Vertesimilitude


- a review of Parfum des Beaux Arts ‘Vert Pour Madame’

‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’ was once engraved above the gates of Hades. Forget you lived, forget who you were, drown yourself in the waters of Lethe, for you are…no more. You most beloved of all my adored fragrance families, you who gave me confidence at an age when I sorely needed it, you whose memory alone I can conjure from a moment and a fleeting glimpse of past joys and frayed hopes hanging by one mortal, gossamer thread…you are, alas, no more, and shall be mourned…forever more.

Excuse me while I mop my bitter tears with the last remains of my Kleenex box, but you don’t understand…I loved it so, I still do, and I always, always will.

Famous last words. Watch me eat them one at a time.

Once, when women were womanly and weren’t afraid to show it, when individuality was prized and perfumes had taglines like ‘Not for self-effacing women’, Green…was Queen. These were the days of take-no-prisoners green chypres and the spine-enhancing attitudes they conveyed on their wearers, these were the days when galbanum and hyacinth boogied down and dirty with oakmoss, civet and labdanum, and you might not have wafted insipid, non-descript ‘flower’ in your wake so much as a healthy dose of…

‘I’m me. Deal with it!’

It all began just after World War Two when Germaine Cellier created the greatest green of all time, Balmain’s ‘Vent Vert’. Created to confer hope and new beginnings after the war, it was clearly ahead of its time, and yet, it was one of the bestsellers of its day, so much that it was quickly followed in the next few decades by many more immortal greens. Miss Dior, Coriandre, Ma Griffe, Dioressence, Silences…it makes for a long list of late, great spectacular perfumes.

I was born to a perfume-mad mother who had certain priorities right. “Never,” she told me at the door to the Guerlain flagship store on the Champs Elysèes on a sunny afternoon in May 1977, “underestimate the importance of two things…a really good bra and…a really good perfume!”

Those were heady words for a fourteen-year-old, but not so heady I didn’t have certain priorities of my own. Above all else, now I had entered that parallel universe of perfume, to choose something that wasn’t…anything my mother ever wore. So I walked out of Guerlain with a bottle of Jicky parfum – which does indeed have a definite green vibe, or should I say, it did – and a few days later, I walked out of Dior on Avenue Montaigne with Miss Dior. I chose what I loved, what she didn’t wear, what I felt was a reflection of my own, individual self, and that emerging chrysalis was…green as the leaves on the blooming chestnuts along the Seine, green as the très chic woman I saw on the Pont Neuf in chartreuse panne velvet harem pants, an YSL peasant top and a killer pair of shoes, wafting a cloud of Rive Gauche.

In the (too many) years that followed, I wore and loved them all by the bucketful…Dioressence, Rive Gauche, Ma Griffe, Coriandre, Chanel no. 19, even Vent Vert, and took it entirely for granted that they would always be there to center my hara and convey their particular brand of courage…to face life and whatever it threw at me as well as I dared.

Until one day not so long ago, when I realized with a shock that…they were gone. What happened? Miss Dior and Dioressence survived Clash concerts and political demonstrations, parties where I danced till dawn and kept on dancing through the sunrise over the Copenhagen harbor, secret trysts in elderflower bushes in public parks and narrow escapes and negotiating pay rises with a boss who would much rather flirt, trailing silk scarves and more often than not…that indomitable, indubitable scent trace of … green.

It made me sad those green beauties got harder and harder to find, and somewhere along the line, I moved on though life, on to other perfumes and other grown-up joys of womanhood. Yet there was always that haunting, telltale whiff of galbanum and hyacinth that would appear and disappear whenever I remembered what self-confidence and self-esteem smelled like…

Green.

Not so long ago, right when I had defiantly parked my despair by the gates of Hades, I discovered one such green bottled hope – Puredistance Antonia. But once a long, long time ago, there was a green for every mood…and where did they all go?

I wasn’t alone, I came to find out. We ladies of a certain age and definite associations mourned our loss, counted our blessings and hoarded our vintages for those days when we needed a little extra titanium in our spines and our attitudes.

Meanwhile, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of Parfums des Beaux Arts decided to do something about it. So she created ‘Vert Pour Madame’.

When I opened that little vial, I had a moment only someone who remembers the movie “Wayne’s World’ would understand. In the movie, the two hapless heroes are confronted with a musical Primeval Force – Alice Cooper – and exclaim (before kowtowing before the bemused Alice):

‘We’re not worthy!’

