In our melancholy twilight: LE DIX by BALENCIAGA (1947)











I have had two full vintage bottles of Balenciaga’s classic Le Dix, both of which I gave to people I knew would cherish and wear it more than I ever could (there is still one small, perfect bottle of the eau de toilette upstairs somewhere for reference, but I myself am simply not built for this pallor….)




I adore smelling it on a woman so much more – on alabaster skin; a wrist concealed beneath a coat…..












In vintage parfum especially, Le Dix is timeless and beautiful; an almost mournful scent of chalk-white powder, musk; and a cool, dust-laden quality like an old French library in November.





Haunting, sad violets (pale, thoughtful; quietly rapturous) are sorrowfully captured in the fading dusk, as light filters through thick, stained glass…













Such rarified feminine wistfulness was not destined to last in this world of ours, and one can see why Balenciaga would choose to freshen up and ‘purify’ Le Dix for the modern audience. In any case, the current version is quite captivating, a stunning violet aldehyde with sparkling citrus top notes that you should try if you like others of its type (as a cooler, more contemplative Nº5)…




The reformulation of Le Dix has a certain sparkling uplift, vivacious, elegant and great for the evening and grand events. But for pure poetry, the vintage  – so fine, so knowing and wildly introverted – is inescapable.







Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Powder, Violet

48 responses to “In our melancholy twilight: LE DIX by BALENCIAGA (1947)

  1. ninakane1

    Beautiful. You have brought a moment of quiet stillness to my morning. Thank you x

  2. brie

    Lovely,lovely post. I had forgotten about this beauty. Since childhood I have adored the scent of violets (never quite saw them as mournful but rather a happy scent for odd little me 🙂 !!) and was always on the lookout for violet inspired fragrances. Yet, as I mentioned before, back in the days of no internet and notes being top secret this was not always so easy. Imagine my surprise when in the late 80s I discovered a 30ml. LeDix EDT spray in a discount beauty store in NYC for under ten dollars! Needless to say I snatched it up and my “alabaster wrist” was beautifully scented! I did not know it was still available in re-formulation. Not that I will seek it out, as re-formulations of my beloved vintages are always so disappointing 😦 .

  3. ginzaintherain

    (thinking about it though Brie, I can’t be 100% sure if even the reformulation is available now, so your alabaster wrist (I am never going to get away with that phrase, am I) might have to go without!

    • brie

      Actually, I am quite taken with that phrase “alabaster wrist” for my wrist is indeed quite pale ( I don’t get much sun) and literally only five inches in diameter! (such a pain trying to find a bracelet that fits 🙂 !). I know that many violet perfumes have been described as utterly melancholy and I could see how that may very well fit Le Dix- it’s just that my “warped” mind finds something soothing and pensive (in a happy way) when it comes to violet notes. Not quite sure where that association comes from!

      • Brie, I am also enamored by violet scents and never thought of them as mournful. I have several and think of them as comforting…and I don’t get much sun either and have the same problems from having a very small wrist.

      • brie

        thanks Filomena for making me feel a bit less “freakish” in all that you have revealed!

  4. ginzaintherain

    Sometimes I feel like I am overdoing it but I do very much vividly remember feeling EXACTLY what I wrote above: I remember one day where the perfume, in that really chalky, vintage incarnation, felt almost devastating….I gave one bottle to Helen (unsurprisingly: my muse over all these years!) It will be interesting to hear what she has to say about it!

  5. Had Billie Holiday on the brain all day since reading this. ‘In My Solitude…’

    …’alabaster wrist; a wrist concealed beneath a coat’ is perfect writing, as for ‘haunting, sad violets (pale, thoughtful; quietly rapturous….)’ – truly divine.

  6. Katherine

    ‘Our melancholy twilight’ just came perfectly in a line of thought I was having and I thought it must be from a song or something so I googled it and of course this came up 🙂

    • That’s nice, although I wonder if I also took it from somewhere…I don’t think so, consciously, but I might have done. I like that review actually. I might repost it.

