Chanel No. 5 L’Eau

For ten glorious minutes, No. 5 L’Eau is exactly as promised: No. 5 with an Instagram filter. Brightened, a little desaturated. A sheer, slender No. 5, brimming with the signature sparkling aldehydes, paler than its predecessors. For those first ten minutes, I found L’Eau undeniably lovely, and would have happily recommended it to anyone who prefers No. 5’s effervescent top notes to the golden warmth of its drydown. But the family resemblance quickly fades, and L’Eau softens into a wisp of a white floral with a cloud of that white musk Chanel is so damn fond of lately.

No. 5 L’Eau is unambitiously pretty. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want in a perfume. But it’s not what I want from a No. 5. The original No. 5 revolutionized the definitions of femininity in perfumery, liberating women from floral fragrances. Taming that rebel yell into L’Eau’s tasteful whisper doesn’t sit quite right with me. I don’t like seeing L’Eau’s wonderfully distinctive opening smoothed into unremarkable pleasantness, especially in light of Chanel’s declaration that “No. 5 L’Eau is the No. 5 of today.” Because this demurely bland little fragrance is not the No. 5 we need today. We need the trailblazing No. 5, the No. 5 that put some steel in your spine. Now more than ever.

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. My No. 5 L’Eau sample was acquired at Sephora. 

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Crying Over Spilled Perfume

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Last night, I ripped open the package of Catherine Deneuve pure parfum I’d bought for this week’s celebrity perfumes workshop. You probably know where this is going from the post title. Despite the Fort Knox’s worth of bubble wrap, the bottle was completely empty. Every last drop of this priceless (well, $29.67 for 1/16th ounce, but who’s counting?) perfume had leaked.

It’s not my first brush with perfume tragedy- there’s the bottle of (vintage!) Chanel No. 5 parfum that spilled in my purse, or the J. Crew rollerball that was already half-evaporated when I opened it- but this one definitely hits the hardest. There’s always more No. 5, but Deneuve was discontinued years ago, so it feels like I’ve lost a little piece of perfume history. At least the box still smells amazing.

What’s your greatest perfume tragedy? Leaks, shattered glass, discontinuations- spill the juice! (METAPHORICALLY, PLEASE.)

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I purchased all products featured in this post (sob). 

Enrichment and Elimination

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Kitty separation anxiety: so much less cute than it sounds. I’m working in the Nordstrom fragrance department over the holidays to study the DC perfume shopper, and my unpredictable retail schedule is freaking Zelda out. She cuddles now, you guys. Cuddles! The minute I walk through the door, she plants herself on my collarbone and demands ear scratches. She sleeps by my feet! And only bites them once or twice! Significantly less adorable is her newfound tendency to, as the cat separation anxiety websites euphemistically put it, “eliminate outside of the litter box”. When “eliminating” on the floor three times failed to stop me from leaving the house, the fuzzy little terrorist went for the duvet.

Dr. Google’s recommendations range from kitty prozac (what’s that saying about pets starting to resemble their owners?) to various methods of making Zelda’s environment more stimulating. So far I’ve brought in a cat tower, which she completely ignores, and downloaded some cat-enriching videos. (“Duck Rush Hour” is pretty much cat Game of Thrones.) Then I remembered a favorite Now Smell This post about zookeepers using Calvin Klein Obsession as “enrichment” to keep their tigers mentally stimulated. Inspired, I sprayed four of my most intriguing perfumes and attempted to enrich the elimination away. In the name of science, and an unshat duvet, I present my findings.

Chanel No. 5: Zero sniffing, and Zelda pulled back her head when I moved the paper closer to her. I have raised a deeply uncultured kitteh.
L’Artisan Dzing!: Faint interest. Some sniffing, and one paw at the piece of paper. Zelda has clearly never read the dozens of Dzing! reviews describing it as “animalic”.
CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves: Intense interest! A good fifteen seconds of sniffing, followed by multiple paws at the paper. My hypothesis: Burning Leaves has a salty, meaty aspect that appeals to carnivores.

Displaying the highest contempt for the scientific process, Zelda wandered off before I could test the last fragrance, Gorilla Perfumes The Smell of Weather Turning.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the commission. I’ll expect my research grant shortly.

Notes on method: I sprayed the fragrances on four identical pieces of paper to prevent Zelda from being influenced by packaging. This would have been a lot more impressive if I had remembered to include a control. 

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?

Chanel No 22

Start with the golden elegance and sparkling aldehydes of Chanel No. 5. Strip away some of its aloofness and add a seamless blend of non-sweet orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose. No. 22’s best quality is a stunning streak of incense that lends gravity to what otherwise could have been essentially a No. 5 flanker. The end result is a beautiful scent heady with mystery and glamour. Chanel No. 5 is often paired with pearls; Chanel No. 22 would go better with diamonds. No. 22 adds a touch of khol to No. 5’s mascara and red lipstick. It is the scent that Marilyn Monroe, a dazzling but not particularly classical beauty, probably should have worn.

No. 22 is part of the Le Exclusifs collection, which can be found at select Chanel boutiques, select Saks Fifth Avenues, and Bergdorf Goodman. It is only available in the EDT formulation at $200 for 6.8 ounces. The official notes from the Chanel website are: lily of the valley, neroli, aldehydes, tuberose, oriental jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, haitian vetiver and bourbon vanilla. One word of caution: as an EDT, No. 22 is not particularly strong or long-lasting.

Disclaimer: I was given a sample of No 22 by an SA at the Chevy Chase Saks Fifth Avenue, aka best Saks ever.