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July 19, 2010

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Anne

From Charlie to Charlie's Angels huh? Shelly is wonderful in the way she combines that delicate, pretty femininity with strength and assertiveness. The Revlon folk must have loved the way she represented the fragrance for them. Notice how SHE drives the car, and how the men in the ad are mostly lesser characters (hotel employees etc). SHE has kept her partner waiting, but we do not see him. She is the centre of it all.

Still, there had been fragrances for strong women before Charlie came along - real chypres, not almost-chypres. Miss Dior is an obvious example, but there would have been others. But Charlie was a mass-market fragrance - I suppose that is the difference.

Anyway, loved the post.

Perfumaniac

Anne, I would argue that, ironically, most "strong women's" fragrances existed before the women's movement! (Chypres, leathers, tobacco-scents.) What do we have now, mostly? Perfumes that suggest we should smell like a fruit salad, a piece of candy, or freshly-squeezed lemons. Sigh.

Anne

Good point. Still an' all - were those fragrances cheap and widely available, and were they marketed within a framework of independece, strength and choice for women? Maybe that was a subliminal rather than overt message. I'm really just thinking out loud here. You are far more knowledgable than me.

I've often admired Yardley's late-1940s/early 50s ads for Bond Street. I love those trim, svelte women in their tailored suits and elegant little hats. But I don't think they are business women, they are ladies who lunch. And those tiny waists are corsetted. Charlie is more comfortably attired, but was she liberated? She still had to be slender - more so even than her 1940s counterpart because EVERTHING shows in one of those jump suit things.

I wonder what Bond Street smelled like? I have some bath powder. It has lost a lot of its scent, but I can still perceive that it was NOT a fruity floral.

Thanks for this discussion - SO interesting. But I must get back to WORK!

Perfumaniac

First off, Anne, your last line cracked me up. I don't want your response to my review of Charlie to get you fired from your job! Haha. I do love your thoughtful comments, though, so maybe save them for the evening or your breaks? :)

I actually would have to look at more vintage ads to know if any perfumes were marketed for the liberated, working woman. (I mean, Rosie the Riveter in the 40s worked, after all.)  I know there were ads for the sexually liberated woman, most definitely. I was just thinking about how Charlie just seemed to be of a particular moment and attempted, through marketing, to commercialize women's lib and bring perfume up-to-date with the times. You're right — Shelly Hack is still trying to be appealing to a man, and she's gotta be dieting to fit into that gold, satin jumpsuit. (Three words that should never go together.)

When I get a chance to go through perfume ad archives again, I will definitely check out the progression of its messages. I find the cultural side of perfume just as interesting as the lovely juice inside the bottle. 'Til we converse again!

ChickenFreak

I tried the current drugstore fragrance, but was hampered by the fact that I never smelled the original. Even so, the vibe I got was that the current version is desperately trying to stick to its mission statement while dealing with massive budget cuts. It _wants_ to be what you remember, but the most it can do is gingerly try to lead you back to the memory.

Perfumaniac

I got a sample of the original, ChickenFreak, from the Perfumed Court. It was lovely! I feel like these brands — Revlon, Coty, et al — really miss an opportunity to re-release the originals in their original formulas. If marketed properly, they could trade on the retro appeal.

Look at brands like Benefit makeup with their retro styling. I guess the public at large doesn't think much about perfume formulas and reformulations, though, and I doubt Revlon is going to be the one to encourage them to demand that they use more expensive ingredients. Sigh.

Asheigh

I LOVE it! You are so right about it being a "feminist" fragrance. Well, how the '70's defined feminism any way. It is also the fragrance world's first "lifestyle perfume". Nicely done :)

Perfumaniac

Interesting, Ashleigh. So many categories out there, but I do like the idea of a lifestyle fragrance. I guess women finally had lives outside the home = lifestyle?

