« Jolie Madame by Balmain (1953) | Main | L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain (1912) »

November 10, 2008


Rita Long

Did you see "A Single Man"? In this slightly Hannibal-Lectoresque scene, the protagonist stands in front of the young female office assistant assessing her favorably-- her skin, her hair, her whole look. She thanks him, a bit unsettled. Then he closes his eyes and takes in a deep breath: "Arpege," he says. Kinda creepy! But fun for the vintage reference...


That's awesome, Rita. I love film/perfume references! I will have to check this out. :) Lemme know if you want a whiff of vintage Arpege...

Rita Long

Ooo-ooo! Yes, Ma'am I would!! You know what I'm also dying to smell: Ma Griffe, now that I saw the ad, etc. I love how much of the advertising for these classics (the ones that have held up) have references to being so BAAAAD!
Where are you now? I'll be updating a list of stuff to swap in the next week on my site-- let me know if there's anything (modern) that you'd like to sniff!

giunta touron sandrine

wonderful perfume one of my favorite and beautiful bootle
a "chef d'oeuvre "

best regards from France


I find the peach and florals in vintage Arpege so *rich* that it nearly unsettles my stomach - as if I've eaten a Julia Child menu (something like lobster in lemon butter, steak with herb butter, Potatoes Anna, asparagus with butter, and peach clafoutis for dessert). Wonderful stuff, but just soooo rich!

So I struggle through the heart and am rewarded by the jaw-droppingly gorgeous drydown. I've never smelled sandalwood like that anywhere else.

I bought my little rectangular bottle of extrait on ebay for $16 - it was 1/4 oz, nearly full, in its little box. The back of the box bears a stick-on price tag: $7.25. I don't know how old it is, but I'm guessing, OLD. 60's, maybe.


16 bucks for extrait?! SCORE.


I just bought a bottle of vintage sealed, Arpege extrait in its box for $11 + $2 shipping. Major Score!! I am so excited to finally be able to try Arpege. At the moment my favorite perfumes are vintage No. 5 extrait (talk about rich and animalic musks...whooo...no modern No. 5 formulation compares to the vintage) and vintage Ma Griffe parfum (the softest, mossiest floral...i smell it and it's instant relaxation for me).


That is a score, Robin! Congratulations. :) I just recently took a whiff of vintage Chanel No. 5 in EDP formula (jealous you have the extrait!) and I have to say I was so surprised by how rich and funky it was. The lush, creamy musk is almost disturbing! (I really should review it.) And I'm a fan of Ma Griffe, too. Sounds like you have a great collection already!


Thank you! Actually, the EDP version of Chanel No. 5 was only released in 1986, and it was not just a difference in concentration (alcohol to parfum ratio), it was a whole new formulation of No. 5 by Jacques Polge, Chanel's then and current perfumer. The aromachemicals in the No. 5 Eau de Parfum are all modern and although it does smell similar to the "real" Chanel No. 5, the formulation itself of the EDP is completely dissimilar. The real musk tincure + obsolete nitromusks + civet that makes true vintage No. 5 extrait so incredibly leathery and animalic were not present at that late time - 1986 - in the newly introduced EDP version, and in fact they had been formulated out of other versions - parfum extrait, EDT, etc. - long before 1986 (One of my No. 5 extraits is from 1989 and those divine musks are long gone...I know nitro-musks were formulated out of perfumes in the late 70s due to health concerns and real musk tincture was prohibitively expensive so it exited the scene pretty early).

