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May 21, 2010

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Anne

What a splendid review, and how wonderful that you have reviewed WL. Many of the blogs ignore it in favour of the later flankers, all of which are quite ordinary by comparison. WL for me is in a category of its own - I've worn it on and off for years but I still don't know if I like it. Nowadays I save it for summery Saturday mornings, that lovely time when you have a completely free and carefree weekend ahead and want to celebrate. I only wear it at those times and NEVER in the office.

I'm intrigued by your comments about the mood or feeling a perfume can conjure. But do you think it comes just from the perfume? Do you think the marketing and advertising do a lot of that work too, even if we aren't especially aware of it? It would be fun to conduct a blind trial.

Perfumaniac

Hi Anne! Glad you enjoyed the review, and that you appreciate White Linen. It has a special place in my heart, too, because there was a lovely woman I knew as a teenager who wore this, and she was such an elegant, kind and funny person. Plus it's quite beautiful! (Interesting that you can wear something and not be sure if you like it. I've encountered this again and again!)

As for your question about mood or feeling in perfume, there's no question for me that in the case of White Linen and Paris (both Sophia Grojsman scents), my reaction to them is in response to how well the perfume matches up to the promise of the name and its connotations. (Marketing? Not so much, but perhaps a bit?)

But this doesn't mean, to me, that a blind smell test (the sniffer isn't familiar with the perfume or the marketing) would not yield similar results given the following controls: that the perfume had a distinct identity and had been composed by a master like Grojsman, and that the sniffer had some experience with scent and describing it. Just as you have to be literate and know how to read a book, you have to have some scent literacy and experience, I think, to read a perfume.

The reason I think that a great perfume's mood can be broadcast without marketing to seed or influence ideas first comes from my experience with Chanel No. 19. I really had no idea, when I first sniffed it, what to expect. I had never seen advertising for it, I hadn't really read anything about it, I just bid on it on eBay because I heard it was one of the great Chanel fragrances. Smelling it one night in my kitchen was a revelation. A whole scene unfolded before me: images, moods, characters, etc. And in my review, as kooky or occult as it sounds, I really was trying my best to convey what came from the bottle, via my nose, into my head. It was quite magical. It was only after so many readers said — "Hey, I got a similar feeling!" and I began to read other people's accounts of it that I realized there was a similarity in all of our experiences with that fragrance. So...to make a long answer longer(!), there's no doubt marketing (name, bottle shape, advertising, celeb-endorsements, etc.) influences our reading of a perfume, but even in its absence, if you're someone who has some experience with/sensitivity to it, perfume can speak to you all on its own. What do you think?

Anne

Hi Barbara, your reply certainly sent my brain cells spinning on this Sunday morning. Chanel No 19 is a good example for this discussion because it's not a fragrance that gets much advertising (at least not that I see), and its name conveys nothing (except that one would expect Chanel-like quality in a perfume of that name). I've just re-read your wonderful review and I can see you had quite an experience with it (what concentration were you reviewing, by the way?).

It is so difficult to divorce a set of marketing ideas with a product, once you have seen them. I can't un-remember those beautiful ads for Paris that were in all the mags in the 1980s, and I can't undo the 'white linen' image from EL's perfume. I'm sure all that influences how I feel about the fragrance. But your point I think is that a great perfume can appeal to the mind and convey the same basic set of messages to different people, without marketing cues. And I don't think I'm arguing against that; maybe I'm just saying that given the dominance of marketing and advertising in our culture, it can so rarely happen.

Still, marketing of Youth Dew is an interesting story, more in favour of your argument than mine perhaps. The name always seems contrary to the scent - there is nothing youthful or dewy about the stuff at all. Moreover, although I think it is very sexy, it is always sold in those clean, bathroom-y colours! I interpret this to have been a sly wink to the women of the 1950s - YD allowed them to enjoy their inner sexiness because it came packaged in those oh-so-innocent looking boxes.

I'm half inclined to conduct an experiment by picking up an obscure discontinued perfume mini off ebay, one that means nothing to me, to see how I react. But of course you have to compare you reactions to other people's. And the perfume I pick could be stale or off, or not very good to start with. Hmmm ...

Anyway, thanks for the great discussion.

Perfumaniac

"But your point I think is that a great perfume can appeal to the mind and convey the same basic set of messages to different people, without marketing cues. And I don't think I'm arguing against that; maybe I'm just saying that given the dominance of marketing and advertising in our culture, it can so rarely happen."

