Estee Lauder's 1953 Youth Dew is one of her least advertised. From going through stacks of Lauder ads throughout the decades, it seems that it has always been the case. The one above, one half of the original ad featuring model Paulina Porizkova, is from the late 1980s/early 90s, when Paulina reigned as the face of Estee Lauder. I think she did the perfume justice, though I admit I would have loved to see Elizabeth Hurley leading a Youth Dew campaign. It would have certainly suited her better than those sugary photos for Beautiful and Pleasures.
Still, even without billboards and magazine spreads, Youth Dew was and still is iconic and immediately recognizable, for better and for worse. To some people this fragrance symbolizes the yenta image of Estee Lauder as a brand. To others it's a beautiful relic of another era; never mind the "when men were men" thing, it's more about when perfumes smelled like perfume.
The list of notes (aldehydes, orange, spices, peach, bergamot, cinnamon, cassia, orchid, jasmine, cloves, ylang-ylang, rose, tolu balsam, peru balsam, amber, patchouli, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, vetiver and incense) reads like someone took everything they had in the perfumer's organ and mixed it together hoping for the best. The result is a big boned fragrance that doesn't try and hide its presence. Animalic, powdery, ambery and spicy- it's all there. Youth Dew isn't too sweet, though. Back then ladies didn't try to smell like fruit or pudding, and they definitely wanted to leave a trail that you remember them by. They wore girdles and slips, petticoats and gloves, belted jackets and hats. The scent of Youth Dew lingered on coats and in closets and it was perfectly fine.
To my 21st century nose, Youth Dew smells like a sibling to Tabu. The funny thing is that many of those suburban yentas who wore Youth Dew used to scoff at the reckless Tabu wearers. Tabu is more sensual and extra animalic, but that mix of heavy and heady, rich flowers and spice, fur coat and silk stockings- it's all here in Youth Dew, making it a gorgeous and very fun perfume to wear. If you dare.
The current Youth Dew you can find at the counters is an eau de parfum and smells a bit sharper at the top before it starts its sensual journey. There's no doubt it has been tweaked over the years, yet as a whole and in the dry-down, the stuff I occasionally spray at Ulta ends up smelling pretty much like my very vintage oil version. The bath oil is also available from most department stores, just don't expect to find the range openly displayed. You need to make the Lauder SAs fetch it from wherever they hide it under the counter while arguing with them that you really have no interest in the latest Pleasures flanker.
Youth Dew by Estee Lauder ($30, 1.8 oz EDP. Seriously, the best bang for very few bucks) is available at Macy's, Bloomingdales, Ulta and even Nordstrom, including online.
Paulina Porizkova for Estee Lauder, found in an online message board.
Photo of Estee Lauder from Time Magazine.
1953 fashion ads from myvintagevogue.com