      • Katherine

        Well this was the only thing that came up in google! Yes it’s great, one of my favourites. And something I would love to try, though have not seen much for sale online. I think I NEED more, much more money. At the moment it seems there isn’t the stage nor the funds to really live fully, to exert enough energy, and this melancholy twilight, the ‘wildly introverted’, captures this feeling maybe. Anyway certainly a beautiful and apt piece of writing to have haunted me in this way!

  7. So great to read your review of this perfume! “Le Dix” means “His” but implies “His Creation” referring to this perfume by Cristobal Balenciaga who was so well known at the time that women just had to say their gown was “le dix”.

    Le Dix was created in 1947 by Francis Fabron who created “l’Air du Temps” for Nina Ricci a year later. But ahhh, what a difference a year makes! Perhaps “Le Dix” mirrors the melancholy of its temperamental and quixotic namesake. Or perhaps it reflects the recovery of a nation after war. Compare this fragrance to the lightness of “l’Air du Temps” and it becomes immediately clear that “Le Dix” is serious. It is also seriously beautiful like an ancient Greek temple.

    The perfume opens with a lemony aldehydic twist, like smelling a glass of coca cola as the bubbles tickle your nose. I find this opening somewhat quirky in a modern way as it leads one down the path to a more traditional garden of jasmine, roses and violets. As the fragrance develops it literally melds with the skin making it glow with the beauty of a glamorous movie goddess. There is a lot of goddess in this perfume!

  8. Lilybelle

    When I was in my 20s there was a perfume shop along my route to work, and I would often stop in to sample and sometimes make a purchase. The young man that worked there, I think he was Israeli, was very friendly and cute and he liked to make recommendations. You never felt rushed or pushed yet he was enthudiastic and he genuinely loved fragrance. I bought a small bottle of Le Dix parfum on his recommendation. It was wonderful — and now (eons later) I want to try the sparkling aldehydic edt after reading your review. I feel the urge to revisit Le Dix.

    • Like I say, I can enjoy both, one for the poetry, the other for the shimmer. What an interesting story, though: I love these reminiscences….

      • Lilybelle

        Sorry for the typos. I’m not a moron, but my fingers sometimes try to make me look like one!

      • I am as phobic about them as well and totally understand. Sometimes I leave the house and then check a review on my iphone, only to realize that I appear an utter moron to the whole world, and have no way of correcting it until I get home because trying to rewrite things on that contraption is sheer hell, and could quite easily cause me to hurl it under a train or at a window….and this is what I tell my students. It is so important to write things well in this current day and age as this is how the majority of people actually communicate these days….quite often you literally ARE what you write!

        And yet surely it can’t be helped a lot of the time, and I like to think we look upon each others’ typos kindly…..x

  9. brie

    like Lilybelle I must revisit Le Dix….after your review read the second time around by me…thanks Neil (say I with sarcasm as my list of “revisits” gets longer and longer!)

    • Lilybelle

      That’s just it, Brie: we could easily spend our entire perfume careers focusing on revisits. So many fragrances, so little time.

      • I should probably be getting more into all the new samples I have in my boxes, but I am very instinctive by nature and just press reblog whenever the hell I feel like it, when those perfumes suddenly call to me…

        I promise some newer reviews soon!

      • brie

        No Neil…as I said to you once before I think reblogging is fantastic as it gives others the opportunity to read some of your masterpieces that earlier on went unnoticed (except by little old me!)

      • brie

        However…IF you are planning some new reviews (and I know that I sound like a broken record now) Nocturnes ,please?

      • You know, I have started, and tried, but the great import of the whole thing and having to come up with something magnificent has always scuppered my fantasies with Nocturnes. I have serious writer’s block on the subject, and felt very guilty about not delivering on time (not that I could remember if it was March or April 29th, I knew it was 29th something).

        One day!

