George Hamilton and his friends in the leathery orange face cult didn't create anything new. As a matter of fact, you can blame Jean Patou, Coco Chanel and the rest of the 1920s high society and trendsetters. Having a tan was no longer limited to those working in the fields, and instead the evidence of a leisurely lifestyle: vacationing in the Riviera, yachting and playing tennis. The bronzed look became desired and fashionable women started using lotions and potions to help them achieve it.
Jean Patou, whose casual sportswear designs (try not to think about sweats with the word "Juicy" printed on one's butt) were all the rage, offered his clients what is now considered the first suntan lotion, Huile de Chaldée. The product gained popularity, and just like today, when tanning oil-inspired perfumes are quite popular (Beach by Bobbi Brown, At The Beach 1966 from CB I Hate Perfume, just to name a couple), a matching perfume called Chaldée followed in 1927.
Modern beach scents have something tropical going on, usually coconut, and lots of musk. Apparently, in Patou's days, the glitterati vacationed amidst hyacinth, orange blossom, jasmine and lots and lots of powder.
To the 21st century nose, Chaldée smells less like the beach and a lot more like an old-fashioned powdery-floarl perfume. I love hyacinth and an ambery drydown is usually right up my alley, but Chaldée can be trying at times. It might be the lilac, a note which can be difficult for me to pull off, or maybe something fussy in the composition as a whole. I have two bottles of the EDT from the 80s, one clearly in better shape than the other. Both have some pretty moments and I like putting some on and thinking of faraway times and places, but generally speaking, Chaldée is not my favorite from the Patou archives.
Chaldée, like the rest of the Ma Collection, has been discontinued and is getting increasingly harder to find, especially at a decent price.
Poster of the Huile de Chaldée ad from 1929: art-and-posters.com (priced at $1200, if you're interested).
Artwork from the 1920s by Romoli Filippo and Edgar Franklin.