It is fascinating to consider the survivors of the 1970’s. Some perfumes just had too much of a hook, formed too much of an emotional link in fragrance-wearing minds to be let go, even in reformulated, attenuated – ruined –  form.




Thus, YSL Opium – the grande dame of Studio 54 Disco Perfumes – remains still popular; its ( reducted ) heart still beating; as do the demurer Anais Anais: Chanel No 19; Rive Gauche…..the interlinking ingredients recognisable themes in the mind and on skin, more tenable, memorable…………..classic.




Other more subtle perfumes from the 70’s that I love, Balenciaga Michelle, Balmain Ivoire, Rochas Mystere (so strange, divine in my opinion : I save my extraits for special occasions) are gone. Remain shuttered away in closets. Sold online at vintage auction.





Some live in a netherworld in between.











Still available in some form or other – resurrected as newly priced ‘heritage’ scents by their parent companies in limited edition collections, or else as Drug Store bargains ( in the case of Guy Laroche ), Givenchy III, Dioressence, and J’ai Osé, are like spiced, fluttering, final nails in the coffin of a decadent decade.

















The much lauded Givenchy III is a dry and bitter aldehydic chypre that I have smelled in various incarnations, including a lot of vintage parfum, and always intensely disliked. Similar in some ways to Bandit – another perfume whose charms I have never fallen for (is it that phenolic, leathered unsugaredness that doesn’t work for me? Something too frowning, too serious; too manly? ) I feel that I need to be educated by you on this one as I really just don’t get it.
Forever closed to me.














Though I can imagine III having smelled quite spectacular on a cream satin blouse under fur coat in New York in clouds of cigarette smoke (because all of these perfumes are made for such occasions…dragging themselves through the pall and the strobes for a dahhling moment perched on the side of a sofa as the thick perfume tenders out from the drenched fibres into the next person’s conscious); the androgyny, angularity,  meannessss…., whenever I smell this perfume it just smells to me like yesterday’s ashes.












Dioressence has similarly never floated my boat. The thing with Opium was that it was so immediate: capturing a quintessence of what it was trying to do; loading the spice, the citrus, the flowers, the balsams, the resins, the animalics, the patchouli, into the perfectly aestheticized package. A cultural phenomenon.

Most of its apologists were simply just less interesting.








(they couldn’t even use a real leopard – a case of the latest raging coronavirus tearing through the nightclub? )







Patently a flatterer of Opium, like Cinnabar by Lauder, and KL by Lagerfeld, Dioressence is a scent that I have always found rather dowdy somehow :: Cruella De Vil down with the influenza,  nursing a hot herb tea with honey in fraying slippers.






Again – perhaps you just had to be there. It is an elegant perfume, to be sure (as is Givenchy III – this cannot be denied), a removed competitor, older, more considered, with a softer internality, but for me there is just not that originality (and yes I am writing about the vintage parfum): that remarkable refrain that stays in the mind like the more committed, and characterful classics.

I need more fire.







J’ai Osé (I tried, I dared, I did my best) is yet another Opium; nice actually; soft, sensual and rounded, spicy, with a certain flair …..but again, very, very much of that time. That ilk. And though I know I would enjoy this in certain contexts, on a person with the fashion wherewithal to carry it off knowingly (or else completely obliviously….just finding it at a garage sale and wearing it what the heck), generally I do think there is a reason that these perfumes have fallen by the wayside, unlike other perfumes that have transcended the times because of their ‘timeless appeal’, or more imaginative tenacity.







They’re like dancing with ghosts.





















Filed under Flowers


  1. carole macleod

    I’m dying! First of all I love the pictures you chose. And I have both Mystere and Givenchy III. On me i feel like I am wearing the 70’s when I sport these fragrances. The Givenchy III reminds me of autumn, and the colour of golden rod. It’s elegant and discreet-I’m surprised it’s not pleasing to you.
    Thanks, as always, for the interesting posts 🙂

    • Mystere throbs quietly: III is too sharp for me. But like I said,I need to be educated on it and actually smell it in person on someone it was made for. It is certainly autumnal, and I can imagine it conferring a sense of quiet, chic intellectualism on its wearer.

  2. Robin

    Oh, those photos are incredible and take me right back to the heyday of my twenties. I was on the dance floor for most of it in my slinky disco dresses while the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack boomed out of the speakers. (I didn’t like disco music, to be honest, but nothing beat if for danceability and that’s all there was anyway.) I wore them all, except for Opium — something about it always gave me that Giorgio of Beverly Hills queasiness — and in particular worshipped Ivoire and Mystere, which I still have and happily wear. They don’t “read” dated at all.

    I do understand what you mean about Givenchy III and Dioressence. Of the two, I prefer Givenchy III in vintage, Dioressence in the re-jigged Les Creations de Monsieur Dior — this by a long shot.

    The current Givenchy III is a drugstore-shaving-foam imitation of the oakmoss-drenched original.

    The original Dioressence always seemed airless and fusty and dirty (this not in a good way, unlike other, beautifully dirty fragrances). The Creations version I find really good: like really, really good, in fact. It’s been nicely ventilated by abstract, quality florals, the weird, incongruous cinnamon-y spiceness has been dialled way back, and there’s a creaminess and freshness to it that wasn’t there — at all — in the original.

    Just FYI, Dioressence (along with Diorama, by the way) is no longer available in some countries. (It has been “retired.”) Canada is one. Sad for some of us. Of course, you won’t mind, which is good!

    • Glad to read this essential info (I did, as you saw, ask to be enlightened on these as I know it wasn’t the end of the story). I like the idea of the slightly refreshed Dioressence; but do also think it will never not be fusty (and you are right: why is it that Mystere has somehow transcended this: I LOVE IT and it really suits me; Ivoire is heaven on earth but I can’t pull it off but love just owning it anyway. I do think it can work in a contemporary context).

      Re Opium – I think I am making out I like it more than I do. I think it is a marvel – but totally understand what you mean about the quease. It is too much. In that sense, J’Ai Ose, is a lighter touch.

      • Robin

        Interesting re: Opium. Ha. You could make Jessica Simpson Dessert Treats Hula Girl sound like a sophisticated must-have.

        Believe it or not, I have never smelled J’Ai Ose. I think if it had been a high end fragrance back then I would have run across it, haunting the fancy department store fragrance counters every weekend as I obsessively did. (It wasn’t snobbism. It’s just that that was where the good stuff was, and at around $50 an ounce for the iconic parfum of your choice, even by a college kid’s standards it was — relatively speaking — easily affordable.)

      • But then Fidji was definitely considered an aldehydic classic back in the day and Drakkar Noir was a massive massive seller so I don’t think the brand was lo-fi. I hadn’t smelled it either. The reason I have been doing these vintage riffs is because I have borrowed a lot of perfumes (i.e. Magie Noire). It is quite fascinating as a lot of them I hadn’t smelled before either.

      • Robin

        Quite true, come to think. I do remember Fidji at my favourite department store, right there with the Ivoires and Mysteres. Now there’s a fragrance I’ve tried to love and even owned once, but it always wore me and there was something in it I outright disliked. And it’s one of my top genres, so go figure. Great name, bottle, ad campaign.

        You know, I still can’t remember J’Ai Ose. Hmm. Well, they might not have had it in Vancouver. Stranger things have happened. I know we never had Mitsouko, if you can believe it. If we had, I would have had a hoard of it. I know you’re not a fan, but by gawd I do worship it.

        Oooh, did I hear “vintage?” Tell me more.

  3. Robin

    I was trying to remember the name of that shiny, drapey disco shirt and disco dress fabric of the era that everything was made of. Just got it. Qiana! You were a little too young to know about it. I think . . .

  4. A superb read and visual treat, Neil. You had my attention from the Grace Jones opener.

  5. David

    What I wouldn’t give for one night, just one night, at Studio 54….dancing to “I Feel Love” and doing naughty things in that infamous balcony. I’d be wearing Vu from Ted Lalidus…..Carnival is just around the corner….do I dare?

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