Friday, May 23, 2014

Revlon- Ciara

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.



  1. Ciara was definitely in my rotation back in the day (early '80's). I have fond memories of it.

  2. I was surprised how much I liked an old bottle that came in an auction lot I won a while back, I had just assumed it would be some stinky headache scent that I would have to get rid of. Lauren Hutton is just gorgeous in that first ad.

  3. For some reason, I didn't wear this back in its day. I think one of the guys I dated had had a girlfriend who had worn it and I didn't want to remind him of her. That was the problem with uber ubiquitous scents - reminding people of someone they may have known and loathed. Anyway, a few years ago I read a post about it somewhere and ordered a vintage bottle of the 100 strength - fell completely in love with it. I know it came in 80 and 200 strength as well and I need to try and get a bottle of the 200 strength - am not entirely sure what the differences in the strengths are, but my hopes are that the 200 strength would have even more depth and complexity.
    Had not thought of it in terms of gender until reading your comments and seeing the ads marketing it as being "thoroughly female" - really interesting since I just got it out and spritzed some on to recheck my impressions and it definitely seems to me like something a man could wear - and wear quite well. Am now having a hard time taking my nose away from the wrist I spritzed it on - so incredibly gorgeous.

  4. there's nothing "wrong" with ciara from around four years ago - don't know if it's changed in that length of time, but the bottle i bought at the drugstore then reminds me plenty of the ciara my sorority big sister wore as her signature scent in the '70s. it was a scent as big as her personality and presence, and probably still is. as i've grown less meek (she felt protective of me back then) i've found i enjoy wearing it, too. i like to wear it when i want sweet incense and unabashed sexiness. it is fantastic to wear in the rain, btw. cheers, minette

  5. I'll be honest. I never liked the Ciara. I remember my aunts wearing it all the time and it just assaulted my nostrils. Of course, now that I'm much older, I no longer think it's that bad anymore but whenever I smell it, it just takes me back to the days when I hated it.

  6. Hi Gaia, I just wanted to ask which Hakuhodo Yachiyo brush you would recommend for blush application and blending, the large or the medium? I already own the NARS Yachiyo which I really like, but I feel it's just too scratchy!

    1. The medium, without a doubt. And I'd also get a small one. You'll quickly realize that the precise placement with the Yachiyo's superb blending is unparalleled.

    2. Thanks Gaia, is the large Yachiyo too big for blush application and more suited to powder?

    3. Not necessarily, but personally that's how I use both the large Hakuhodo and the NARS Yachiyo-- for powder and overall face blending.

  7. I smelled ciara for the first time this week at an antique mall and immediately thought of Bal a Versailles! I might go back for it just to compare wrist to wrist with BaV.


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