Aurumgirl

I'm afraid history (herstory!) doesn't support you on your "first feminist fragrance" theory, especially not your reference to Bandit as a "pre" feminist perfume. After all, it was made to sell to women who were building ships, welding war machines together, making arms, running businesses and corporations, going out to work as professionals and basically taking advantage of (if not outright being forced to work in) all the jobs men left vacant because of the second world war. Bandit was Rosie the Riveter's "wild night out" perfume. And we could go back even further--Vol de Nuit happens to coincide with and celebrate a certain female pilot who tried to fly around the world and was every inch the poster girl for young, able, free, strong, independent and pretty women: Amelia Earhart. There were thousands of young women who were much more skilled and accomplished as pilots at the time (they didn't crash as often as she did, and set more records), but they didn't marry the right media mogul to help them promote themselves into icons, as Amelia did. We can go back even further than than to yet another famous feminist fragrance, Chanel No. 5. Again, this was another post-war fragrance marketed to young women who were cutting off their long hair, taking off their corsets for good, and raising up their hemlines so that they could traipse through university (a first for many women) and life with a great deal more ease. Coco Chanel built her entire clothing and luxury goods empire by appealing to these women. Same goes for Tabac Blonde, introduced in 1919: that would be about the time when women started risking prison by smoking in public, something women did not yet completely have the right to do. We can go even further back to Jicky, which would have emerged just when women were organizing all over the western world for women's suffrage, a feminist movement that continued well into the 1900's (the women in the USA finally got the right to vote in 1920, but just the right to vote. Not the right to own their own property, etc. etc. etc...so the struggle continued on--which was great for sales). I bet if we had some existing remnant of popular French perfumes made in the 1700's, complete with their labels and logos and other marketing paraphernalia, we'd see a "feminine ideal" client for that scent who looks an awful lot like Olympe de Gouges, the scandalous yet brilliant author/heroine publishing her work for women's rights in France.

Seems clear that ALL perfume marketers have targeted a "feminist" ideal customer, and Shelley Hack's Charlie is just the 1970's version of Rosie the Riveter. If you're going to be making perfume to sell to women, you'd better be selling that perfume to a woman with lots of money to spend on herself, or at least a notion of herself as self-confident, independent, worthy, and strong--because we all know women buy perfume for themselves far more often than they receive it from men! The perfume seller has always had to appeal to that kind of buyer in order to stay in the business of making and selling scent.

Perfumaniac

Hi Aurumgirl. Thanks for the history/herstory! I'm simply saying that Charlie was explicitly marketed to feminists at a time when feminism was an actual, mainstream concept that took hold in the popular culture (and politically). None of the Jicky, Bandit, or Chanel No. 5 ads show a liberated woman traipsing down the avenue in pants...(And Vol de Nuit was named for an Antoine de St. Exupery novel; I haven't seen it marketed to celebrate Amelia Earhart? I could be wrong.) Anyway, I think we both agree that perfume has long addressed a woman's desire to break out of prescribed roles. Charlie just did it a little more directly. Thanks for stopping by!

brigitte

Please correct me if I am wrong but the older vintage perfumes of Tabac Blonde, Jicky, Bandit, Chanel no.5 and Vol de Nuit were generally purchased by MEN for their women. What I remember most about Charlie (which my mom wore) was that it was a fragrance that was purchased by women for THEMSELVES.
Many fragrances have been marketed to women through intuitive advertising but the buyers have quite often been men. However, Charlie always impressed me as the kind of fragrance that a woman bought on her own, without waiting for the "man in her life" to make the purchase. To me this smacks of a "feminist" fragrance.

glamour kitty

In the 70s my father had a business partner named Charlie and he would buy Charlie perfume for me, his daughters and his wife for birthdays and Chistmas. I loved the perfume!

petro schmidt

i have a silver apple which had charlie cream perfume in,it was bought in 1975 what is the value of the silver apple today

LuEleison

My husband who knew nothing about luxuries like perfume asked if I wanted a bottle of Charlie for my birthday - it’s the only scent he knew. I laughed like hell it was so outdated and cheap. I told him I wore Femme by Rochas. He went looking all over for it. The only place that sold it was one perfumery in a very exclusive part of town. Needless to say I didn’t get it.

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