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July 19, 2010



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.


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.


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 :)


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?


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.


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!


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


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.


AURUMGIRL is dead wrong. What other female pilots where they before Amelia Earhart?? And I think it is hilarious that she is talking about feminism and then takes away all accomplishments from Amelia Earhart for being a woman and credits the person she married. Sexist much?

Literally none of what she mentions is true, and none of what she mentions can be viewed as feminist in any way shape or form. Rosie The Riveter did not go into work because she wanted a career, or even for herself, she did it for her man, and so did all the women in World War II. These women were working for their men and simply because there was no work force!!! The men were at war!! And none of them were in charge of corporations believe me, no man left those positions. And when the war ended all the Rosies duly returned to the kitchen, so how on earth is Rosie the Riveter a feminist icon?? Don't be ridiculous. Wild night outs?? Please, the only ones who had wild night outs in those times were women of ill repute, and the men were not buying Robert Piguet to those women I assure you.

Women began smoking because the businessmen realized that they were missing out on 50% of the market by forbidden women to smoke in public. There was literally no rebellion or threats for any woman getting arrested and if it was a feminist stance, it was approved by the men before hand because they were getting profits, don't fool yourself honey.

Even true feminist women like Gabrielle Chanel were decidedly unfeminist in the way they did things because they had to be. Even Chanel came from a time where women were seen as second class citizens and she never married because she wasn't a suitable woman for any respectable man, given the fact that she was a club singer and an arriviste in many ways.

So please stop with your revisionist history which doesn't do service to anybody. Anytime history is distorted is to everyone's loss.

And the writer of the article is right, Charlie was the first "feminist" fragrance, or the one first advertised as the fragrance of the liberated woman. Even if Chanel was liberated, even if Cellier were liberated, their work was not sold and promoted as feminist or emancipated fragrances, they were sold with images corresponding to the times and they didn't defy the mores and conventions, at least not in their promotion. Of course they defied with their scents, but not in a feminist way, but in a technical, artistic way.

So you're wrong, and stop distorting facts.


contcat to me

Deb B

Who created the signature/handwriting logo "Charlie"? Any idea who that artist was at the ad agency?


m address is rushina mehta 1st choice association 1st bunglow behind indctotherm bopal,ahmedabad 380058 gujarat INDIA i want charlie,royale mirage and intamate perfumes for free,


I have a 470ml bottle of charlie eua de cologne by revlon ,huge bottle and hardly used and in vgc, have heard it may have a bit of value to it but where would i start to get a value on it or where to sell it,any help out there i would like to no thsnks

Jessi Walker

Is the Charlie available today the same as the Charlie available in the mid80s? It was my mama's favorite perfume. She was heavy-set, and when she got to the perfume stage of getting ready, she would always say,"you can say I'm fat, you can even say I'm ugly, but you damn sure can't say I stink!" My mom died 4 months ago and I just remembered the name of this perfume, and want to get some, but I want the real, original Charlie she used to wear. Is it the same?


Hi Jessi. Im sorry for your loss. My mother wore Charlie too. I would definitely recommend going to eBay and looking up vintage Charlie perfume. If it is in a box or the seller says it still smells good, its a better idea to look for a decently priced one and get that. That will smell like your mom used to, not the new stuff. Good luck!!

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