This is precisely how I feel about Vert Pour Madame. But instead of genuflecting before Ms. Spencer Hurwitz, I want to get to my knees and …thank her. Vert Pour Madame is a much more forgiving and not so intimidating green floral as some I used to love and wear. All the same, it takes my breath away.

It pushes all the buttons I loved my greens to push…galbanum and bergamot, for centering my hara and making me sit up straighter. Hyacinth, for that effortless, deathless cool. A seamless, stunning bouquet of orris and jasmine, neroli and ylang ylang, muguet and rose and all that spells perfection, and it doesn’t stop there. Is there oakmoss in there? Really? Oakmoss? Something soft and mossy and right before I’m swooning with pleasure…it’s…no…it can’t be…it’s…oh, yes! Yes! It’s civet!

It’s glorious. It’s perfection. I have now died and gone to an immortal green heaven, where nothing can ever faze me again and I shall never eat humble pie ever again and my spine shall never rust. I’ll be cool, calm, collected and as effortlessly beautiful as Evelyn Tripp on the cover of Charm magazine in 1959, who captures the vibe of Vert Pour Madame flawlessly.

Vert Pour Madame is a perfumed poem to all those green-floral-chypres so many of us loved, and just as they were, it’s timeless.

It’s the Madame I want to be, the Madame I aspired to as a teenager, the woman I hoped I would become, and the woman I sometimes can even hope my life has made me.

And just like a green scent sibling I once caught a whiff of on the Pont Neuf…not for self-effacing women.

I’m me. Deal with it!

Notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, cassis, galbanum, hyacinth, white peach, jonquil, Moroccan rose, muguet, neroli, orris, sambac jasmine, violet leaf absolute, ylang ylang, Atlas cedarwood, Australian sandalwood, cistus absolute, civet, patchouli, moss, musk, tonka bean, Virginia cedar

Vert Pour Madame is available from the Parfums des Beaux Arts website.

I heart Lucy of Indieperfumes, who made it possible! And Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, who made it! Because we’re worthy! ☺

Original image of Evelyn Tripp, cover of Charm magazine, June 1959 - MyVintageVogue

25 thoughts on “Vertesimilitude”

  1. *wild applause*

    I am so excited about Vert Pour Madame too, and I'm so happy to read your brand of enthusiasm, eloquent and passionate. Vert Pour Madame is NOT Vent Vert, but it scratches that itch, doesn't it? It is a step in the correct direction, and that is of course, into The Great Green Beyond. I'm so pleased to know that it's not over like we thought it was. The notion of a strong, mouthwatering green chypre for women is not dead. Dawn takes a classic idea and imbues it with her earthy signature. I can only hope that she will never discontinue it!

  2. I am truly speechless… and honored at your words. What can I possibly say but thank you. You have such gifts. I look forward to reading much more of your writing.
    All my very best to you from Boulder~
    Dawn

  3. I need some Vert Pour Madame quickly!
    From your review, it seems this will hit all the right buttons for me.
    Although I never doubt the geniousness of DSH creations.

  4. Undina, you're very welcome! If you love DIoressence – and I know you do! – and you liked Antonia, which I also love, then you will surely be floored by Vert Pour Madame!

  5. Lucy…this is all your fault, and that's a most excellent thing! I can't thank you enough for giving me the opportunity, and for being able to find out – after reading about it on DSH's blog – that it was everything I could possibly have hoped for, and so much more besides. There will be more DSH reviews to come, and I look forward to every step of the journeys ahead!

  6. Hello, Dawn! Welcome to my humble blog of purple – or green – perfumed prose! I remember your blog entry on the creation of Vert Pour Madame, and how excited I felt that maybe this time, maybe this one may be IT, the One, an ode to the green…

    So it was, and it blew me away like so much dandelion fluff! Like you, I have only happy associations with green chypres and love so many of them. But with very few exceptions – among them Puredistance Antonia – it has seemed a dying genre lately.

    No more, thanks to you and your prodigious talents, and I am more grateful than you know! Vert Pour Madame was created with both love and respect, and yet it is very much all its own. I'll take one of everything and wear them often and with passion
    …;-)

    I have quite a few more from your line to try, as well as try and write about, and I can't wait!