The No. 5 extrait I wax poetic about comes from the 1940s. Oh man, is it nice - musky, animalic and leathery in its drydown! The musks lift the other familiar notes of No. 5 and diffuse them in the most beautiful, billowy, musky cloud. If you are ever in the market for some vintage No. 5 extrait, look for a bottle with the tiny dot beneath the "o"....that little dot means it definitely predates the 1950s. BTW, if you email me your address, I would be happy to send you some of my vintage No. 5 extrait so you can smell it yourself. It's no trouble whatsoever - I go to the post office nearly every day anyway because I'm an Ebay seller. :-)


Robin, Thanks for all this wonderful information! It's particularly relevant for me now because I just took a whiff of vintage Chanel No. 5 for the first time (wowee wowee) and I can't wait for the sample of extrait! I will definitely give you props as the generous donor. :)

It's interesting to hear about the Polge reformulation. I was surprised by how faithful it was to the vintage; it was heartening that not all reformulations radically disappoint. (Although I do know what you mean about animalics vs. synthetics. I'm pretty obsessed with vintage primarily because of animalic notes.)

Your comment is also useful now, too, because I'm reading up on the history of musk — the nitromusks, the polycyclics and macrocyclics. Where did you learn about all this perfume stuff, and how did you get into it? I have a bit of the cultural history background, but not the chemical history. You can either email me privately or share your history of perfumania with other readers here in the comments section. So glad to have an expert on board!


Well, to be honest, I used to
think that classic scents all smelled like cat piss(!!). Isn't that awful? lol...But I
have always had a very strong interest in the Ancient Near East (that's
even what my BA is in) so I bought some real frankincense out of curiosity
some time ago and I completely fell in love with the smell, of the dry
frankincense tears and of the smoke. It smelled so heavenly, a little
uriney yet a little sweet and a little woody. I found it incredibly lovely
and evocative, still do...and as I began searching for a perfume that
smelled like real frankincense, I realized that the scents that came
closest to approximating that smell were the classic scents that I had been
so dismissive of before. I had an epiphany that those older scents weren't
perversely trying to smell like pee...they actually smelled of ancient
resins, ungents, woods, and grasses (frankincense, myrrh, spikenard,
galbanum, cedar, musk, civet, etc.). That realization really opened me up
to classic scents, and although I understand that some of the people of my
generation (I recently turned 34) and younger would probably think that I
stink, I would wear them anyway because they make me feel good! Nowadays,
I'd say that about 80-90% of the scents I love and wear are vintage classic
scents. That's why I love your blog so much, Barbara, because it's one of
the few places where I can come to read reverently of these amazing and
mysterious older scents. I love it!


I got my Arpege extrait today in the mail. My initial impression is that it reminds me very much of my Nuit de Noel EDT. Very lovely, but I wish it didn't bring Nuit de Noel to mind so much: I was prepared to be wowed by something wholly unique and I'm disappointed that my nose can't seem to get beyond the comparison!

Account Deleted

I received my Arpege yesterday & I bought it unsniffed over the internet. I was influenced to buy it after reading some reviews in a few perfume blogs.I'm new to this whole perfumery thing so I don't know much about classics like this one, but sure i've sniffed Chanel No.5 more than once. Well who doesn't right? I think the one i've bought is definitely the new reformulated one; black bottle EDP. As soon as I sprayed Arpege on my wrist & sniffed it, I said to myself that this smell was pretty familiar. I think i'd smelled it before somewhere in my grandmother's house when I was 5 or 6 around the year '93-'95. I think it must've been one of my aunts because my grandmother never wears perfume & so does my mother. I find Arpege very lovely & comforting. To my nose the most prominent note is the ylang-ylang, maybe it's the only note that I can recognized haha. For me Arpege smells like a mixture of No.5 & Dior's Dolce Vita only it is more sophisticated and ladylike than No.5 and much much more pretty than Dolce Vita. Arpege is flowery,powdery,creamy,velvety and quite soapy on the drydown. Hands down I'm hooked, I love it! I'm glad that I've purchased this one in a big bottle. Arpege totally smells classics & I don't care I'm gonna wear it regardless of what my friends would say about it. I wish too that I'd get the chance to smell the vintage one later.

