Holly Golightly Girls

My parents and I saw City Island night. It was a great movie, very funny (lovers of Jersey Shore will take to it immediately). From the very start, I was drawn to Molly, the lovely Emily Mortimer’s character. She seemed so familiar, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Black liquid eyeliner, trench coat, oversize sunglasses… left her husband and three children to become an actress in New York, where she adopted a vaguely British accent… name that rhymes with “Holly”… of course, of course. Molly was a pitch-perfect portrayal of a phenomenon I like to call “Holly Golightly Girls.”

Your average Holly Golightly Girl is easy to identify. She smokes too much. She wears cat-eye eyeliner and little black dresses that look divine on her slender figure. She’s as effervescent as champagne bubbles, sparkling with charm and wit. This vivacity is always accompanied by an undercurrent of wistful vulnerability. Holly Golightly Girls flirt with everyone, and as a result generally have few female friends. Occasionally they’ll throw out lines- “We don’t belong to each other”, or something about the mean reds- that only someone who’s watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s over and over would pick up on.

That someone, of course, would be me. I know every line, every outfit, every graceful gesture. I can tell you what drink Holly orders in the nightclub scene, or the contents of her refrigerator (milk, champagne, pink ballet slippers). If I lived in New York, I would undoubtedly walk up and down Fifth Avenue at 6 in the morning. Yet I do not count myself among the ranks of the HGGs. HGGs adopt Holly’s mannerisms, but they fail to grasp the deeper meaning. They adopt her vulnerability, but they have no understanding of how precarious her position really was.

It is often suggested that Holly’s character was intended to be a prostitute. Holly’s belief that love was a means to an end rather than an all-consuming goal would have been considered so unseemly in a woman that this interpretation is unsurprising. However, Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote refuted this claim in a 1968 Playboy interview, explaining that Holly “was the prototype of today’s liberated female”. Despite her questionable gold-digging ways, Holly was ultimately a woman attempting to be independent at a time when men expected total ownership over women.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s opens with a man banging on Holly’s door, yelling about how he paid for her friends’ dinner. “Now, doesn’t that give me some rights?” Holly certainly doesn’t think so. Later in the film, she counters Paul Varjak’s grossly entitled “I love you, you belong to me!” with “I’ll never let anybody put me in a cage”. Holly Golightly Girls, with their fixation on Holly’s appearance and style, miss the point entirely. Eyeliner isn’t what makes Holly fabulous. Her bravery in going against cultural norms, that’s what I wish these girls would want to emulate.

Holly’s perfume choices reflect her desire to be liberated from traditional gender roles. Rather than Chanel No 5 or Jean Patou Joy, two of the most popular feminine fragrances at the time, Holly wears 4711, a men’s cologne. Perfume is usually portrayed as a tool to allure and entice men (although we perfumistas know this is rarely the case). Holly’s preference for a men’s cologne suggests that appealing to men was not her goal. That a woman’s goal, in 1943, could be something other than pleasing men, that’s something special indeed.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, I loathe the movie ending. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Paul’s all “How dare you refuse to submit to my attempts to control you! You’ll never find love because you’re too much of a free spirit! You’re in a glass case of emotion… OF YOUR OWN DOING!”

So of course Holly’s all “Even though I have never once given any indication that I think of you as anything more than a friend, I’m totally going to go along with this, thus negating my entire character development. Let’s make out in the rain!!!”

Goddammit, Holly.

I must admit, I’ve never tried 4711. If you have, do you think it suits Holly? Which perfume would you imagine her in?

11 thoughts on “Holly Golightly Girls

  1. Love Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s! I see Holly in a men’s scent. Something really shocking but sensual on her. Unfortunately, I’m not a men’s fragrance guru, so can’t suggest one (sorry!). Holly was so bon chic bon genre – so strong, yet so vulnerable at the same time. Have to say that I really don’t care for George Peppard, though. There are so many other actors I would have rather seen in that role…

    1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my all-time favorites. I think you’re exactly right that George Peppard didn’t really bring much to the table. He made a character that was already (to me, at least) somewhat unsympathetic downright unlikeable.

  2. While I’ve yet to try 4711 I have heard it likened to SMN Acqua di Colonia which is a fragrance that’s rather masculine in nature despite being considered suitable for both men & women. It’s spicy & very old smelling and something that truly transports me to another time. Unfortunately, its lasting power is terrible and it vanishes very quickly. I’ve found splashing it on clothing actually retains the fragrance but even still it’s become something I wear to bed after showering instead of out.

    1. It sounds incredible! I’ve seen huge bottles of 4711 going for $14 at discounters, but I can’t bring myself to buy it yet.

  3. Really, are you kidding…? this is almost a subversive post! :O
    I do not think this stuff is a catastrophe, but I don’t think it would suits Holly either…
    N.o w.a.y, hahaha! XD and I cross my fingers…

    I’m sure you don’t know at which point this is an uncomplicated fragrance, that it lacks depth… Where I live this is the most used frag around you everyday, if you know what I mean… completely ‘Generic’ in a bad way. One of the first scents I smelled, and I disliked it even then… The kind of clean / sour / crisp / acidic / fresh scent that are a good start for newcomers or past-perfume haters = of course this is representative of the anti-perfume. More close to a bathroom cleaner than to a perfume.
    Well, at least it’s cheap, and it comes in a loving bottle though.

    Leaving 4711 apart, and along with your writing and your ideas which I like and applaud, maybe I could see Holly wearing Aqua di Parma Colonia. Or the lovely classic Eau de Courrèges.
    But to be honest with myself, I’d imagine her in EAU DE GIVENCHY.

    1. How funny! Do you perhaps live in Germany then? Because I’ve never smelled 4711 on anyone in my life!!!
      You’re right, I was writing about 4711 as a concept (the fact that it is a men’s cologne) than the scent itself, since I had not tried 4711 at the time of this post. I agree that all of your suggestions would fit her well too!

  4. … as I’ve found in the net, my choice it’s not so far-fetched 😉 —-> “the perfume Holly is spraying in the apartment hallway during her drunken scenes is *Makila* by Jean Patou : this perfume from 1961 was a composition around white flowers and most interesting around Jasmin Sambac – a type of jasmin with a particular note. It was sold only in the 60’s and is not often seen on ebay. That was the pre Hedione era, with jasmine notes composed à l’ancienne, but still good and with a lot of naturals.”

  5. so it seems that Holly Golightly loved jasmines after all , hahaha! cool

    I live in Barcelona (Spain), but 4711 is a well known throughout Europe for over many many years. I hope you get the chance!!
    To me it’s difficult to get things of some foreign Perfume Houses as well. 🙂

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