Emily, Lucrezia and Zelda

20th December, 2010

History is full of stories about fragrance and specific scents made famous by equally famous people. Coco Chanel once said, "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future." This quote has led me to entertain thoughts of famous women in history and the perfumes in existence today that might suit them. It may seem an eccentric pastime to the average person but I am convinced that I am not the only perfume addict who does this. After all, a mesmerizing line of perfumes, Histoires De Parfums, by the talented and creative Gerald Ghislain features perfumes inspired by Collette, George Sand and Mata Hari.

I think about matching people to fragrance frequently and I often bemoan the fact that there is no full time job that would involve sitting in a room full of thousands of bottles of perfumes and matching each one to a song, a person or a painting. I think this would be an enlightening, beneficial and magnificent pursuit. Unfortunately, my employers have never agreed with me.

That has not stopped me from playing "match the historical figure to the perfume" with my similarly obsessed fragrance fanatic friends. I am hoping it will elicit some interesting suggestions.

Emily Dickinson-(December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) Après l'Ondee - Guerlain

Emily Dickinson, the accomplished and reclusive poet born in Massachusetts, returned after studying at Amherst, to the home of her parents. She had a penchant for wearing all white, seldom left the house, eventually rarely leaving her room. All her friendships were carried on via correspondence and she did not gain widespread fame until after her death when her sister, Lavinia, discovered her secreted work. I would choose the pallid heliotrope perfume Après l'Ondee for this interesting and reclusive woman. Après l’Ondee goes with white just as death is unfailingly mentioned with immortality, two more of Dickinson’s obsessions. It is somber yet achingly beautiful and is the perfect scent for a decidedly anti-social woman overcome by her own sensitivity.

Lucrezia Borgia (April18, 1480 –June 24, 1519) - Dune-Dior

Historically her name is almost synonymous with the evil, malevolence, cruelty and political family intrigue that made the Renaissance Papacy the model for the Godfather saga. Born to the man who became Pope Alexander VI, and part of the infamously cruel Borgia family, Lucrezia is the poster girl for the corrupting influence of a ceaseless pursuit of power and wealth. For her I would choose the haunting and magnificent oriental scent, Dune. Luca Turin in the book Perfumes the A-Z Guide co-authored with Tania Sanchez says "Forget suburban gothic names, forget all the phony noirs from Angelique to Orris. True, menacing darkness is not to be found in upset the parents Alice Cooper poses, but in this disenchanted, ladylike gem." It is gorgeous, dark and somehow chilling. Perfect for the fascinatingly evil Lucrezia Borgia.

Zelda Fitzgerald (July 24, 1900 – March 10, 1948) Vamp –Opus Oils

The wife of the author who personified the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda was a southern beauty of rare intelligence and heightened sensitivities. A 1970's book written about her marriage revealed that she was more a victim of an overbearing insecure husband than the neurotic mentally unstable woman who lost her life in an asylum and who was previously considered by many, including her husband, to be hopelessly insane. She has posthumously become just as much an emblem for the feminist movement as she was an emblem for the Roaring Twenties when she was alive. For her I would choose Vamp, from the Afraid of the Dark Collection by Opus Oils. With its lush notes of smokey gardenia, sparkling orange blossom and luscious vanilla this gorgeous gardenia perfume is impressively beautiful, addictive and dangerously difficult to ignore.

Just like Zelda.

Of course, this is all surmise, but I can’t help but imagine Apres l' Ondee brightening the air in that already bright New England bedroom as Emily Dickinson filled slips of paper with her beautiful verse. Or Zelda strolling on the promenade deck of a liner, trailing the scent of flowers just as the ship trailed its streams of coal smoke and phosphorescent grandeur. I have spared myself many a boring business meeting drifting away and entertaining the idea that choosing a fragrance for a historical figure was actually my job...

About the author

Michelle Smith is a complete fragrance addict and has been collecting perfume longer than she would care to admit. She is a former English teacher,web content writer and ghost writer for several blogs as well as an author of poetry, magazine articles and many product use and study guides. Her own blog perfumeandink.com combines her love of perfume with her love of literature

  • Share this

Advertisement — comments are below


    • nonnative | 20th December 2010 17:15

      When I first saw the daguerrotipe of my beloved Emily at the top of your article I couldn't resist start reading it! Soon I started to imagine which parfume would Emily use and a name came to my mind. Un Lys by serge lutens. Because the first time she met higginson she carried two white lilies and, if I remember well, she said these were her portrait/signature. Moreover she loved nature and natural scents (bread, cakes, flowers...) so I was looking for a very good reproduction of a real flower. And un lys is for me the best lily. But when I saw you choice I agreed with you! Yes, she would have choosen a classic, simple and complex at the same time, ethereal parfume that smells of nature such as apree l'ondes!