So true, Anne, but even then, sometimes the perfume wins out, even in the case when the ubiquitous ad in no way matches the perfume you smell (I think of Rive Gauche now, too.)

But thanks for the interesting example of Youth Dew. I was not aware that there were multicolored bottles! I do know what you're saying about the perfume. Did someone have fun with that name? Because I agree with you — it is neither dewy nor youthful. I really gotta revisit that one. I remember hating it as a teen as I did Private Collection, which I now love! Thanks for your thoughts — please come back and contribute more!

Evyan

So intriguing to read about the beloved, White Linen, and yes, I do love it. Tho it's not my only favorite, it's definitely one at the top.
I first started wearing WL at the beach and to dance rehearsals in the hot summer--it cooled me off and carried me away! I still wear it once the weather starts warming up. Back in the 80's I remember ads in fashion magazines where WL was advertized on a relaxed woman wearing (what else?) a white linen pantsuit, trimmed a little in navy blue sitting by breezy palm plants on a veranda. Then, there was an add for awhile for WL worn "in contrast with a black dress", showing a model in a drop-dead formal black sleek dress. Not around anymore were the White Linen Bath Beads; the powder is still around and I used to put some on my baby son after his bath. The department stores that carried WL also carried the true perfume in a glass short bottle with a stopper. I dreamed of having one but never did, except for a tiny one just like it given as a free gift with a purchase by Estee Lauder. There has been talk on the web of a reformulation and I have detected that, tho I wouldn't say it's ruined. I still have a large spray from the original formula, more "pure" to me, which I relish. I hope the body lotion is still as nice as it had been. White Linen is one my husband loves on me best, thru all my "fragrance trials". Thanks for hallmarking this beauty!

Anne

Hi Evyan, I bought the body lotion about six months ago and I don't like it especially, as it seemed a coarsened version of the perfume. I have Youth Dew in a lotion and thought the same, and I wondered if EL just doesn't put enough money into its lotions and creams etc. (Chanel No. 5 in the body cream is to die for.) But that could all be just me. I'll give the WL lotion another try. I like the bath gel, and love the idea of WL powder on a baby. Wish I had thought of that!

angie Cox

I just fell in love with this ,at first it seems crisp later softening and relaxing , like linen itself.

Perfumaniac

Angie, I agree about White Linen being a love at first sniff kind of scent. Everything is right about it, from its simple bottle, and evocative name, to clean and yet complex and interesting scent. A masterpiece.

Jeremy

Amazing review, a pleasure to read!

Perfumaniac

Thanks, Jeremy! I love White Linen.

Ti

I love White Linen. It's icy and pure when you first spray it, but the dry down is woody and deep and it lasts for quite a while, which I like. I recently tried, and purchased Pure White Linen to mix it up a bit but I ended up taking it back the same day! It was too sharp on me. I exchanged it for another bottle of WL. It may be a bit safe, but I like the freshness of it and how it hangs around for a while.

Perfumaniac

Ti, I was reminded I really loved White Linen when I smelled it on a woman in passing at a drugstore. Icy is a nice descriptor, but then warm. Its amazing how Sophia Grojsman was able to evoke summer, fabric, heat and coolness in a perfume. I think its a near-perfect perfume. Not safe at all! Just beautiful.

sweet tea

Very nostalgic scent for me. It has a very "Southern" "going to church/wedding" feel to me. Although I'm sure its meant to be a summer fragrance, it suits winter really well, too, if you live in a warmer climate like the Gulf Coast or Low Country. I think it has a "frostiness" to it, which I suppose is a close enough comparison to the term "icy". Another way to describe it is "casual classy".

Perfumaniac

Sweet Tea, frosty is a great way to describe White Linen. It's a classic; I love the vintage version! Sophia Grojsman at the height of her genius.

Sweet Tea

Yes! Sophia knew what she was doing when it came to fragrances. They all have such distinct personalities of their own. And this one is my fave! Another one of her's that really "suits" me is 'Diamonds and Rubies'. Perfect for autumn.

Omar Faruq


A young skin renews its surface layers every two to three weeks. Over time, as we age and our skin experience sun, stress, pollution, poor diet and poor water intake, the cell turnover rate slows down causing the upper most layer of the skin to become thicker.

Neva

Ah, White Linen - you are so right: the name says it all. It reminds me of clean, neatly ironed white blouses and I used to wear it for formal office days. It's such a ladylike scent, but fortunately not on the flowery side, so actually very few women I knew owned this scent. I haven't tried the new version and to be honest, I'm afraid to ruin the picture. What do you think? Should I give it a try?

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