Since yesterday I talked about a $800 perfume I figured we can really slum it tonight with a 1970s fragrance that as far as I know has always been a drugstore staple: Ciara by Revlon (formerly Charles Revson). I had different views of Ciara at various points in my life, first seeing it as the forbidden grownup scent, so womanly and mysterious, but later on the chaotic noise of this massive oriental registered with me as cheap and low-brow. Today, however, smelling Ciara from older bottles (I take no responsibility for the stuff currently at Walgreens) I'm blown away by how truly fabulous and interesting Ciara was.
They put everything in it. Tart fruit (it's not the sticky juice of modern perfumes), herbs and spices (I could swear I smell lavender somewhere in the middle), a bouquets of pale purple flowers, a touch of headshop patchouli and the sweaty hippie who wears it, a powder puff, incense and myrrh, and a massive vanilla-opoponax-wood base, dry as bone and unapologetic. It's here to be seen, touched, and smelled. From the other side of the room, if necessary. Ciara is obviously not a "clean" perfume, but it's not a skank fest, either. It's loud, sure, not trying to hide its perfumeness or its curves, as opposed to the cheeky sportiness of Revlon's other 1973 perfume, Charlie. But this is more of a going out scent and not necessarily one for the boudoir, and I can't say that I quite get the frequent comparisons to Bal a Versailles, as the latter is a celebration of civet and perversion, while Ciara really tries to behave.
Even in the late dry-down, when the perfume has spent quality time with my skin and has warmed up and rolled around quite a bit, it never becomes sweet . There's so much wood and resins there, with a thick mossy layer on top, and it could almost pass as a masculine fragrance. Actually, I do think that a man could wear it. I no longer perceive Ciara as that femme fatale from the 70s, but as a very intricate oriental with a bit too much going on, in the best possible way. It might not be elegant or streamlined, but there's a sense of purpose there, an assertive statement, and a surprising quality that it's easier to appreciate with several decades between us and the various great aunts who loved Ciara and bathed in it.
Notes (via Jan Moran) : raspberry, vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli, cedarwood, herbaceous spices, frankincense, balsam, myrrh.