    Best of all, I've been gifted with a bottle of 1000 Lilies which I wished for on my birthday, and it's now on its way. I know it will be stunning! Vert Pour Madame can make me the woman I want to be, and 1000 Lilies can propel me through the cataracts of my life and if you think about it – what more could a perfumaniac possibly wish for?

    Thank you for that, too!

  7. Ines…neither shall I, ever again! I have so many lines I've never tried, but of them all, DSH's extensive range was one I was most excited about – and now, I know why! Try Vert Pour Madame…It's green, it's mind-blowing, it scratches that itch, as Carrie rightly said, and …it's perfection in Green!

  8. This brings tears to my eyes! I SO loved Miss Dior when it was still Miss Dior, in the checkered dab-on bottle. I kept it in my dorm room together with Chanel no. 5 and those two were the only fragrances I wore for years and years. Chanel no. 5 persists, but Miss Dior has gone elsewhere – it's a mere shadow of itself. I have the new version, but I never wear it, can't bear to smell it – too much is missing! Could it be? That there's a replacement for it? I'd make my perfume heart happy – and my physical one as well. I almost can't believe it. But I do trust you when you say that Vert Pour Madame has It. It. The real green.

  9. A gorgeous review of a green dream in a bottle.
    This “green fiend” will be stocking up on Vert Pour Madame!

    ps. loved the Wayne's World reference. I bet you wearing VPM makes the boys go “schwing!”

  10. Sometimes words aren't enough, so if you could just visualize (for a moment) me jumping up and down and squealing with delight reading this review, we'll be on the same page.

    : )

    I too have been seduced by Green, and am anxiously anticipating my little mini of Silences pdt. I've been a little overwhelmed by the DSH line, but have been struck with sudden clarity: Must. Have. Vert. Pour. Madame.

    Wonderful, just wonderful T!

  11. Marie…I feel your pain! Really, I do! Just as you did, I wore Miss Dior constantly (I've never worn Chanel no. 5, it's horrible on me), and just like you, I owned that houndstooth check banded splash bottle of it, as well as the ridged spray bottle of EdT. What LVMH have done to Miss DIor basically amounts to…murder, and they didn't even bother to give her a proper burial. Last fall, I came across the new version in a local shop (which is increasingly rare, they want to promote Miss Dior Cherie to hell and beyond), and even though I knew I would be disappointed, I sniffed it anyway.

    I nearly cried, it was so bad.

    Fear no longer, for DSH is …one of us, one who loves green chypres and all they encompass, and with Vert Pour Madame she's proven it. As Olfactoria said in another context a while ago…

    “Great Juice! Go Buy It!!” ;-)

  12. JoanElaine…as will I at my earliest opportunity! Meanwhile, I've splurged on other things, so it will have to wait a little while…

    Strange, isn't it, how the green genre with a few exceptions seems to be all but…dying. Those exceptions being the Puredistance Antonia and now…VPM. IFRA had a lot to do with it, but there are ways around it, so why not?

    Because unless you came of age when Green was Queen, you would likely not appreciate them. Or else it's just that…we're so not the hip demographic, are we?

  13. Aw, Dee…now you've made me blush! I can well imagine you jumping up and down with glee..so we're completely on the same page! I do that too, when I get excited enough!

    With Vert Pour Madame, I did! WHat can I say other than to quote B yet again:

    Great juice! Go buy it!

    And then, thank DSH for creating it!

  14. Right, so this is not the first rapturous review I've read of Vert Pour Madame. Like dee, I find the DSH website a challenge, but heck, it's just a website. July shall be DSH month, with Vert Pour Madame my first choice.

    Funny, isn't it, that we have to turn to the niche brands for what was once so readily available.

  15. AnneMarie…it's not really funny at all, it's actually fairly understandable. Niche perfumers work to no brief but their own, whereas all the mainstream LVMH and PPK brands market nearly exclusively to the 18-30 beracket, and give them what they think their demographic should want. The exception once again – and I say this as a profound admirer of so many of their perfumes – is Estée Lauder, who creates many perfumes that are unusually well-made, constructed, and not for undiscerning twenty-somethings. I tried Sensuous and Sensuous Noir the other day, and both of them surprised me – in a good way.

    But DSH gives me a lot of hope – as does Vert Pour Madame. I can't recommend it enough for we legions of…Green Fiends!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s