Miss Dior is an interesting bundle of contradictions. It is a lushly flowered bouquet in a conservative, masculine, houndstooth checkered bottle. (It turns out this was not always so; it used to be in a Baccarat-designed amphora in the figure of a woman's shape, namely, the "New Look" Christian Dior revolutionized.)
The "Miss" suggests a ingenue quality that this composed and refined perfume belies, in its complexity of notes. And finally, it is way sexier than its later outer presentation would suggest. Perhaps, having been constructed for the late '40s woman, it represents her sexuality under wraps?
My initial experience with Miss Dior was an interesting one. Opening up the small, houndstooth version of the bottle, I dabbed some onto my skin. I detected civet, strangely enough, before I smelled the flowers, the animal dirtiness before the ladylike polish. It was like seeing a woman's underpants as she emerges from a cab before knowing her name. (My notes after taking a whiff: "Neroli? Ylang-ylang —for the sharpness — jasmine, tuberose, civet, musk?" Close. I'm getting there in detecting the specifics.)
But when the flowers do hit — wow. I am a convert to florals thanks to the vintage florals I've encountered, in Piguet's Baghari, in Houbigant's Quelques Fleurs. They're not soliflore (soli-bore?), one-note wonders, but bruised flowers on bases of leather, tobacco, often sliced with something sharp and green to cut through the lushness and make it sing, the way lemon zest can make a creamy risotto even more delicious. The mix of notes in Miss Dior truly makes the metaphor of perfume as a musical composition work: it is an orchestrated blend that hits you like a full-on symphony.
Some commenters on perfume blogs had interesting observations I'll share: "I detect something like cumin beneath the top notes, and while I don't like a prominent cumin note it's subtle enough
to just add an interesting, vaguely animalic, warmth to the cool greens." She says cumin, I say civet. But we're both saying, "dirty."
Another: "Though different olfactory stages and notes can be detected, they are not as pronounced or separated from one another. Rather, they lead to another with a harmonious continuation that makes the complete experience magical and seductive. Which is, after all, the secret for the charisma and sex-appeal of Chypres - the way they blend different notes without leaving too-obvious hints as for what they really are."
Miss Dior reminds me that sexiness does not have to be broadcast as a neon semaphore that flashes: SEX. It hints, it teases, and it appears to withold. We don't live in that time now, obviously.
Top notes: Gardenia, galbanum, clary sage (sauge sclaree), aldehydes
Heart notes: Jasmine, rose, neroli, narcissus, iris, eyelet, lily of the valley
Base notes: Patchouli, cistus-labdanum, oakmoss, ambergris, sandalwood, vetiver, leather (cuir de Russie)