Audrey Hepburn was rumored to prefer Le De, the 1957 Givenchy perfume, over L'Interdit that was more famously associated with her. Bette Davis was another fan, which is a little startling if you imagined her wearing something like Bandit or Cabochard. But you know what? It's not that surprisng. Le De is a classic floral, true, but it manages to be incredibly alluring and sophisticated. I enjoy the richness of the blend more than the somewhat prissy aldehydic L'Interdit. It's also telling that when I wear Le De the husband never makes the usual "smells like vintage" comment (his reaction to many aldehyde florals, old and new).
Le De is very smooth and seamless, especially in the vintage extrait that I have. The top notes aren't damaged, but they're dense and thick like a massive bouquet, artfully arranged in a crystal vase placed on a marble table top in a formal room in front of a massive and beautifully framed window. The opulence and wealth are on display, yet everything is meticulously chosen and presented, so it's very tasteful and not too overwhelming. This is Le De.
There's also a naughty side to this Givenchy classic. Yes, some of the floral notes are busy keeping up a soapy and powdery appearance, but you simply cannot ignore the indolic shadow and the whiff of an animalic touch. Le De is bolder, more confident, and a little bit more heady than one would expect from a classic 1950s floral that at first appears so delicate. I guess that's part of the allure of the era's aesthetics. The dresses, the handbags, the fussy hairstyles, yet there's such a bold femininity in the curve-accenting clothes and red lipsticks.
The original Le De is long gone, but Givenchy re-introduced (and apparently also reformulated it a second time) in 2007 and 2011. You can read more about it and see the versions compared on Perfume Shrine.
Image: a 1957 Givenchy gown photographed by Philippe Pottier.