Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Smell Of The 1980s

I had a sharp little throwback to my teenage years earlier tonight. John Taylor of Duran Duran made a personal appearance at our local bookstore to sign his just-released memoir, In The Pleasure Groove. I dropped by and really wanted to meet JT and tell him how 14 year old me planned to marry both him and George Michael and live together happily ever after. But there was no way I was going to spend an hour or more standing in the line that stretched from the parking lot all around the block with other semi-crazed middle-aged women. I did go inside and had a good look at him-- at 52 John Taylor is still as tall and cheekbony as in my teen fantasies. The guy has a superstar presence that neither the years, various scandals or  rehab had diminished. So I pre-ordered a signed copy (I have the best husband in the world), took one last look at His Hotness, shook my head at the screaming soccer moms and left.

This, of course, led me to thinking about the perfumes of the 80s in general and my youth in particular. I already wrote about Anais Anais (Cacharel) and Le Jardin (Max Factor) and the memories they conjure. Obviously there was my mom's signature scent, the original Chloe, that permeated clothes, furniture and the hair of our old cat, Mad Max. I recently remembered two long lost perfumes from my and my sister's very early teens: I'm pretty sure it was a German brand, Muelhens, that produced two scents: My Melody Dreams and My Melody Flowers. One was packaged in pink and the other in blue, and my sister and I had both, though hers was the blue. Yes, I had a "pink" perfume. Go figure. I don't remember what either one smelled like, only that I really tried to like them because of the adorable packaging but secretly didn't.

There were various perfumes that my mother got and hated, such as Fidji, O de Lancome,  Azzaro 9 and Charlie, that ended up being used as household cleaners (excellent for light switches). Obviously, my mom was never a chypre fan. Other perfumes that are stuck in my memory from that decade are Lou Lou (my sister's. I hated it and the noxious cloud that lingered in the air outside her room), Colors de Benetton (I'd love to get my hands on the old formula), Revlon Jontue (my junior high BFF bathed in it), Ultima II (high school BFF. It smelled off on her, so I bought her a bottle of Beautiful a couple of years later), and of course, Giorgio (everyone under the sun).

My high school loves were the sultry Creation by Ted Lapidus and the innocent Tamango (Leonard).  While Paloma Picasso was launched in 1984, I didn't buy my first bottle until 1989 when I started fumigating the environment with it, and then spritzed some more, to ensure the people in Malta would not miss my sillage. I also have clear memories of people wearing Aromatics Elixir, Samsara, and various Pierre Cardin perfumes. It took me years to learn to appreciate and start collecting them in their original formulas.

Then there were the really hot ones, Poison and Opium. I never liked the former and took Opium for granted until it was too late. It seemed like both a force of nature and a too obvious and ubiquitous choice. Then came the reformulations that killed Opium as we know it and I started squirreling any vintage bottle I could find. Sometimes I fantasize about going back in time and buying buying buying: not Microsoft stock. Perfume. And lots of it.

What smells like the 80s to you? Please share your scented memories.
(And don't forget to enter the draw for the very modern Loretta by Andy Tauer/ Tableau de Parfums here).


  1. How exciting to meet John Taylor! I remember having at least one poster of him on the walls of my teenage bedroom. I never could decide who I liked better, John or Simon...

    Some of the scents of the 80's for me would be the infamous Giorgio of course :)and also Eternity, Obsession, Poison. In the early 80s I remember getting samples from my mom of Youth Dew, Cinnabar & Estee Lauder Private Collection. Strong stuff! Love's Baby Soft was a popular drugstore scent & my best friend and I wore a lot of Perfumer's Workshop's Tea Rose throughout junior high.

