My grandmother is a dear lady and I love her, but she doesn’t have a clue what the internet is, still thinks Roosevelt is President, and hasn’t been out of the country in twenty years. Certainly there are more sophisticated elderly people in the world today, but not all of them are quite as sophisticated as you say they are. There are still broad swaths of cliche to be found. I really enjoyed reading this post, though.

    • Aparatchick says:

      If your grandmother is still wearing perfumes in the style of the 1940s, I’ll bet she smells great.

    • Angela says:

      Maybe I’m around a particularly progressive group of older people, but I’d love to meet some of the Arsenic and Old Lace type!

  30. lilydale aka Natalie says:

    When I first smelled Bandit, I immediately thought “Grandma!” To me, that’s a compliment: my grandmother wasn’t exactly the cuddly, cookie-baking type (she was an ex-flapper, chic as all get-out and scented to kill), so my frame of reference for “old lady” fragrances is completely different. Definitely no cat-filled trailers here!

    • Angela says:

      Wow–a grandma who smells like Bandit! Yes, that really is a compliment. I’d love to meet her.

  31. juicejones says:

    Wonderful post and great comments!
    When I was young, Charlie and Babe were the youth scents. I couldn’t understand wanting to smell like the herd. I was lucky enough to get a bottle of Sortilege for my 16th birthday. College was My Sin, Bal a Verseilles, and Fiamma. I viewed perfume as aspirational. I felt the older scents conveyed a point of view. I still love them and feel they tell my story better than any of the main stream offerings.

    • Angela says:

      You were working some amazing fragrance for such a young woman! If you were here, I’d give you a high-5.

  32. nozknoz says:

    Of course, every generation needs to rebel against the one before it – perhaps we’ll have some great perfumes when the next generation rebels against fruity florals! ;-)

  33. NinaraPoll says:

    As I’ve related elsewhere on this site, I recently had the opportunity to witness two teens reject a cheap fruity-floral as being too “old lady”. I would love to know how they would have reacted to a true classic….

    NP

    • Angela says:

      I think that’s exactly it–often someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with perfume calls almost all perfumes “old lady.” It’s almost as if perfume itself is old lady.

  34. missie sue says:

    I think “old lady” comments were most disconcerting to me when I had just started experimenting with perfume, as I was completely unprepared for them. I’d be minding my own business, sniffing happily at whatever was on my wrist that day, and feeling extra glamorous, when someone following in my wake would wrinkle up their nose and let fly from the peanut gallery. It used to pull me up short–I always had this horrified feeling that maybe I really did smell terrible and everyone knew it but me; now I just assume that the critic has very poor taste :)

    • Angela says:

      Right–the critic probably isn’t experienced with perfume at all. Everything probably smells like old lady to him or her. You, on the other hand, smell great!

  35. Nlb says:

    I think it’s the models chosen these days and general fashion imagery that bothers me as well, Angela. There have been some steps taken over the last year to protect young models against illness and exploitation and some magazines and designers now refuse to book girls under 16 years old.

    But I feel like fragrance complexity and adult assertiveness in fashion, shifted exactly at the point where the shape and size of models changed. In the 90’s, the top models could never be mistaken for pubescent girls — I’m talking about models like Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, even Kate Moss looked more mature than most of the girls we see modeling adult fashion today.

    Why weren’t these girls (and new models built like them), slight, romantic-looking and thin enough for adult fashion, after the turn of the century? It seems like scents with big, complex, worldly personalities, started being replaced by childish, wispy “I want my Mommy!” scents, exactly as the “Listless Russian Doll” look came into vogue. Over the past decade, it’s been nothing but 14 year-olds, gussied up in ads and selling baby doll fragrances. No wonder you hear of many women growing bored with that world.

    Think, for instance, of a “youth” scent of the 1980’s that would never, ever be released today — even as a full-blown, woman’s scent: “LouLou” by Cacharel. Yeah, it was aimed at young women, but the operative word was “women” and the ad copy showed a sophisticated image of an early 20-something actress, maybe late teens (but eager to look grown-up, not younger) in velvet gowns and coats, etc., not some tiny thing dresssed like a little girl, to look even younger than she already was. The cultural appeal was that a fragrance like “Lou Lou” could “grow” with a girl, rather than try to keep her in a state of arrested development and it gave the impression of spunk, intelligence and a unique (grown-up) personality. It made adulthood look like something to look forward to, not lament.

