For that Perfectly Pretty Day

– a review of Illuminum ‘White Gardenia Petals’

A little girl plans it in her head for years and years. That perfect, perfect day where she gets to star in her own movie of being the eternally adored center of attention, surrounded by her fawning family and friends, lavished with presents chosen from a carefully compiled list and registered at all the right stores, wearing her ultimate whipped-cream-and-meringue fantasy of silk and lace.

Her wedding day. Somewhere is a groom of course, like all Prince Charming fantasies, but he’s nearly incidental. After all, on this perfect day, this perfect fantasy is all about her!

Somewhere and somehow, that little girl grows up, outgrows her Barbies and mostly her Disneyfied fantasies about that perfect, perfect day. Prince Charming may evolve into Charming Only After That Third Bottle of Champagne, or devolve not just into a frog, but an entirely new sub-species of amphibian loudmouth.

Unless she never does outgrow the Disney brain damage, in which case, she may well turn into Bridezilla.

Not all that long ago, Catherine Middleton slayed cake-eating viewers and hopeless romantics all over the planet on that perfect day she became the Duchess of Cambridge, perfectly composed, perfectly attired in a stunning Sarah Barton wedding dress for Alexander McQueen. I didn’t watch the wedding itself (mea culpa!) since I had a deadline and other preoccupations. I saw pictures and sent the radiant bride and bashful groom only my very best well wishes.

This being the perfumosphere, of course, it was a matter of minutes before every perfume blogger on Planet Earth was asking…

“What perfume did she wear?”

The dress was British, so we all mentioned our favorite British perfume houses and suitable-for-wedding perfumes…Ormonde Jayne, Penhaligon’s, the newly resurrected Grossmith, who went one step further and re-orchestrated ‘Betrothal’.

She wore ‘Illuminum White Gardenia Petals’, by perfumer Michael Boadi of Boadicea the Victorious fame, we learned, and soon, we were all scrambling for a sample.

Here it is on my desk as I type, and I can tell you this… it is indeed perfectly…well, the word ‘bridal’ does come to my cynical mind. It is soft, sweet, and very, very white. I do not, at any stage in its development, smell anything like gardenia.

Instead, what I sense is…something I might call first plastic doll, then ‘tropical accord’ that quickly fades away and cedes center stage to lily of the valley and jasmine without so much as a whisper of indole.

This is where my inner cynic shows her true colors. No gardenia, with that undertone of skank and Roquefort, and a jasmine that has been sent packing to reform school to learn proper, ladylike behavior, to sit up straight, mind her p’s and q’s, speak only in well-rounded vowels and never, ever, ever make a public scandal.

It’s perfectly demure, perfectly appropriate and I must say it, pretty in white. I could see why this would be a good choice on a day when over one billion people on Earth are parked in front of TVs with champagne and cake and all-out British mayhem to stare at you and take apart every element of your wedding. It’s not the kind of perfume to call attention to itself, it’s not old-fashioned but rather very modern in a clean, white manner, and somewhere well before that pianissimo, indistinct amber wood drydown, I’m well and thoroughly…bored.

I wouldn’t mind this on someone as elegant as the Duchess, in fact, I wouldn’t mind it at all on anyone else but me. There is not one jarring note, nothing except a smooth, white, floral seamless blend that reminds me of nothing so much as scented feminine hygiene products.

That alone should make it huge in Japan.

Meanwhile, I sit here and contemplate…weddings. I wore vintage Magie Noir to my own almost eleven years ago, a hastily arranged affair orchestrated by the mother-in-law-Zilla in her living room, where the bride wore a black suit and sandals one size too big with five-inch heels, so I wouldn’t look too embarrassing beside the 6’ 6” groom.

Now, that part of my own life is over, and in the highly unlikely event I ever say ‘I do’ again, I wouldn’t wear Magie Noir, and I could never wear white. I would want something rich and complex and even indolic. Say, Serge Lutens’ ‘Fleurs d’Oranger’ for instance, which does have wedding associations but is not demure in the slightest. Amouage ‘Ubar’ is another complicated joyride I might consider, or Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Frangipani’, perfect for a barefoot ceremony on a Hawaiian beach with your feet in the surf.

But in my own perfect world, saying ‘I do!’ to someone as idiosyncratic, complex and iconoclastic as myself, I’d choose something else. I’d want something to reflect the complicated woman I am now and the challenges we would meet. I would honor, cherish, respect and love – if never obey! – and I would wear Aftelier’s ‘Cepes and Tuberose’. It suits my sensibilities in a way White Gardenia Petals doesn’t. I’m not tall enough, thin enough, young enough, idealistic enough or nearly pretty enough to wear it, but I’ll bet plenty of women will.

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals should be a smash success. And huge in Japan!

A big fragrant hug to Thomas, who made it possible!

Notes according to Luckyscent: Lily, white gardenia, muguet, jasmine, amber wood.

Illuminum White Gardenia Petals is available in the US at Luckyscent, and at Roullier White in Europe.

14 thoughts on “For that Perfectly Pretty Day

  1. Great review!
    I didn't try this perfume and, frankly speaking, never was tempted to after reading the description. And because I was a little disappointed: I wanted her to wear something by Ormonde Jayne. Oh, well…

  2. Personally, I've never had wedding fantasies of neither the white merengue kind nor any other kind. It has never occupied my thoughts. But what would I wear in the unlikely event – hmmmm……It would have to be something that I'd feel completely comfortable with, something that I could relax back into. It could very well be Chanel no. 5, my old love. Or Chanel Egoiste (perhaps a bad choice on a wedding day – ha ha) for an informal city hall afair or Chanel no. 19. I'm closing in on Chanel.

