Thursday, April 21, 2011

Norell Vintage Perfume

Considering the size of my perfume collection, vintage and other, and the breadth of my rotation, I probably have enough vintage Norell to last me decades. Perhaps a lifetime. Still I eye my bottles and worry.

Norman Norell created many a fabulous dress for decades. First for Hattie Carnegie, then under the Traina-Norell label.Finally from 1960 until his death in 1972, Norell's designs were labeled solely with his own name. As far as I could find out, the 1969 Norell perfume was the only one the designer had comissioned. Looking at photos and illustrations of Norell creations, I find the perfume shares something with those fabulous gowns. It's American, wearable and assertive, yet possesses a certain French flair. And it's a glorious green floral chypre.

I'm a sucker for galbanum-hyacinth-narcissus blends. There's something about the bitter green and almost-fragile beauty of the flower notes that gets to me every time. It's very different than plush and "pink" natured florals, a bit more reserved and mysterious, perhaps. These kind of scents have a nostalgic 1970s vibe to them, no matter when exactly they were created, and I place them in my mind together with the high fashion of that decade, a glamorous jet-set style that I seem to remember admiring as a young kid in magazines as I was dreaming of life as a grownup.

Norell also has a distinct spicy carnation heart. It's like a preview for Opium, early 70s-style. The richness of the vintage extrait de parfum certainly points that way, especially with the sweetness opacity in the base. But it's still as oakmossy as it comes, and the dry-down of my old bottles seems to have deepened and matured beautifully over time. They don't make them like that anymore.

Notes: hyacinth, galbanum, bergamot, narcissus, lemon, carnation, jasmine, rose, orris, orchid, sandalwood, musk, cedarwood, moss, amber.

Norell perfume ad from
Norman Norell gowns from


  1. I love this too - currently all I have is a vintage mini, but I am trying to find more of the good stuff! One of the best chypres of the modern era, and timeless too.

  2. Thanks for the lovely review. Do you happen to know if the formulation changed over the years? I've seen it in many different packagings and have wondered about that.

  3. My mother wore Norell - and she wore it beautifully. On me, it smells like I've been on a 4-day, cheap scotch drunk. Alas.

    xo A

  4. Do perumes last longer if the are stored in the refrigertator?


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