Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Scents of Fall

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:


  1. Fragrances can evoke all kinds of memories...lovely post...

  2. Ah, memories....As a young woman, Chanel #5..then...Shalimar...then I fell in love with L'interdid by the 70's Amazone by Hermes...then, of course, Lauren by RL ...ah, Paris by Yves St Laurent and Guerlain gave us Samsara. Such a sultry scent. I Used to use it like an air freshner. Intoxicating. Now, of course, back to Chanel #5 and for a change Blooming Bouquet by Dior....I could go on since I am a perfume slut...:)

  3. Thanks for such a lovely reminder of my favorite fragrance. A new bottle can last me for years, but it's always the best and makes me feel put together even when I'm not.

  4. What a beautiful post Donna. For Fall I like Fig by Marc Jacobs, Angel by Thierry Mugler and still like Bijan in Fall even though I'll wear it all year.

  5. Very, very wonderfully written and a fragrant reminder of how intoxicating fall is. My favorite season and my favorite fragrance. I just switched out Chanel's "new" No. 5...L'Eau for my go-to classic No. 5. There's simply nothing like it! And I do hope you do a series on the vintage ads...they evoke all the bittersweet beauty of being young and in love--or wishing you were! XO! K

  6. Lovely. Chanel #5 will always be a childhood friend's glamorous blonde German mother. Indelibly linked. What an interesting ad; I was surprised to see it marketed to quite young women. I never thought of it so. Isn't it interesting that young people longed to be adult, but no longer? Not since the 60s.

  7. What a fabulous post...expressed exactly how I feel about the Fall! All the scents and flavors and memories...CHARLIE! Yes - had to have that. Have always loved Chanel#5 since I used some of my Aunt's when I visited her. My husband bought me a bottle as a gift, but for some reason he can never catch the scent on me. Right now I wear Elizabeth Arden Red Door in fall/winter and Green Tea in spring/summer. But after your evocative post I think I need to get a bottle of Chanel #5!

  8. Unfortunately growing up, we knew only grinding poverty
    and buying perfume or cologne would have never entered
    my mind. Later in my 20’s and working for the first time, I
    discovered “Charlie!” And loved it.

    When I saw this Chanel No. 5 ad and read “When his letter
    is on your sweater”, I was transported back in time almost
    60 years…abracadabra. Freshman in high school, and a
    cheerleader for the basketball team. It was really something
    then if your boyfriend permitted you to wear his letterman
    jacket or sweater. Holy Moly. Heady stuff. Such innocence.

    Oh, and one of the wealthy farmer’s daughter wore lipstick
    to our first dance. I remember it to this day, and I’m 72.
    Isn’t that funny? A pretty light pink named “Love Me Tender”
    (Elvis Presley). I guess you know she was the envy of the ball.

  9. Your post evoked so much warmth and nostalgia for Autumn scent I love to wear is Shalimar by Guerlain. That and lovely sweaters, boots, plaids.....

  10. What a lovely post. I got every reference and nodded my head, yes to all of them, now I do remember Shelley hack, and Charlie, amd avon's sweet honesty. I was given l'air du temps as a gift, and wore that. It was my favorite, and I still like it, but not as much My all time favorites, white shoulders and worth. I also wear rose essential oil.
    Yes, and shalimar as cissy mentioned too!