    I realize that royals work by different rules than the rest of us, but I can't help thinking that a bride like Catherine, who is after all a grown woman, and presumably not a virgin bride, I'd have expected something that reflects an adult who's made the probably most important choice of her life by marrying an heir to the throne, something more assertive, something that would tie in with the life she's going to live from now on. But then again, I'm not royal and I'm not a romantic soul.

  3. Undina – you're not the only one who was, well, disappointed. Any Ormonde Jayne would have been 1000 times more interesting than this vapid little number. I'm glad I tried it, and glad I never bought it! Life's too much fun to be…that uncomplicated, maybe? 😉

  4. Marie, I have to say, neither have I really. Chanel no. 19 – or any Chanel, actually – is an excellent choice, even Egoïste, although there are some that might see that as a bad omen! 😉

    Why this one? Who knows? Maybe, after being presented with a discombobulating array of choices, William finally gave up, pointed to a random bottle and said…'That one!'.

    If I were in the Duchesss' shoes (thankfully, I'm not), I would have chosen an Amouage. Sock it to 'em with opulence!

    That much of a romantic, I am, in spite of all my life has tried to teach me otherwise! 😉

  5. Wow, you said it. If I ever got married again, highly unlikely at that would be, I would indeed also go for broke and pour on the dreamy luxe beauty, it would be hard to decide among so many out there, but something like this sanitized white flower does not seem right at all. I think the British royals should wear the most creative of all the British designers, they could be a showcase, that would be useful. Real full bore McQueen, Westwood, Ormonde Jayne, etc. At least the attendees did their best for English millinery.

  6. Lucy, I agree. If you really, truly, have to do it, really, truly want that kind of commitment, then you really, truly should make a statement! (I say!)

    And as for the statements in British millinery – not to mention the career of Philip Treacy – I say that Pippa Middleton should get a Lifetime Achievement Award!
    😉 That hat took attitude!

  7. Well, at least Ormonde Jayne got to make a beautiful decorative cake for the occasion. Too bad Linda Pilkington didn't outfit Kate with a more memorable fragrance, too. 🙂

  8. So… so I'm the *only* one who likes bridal dresses in the princessy-meringue vein?

    GASP. Does that make me, you know, edgy and iconoclastic?


    Kidding. (Well, not about liking lace and big skirts. I do like those on brides. I admit to having romantic tendencies, or at least romantic fantasies, mostly abandoned at this stage of 19 years of married, er, sort-of bliss.)

    I did think from the description that WGP would be more interesting than it is. But then, I like white florals in most guises, from sweet & innocent to sultry & florid. WGP is pretty and safe and starry-eyed… and DULL. Dull, boring, a real yawner. I was disappointed. It's not romantic, it's entirely safe.

    And you're right, they should love this thing in Japan.

  9. I too have never smelled it . Everything from Boadi that I have sniffed was a disaster , so I just didn't jump on the bandwagon .
    Disappointing to know the Duchess has bad taste when it comes to scent , but her dress was nice and anemic too . One mustn't ruffle the palace waters you know…
    Weirdly , I don't remember what scent I wore to my wedding in 1996( not my first marriage )…I'm thinking I was into Fresh Cannabis in those days …or maybe Hermes 24 Faubourg .

  10. Carrie…you said it. ANY Ormonde Jayne, or, if you want to be unusual, even Penhaligon's 'Orange Blossom' or 'Amaranthine' (now there's a thought! 🙂 ) would have been a vast improvement on…'scented feminine hygiene product'. But at least the lovely Linda Pilkington got to make an incredible cake!

  11. Muse, I don't mind meringue bridal fantasies – on anyone but me, unless I can punkify/Gothify it up a little, because that's the kind of romantic I am! 😉 And any shade but white.

    Having said that, this was so…vapid and innocuous and clichéd, it made my teeth hurt. But it smells…clean, and sweet and good. Which are the nicest things I can say about it!

  12. Carol, 24 Faubourg is not at all a bad choice, although I haven't tried Fresh Cannabis, so I can't say.

    I'll say one more thing about the Duchess of Cambridge…that dress, with all its Grace Kelly overtones, was a stunner. Miles better than the trainwreck poor William's mother was married in.

    But isn't it strange, we can have all these associations with a public figure, and then be surprised?

    I think I'll pass on the perfume to someone I don't like…who likes it safe and sweet and vapid…;)

  13. T, “the hat” was worn by one of Fergie's daughters, not by Pippa. Pippa was famous for “wearing” the best shaped behind in the best shaped dress many of us have seen in a long time 😉 The sexiest bride's maid in modern history.

    Romantics, I think, probably have more fun. Unfortunately, I have very little talent in that respect and have been known not to recognize a romantic gesture when faced with one. But on my wedding day, should such occur, I'd make an effort, obviously 🙂

  14. Ha!

    It was very pretty, but certainly nothing to entice my darkness loving soul!

    Like Marie, I never had the Disney princess wedding fantasy—it always seemed a little weird to me when girls I knew would talk about “their” wedding, and all the details, without ever mentioning a groom…

    On that vein, I was recently reading an article in Vogue (or was it Marie Claire?), about women who realize that they've made a bad marriage choice. The consulting psychiatrist said, and I paraphrase, that women get so wrapped up in the idea of the fantasy wedding, that they overlook more important stuff, like whom they marry.

    Geez, that's scary!

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