    Ah, memories... where has the time gone? *sigh*

  2. Gaia, you and I both wear the grown-up female fragrances of the 1980s: Diva, Coco, Fendi, Teatro ala Scala, Ysatis. Opium dates from 1977, Jontue from even earlier; I associate them with that decade, along with the original Halston. Perfumewise, the 80s belonged to the three monster tuberoses: Giorgio, Poison and your mom's Chloe. I hated Giorgio then and still do. But I wear vintage Chloe and Poison because I never did back in the day and so did not overdose on them. Vintage Poison, interestingly, is a sexed-up civet monster. Vintage Chloe remains warm and creamy. I can understand why your mom is so attached to it.

  3. I wore a lot of Paris in the 80's, along with Lauren, Ysatis, 1000, and Valentino. Others too, but I can't recall the names.

  4. I was a kid in the 80s, and I remember vividly my Chanel No 5-wearing mother's torrid fragrance affair with White Linen. With her Chanel, she was restrained and reserved, but with her White Linen, she was absolutely libertine. My mother is not a strong sillage woman at all, but she thought it was such a "decent, wholesome" fragrance (her words!), she thought nothing of spraying it all over herself and everything she owned. She was also a fan of Estee Lauder GWPs, as this brand was still somewhat affordable on her grad student budget, so she amassed a large collection of Estee and Youth Dew mini bottles. She used both as bug repellent on the carpet (whoever decided to put wall-to-wall carpeting in a Hawaiian apartment building should be slapped) until I begged her to give the unwanted bottles to me. I was not allowed to wear perfume to school until I was about 12, but I wore it liberally at home. I loved Youth Dew. I was also fond of Aromatics Elixir, which was the first bottle of perfume I purchased with my own (allowance) money.

    Late 80s, I was in middle school in San Francisco, where the boys reeked of Drakkar Noir and the girls reeked of Giorgio. I was wearing Magie Noire (my favorite of that time), Azzaro 9 and First. Whenever my mother had a Lancome GWP, she'd give me the bag, the baguette (anyone remember those?), and the Magie Noire. I used the big Lancome totes as school bags and the cosmetic bags as pencil cases. I was secretly fascinated by Poison, but the social norms at my school said that was a fragrance for skanks. The fragrance I really wanted but wasn't allowed covet in front of my mother, because of the naked people in the ads, was Obsession. I also wanted a bottle of the Ungaro perfume, because 12 year old me dreamed of wearing a brightly colored Emmanuel Ungaro stretch silk satin pleat dress someday.

  5. Thanks for the blast from the past: I Still have Opium, but it Is too different from the original: however - have you ever tried their body oil, but I can not be without - I use it on my hands and it is wonderful.
    can't believe I wore Paris - can't abide it now.
    Thank goodness for Black Cashmere.

  6. What a fun post! Some scents I remember were Halston (loved the bottle), Paloma Picasso (I got to meet her and she signed her book, what a unique fragrance), Anais Anais, Chloe, Ralph Lauren, the original Calvin Klein (in an oval shaped bottle), Ciara (ick), Love's Baby Soft, Jean Nate, Paco Rabanne had a few that I liked. I remember a ton of men's fragrances since I used to work in that department after high school...Pierre Cardin, Polo, Grey Flannel, Kouros, Lagerfeld, Azzaro.

  7. Oh wow your post and then the comments took me back. I received Anais Anais as a gift as a teenager and loved it. My BFF and an older cousin wore opium and this cousin still does. Magie Noir smelled horrible on me ha! And to this day eternity for men smells like dirty socks to me.

  8. Oh God -- Giorgio. It (still) gives me heartburn whenever I smell it, and it has forever marked the '80s for me. I had a friend at art school who was doing photography with me, and her ex-husband gifted her with Giorgio... I remember walking in to an elevator, and knowing she had passed through it in the past hour, on her way to the darkrooms... and sure enough, I'd find her there, printing.

    I started the '80s with Anais Anais, and remember sleeping over at a friend's house one night, and having her tell me how her pillow was scented with it for days after.

    Most of the time, I wore Halston, which I still love to this day. I had a close group of 4 friends in high school, and one of them introduced me to it; I still think of her when I wear it. We lost touch, but she was plastered on national news programs for a time while testifying at the trial of her mother, the Silver Haired Socialite who shot her husband in the back. Somehow, the story goes along with the perfume...