    Okay, I’m done. This is just one of those subjects that I think should more often be discussed. Fashion — and fragrance fashion — should never seem alien to grown women, while at the same time, catering to demented clients who want to re-create some ideal of a little child, in their partners. More Linda Evangelista, I say. Less nameless,starving pixie, doused in spilt baby formula mixed with cupcakes.

    • sinnerman says:

      Well said !

    • Angela says:

      I subscribe to Vogue and know just what you mean about the models. Have you ever seen the fashion segments in Bust magazine? I love seeing clothing on real women! Surely the cycle has to swing back at some point. Soon, even.

  36. lucasai says:

    Those final sentences say it all!

  37. Katrina says:

    I think there is a difference between saying a perfume “smells like an old lady” and “smells like a perfume an old lady would wear” i.e. old fashioned.

    BTW this study found old people smell better…
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-31/study-proves-old-people-have-a-smell/4044046

    • Angela says:

      What a terrific study! Well. So, smelling like an old lady is quite a compliment after all!

  38. poodle says:

    Great post Angela! As always. Now I want to talk hubby into going to some antique stores today to seek out some old lady stuff. I need to find a fragrant souvenir of this trip. I hate when someone says I smell like an old lady but it will never stop me from wearing what I know smells good and I refuse to smell like fruit loops. Someday they will realize the error of their ways.

    • sinnerman says:

      Hoping you find that fragrant souvenir !!! Any excuse ah ;) fruit loops are evil !!!

      • Angela says:

        But Cocoa Puffs are delicious!

    • Angela says:

      I wore some vintage Lucien Lelong Indiscret to bed the other night, and it was marvelous. I hope you find something good!

  39. Mike Riley says:

    Angela,

    I had to laugh while reading your article. It was well written and insightful, as your writing always is. However – I sensed more than a little defensiveness and denial on your part . And when I say denial, I mean a denial to concede that no matter how well composed or widely admired a fragrance is, it’s completely conceivable that someone still thinks you (or anyone else wearing such perfumes) stinks to high heaven like a prune-withered hag! ;)

    I’ve been reading numerous fragrance blogs for several years now, and have learned so much about perfume – thanks to people like you. And while it is possible to reconceive of, for example, Mitsouko or Joy in a completely different appreciative light, the impression these scents give is not something that can easily be controlled. And let’s face it – some scents DO make you smell like an old lady, especially if you ARE an old lady (I don’t know your age so can’t comment). The reality is, there are people who will think that. I know it’s rude to say so, but if that’s their impression, then so be it. If someone thought I smelled unappealingly like an old man, I’d want them to say so – then again, I’m a typical Sagittarius who loves brutal honesty ;)

    There are some fragrances I have come to absolutely love and understand on a whole other level, especially considering that I originally detested them before my journey into fragrance. Again, though – it’s all about context and the personality, presence and appearance of the individual. Even to this day in my newfound scent-enlightened haze, when I encounter certain individuals wearing them, I still think they smell like an old bat out of hell. No offense intended, but perhaps Meatloaf was onto something there ;)

    Just something to think about!

    Mike

    • Angela says:

      Hmm. No one has ever said I smell like an old lady (at least not within my hearing), and, really, that’s not my vibe.

      I guess my greater question is, What exactly does a “prune-withered hag” smell like? If that’s the best someone can do for a description, and if it’s said with any derision, then my hope is that the person is open to the possibility that there’s more going on that meets his or her nose.

  40. Jared says:

    I stopped at the Estee Lauder counter today at Macy’s – an old lady zone if there ever was one (wrongfully so) – and decided to smell some of the perfumes there that I never make it over to. I bought a bottle of Azuree today, right then and there. I fell in love with it’s herbal-leather goodness on the spot. But I know that when I wear it, I’ll get that old lady comment because nobody smells like that. Even though I don’t have a reference for “old lady” (none of the women in my life growing up wore perfume), it still bugs me. All the same, I wish devastating young women would wear something like Azuree. So sexy – because it’s intriguing and unexpected!