    • msmith139 | 20th December 2010 18:23

      I am so glad you agree with the choice...and I love your intuitive comments...thanks so much!

      Michelle Smith

    • Francop | 20th December 2010 20:55

      I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your article Michelle...

      I wonder what sort of perfume you reckon Maria Callas would have worn...she led a unique life of success and sorrow...:smiley:

    • msmith139 | 20th December 2010 21:39


      I thank you for taking the time to leave such a kind comment. Wow! Maria Callas that is a great question...She was dramatic, bigger than life and from what I understand she loved Aristotle Onassis and was very hurt that he married Jackie...someone so much different than she was...maybe Envy... green and almost brittle in its impact ..or perhaps First by Van Cleef and Arpel...a really wonderful perfume in the tradition of classic French Perfumes...big, complex and absolutely gorgeous. What do you think?


      Michelle Smith

    • Francop | 20th December 2010 22:22


      Michelle...I am so impressed...!!!

      I think First by Van Cleef and Arpel would suit her really well being a traditional French floral...

      I shall be in touch with more hypothetical female perfume legends...comes to mind...Joan of Arc...

      Thanks again...:cheesy:

    • Andreabsu | 21st December 2010 00:09

      What an amazingly written and insightful blog! My mind is now swimming with historical characters and what they might have worn! Thank you for such a treat to read!

    • msmith139 | 21st December 2010 01:41


      I am so happy that you enjoyed this..it was so thoughtful that you took the time to leave such a lovely comment and I thank you!

      Michelle Smith


    • msmith139 | 21st December 2010 01:43


      Really great suggestion...that is a toughie..I will have to give it some thought...I would love to hear what you think and thanks for making this project so much fun with your suggestions!



    • Francop | 21st December 2010 16:19


      Thanks for taking the time to write such a beautiful article and for being so thoughtful...

      I think Joan of Arc would have worn Diorissimo being a classic soothing lily of the valley with a slight funereal connection...

    • msmith139 | 21st December 2010 17:00


      Thanks for such a lovely comment.

    • msmith139 | 21st December 2010 17:08

      Hi Francop,

      I love your choice for Joan of Arc...I think it would be perfect...She was quite the tough young woman so she also might have gone for Opus Oils (I love those guys) Rollergirl,,,billed as "the perfume that packs a punch". However I have to agree that the Diorissimo is nearly a perfect selection. You seem to love the vintage scents as I do and I must say you have great taste. There is an article on my blog called Julie Wore pavlova that you might like.

      My blog, perfumeandinkblog.com is more about using perfume as an association for other thoughts so stop by as I would love your thoughts on some of the posts. I don't post as frequently s I would like due to time constraints but I am going to try to post at least once a week in the new year.

      Thanks again for the great suggestion and just taking the time to comment...it really is so appreciated.



    • Francop | 21st December 2010 20:06

      Thank you sweetheart...

      I have read your beautifully written story about Julie wore Pavlova...

      Aren`t you a gifted writer...you can touch our souls...!

      I shall read your complete blog and will comment on your posts...

      Thanks for your most gorgeous and unexpected Christmas present...!:rolleyesold:

    • msmith139 | 21st December 2010 21:56


      My best gift of the Holidays is that you like the writing. The Best of Holidays to you and all those who you love.


    • Francop | 21st December 2010 22:23

      Thanks for being such a BIG STAR...!!!:smiley:

    • msmith139 | 22nd December 2010 19:15

      Thanks for the comment and good thoughts

    • Francop | 24th December 2010 18:56

      Have a wonderful Christmas Michelle; have put on my nuit de noel tonight specially thinking of you and your wonderful writing...:rolleyesold:

    • msmith139 | 26th December 2010 20:25


      Hope your Christmas was fantastic and that you enjoyed your lovely Nuit De Noel...we have snow here in the states where I am and it is so pretty...Hope your Christmas was all that you wished for and more.



    • Francop | 27th December 2010 08:40


      Thank you; we also did have a wonderful white Christmas.

      I enjoyed wearing Nuit de Noel, Bain de Caron, Infini, Parfum Sacre, Nocturnes and Montaigne...all of them heady wintry scents by Caron...

      This Christmas was truly magical...

      Happy New Year...:smiley:

    • msmith139 | 27th December 2010 14:26

      Wonderful...I love Parfum Sacre and Nocturnes is so very beautiful...have a Happy and wonderful New Year.

    • Francop | 27th December 2010 23:21

      I will do and continue reading your fantastic Blog Michelle

      Happy New Year/Feliz Anio Nuevo