Rochas Femme

I stand before you today, living proof that there are some really, really dumb people at Johns Hopkins. I found a 3.4 bottle of Rochas Femme yesterday at Filene’s Basement for an incredible price, which I promptly snapped up. Femme is reputed to be the ultimate in perfume seduction, with that shapely bottle inspired by Mae West’s curves. It also, somewhat surprisingly, is said to be one of the perfumes worn by my style icon, Audrey Hepburn. The notes are peach, plum, sandalwood, rosewood, lemon, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, patchouli, musk, amber, civet, and leather, according to

Well, I enthusiastically hosed my wrist down with Femme, waited for an hour, and… was massively disappointed. Sure, it was pleasant, this blend of jasmine and sandalwood, but it wasn’t sex-in-a-bottle, and it reminded me quite a bit of Lanvin Arpege. I returned it. Cut to several hours later. To my shock and dismay, a stunning blend of peaches, plums, and a beautiful lemon note is currently taunting me from my wrist. I did not get any of the “indian food” (cumin) note that was added after Femme was reformulated. It was terribly feminine and did indeed feel very Audrey.

Oh, Femme. Why was I so quick to judge you? I should have known that a scent beloved by Audrey Hepburn would never reveal everything upfront. Now, I still don’t think that Femme is sex-in-a-bottle, but it smells bloody fantastic. Femme has been discontinued for a while, but can be found at discounters like Filene’s, Loehmanns, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls, or at online discounters.

Disclaimer: I very briefly owned a bottle of Femme.

Lanvin Arpège

Queridos, do you know the story of Rita Hayworth? Before Jessica Alba, before Penelope Cruz, before Salma Hayek, there was Rita Hayworth, a stunning and talented Spanish actress/dancer from the 1940’s. Hollywood had no place for Latinas in Rita’s time; she, along with the equally fascinating Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio, helped to pave the way for the beautiful women that I mentioned above.

Well, maybe except for Ms. Jessica “Don’t Call Me Hispanic” Alba. Jess- may I call you Jess? Great- what exactly are you trying to accomplish by saying things like, “As a third-generation American, I feel as if I have finally cut loose [from her Mexican heritage]”? Listen, lady. You’re not exactly Meryl Streep. Hell, you’re not even a Jessica Biel. You have one thing and one thing only going for you, and that is your looks. And I hate to tell you this, sweetheart, but your admittedly impressive looks owe an awful lot to those Mexican roots that you try so hard to hide. That white-girl impression you’re doing in the following picture is sad and frankly scary. Rita Hayworth didn’t bust her butt fighting Latino stereotypes so that you could act a fool.


Where were we? Rita Hayworth defined the word “Bombshell”- a poster of Miss Hayworth was stuck onto the first nuclear bomb to be tested after World War Two. Rita famously said, “Whatever you write about me, don’t make it sad.” As much as I wish that I could respect her wishes, what I have to tell you about her life is very sad indeed. Despite her indisputable sex appeal, Rita was divorced five times; four out of the five divorces were filed on the grounds of “cruelty”, both mental and physical. Her biography, “If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth”, alleges that she was sexually abused as a child by her father. Why do I bring up Rita Hayworth today? Rita was known to wear Lanvin Arpège, the complex and sensual perfume that I will be reviewing today. Like the legendary Hayworth, Arpège projects a sex appeal that is devastating in every sense of the word.

Much like Chanel Coco, Arpège begins by giving us the grand tour of Jasmine City (with brief stopovers in Rose Town and Geranium Village). There are, however, substantial differences between the two perfumes. Where Coco can be loud and borderline garish (very much an ’80s perfume), Arpège is extremely soft. Where Coco seduces with a bold laugh that can be heard across the room,Arpège seduces with a whisper. If Coco were Victoria’s Secret, all padding and push-ups, Arpège would be a more sophisticated, high-end brand like La Perla.
Eventually, the jasmine transitions into lily of the valley and sandalwood. At this point you look up from all that La Perla and realize that Arpège also has a very lovely face. The base is extremely appealing, pure sandalwood all the way down. I am honestly not a huge fan of jasmine and have never really understood why it is considered a “sexy” note in perfues. In Arpège, I concede that the jasmine is very sexy indeed. Despite all of this sexiness, Arpège remains very tasteful. Rita Hayworth was famous for refusing to do nude scenes in her movies; Arpège has a similar seductive-but-not-revealing quality. You’d never catch Arpège cavorting about on a pole like Miley Cyrus.
Miley, do the words “role model” ring a bell? No? Okay then.

As smitten as I am with Arpège, I do not frequent it. This may be because I associate it with beautiful women who led undeservedly tragic lives (Princess Diana also wore it). Regardless, Arpège is a magnificent perfume, one worthy of the royalty who wore it.
Disclaimer: I own a bottle of Arpège that I found at Filene’s Basement.