As regular readers of this blog know, I'm as interested in perfume culture as I am in perfume itself. So imagine my delight when I was reading one of my favorite blogs, World of Wonder, and came across this awesome excerpt from Arlene Dahl's 1965 advice book, unfortunately titled Always Ask a Man: Arlene Dahl's Key to Femininity.*
Mother to actor Lorenzo Lamas, this once Hollywood star-turned-advice- columnist/astrologer-paper-doll-maker (to read more about her, check out Bradford Shellhammer's blog) provided a "useful" list detailing what Chic Is and What Chic Is Not.
Let's start with What Chic Is Not. It's not "Diamonds at breakfast." (Damn! I guess I'll have to clutch my pearls instead over my morning eggs and bacon.) It's also not "More than three colors in any ensemble" or "An aggressive manner." Among the things she thinks Chic Is: "A gay dinner hat." "Taupe." And intriguingly — "Perfumed fans."
Really? In 1965? Perfumed fans seem like a thing from Louis XV's Perfumed Court era. A perfumed fan is also something I imagine a Southern Belle, back in the day, fluttering in front of her face while sitting in a swing on a plantation veranda.
But I'm trying to imagine someone in Arlene Dahl's time (picture Joan Holloway from Mad Men, which is set in the early-to-mid-1960s) pulling out a perfumed fan! When would you do this? Wouldn't it look weird and unmodern?
Internet-trawling for perfumed fans netted some interesting information, though.
Perfume Intelligence tells us that from the 17th century onward, until perfume atomizers made their appearance in the second half of the 19th century, fans scented with perfume were one way of assuring you were in a fragrant environment. In the early part of the 20th century, many French perfume houses, including Rigaud and Parfums de Rosine, advertised their perfumes on perfumed fans. (See pics below.)
After the atomizer came out, perfumed fans became a means of advertising anything from funeral parlors (!) to champagne. I find it so interesting that perfume was once a vehicle for advertising homely, completely unrelated services and product. In my post on perfume nips, I discovered that even telephone companies sent out little plastic boxes of perfume nips to their customers! It's hard to imagine someone now handing you perfume as a means to sell you — I don't know — car insurance or something.
If you have any anecdotes or stories or information about perfumed fans and their use, do tell!