Exceptional Find at the Bourse Flea Market in Paris this past Weekend

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I’ve been collecting perfume bottles from the period of approximately 1919 to about 1945 for almost ten years now. I remember when I started at flea markets here in Paris, I could come home with about five to ten new bottles -some of which were frankly not worth collectDSC03154ing. I’d even feel frustrated that I couldn’t buy everything I’d seen. After a few years, I hit a phase where the collection had become quite solid so I started doubling and tripling up on my favourite bottles: the beautiful black Baccarat crystal bottle of Nuit de Noël with its magic tassel, the upside-down heart bottle of Fol Arôme (that is the same as l’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko – but I’d convinced myself that the Fol Arôme was unique) and the gold-necked litre bottle of Eau de Lanvin. I then hit a period of being a bit blasé on the whole collection idea – too many bottles, too much dust, way too much cleaning.

Today I’m taking my perfume bottle collection with a bit more DSC03156patience and philosophy. Every-so-often I’ll take advantage of a reputable flea market here in Paris and see what’s there. If I notice a unique bottle I don’t have (no more run-of-the-mill or duplicate bottles) fitting with my pre-set budget, then, yes, I’ll get it. This attitude has had me come back more than often empty-handed with no regrets. This last weekend however, I managed a great find for my collection: the Stilboïde bottle for the Brillantine by Guerlain for Vol de Nuit and with its box of all things!

DSC03161Saturday was extra sunny at place de la Bourse so actually it was a bit difficult to really look around quickly. Nevertheless my eye caught glance of the old ribboned blue box Guerlain used for its products in the 1920’s. The box was lying next to two books and some old Yves Rocher cosmetics. I said to myself “best go over and see if anything’s inside.” Oh was I surprised to feel how heavy the box was and even more to slide out ever-so-genlty the Stillboïd bottle with all its labels in absolutely perfect condition – even the alcohol-perfumed oil mixture was crystal clear. DSC03160The box has suffered a bit of rain so wavy. The price requested was beyond my budget however I used a negotiation technique that usually works and got it for well below my budget.

Up until Saturday I’d only ever seen the Stilboïde bottle in books and frankly never thought much of it. This real model filled with the brilliantine  mixture is quite impressive. The stopper comes off very nicely and despite its age, you can still catch a whiff of what was Vol de Nuit though the years have removed all the head notes which gives it a light resemblance to Habanita (does a day go buy that I don’t think of Habanita?).

Habanita: a battle of vetiver, jasmine and roses!


o.18464Today I picked up a 75 ml spray of the recently reformulated Habanita. No more 200 ml splash, no more beautifully antiquated 15 ml extract -just the very boring, standard, run-of-the-mill spray. I avoid buying impersonal sprays; however my long-term infatuation with Habanita and the fact that my last pour is about empty have pushed me to the brink and I’ve broken my general purchase rule for perfume & cologne.

KGrHqJrIE-pcBCgrhBPs3OJ1WSw60_31I’m always a bit fearful of the ‘remastered’ perfumes I love. I remember when the house of Lanvin took Arpège back from the L’Oréal Prestige Group and ‘remastered’ it themselves (I believe with the help of Interparfums who now take care of it). I didn’t recognize the new version as Arpège. It was clearly similar but the same similar you get with Opium and Youth Dew or with Femme and Mitsouko: lots, lots in common but definitely not the same perfume. Arpège has suffered during its entire existence from incessant changes to its formula that have contributed to its downfall. In passing from the early 20’s to the mid 30’s, the N°5 was a quaint perfume in the shadow of Arpège…

So my apprehension was high. Would my infatuation with Habanita continue?

This new version is recognizably Habanita and develops, on legendeme, in a significantly drier manner so there must be much less vanilla. It’s similar to the harsh taste you get with 90% black chocolate. The diminished vanilla actually lets loose the onslaught of roses & jasmine against the skirmishing vetiver & cedar wood. As it dries down after about two hours, inevitably the earthy vetiver wins out over them all – strong and tenacious as I love it.