    Aromatics Elixir was also a signature, but I had no particularly exciting associations with it. At some point, I wore Obsession, but only in limited doses.

    My first lover wore Eau Sauvage, and to this day, when I smell it on a man, I become weak in the knees. If I get a whiff of it, on a bus or a train or in a lobby, it becomes an obsession to find the source.

    The '80s were fabulous scent-wise. Oh, how sad the current scrubbed-of-scent era disappoints me...

    - Monika

  9. I have never liked Poison but yeah, it was everywhere.
    The original J'ai Ose and Ellipse by Fath stayed in the 80s.

  10. Laren, Paris, Rive Gauche. But mostly Lauren! I was too broke to buy my own perfume, but my mother had been given a large bottle of Lauren and she handed it off to me. Someone gave her Giorio also, but I didn't want that one. Thanks for the memories.

    1. I forgot to mention one--Loulou! Much reviled in some quarters but I loved it then. I think I still have my original bottle.

  11. I love the idea of marrying George and John! They were two of my favorites from that time. And they both still look great.

    My mom wore Chloe, too. Wind Song was her other favorite.

    I remember loving Jontue. My best friend and I would go to the department store in the mall (this is when it was sold at department stores!) just to sniff it. I wanted a bottle of my own, but never got around to purchasing it. Just recently, I was thinking I might buy a bottle, for sentimental reasons. But I'm sure it's not the same.

    In 1980 I went to Paris and discovered Opium. It was my favorite for years. I only recently gave up wearing it. It feels like too much anymore.

    I believe Colors of Benetton was the last perfume I purchased before I stopped wearing perfume in the early 90s. Fragrance of any kind (including flowers, *sigh*) was frowned upon in my workplace, so I got out of the habit of wearing it. Thankfully, things have changed and I am now enjoying perfume again.

  12. I loved the 80s and I could tell you how much I love every line of this post, but I'll limit myself to what a brilliant name Mad Max is for a cat. I wore Chloe, Calyx and Rochas Lumiere, and I remember how great Paloma Picasso smelled on a friend. I bought Lancome Climat parfum because an elegant friend recommended it, but didn't like it at all. Sure wish I'd kept it anyway! I'll go in with you on the time machine. ~~nozknoz

  13. I think of the 80s as Coco and the original Fendi, which I dearly miss. For me, the original Chloe is a 70s scent, because that's when it first came out. It was the first 'real' bottle of perfume I wore - at the tender age of 14!

  14. some very fond memories, I hated LouLou (remember the commercial? LouLou? Oui, c'est moi!). Loved Fendi to bits, my mom adored Laura Biagiotti's Roma, which to this day I don't find repulsive since she used it very lightly. When I relocated to the US I tossed all of my vintage bottles (never thought twice about it until reading this post today).

  15. Poison was always the one I wanted but couldn't afford (I wore the designer imposter version!). Colors de Benetton - everyone had this in junior high! I just scored a big 100ml boxed bottle of the vintage on Ebay, so I'm excited to get it again! My best friend was quite sophisticated and had stuff like No 19, Ysatis, Beautiful (although we're getting to the tail end of the 80s). My mother didn't wear perfume but my father was crazy about colognes and had Quorum, Grey Flannel, Tuscany, 4711, Agua de Lavanda, Lagerfeld - he used to go crazy at TJ Maxx.

  16. Good memories!
    I wore Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt, Camp Beverly Hills, Jardin de MaxFactor (loved those Jane Seymour ads!), Colors de Benetton, Lauren by Ralph Lauren (a shame this was reformulated!), Ruffles by Oscar de la Renta... all of which I'd still dab on today!

  17. The 80's to me are my best friend wearing Giorgio and inducing my migraines!
    I wore the original Calvin Klein (which I'd love to have today), Eau Savage, the original Guess, and Bijan.
    I also remember a fragrance in a blue bottle which had some form of Bleue in the name which was sold in the drugstore where I worked. Can't find any info about it online and would love to be able to smell it again.