And oh @Rita i've seen that movie. The creepy guy U talked about was played Colin Firth right? because I really remember that scene. I love that movie!I've seen it last month.Anyone who are into artsy-typed kinda movie should check it out & did u guys know that it was directed by Tom Ford? It's his 1st directorial debut. Well I'm impressed, he's got more to prove than talent in the fashion world.


Hi Lia, I haven't smelled the reformulated Arpege, but the vintage is wonderful. So sensual and animalic. Thanks for stopping by!


I've worn the reformulated Arpege on and off for a few years, but today swooped on a bottle of Eau Arpege splash that I found in a second hand shop. I like it better. I think the review on Bois de Jasmin likens the old to silk and the new, which is an EDP, to velvet. I agree, and this is one where I prefer the lighter version because sometimes I want something that is more spacious, less dense, than the EDP.

The only problem it is that Eau Arpege is quite fleeting, at least on me. It opens beautifully and as time passes it moves through lovely filmy layers. At one stage I got a wonderful, rich rose, and later a slightly sharper, more powdery scent. But after that it fades and is gone. (I'm not sure what the difference is between Eau Arpege and Eau de Lanvin Arpege. Maybe none. I see on eBay that there was also an Eau de Lanvin My Sin. I guess it just means eau de toilette.)

Fleeting beauties - Eau Arpege, vintage L'Interdit EDT, 31 Rue Cambon are fascinating. Like butterflies, they flitter away just as you thing you have them in your hand.

spice herbal incense

I just love the tag line that is "If she wants the moon give her arpege..." Well the deep jade on Madeleine's dress, the icy gold of her hair, the matte salmon of her lips the dancing flowers in Scottie's technicolor nightmare..


At long last, opened the sealed extrait, here's the deed on flickr:


It will take a couple days for all of Arpège's nuances to register in my nose. ist impression is dry, with, yes, cigarette smoke overlaying whatever has transpired.

I wonder if one is either an Arpège gal or a My Sin type. If so, I'm more a My Sin type. She's blowsier, whereas Arpège knows how to keep a secret. Of course, three days hence, there may be new discoveries, as those secrets unfold.

spice herbal incense, I love your description re: Vertigo, a favored film.


The Americanization of Emily starring James Garner and Julie Andrews. (1964)

Sorry, I know I'm a bit late to the discussion but I just couldn't let a thread about the Arpege-movie mention connection sit with that classic unmentioned!


I just fell upon your site oh ... about 3 hours ago. At work. Needless to mention but ... I've gotten nothing else done.
I was searching for this perfume I picked up at the flea market last week ... this Kismet? I've determined it to be a Pierre Vivion. I suspect it was a cheap drugstore buy but I love it: earthy, musky, kinda dirty in a cheap hooker way. Musky like whoa.
I've always been baffled by these No. 5/Arpege (though I love them both!) comparisons. Besided the aldehydes I find them awfully dissimilar! But I wanted to say thank you for pointing that out about the No. 5 EDP! I have a lone bottle that someone gave to me as a gift a few months back and it smells nothing like my other vintage bottles. I can't wait to get home and see if it's an EDP. I suspect now that it is!
I love love love this site. I cannot wait to get the book.


Hi Has anyone come across a Lanvin Arpege lotion fixante ? On the label there is also the term Haarfestiger
The bottle is engraved Lanvin Paris underneath and the top is sealed with the Lanvin embossed on it.

yann saunders

For the fans of "Arpège" by Lanvin, it seems that none of you know about (or have mentioned among your comments) the RARE gift box, with screw-on atomizer that was an "accessory" delivered with each of 704 bespoke Cadillac Eldorado Brougham sedans, in 1957 and 1958.Those sets are rarer than hen's teeth and may commmand prices in excess of $10,000. For more information on this interesting "perfume" topic, please check out the "Cadillac Database" on Internet and look for the sections devoted to the "Eldorado Brougham" so-called "vanity items".

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Book

Order Here

Vintage Perfume Reviews