Habanita was created in the early 20’s. Different years are quoted, but 1921 seems to be the year I’ve seen most often. An unknown and particularly charming fact is that Habanita’s initial use was to perfume cigarettes!  The recently emancipated “garçonnes” may have wanted to keep a touch of femininity and soften the hard smell of tobacco. One of the many bottles that held Habanita had an ear-drop stem on the stopper that let the perfume be applied along the cigarette. Though I don’t smoke, I did  give it a try a few years ago, and it smelt just wonderful!

haba 2My fascination continues on with the decadent, carefree ambiance of the roaring 20’s: the Parisian jazz bars full of flappers dancing away to the happy rhythm of yet another version of the Charleston with bottles of bubbly champagne popping in smokey clouds doused with Habanita…

Pour Un Homme by Caron – a femininely viril fragrance

“Always and tomorrow”  -my favorite ad for Pour Un Homme

Pour Un Homme by Caron -what marvellous metallic lavenders softened by the sweetest vanillas!

Ernest Daltroff, the founder of the house of Caron created this masculine sent in 1934 – and what a creation it was – opening the way for men to wear floral and sweet notes.

As with many of his creations, Daltroff managed to marry with genius very different scents. In Pour Un Homme he opposed two archetypes: dry, cool, sharp lavenders with warm,soft, rounded vanillas.

“the most beautiful lavenders -sport and beauty”

It is worth noting that Pour Un Homme at the start was only sold as a pure perfume, a feminine formulation, in a reassuringly square, stout masculine bottle chosen by Félicie Wanpouille, Caron’s co-owner who supervised the visual identity of the house.

The pure perfume version may still be bought today at the house of Caron and in department stores under the name ‘Impact Pour Un Homme.’ I truly encourage smelling this one first -it’s exceptional and probably the closest we may ever come to that very first perfume.

“perfume for the morning – youth sport beauty”

A mythic, French couple of the 60’s and 70’s the androgenous Jane Birkin and audacious Serge Gainsbourg famous for sexually daring lyrics sang a marvellous tribute to Pour Un Homme:

Here are the lyrics followed by a translation:
Je passe -Pour un homme- pas très beau garçon,
Pourtant -Pour un homme- plein de séduction.
Ce qui fait mon charme et c’est là mon arme secrète -Pour un homme- de Caron.
C’est que -Pour un homme- il y a des façons subtiles de mettre une femme à la raison.
Ce qui fait mon charme et c’est là mon arme secrète -pour un homme- de Caron.
Pour un homme -de Caron- une eau de toilette et toute une ligne de charmes.

I come across -Pour un homme- as not terribly handsome,
But nevertheless – Pour un homme- quite seductive.
The key of my charm as well as my secret arm -Pour un homme- by Caron.
There are subtile ways – Pour un homme -, you see, to bring a woman to reason.
The key of my charm as well as my secret arm -Pour un homme- by Caron.
Pour un homme –  by Caron – a cologne with a complete range of charms.

Many thanks to Mr. Pokeybait for inspiring this post.

My Favorite Leathers

As I smolder with Royal Bain de Champagne in a thick cloud of sweet balsams, woody softness and ambers, I thought I’d share some thoughts on leathers. Yes, my fetish… perfume family and generally appreciated scent. This idea of an addition to my neglected blog came to mind after I’d bought an iPad this weekend with a red – leather – smart cover. While I was downloading this and updating that, seamlessly, of course, something quite nice caught my nose. First thought: as usual, my awesome cologne, but no – Saturday I was wearing Eau Dynamisante so much more civilized. It came back yet again while iCal was synching with Outlook… Still couldn’t catch where this provocative little scent was coming from. Then… right I as went to smart-cover off my iPad – there it was: that heavy, crusty leather smell that you only get with a great new Aero leather jacket or a pair of Frye boots. And well, it just fell clearly to me that the colognes and perfumes commonly called leathers – have strictly nothing, but really nothing at all to do with leather, at least for my humble nose who sort of distinguishes three leather groups in the perfume leather market:

1. The Bourgeois leathers: Brut, Habit Rouge, Aramis, Yatagan, Jules

2. The birch leathers: Cuir de Russie from L. T. Piver, Le Jardin Retrouvé, Chanel and Creed (the last three are similar)