  18. Oh my the memories, I loved Anaïs Anaïs, Albert Nipon, LouLou, could never suffer Giorgio nor Oscar de la Renta. Remember Sophia? This was my very first while in High School. Opium, Poison, Coco, Arpège where all part of my collection so was Fleur de Fleur. Great thing is, I still have them all so I can get a blast from the past once in a while.

  19. Maggie MahboubianOctober 19, 2012 4:22 PM

    That was a great decade for big bold fragrances. Magie Noir was the first I remember, my best friend wore that. Another friend wore Paris. I wore Nocturnes de Caron, Amarige, Ysatis, Coco, Chanel No. 19 and bought (and adored) Samsara in Paris before it crossed the pond. I'd hoard them all and more if I could go back.

  20. Ah the 80s! I remember my mom wearing Anais Anais and Heaven Scent, which she generously shared with me when I asked. She went through partial bottle of Giorgio Red, which was hideous. I was a kid in the 80s, by by about 1986 I started to have an awareness of perfume. I had Aviance Night Musk, Ninja (a Body Spray copy of Opium), and dreamed of owning Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth. By the later 80s, I had acquired a small collection of perfumes. I loved Coty's L'Effleur, Lauder's Knowing, The Body Shop's White Musk and Vanilla, Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose and Bonne Bell Skin Musk. The Tea Rose earned me the nickname "Eau de Rose" by the jocks in Algebra. Then I found a bottle of Chanel No.19 at Marshalls and fell in love. I wore it proudly. I then found a bottle of Paloma Picasso and sprayed with abandon. I also had a mini of YSL Paris, and one of Lancome's Tresor. By the time I went to college in 1992, I was so obsessed with Chanel's Coco, that I cut Vanessa Paradis's face out of the Chanel ad from Vogue, and replaced it with my own. I wore it for years, and mourn it's reformulation. It smells vaguely reminiscent of bug spray...

  21. I remember wearing Chanel No. 19, Cristalle, Shalimar, Ysatis, Caleche,L'Air du Temps, Chloe, Estee Lauder's White Linen, Revlon's Scoundrel, Norell, Charles of the Ritz, KL by Karl Lagerfield, Secret of Venus, and Sand and Sable. I suspect there are others I don't remember. Any time I smell one of these, they take me back. I rarely find a fragrance that I like anymore.

  22. How did I forget Charles of the Ritz? Loved that!

  23. aaaah, the 80's. I miss it so! I loved Paloma Picasso too. One of my parents' chic friends gave me a bottle of Caleche for my quinceanera--I'm Cuban--and I have to always have it to this day (30 years on I LOVE this post...thank you!!

  24. I've worn Calvin Klein's Obsession for as long as I can remember. It's a scent that somehow I'm embarrassed to say I wear when people ask, but one that consistently gets me compliments. It's a scent that just seems to meld with my skin and become one. That sounds goofy, I know, but it just works on me. I'm always looking for a new scent even though I know I always return to Obsession. I have picked up Serge Lutens Filled end Aiguilles based on the reviews here, and I love it, but Obsession will always have a number 1 spot in my heart and on my wrists.
    And boy, GnR and Duran Duran in the same post!

  25. I remember wearing Halston, Calandre and K de Krizia in the mid-80's. Also, Youth Dew, Lauren and Polo. It didn't bother me in the least that it was a men's scent. I think Kenzo d'ete came after Krizia. Pleasures is somewhere in there, along with Calvin Klein Escape, I think. Calyx. The next big thing for me was Norma Kamali signature and incense which I remember worrying might be too big for the office.