    • Angela says:

      Azuree is wonderful! You may not smell fashionable wearing it, but you will certainly smell stylish, which has nothing to do with age.

    • sinnerman says:

      I worked on a E L counter as a make up artist in Sydney’s most central and busy location in myer Sydney ! I fondly remember my time there learning about Estee’s fragrance library, and yes we had lots of senior ladies stop by for a sprits of this and a squirt of that !! I’m so pleased U u bought Azuree as its my number 1 el fragrance ! As male who rocks this fragrance , no one has ever called it old fashion on me ! Enjoy Azuree , have u tried alliage ? It’s so pretty

      • Angela says:

        I’m glad you recommended Aliage–that’s a great one, too. Azuree is still my favorite, though. And Private Collection (the original).

  41. Sabriel says:

    You can pry my aldehydic florals from my cold, dead hands, lol.
    I’ve never had people tell me the perfume I’m wearing is “old lady-ish”, more often they’re surprised that it doesn’t smell the same on them.
    I have to confess though, my very first perfume was a teeny tiny bottle of No. 5 that my grandfather gifted to me because it’s what my grandmother wore, so I’ve always been a fan. For my sixteenth birthday, I asked for Joy and the lady at the perfume counter was so pleasantly surprised, she hugged me, haha.
    Mostly I’m glad I can appreciate a classic, because if I bought what’s aimed at my demographic, I’d smell like honey dipped in amber and rolled in sugar. No thanks.

    • Angela says:

      You were launched straight into the classics. No wading through fruity florals for you! A good aldehydic floral isn’t easy for everyone to appreciate these days.

  42. dolcesarah says:

    What does Ormond Jaybe smell like for the first time?

    • Angela says:

      I like Ormonde Jayne Woman quite a lot. Ordering the sample set is a great way to get to know the line, and it’s quite reasonable.

  43. Nlb says:

    There are a couple of fragrance brands/houses that get it right, they stretch whimsy just far enough to be fun and enchanting, without resorting to outright childishness. “Lolita Lempicka” is a brand that comes to mind. It’s playful, while still appealing to a grown-up audience.

    Being grown-up doesn’t mean having no fun, but knowing playfulness in ad copy and fragrance development and distinctly trying to re-brand women as children, are two different things. Okay, now, truly, I’m done ;)! I swear!

    • Angela says:

      I appreciate your comments! Wit and pandering are two different things–is that what you mean? I love witty playfulness, but tire of simplistic smells that pander to young women who want to smell sexy without a lot of intelligence and wit attached to it.

  44. Thing is, I know plenty of old ladies who are geniuses. From Madeleine Albright to Susan Sontag, old ladies are my heroes. So why not smell like them? I’m going to put on some vintage Miss Dior. Cheers!

    • Angela says:

      I’ll go get my vintage Miss Dior, too, and lift a spritz to your comment!

  45. bluegardenia says:

    I love this. I’m as sick as everyone else is of this term. It’s been applied to pretty much every fragrance Ive worn over the years, de

  46. bluegardenia says:

    I love this. I’m as sick as everyone else is of this term. I’ve heard Fracas described as old lady, I’ve heard Bonnie belle skin musk described as old lady. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it besides ignorance and terrible ageism. Old ladies happen to be amazingly cool and I’m so tired of their being insulted. Our world is really disturbingly sexist. Also, most old ladies tend to have Great taste in scents!

    • Angela says:

      That’s one of the things I’ve noticed about the “old lady” label, too–it’s applied to just about everything. That’s why I think it gets used a lot by people who aren’t very familiar with perfume. My hope is that those people will someday go beyond broad, dismissive labels like “old lady” and really get to know fragrance.

  47. bluegardenia says:

    Agreed. And I think that day isn’t TOO far away. The unwashed masses have certainly changed their attitude towards fashion in the last couple of decades; it’s become very mainstream to know designers and covet luxury goods (and/or mass goods posing as luxury goods). Maybe perfume is next! Except then what will we perfumistas have to make us special?! :)

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