3. The suave leathers: Knize Ten / Tabac Blond / Cuir Mauresque /Creed’s Royal English Leather

IMHO: The first family, for me, unites some strong colognes from the 6o’s to the late 70’s that all seem to find inspiration in Bandit by Piguet– a powerful leather shrouded in multiple layers of other great scents ranging from jasmine to incense. It would seem the underlying objective here is to hide the leather! Every time I wear one of them, I get that same feeling: a beautiful leather uselessly gift-wrapped a hundred times. Is it that embarrassing to just wear a straight-forward leather cologne? Hang-ups, hang-ups… This coincides with the dawn of the freshly showered scents- out with the animalistic  smell in with the soapy-fresh-out-of-the-shower scent- a movement appearing in the same time frame: Eau Sauvage, Monsieur, Pour Monsieur, or the sadly discontinued Ho Hang (yes, unique but, well, let’s be honest just not the same register).
The second family includes, to the best of my knowledge, two outstanding Cuirs de Russie (Russian Leathers) – L. T. Piver’s Cuir de Russie (the lotion and not the recent EdT) created in the very late 1800’s or early 1900’s carries that recognizable Birch scent which can be found in a more vanilla-softened version by Chanel, clearly inspired by L. T. Piver’s. It would seem that this version of the leather scent comes from the tanning of leather with Birch wood Russian-style. I am unfortunately unable to testify however much I’d like to say that I have attended such tanning sessions! A more recent rendition of Cuir de Russie was made by Jardin Retrouvé – but the three differ ever so slightly where Piver’s is the purest, Chanel’s the shyest, and le Jardin Retrouvé’s the easiest to wear.
My third family includes four similar scents – I am only acquainted with these – all of which are sumptuously spicy with explosive hearts wrapped in bouquets of rich rose and jasmine with varying levels of dryness. Created in 1924, Knize Ten is the most balsamy-balanced managing best to keep the explosive clove-cinnamon core from melting down to fusion! Creed’s Royal English Leather with weakened doses stays politically correct. Tabac Blond, created by Ernest Daltroff for Caron in 1919, carries a clove-dominated heart that rapidly eradicates the weak floral wall with burning dryness and makes an incontestable statement – accompanied or not by leather attire. Born in our our current decades comes Cuir Mauresque drowned in a vanilla-balsam, powdery, sweet syrup making for a more questionably strong scent.

Whether these scents lie or not in a true leather essence remains an insignificant mystery (at least to me). It is however reassuring that the leather family is made up of genuine, affirmative, marking scents of true character which can – almost – be like wearing leather.

François Coty and René Lalique – a mariage made in perfume

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Recently I watched ‘Midnight in Paris‘ and as I do live in this marvelous city, I have been desperately looking for the street where, at midnight, that Peugeot Lendaulet comes rolling down to take Owen Wilson back to the 1920’s. I’d ever so love to get anywhereback there between 1900 and 1928 to live the golden age of perfume.

François Coty

I ravish the thought of being all dandy-dressed, my handkerchief trendily sented with Mouchoir de Monsieur, and walking through the perfume department of the Carrousel du Louvre – some afternoon of 1904. Sniffing Piver’s Floramye, Houbigant’s Le Parfum Idéal… I happen on the loud scene where François Coty was attempting to convince the reluctant Louvre purchaser to buy his new creation: La Rose Jacqueminot.

La Rose Jacqueminot

Either out of anger or sales ingenuity, Coty purposely dropped the bottle in the middle of the store breaking it open and drawing all the customers’ attention -and curiosity. The women smelling this powerful perfume – its powerful scent being a breach with tradition, they wanted to buy it. Under the incessant requests, the purchaser had no other choice but to buy Coty’s stock. Simply brilliant!

At the time, scents were sold in apothocary-like bottles and packaged in leather-covered boxes – nondescript despite their elegance and quality. Coty, graced again with unknowing genius, asked René Lalique, at the time his neighbor, to create the embossed gold labels for his perfumes.

René Lalique

Lalique accepted on the condition that along with the labels, he’d also be able to design the perfume bottle.

Coty’s sales took off with l’Effleurt, and simultaneously Lalique’s reputation became renowned through perfume house circles. Both were crowned with success.


Coty in time developed an intelligent philosophy to selling his perfumes that the modern perfume market has unfortunately forgotten today. He believed that offering a perfume of quality in elegant packaging at a fair price would ensure his clients’

Chypre - Coty

long-term fidelity. He was right. Coty in time developed some marvelous creations: Ambre Antique, L’Origan, Paris, Emeraude, Chypre -all in crystal works of art.

Emeraude - Coty

Lalique was equally called on by some great perfume houses such as D’Orsay, Roger & Gallet, Worth, Volnay and Arys to create their bottles. Lalique developed his own

Je reviens - Worth / bottle by Lalique

philosophy to protect his success – he limited the number of his creations to ensure their rarity. Today Lalique perfume bottles are among the most expensive and most coveted by collectors.

Jade -Roger&Gallet / bottle by Lalique

Very unfortunately, Coty became overwhelmed by his wealthy power and drunk with his success which led to his downfall. Coty as a company has continued on today managing multiple brands with great business know-how. The company has though lost its identity as a fore-runner in perfume creation and is not at all comparable to great beginnings that François Coty built the company on.

Lalique on the other hand has held true to its outstanding quality, unequalled art and controlled production. In passing, it’s noteworthy to point out that the employees in

Paris -Coty

Lalique retail stores are quite knowledgeable on this history of the company and quite willing to provide the avid collector with any available information.

Some perfume-room gossip: François Coty is quoted as saying his greatest mistake is having given Coco Chanel the composition for the N°5. This rumor that broke out a few years ago was ferociously fought out by the legal teams of each company for obvious financial reasons.

My grandmother wore Arpège

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About ten years ago, when I started to become interested in colognes, I was at Sephora on Faubourg Saint Antoine in the 12th Arrondissement for a special opening on a Sunday afternoon. I was sniffing a lot of things and grabbed a bottle, sprayed it on a scent strip and was about to move on when… I thought… THIS IS NOT NEW, I KNOW THIS FROM SOMEWHERE… BEFORE. Capital letters just don’t bring home the strength of the shock I felt. This smell was so… nice, warm, reassuring, happy, and it plummeted me back to a time in my youth I could not identify. I felt nostalgic. I took some more strips and literally drowned them in this cologne called ‘Arpège’ so I could keep them with me until I figured out where I knew the smell from.

Initially I was only planning to write about Arpège and the Lanvin bottles. I’ve decided to recount a more personal history thanks to a very pertinent post that can be found here.

After walking around four days sniffing crumpled up strips in the metro, at work and home, that following Thursday evening while reading in bed, I’d actually let go of trying to figure out where I knew this scent from (for me as soon as I stop trying to remember, that’s when I remember) the flash came back crystal clear…

My grandmother wore Arpège.

I remember seeing the black Arpège ball with the golden stopper on her wooden dresser next to her gilded hair brush and mirror and her make-up all neatly laid out on the lace runner. I even remember holding the bottle for her sometimes.

I remember watching her get ready to go out dancing with my grandfather. I’d sit on the edge of the bed talking about school or whatever and watch her brush her hair, put on her make-up, and perfume. It was quite a ritual. She’d put the perfume on the usual places: gentle touches behind her ears, on her neck, wrists. But also she had a black and gold purse spray bottle that she’d let me help her fill -that’s when I held the bottle- and would spray the perfume in the lining of her jacket and coat. Arpège royally filled the room and followed her as my grandfather and she headed elegantly out the door as I stood behind waving goodbye in my pyjamas holding my teddy bear ready for bed…

I remember Christmas mornings when we took turns opening our gifts. She would always get from my grandfather the same-sized, square box with the ever-so-elegant wrapping paper from Hutzler’s (a department store in Baltimore gone bankrupt years and years ago). She always pretended she had no idea what it was and smiled in surprise as she opened it- I suppose simply because she loved it so much!

I remember also going back to see my grandmother for the last time. I was twenty-some. I remember seeing her all thinned and ill. I took time to sit next to her on the bed as we’d done some many times before when I was a little boy. I spoke with her, looked at her, felt her next to me. I brushed her hair and even remembered spraying a bit of perfume -have no idea what it was- just to make her feel a bit less ill.


Unlike the N° 5, today’s version of Aprège is not identical to the original made in the 1920’s under the direction of Jeanne Lanvin. Though when Inter Parfums Inc. took over the production and marketing of Lanvin’s perfumes in 2005 / 2006 they did say that the Arpège they were producing was very close to the original. When I rediscovered Arpège in about 2001, l’Oréal was responsible for the production. They apparently had ‘based’ themselves on the original version and had created something quite nice. It really couldn’t have been that far away from what my grandmother wore otherwise I would not have recognized it.

On the point of history, this very bad habit of changing hands is what actually destroyed Arpège. When Arpège came out in 1927, it left Chanel’s N°5 in the shadows quite difficult to believe today. At certain points in its history, the Lanvin fashion house encountered times of lesser success and preferred concentrating on fashion. The decision was made to outsource the perfumes without really maintaining a sure level of quality control on the production. In doing so, Arpège moved through a large number of companies some of which changed the initial ingredients from natural to synthetic or simply replaced one element with something completely different in an effort to be more profitable. These changes over time destroyed the reputation of the perfume as the faithful public no longer recognized the fragrance they loved and knew from before. To the point today, it is rumored that no one really knows what the original composition was for Arpège -how irresponsible and disappointing.

In their defense, l’Oréal did actually orchestrate a marvelous rendition of Arpège using quality ingredients. In 2003-4, I believe, Lanvin took back the production and marketing of their perfumes and provided Arpège in lots of different formats: two sizes for the pure perfume, eau de parfum in both splash and spray models along with a nice line of secondary products. Two years later, Lanvin handed over the management of their perfumes to Inter Parfums Inc. who still takes care of them today.

On the point of bottles, Lanvin has been generous throughout its history to the perfume bottle collector. All their bottles have up till modern times been top quality and exceptionally elegant. The ‘black ball’ bottle created by Armand-Albert Rateau with the gold ‘melon slice’ stopper is is considered a classic Art Déco creation. There is also the discreet, chic square bottle renewing with Lanvin’s pre-1927 period and the tall imposing octagon bottle used for Lanvin’s colognes. Some examples are in the slide show – sorry for the dust…

There’s some great reading around Jeanne Lanvin, a very strong, determined woman. Equally a visit can be made to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris where Jeanne Lanvin’s apartments can be seen. Of course, the bathroom is my favorite part!

Detaille – a very old and discreet perfume house

Nestled discreetly at 10 rue Saint Lazare in the 9th arrondissement of Paris is the Detaille perfume boutique proudly putting forth its existence since 1905 -created by a well-to-do woman who found driving her car dehydrated her skin.

This marvelously -old- boutique is a gift from the 1930’s – not sure that much has changed since then, either, aside the arrival of a PC on the main desk (please remove it!). From the outside, this quaint perfume shop is inviting with its simple presentations and obsolete yet enchanting names. The line of perfumes, rice powders and cosmetics are methodically laid out with no extra puffy-duffy, spangling lights, wrinkle-disappearing promise blabla and general paraphernalia  that older brands still around today tend to exhibit to sell. No! Detaille puts forth honestly and proudly its perfumes and skin care lines on wood and glass shelves as could be found decades and decades ago.

Entering the boutique is like a magical charge if you, like me, enjoy vintage perfumes and the perfume world before it went productive haywire. Equally their older bottles are on display for the pleasure of all scent bottle collectors.

If you come through Paris, do make sure you stop by and smell Shéliane – for all of you who enjoy deep, powerful signature perfumes. At the boutique you will be greeted patiently and delicately led through the lines of products based on your likes.

A train station, a painting, a perfume

On my weekend wanderings through Paris along with my fun, new camera, I went off to the Gare de l’Est (the East Train Station) to catch a picture of this absolutely fantastic painting. For the moment in my blog, I agree, this painting has nothing really to do with perfume – but in my personal universe it does. I’ll get there.
To share the strength within this creation, here’s a bit of history and background:
Albert Herter, the painter, included himself in the painting at the far right – the man holding a bouquet of flowers in his left hand with his right hand, it could be thought, grasping his chest in pain. His wife is portrayed at the complete left of the painting her hands folded in what could be thought of a position of prayer or reminiscent thought as she beholds a younger woman with her husband, the soldier, holding their infant child. Everit, Herter’s son, can be seen in the middle with a rifle full of flowers in one hand and his kepi (standard French hat) in the other looking with a smile to the sky.
Herter made this portrait in commemoration of his son who never returned from World War I. The painting is called : “Le Départ des Poilus, Le 2 août 1914” (The departure of the Furry Ones – 2nd August 1914). To shed some light on the ‘furry ones’, French soldiers of WWI have the nick name of ‘poilu’ (=furry) as once on the front they stopped shaving in order to better protect their faces from the very harsh weather conditions. These ‘poilus’ wore very distinctive blue uniforms, and fondly enough the painting is made up predominantly of varying shades of blue.
Two years earlier in 1912 Jacques Guerlain took over the running of this great perfume house and created l’Heure Bleue… The bottle in which l’Heure Bleue comes is called the ‘reversed heart bottle’ one of my favorite collectors- take a very good look at the stopper of the pure perfume and you’ll understand.
WWI history has it that women would scent a handkerchief with their perfume and send it off to their loved one on the front. However many letters went off full of endearing terms, it is quite significant to think that a perfume was spontaneously used as a means to remember a gentle kiss on the cheek where a fleeting scent came to bond the senses of a feeling, a touch, a moment, a fluttering heart, a deeper lust…
At a time when I regularly spent weekends in the east of France, my dog and I chose to wait for our train in the Alsace hall -the wing where the painting is located-and ponder this marvelous work. The sadness of loss comes through however only yesterday did the colors jump to my attention. All these shades of the color blue that reminded Jacques Guerlain of the moment between day and night when light becomes blue, and all is calm. The same feeling I sincerely hope Ambert Herter had once he had completed this work.

Opus Oils nous livre un futur classique plein de charme: Jitterbug

Jitterbug, quel nom parfait pour cette composition si rare de nos jours. Kedra Hart, le nez d’Opus Oils, nous renoue avec les très grands parfums d’antan de la famille ambré-fleuri. C’est un parfum de caractère marquant, enveloppant, puissant. Il nous enivre d’un énorme et voluptueux bouquet de jasmins enrobé de touches de santal, de fleurs d’oranger et de tabac.  C’est un parfum complexe et élégant dans la même lignée que Bandit de Piguet, Chantilly de Houbigant, Femme de Rochas et le tant regretté L’Heure Attendue de Jean Patou.

Avec quelques gouttes de cette huile exquise, nous sommes comme propulsés dans les années 40 en partie attristées par la deuxième guerre mondiale mais aussi à la recherche d’évasion et de bonheur. En sentant cette magie, Jitterbug,  j’ai effectivement des images de jazz, de rock ‘n’ roll et de South Pacific (une comédie musical américaine de 1958) qui me viennent à l’esprit.

Ce qui est particulièrement unique avec Jitterbug c’est que vous pouvez l’adopter comme votre parfum qui vous identifie. Le parfum que vous mettez  tous les jours, qui imprègne vos pulls, qui laisse derrière vous un sillage identifiable, qui reste discrètement quand vous êtes parti(e), qu’on s’attend à sentir quand on vous embrasse. Il s’agit d’un vrai parfum, d’un futur classique. Je ne saurai plus conseiller d’au moins essayer cet élixir de jasmin qui se trouve aussi bien en huile parfumée qu’en présentation classique alcool.

Pour bien mettre l’ambiance de Jitterbug, je vous laisse avec cet extrait de film dans lequel nous livrent les soeurs Andrews ‘the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B’:

The Fabulous Flacon for Femme by Rochas

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I’ve pretty much read everywhere that this bottle was fashioned based on MaeWest’s body. Neither sure how true nor flattering this may be, it’s quite an exceptional bottle.

The bottle is a heavy-solid and holds well in hand. The stopper is quite ingenious in that, and to the contrary of the majority of perfume bottles, it holds the label with the name of the perfume with in.

Two beautiful examples of the glass-stopper bottle used for Femme by Rochas.







The smaller bottle is from an earlier period than the larger bottle which can be deciphered by three points: 1) the lettering on the box for the older one is in print form and cursive for the more recent model 2) the metal hallmark on the older one shows the initials MR for Marcel Rochas and on the more recent bottle it displays the effigy of Marcel Rochas’ wife Hélène Rochas 3) the name ‘Marcel Rochas’ is molded in the stopper of the older one and is embossed in the label of the more recent one.

As with a majority of my collectibles, a notable Femme residue still holds fast in both bottles. Despite the years a distinct fragrance of Femme still ‘resonates’ when the stopper is removed. It’s taking a whiff back in time to the 1940’s -such a pleasure.

Thank you, Mae, for your sensual curves!