  26. aaah For me 80s smells Guy Laroche Fidji,i remember my mother and aunts .These was so happy wearing this perfume . And of course Guerlain Samsara the signature perfume for my mother.The last time I bought for her was four years ago . It was a trip abroad and she had ordered a bottle , but when I returned she had become ill suddenly and fell into a coma . After three days she died. I haven't even opened the bottle ....Amalia

  27. My first grade teacher wore lashings of Giorgio. She was beautiful with her long blonde hair and stylish square-shouldered dresses, so different from the rural mothers I was used to being around. I thought of her as a living Barbie. I still love the smell of Giorgio!

    I wore whatever my fragrance-loving grandmother gifted me, which included a knockoff of White Linen, Tea Rose, Emeraude, Enjoli, Charlie, Skin Musk, and Le Jardin. I used to spray on her White Shoulders, Wind Song, or Sophia when I stayed at my grandparents' farmhouse overnight. Bliss!

  28. I wore Poison for a while - I had a small purse spray of it - and Opium. I find it tragic, what happened to Opium recently in the reformulation, but I have few bottles to sniff through when I feel nostalgic, including a tiny little Parfum. For Poison, I now have the original Esprit de Parfum bottle but I keep it for the looks, it is a gorgeous bottle. The scent itself, once it finishes with its nukular stage, is too sweet and cuddly in the drydown.
    The other ones I remember most fondly from the 80s are: the original Armani, of which I have a bottle of parfum on hand, and Teatro Alla Scala, of which I have a few bottles, including recently purchased Estratto strength. Phthalates and other poisonous traditional 80s perfumes components aside, I find Teatro to be most wearable today.

  29. I discovered this post only today and I am a great fan of 80-ies perfumes. Back then I knew almost everything there was in the Western market. Today I'm lost in the hyperproduction of scents.
    Well, I have to start with the 70-ies (Janine D and Jontue, then Charlie) in the 80-ies it was Vu by Ted Lapidus ( I bought it afer my English teacher who smelled beautifully), then J'ai Ose (I still have a few drops from that juice), Eau Jeune (it reminds me of my teenage love-affairs...), Tamango (you mentioned it. I thought no one ever heard about it. I'd love to have a few drops of the old stuff, it felt sooooooo romantic :-), Eau Folle (Guy Laroche ruled!), Gocce (by Napoleon)...and then came the one and only, never forgotten GIORGIO ARMANI. I bought it during 1983, 1984, 1985... and sometimes I changed a bit to Rive Gauche, Schocking You, Trussardi Donna, Via Condotti, Donna R (yes, I loved Italian designer scents), K de Krizia (for quite some time), Coriandre, Maxim's de Paris and also Paris by YSL, but only one small bottle.
    I surely missed something, but I mentioned all my favourites :-)
    And yes, back then we wore a lot of men's perfume: Trussardi Uomo, Azzaro, Sergio Soldano...

  30. I also just found your site looking for vintage perfume advertisements for inspiration for a shoot! Such a good post. No one mentioned Liz Claiborne! That was our jam in Bergen County, NJ in the 80s. Also Design - we loved that. Of course Poison, Ralph Lauren in the square burgundy bottle, Paris. Too many clouds of Drakkar Noir over any boy who gelled his hair. I recently found my old bottle of Electric Youth - 1989 - still smells as cloying as it did back then (though I did secretly love it) and hasn't turned. Loved Paloma Picasso, my mother's various Chanel fragrances - I loved the effervescence of No. 19.

  31. How about Liz Claiborne, Calyx by Perscriptives, Paris, Design, Poision, Gorgio, Avon Night Musk, Samsara, and my favorite, KL by Karl Lagerfeld. I loved KL and wish they still made it.

  32. CORRECTION OF MY PRIOR NOTES. Night Musk was not by Avon but by Prince Matchabelli. Avon did have a musk perfume though that came out in the 80s. I also remember "Noturnes" by Caron. The reformulation smells nothing like the original. (surprise, surprise).....Also, posters are commenting on Ralph by Ralph Lauren and that came out in 1978, not in the 80s. Aromatics by Clinique came out in 1971. Both are 70s scents.


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