I switch my light summer fragrances to those with warmer accords when the air turns cool in September. More often than not, the perfume I reach for on chilly mornings is Chanel No. 5. When I drive over the misty bridge that spans the cove in my town, I often shiver into my scarf or turtleneck and catch a whiff of the blanketed dusty rose that makes up part of the composition of the world's most famous perfume.
Searching for vintage Chanel No. 5 ads is so much fun that I may do a series of them here. The copy on the ads is very sweet too. But this one, speaks to my schoolgirl days when I too, walked to school on leaf-strewn streets. The scents of those days are so embedded into my psyche that as soon as the calendar turns to September, I go into overdrive with nostalgia and memories, helped along by No. 5.
Also underneath the crunching sidewalks that led to school, were acorns and tiny decomposing apples that mixed with the wafting smoke from rusty barrels of burning leaves and branches. These marvelous things blended together to create an olfactory soundtrack to fall.
Too, there were high school football games held in the old cement stadium known as Kelliher Field. The seats were gravestone-cold but the cocoa, in perilously thin paper cups, was so searing hot that we could barely sip it for fear we would scorch our tongues. But it smelled wonderful and deeply chocolate-y. And somehow it went better with the fragrant buttery popcorn that assaulted us from the moment we stepped though the field's gates which compelled us to buy small red and white cardboard boxes of it. Oh and didn't our mothers pull out the meatloaf recipes torn from Ladies Home Journal's and stuffed pork chops with sage again that filled our homes with such rich savory smells? And cinnamon apple pie, anyone? Back to perfume...
One golden fall, a friend's mother began to sell Avon. That was the year I wore Sweet Honesty, Avon's answer to the 70's back-to-nature mania. I fell for the all-natural look of the packaging which appealed to my personal style at the time: bell-bottomed jeans and long straight hair shampooed with Herbal Essence. Sweet Honesty came with me to school in a little roller bottle which I'm sure replaced my summer Strawberry Fields scent that year. I liked Sweet Honesty for its peppery note that was perfect with fall's burnished colors of smokey gold and magenta. Like autumn, it was both strong and gentle.
The following year I was away at college. Still in New England, but housed with young women from all over the country. And since I wanted to fit in, I wore their uniform fragrance - Revlon's Charlie. Who can forget Shelley Hack's leggy strut across our Seventeen's centerfold in a chic plaid pantsuit? Charlie was known as the sexy-young fragrance and "sexy" was not an adjective that graced Seventeen much before then. It was so new and wearing it, we all felt new - and free and young. And sexy.
I began wearing Chanel No. 5 when I was gifted a bottle from a woman who knew my father. She thought as a young working woman, I might like a sophisticated perfume. But I wasn't quite ready - it smelled cloyingly sweet to me. I preferred to find my own fragrances and so for many years, I experimented with Cinnabar, Fracas, and that harlot of a perfume - Opium. But I never did find one to settle on until I tried No. 5 again. By then, I had read about Chanel and the origins of her iconic perfume. At last, I was ready for it. And it has stayed that way for over 20 years. I always want a small bottle of Chanel No. 5 on my dresser top come fall. It's comforting and oddly reassuring and smells of autumn. As when I kicked my way through fallen leaves on the way to school...
What are your favorite fall scents? Please share in comments...
And in keeping with back-to-school style, please read my essay on Rebecca Tuite's marvelous book, Seven Sisters Style: