It's easy today to make fun of Laura Ashley's design. It's Death By Pink Flowers. An overkill of preciousness. And have I mentioned pink flowers? It's many people's home decor nightmare (mine too) and possibly the least sexy choice one can make. But when you actually look at Ashley's original work and prints they aren't really that cutesy despite the Victorian flavor; they were definitely not ridiculous, just really really feminine. I still remember Laura Ashley stores in the 1980s and some very pretty and dresses they offered.
Pretty. That's the main thing about Laura Ashley's work.
Back in the day there were several Laura Ashley perfumes. They were discontinued and became very collectible. Some of them were recently relaunched in the familiar flower decorated bottles, but Emma wasn't among them, which is a real shame. I was thrilled a few weeks ago when I found a partial bottle of Emma at an antique store. It's a clear splash bottle with a glass stopper decorated with an etched "E". Pretty but definitely not overdone.
The very top notes are a bit wonky. It smells like a light citrus that hasn't aged to well, but within seconds it becomes all better and the true floral nature of Emma is revealed. I smell green stems and leaves along some freesia, narcissus, hyacinth and rose, before the spring breath of muguet comes along. I think I also smell a heady hydrangea, but who knows? The overall impression is an almost abstract floral, a little sweet, somewhat green, and-- you guessed it-- very pretty.
I definitely smell oakmoss in Emma's dry-down. It adds not just to the green and clean impression, but also to the fragrance's backbone. Emma is not a wimpy perfume, despite its sheerness (and the questionable longevity of the old juice in my bottle). It's light and lacks any earthiness that could have been there from the suggested notes (below). I guess it's like the pretty stylized flowers of Laura Ashley's prints, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Notes (as found online. No guarantees whatsoever) : Bergamot, Freesia, Hyacinth, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Honey, Honeysuckle, Lily of the Valley, Amber, Brazilian Vetiver, Moss, Musk, Sandalwood.
Top photo: Gwyneth Paltrow as Jane Austen's Emma via IMDB.
Second photo of my own bottle features crocheted lace handmade by my great-grandmother, Denise, in the early 1920. Wrong era and wrong country (she grew up in Bucharest, Romania), but I thought it's pretty.
Photo of Laura Ashley fashion by Jane Ashley via lauraashley.com.