Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Lost Perfumes: My Sin by Lanvin

(I can't come up with a better title than the name of the perfume, created in 1924 by Madam Zed for the Lanvin fashion house and discontinued years ago)

I never met my maternal grandmother. She was a doctor, quite well-known in Vilnius of the 1950s and early 60s. She was probably equally famous for her looks as well as for the scandal of divorcing my high-powered attorney grandfather in 1955. Photos show an incredibly beautiful and stylish woman with dark hair and green eyes. My mom says the only thing sharper than my grandmother's tongue, was her fashion sense and knack for accessorizing. I only have one thing of hers, an amber necklace, made with half polished stones. It's bold and always makes a statement.

She had secrets, affairs and quite a bit of a temper. Her clothes were tailor-made from patterns and fabrics imported from Paris (not a simple task during those years in Communist Lithuania). she wore red lipstick and loved perfume (also smuggled from France). My mom says she didn't have one signature perfume, but always had several of the classics, like Chanel no. 5 and Arpege on her dresser.

I don't like Arpege, though I probably should give the vintage another chance. The Lanvin perfume that makes me think of my lost grandmother is My Sin. The unapologetic name of this fragrance fits the image in mind, as well as the scent itself.

I have a bottle of the vintage extrait, bought on eBay not only sealed, but also wrapped in the original paper. I was a little disappointed the first time I smelled the opening notes. The aldehydes were still fully there, unclouded by the years (my eternal thanks to whoever kept it so well stored), together with the other notes, giving it that almost-generic vintage classic air. But I kept wearing it, studying the development and learning to appreciate its secret.

The opening and the classic floral middle notes still give me a similar feeling like some vintage Guerlains (other than Shalimar. That one starts bellydancing as soon as I put it on) and vintage Calèche, and I almost reach for my pearls. But just almost. It doesn't take long before My Sin moves into the more interesting parts. The base notes are supposedly vetiver, vanilla, musk, woods, tolu balsam, styrax (according to Wikipedia that's benzoin, which is a great relief as I willing to swear I was smelling benzoin) and civet. I can't say I get any vetiver here. Actually, the fragrance is so well blended (other that or my bottle is just old), that other than benzoin no note really stands out to me. It just morphs into a stunning animalic stage, light years away from the pearl and cashmere of the opening, with only a hint of understated sweetness. After a while it settles very close to the skin, a ghost of past sins and memories.

I wish it lasted longer than the 2-3 hours I'm getting from it, because I'd like to explore it and have a little more fun. Every time I put it on, I discover another facet, but still I feel like I'm missing on some big secret that feel forever lost.

Images: Okadi.com, eBay and Ad Vault.


  1. Isn't there a dupe of this out there?

    I've always loved the name of the scent but never sought it out, since I thought that the juice couldn't live up to the name.

    I would have looved to meet your grandmother. Actually, I think I want to be your grandmother...

  2. lanvin arpege is an all time fav of mine , i wore this when i married 8yrs ago . i had no idea that my sin was another lanvin fragrance as i hadn't heard of it. you are so very fortunate to have this and from ebay tooboot. your grandmother reminds me of the old movie 1930,s type of woman someone i'd enjoyed being if it were possible. would have been wonderful to meet her and like tmpoo said "ithink i want to be your grandmother", i'll second that statement.

  3. Your grandmother sounds amazing - and so does this scent. I'll have to investigate further on eBay!

  4. Yes, the name "My Sin" -- so fabulous -- but, those ads with the black cat -- so mysterious!!

  5. Tom- Yes, I've heard about an LLP dupe, but I just can't get excited about a dupe, and according to the usual suspects on the boards, it's not that good.

    And, you're right. the ultimate sinful fragrance should be bigger and more... sinful.

  6. Anon- I know what you mean. I think that in a way, I'm trying to find traces of my grandma in me. Well, except for the whole being dead by 39. That would suck.

  7. Always in Style- Doing some eBay work is definitely worth the effort. One of my future review will be of another rare Lanvin gem I found there in a pristine package.

  8. Pavlova- That black cat is fabulous. Signed, The Crazy Cat Lady.

  9. At least being part of the Soviet Nomenklatura it gave your grand-mother the chance to wear imported perfumes, makeup and couture. Ironically my argentinean grand-mother led a very modest life, it was not a communist country situation but she never wore perfumes from France, lipsticks or anything imported, nothing. When I think about it, how sad...

    I love vintage Arpege but hate the 1993 reorchestrated version which is too thick and overpowering although most people seem to like it. To me My Sin is like an aldehydic version of Narcisse Noir (the vintage Narcisse Noir but not the new version which bears no resemblance to the original). I love how enigmatic and enticing My Sin is, a true provocative yet extremely alluring perfume. Think No 5 but darker, more daring. I 'm surprised it only lasts a couple of hours on your skin, I get a much longer longevity.

    La Dogaresse

  10. Hi,
    finally, after so many years, a scientific analysis performed on "My Sin" (in its latest version dated 1980s)
    A bit different from previous versions, maybe, but still very interesting if you like to read.


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