PERFUMES

Controversy also surrounded the use of scent. Single-note floral perfumes were considered respectable – one writer has described Yardley’s lavender water as the ‘only admissible perfume for a lady’ before the Great War. In England, ‘Zenobia’ flower waters sold well: there were thirty different fragrances to choose from. (1)

Yardley's Lavender 1929 Ad.
Yardley’s Lavender 1929 Ad.

But the 1910s and 1920s saw a growing demand for complex oriental compositions that evoked the harem-girl fantasies filling the pages of women’s weeklies, and the dusky charms of Valentino in the desert. Grossmiths’s four mass-market orientals – Phul-Nana, Shem-el-Nessim, Wana-Ranee and Haso-no-Hamma – were sometimes stigmatised as ‘servant girls’ ‘scent’ but proved immensely popular. (1)

1. Phul-nana by Grossmith Ad 2. Shem-el-Nessim by Grossmith Ad 3. Wana-Ranee by Grossmith Ad 4. Haso-no-Hamma by Grossmith Ad
1. Phul-nana by Grossmith Ad 2. Shem-el-Nessim by Grossmith Ad 3. Wana-Ranee by Grossmith Ad 4. Haso-no-Hamma by Grossmith Ad

In 1923 they added a fifth fragrance, Tsang-Ihang, to this exotic-sounding range. Boots the Chemists added Nirvana and Bouquet d’Orient to the floral scents of its successful Madame Girard et Cie collection. The more up-market perfumers joined in. (1)

Tsang-Ihang by Grossmiths Advertisement, 1923
Tsang-Ihang by Grossmiths Advertisement, 1923

Turkish and amber perfumed cigarettes were also fashionable in the 1920s: advertisements represented these as signifying a mysterious, seductive quality in the daring sophisticates who smoked them. Perfumes such as Caron’s Tabac Blond (by Ernest Daltroff, 1917) and Chanel’s Cuir de Russie ( Ernest Beaux, 1924) played on associations between femininity, tobacco and leather. Another facet of modernism was apparent with the introduction of Chanel No.5 in 1921. (1)

1920s Chanel no. 5 Advertisement.
1920s Chanel no. 5 Advertisement.

There were no overt references to flowers here: Chanel herself dismissed any idea that women should smell of roses. The composition (Ernest Beaux) was aldehydic, complex abstract: the packaging square, spare and modern. (1)
SOURCES:

(1) Glamour – women, history, feminism – Carol Dyhouse, 2010

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