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  1. #1

    Default Which perfumes were popular during the Great War?

    I found this site while doing research for a book. I hope no one minds if I jump right in with a question.

    For the book I am writing, I am in search of two feminine perfumes that would have been worn circa 1918. I wonder if anyone could suggest (historically correct) possibilities for me if I describe the two characters? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts.


    This book is based on a manuscript that my great-grandfather wrote about his true experiences. Perfume plays a very important role because he was blinded in the war.


    Character one: *She wears an Italian perfume that is quite distinctive. While the perfume is never named in the manuscript, it is described as a floral blend. It is also described as having a pervasive scent. This perfume was apparently difficult to obtain or little known.

    I will describe the character, because if anyone wants to suggest something that would have suited her looks and personality, I would find that quite helpful. She is a 22-year-old woman, born of a French upper-class family. She is petite, has dark hair that she wears in an elaborate chignon, and large, luminous black eyes. She dresses stylishly despite the war, in dark well-cut suits and pearl earrings. She always wears high heels and has a fast, tripping walk. She is sweet and brave, but loves pranks. She can be reckless. She grew up in a semi-rural environment, in a chateau just outside Paris, and has always loved to be around animals. She is well-educated for her times, and enjoys opera and singing. She has volunteered with the Croix-Rouge, and spends time talking with soldiers, reading aloud the newspaper, and accompanying them during hospital transfers. She has a very sympathetic heart, though she is often overcome by melancholy. Her two brothers and father were killed in the war. Her mother died of grief. She is chaperoned by her traditional and correct uncle and aunt.



    Character two: Her perfume is only described as being very attractive, but less distinctive than the first woman's.

    This character is from the Philadelphia Main Line. She is twenty-seven years old. Her hair is a dark chestnut color. She has fair skin and blue eyes, fine features, and a willowy slender figure. She speaks French and German fluently, plays the piano and organ, and also is interested in opera. She comes from a family with many doctors and was trained as a nurse for "something to do". She has come to France to work in a Base Hospital. She is imperious, determined to have her own way, and used to being obeyed. Her manners are very elegant, but hide a certain amorality. She can be gentle and endearing, but is ruthless when crossed. She habitually wears expensive earrings and rings, even during her nursing work. Several of the nurses are afraid of her, or resent her airs. The rest obey her without question.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W


    Quote Originally Posted by Murasaki
    ... born of a French upper-class family. She is petite, has dark hair that she wears in an elaborate chignon, and large, luminous black eyes. She dresses stylishly despite the war, in dark well-cut suits and pearl earrings. She always wears high heels and has a fast, tripping walk. She is sweet and brave, but loves pranks. She can be reckless. She grew up in a semi-rural environment, in a chateau just outside Paris, and has always loved to be around animals. She is well-educated for her times, and enjoys opera and singing.
    You forgot the part about Veronica being very beautiful. Reckless? High-spirited.

    Try here: http://www.basenotes.net/directory/ * *The Directory has an index by Launch Year - I'd check The 1900s for starters.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    Hi, Murasaki. Good to see you doing your research. Look at Jicky as a possibility for character #2. I'd type in the history from Jan Moran's book Fabulous Fragrances, but for copyright infringement. I think you'd like the fragrance's inspiration and reputation. To put yourself in the mood, you could even spray on this frag as, according to Guerlain, its formula hasn't changed in over a hundred years.

    My dad was in WWI, shodding mules, sometimes by night under two layers of canvas tent to hide the firelight. The single thing he mentioned most about his time in France was a delightful feather bed somewhere near Mont Blanc. It had nothing to do with a lady, as everyone would imagine. He did not learn how to have sex until he was near 60 years of age. Good thing, too, or I wouldn't be typing right now.
    In a world where 6 million people are added each month, every landscape matters.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    #1 - Apres L'Ondee, can't do Italian though.


  5. #5

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    I'm sorry. I know the two women sound quite cliche when their characters are sketched out so briefly. Part of the problem is that my GG wrote about them that way, though they were real women. He married the second one, though he loved the first. Therein lies the story.

    Thank you for the leads.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    #2 -- Molinard Jasmine, because her mom wore that, family tradition. Or Houbigant -- both feet are standing solidly on the ground.


  7. #7

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    There are three classic italian scents, which are old enough to be in the run. As it is described as "pervasive", it might be smth in the lines of Aqua di Biella Nr.1, as it is often described as more masculine, and the combination of mint and petitgrain could be quite bitter. You could actually sample all at luckyscent.com (us) or ausliebezumduft.de (eu)
    Aqua di Genova :
    Head: lime, bergamot, orange, neroli, lavender, rosemary
    Heart: jasmine, rose, neroli
    Base: patchouly, sandelwood, amber, musk

    Aqua di Biella Nr.1 :
    Head: bergamot, lavender, rosemary and mint
    Heart: petitgrain, neroli and jasmine
    Base: white musk

    Aqua di Parma :
    Citrus, Lavender, Rosemary, Vervain, Bulgarian Rose

    For the second character I double the Houbigant Quelques Fleurs suggestion - it has survived till now, and many 1900s scents hasn't. Or a discontinued Caron - they are very feminine and elegant, and they used to be widely popular (I only mean that nowadays you can't buy it everywhere )
    There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    More questions, if anyone knows the answers.

    Did women apply perfume more heavily at that time? I find it odd that these women wore enough perfume to pervade a room. Today, that would be considered uncouth. Were formulations heavier at that time, or more lasting?

    Also, what scents would have been considered old-fashioned by 1918? Single note scents, perhaps? I read the violet fell out of favor once it was synthesized, as it was no longer a rare scent.

    I believe most perfume was produced in Grasse. Did the Italians have any perfume specialty? What would have been distinctive about Italian perfume?

    Sorry to be such a pest!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    Thanks Audrey!

    Funnily enough, Quelques Fleurs is what I had hypothetically settled on for #2. I'm glad to find that others agree.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Which perfumes were popular during the Great W

    #1 I was thinking to Violetta di Parma.
    This ethereal almost soliflower scent was concocted in middle '800 by some monks for the Duckess of Parma Marie Louise, Francois I daughter and wife of Napoleon I.
    The secret formula was then optimized for large scale production from Borsari during late '800; it became very popular specially in italy and france since late '800 till middle '900.

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