      • Lilybelle

        I am enjoying your reblogs, Neil (as I am new here and didn’t get to read them the first time). As a perfume *wearer* (not writer) I sometimes feel guilty about not enjoying what I’ve got and chasing memories instead. It’s some kind of addiction…or something. The wind changes and I only wear old fragrances. It changes again and I only want to explore what’s new. I think following your instincts is always best. 🙂

      • brie

        No worries, dear….you know that I am just teasing you, right? I am holding off on Nocturnes as well…partially because I want YOU to do it first and also because I feel that it was such a part of me how could I possibly write about it? (it was last month,btw…)

  10. Martha

    I am not a fan of violet perfume, but I am intrigued by it because of its historical use in perfumery. I’d love to find a live Parma violet plant, but the climate where I live is too harsh for growing it outside. Maybe it would do well in a pot. Hmmmm… When I was teenage girl, I owned a bottle of L’ Air du Temps and didn’t love it, but wore it because it was much classier than, say, Skinny Dip. Your post makes me want to try Le Dix, though. Such beautiful writing.

    • Thankyou: I remember when I wrote it I was feeling quite vulnerable, and I suppose that came out.

      I love these old perfumes, sometimes, and I would also really love to smell a real parma violet as well..

  11. I love your reblogging! I’d like to put in a request for a Nocturnes review as well. It’s the only (synthetic) tuberose I can wear that doesn’t give me a headache.

  12. nocturnes

    This is incredibly bizarre that you would repost this particular one….another blogger wrote about violet perfumes and I thought to myself “Le Dix” would be my favourite of all the vintage violets I love….in fact, I have just ordered Alpha Iodone from Aftelier and I am going to be working on a violet e.o. blend with bergamot, alpha i, violet leaf, cassie absolute, orris butter, bitter almond, anise, lavender absolute, bourbon vanilla, peru balsam, tonka bean, opoponax (also from Mandy), styrax,labdanum, ambrette seed CO2, oakmoss and I tinture I made from pine tree sap.For some strange reason I am craving violet these days!

  13. One of my favorite scents since I was a young girl. I adore its grayish, crepescule, powdery-aldehydic feel. I always try to keep a backup bottle of the vintage extrait so as to never be without. Your description captures perfectly what this scent conjures in me.

  14. Thank you for posting this again. I’m crazy for Le Dix, own it and love it — for different reasons — in both original and reworked. Such a strange thing, the sense of scent. I find Le Dix cozy and comforting!?! I know, I shouldn’t, but. I picture it as the palest mauve-grey velvet, plush and warm, not cool, enveloping. Celebratory rather than mournful. The vintage especially . . .

    • Oh yes it definitely could be comforting I can imagine. Very nuzzly. To me there is some distance in there, though, I don’t know why exactly.

      • I do know what you mean. That aloof self-containment. I love how you ran with that impression with Le Dix.

        It’s all so fabulously subjective, the appreciation of fragrance, n’est-ce pas? And I get the sense (I think you’ve mentioned it yourself) that you (like me) can get on a train of reaction towards a composition and ride it creatively to wherever it takes you. That’s one of the reasons I love reading you. It’s not about Neil Chapman handing down from on high some kind of objective pronouncement vis-a-vis a fragrance, your opinion above reproach (although I tend to feel the same about a fragrance as you do 19 times out of 20). Instead, it’s all happily discussable. You’re always so diplomatic, I’ve noticed, no matter what Reply you’re responding to. “Oh yes it definitely could be comforting I can imagine.” I think you must be a very nice person.

      • I don’t know about that. I can be rather inten

      • You can be rather . . . ? I’m in suspense!

      • Nice and intense. Not mutually exclusive. 😉

  15. fuckyouelegance

    I just wish I could get my hands on a bottle even if in the toilette concentration. There’s something about stoicism in perfumes that I gravitate towards; their detachment and melancholy which I find so rare nowadays.

    “I adore smelling it on a woman so much more – on alabaster skin; a wrist concealed beneath a coat…..” Poetic. I just miss the times when fashion exalted women, when it gave you an illusion of grandeur even for a moment, fleetingly.

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