I wrote this short essay years ago for an online publication. It’s a bit of nostalgia and a bit of history all in one. See if it takes you back (if you're not yet 50, it probably won't - just sayin'.)
Do you remember “the fragrance worn by more women than any other in the world”? It came in a cobalt blue bottle with a tall silver cap and could be found on hundreds of dressing tables throughout the country in the 40’s and 50’s. Are you thinking “Evening in Paris”? Then you’ve got it.
When I was a very young girl that bottle didn’t hold just perfume, it held dreams. This was especially true at Christmastime when the five and dime stores like Woolworth and W.T. Grant’s set up their holiday displays. How I loved to linger at the counters and wonder what the affect would be on my latest crush if I were to wear the scent from that elegant blue bottle. The boxed sets included perfume, cologne, and dusting powder set in rich folds of silvery satin. Unfortunately, for me, it remained a dream, as there were other things I had to spend my limited allowance on at that time of year.
In 1929, Bourjois of France launched their Evening in Paris (Soir de Paris) perfume line in the United States, and just in time for the Great Depression, too. Some savvy marketer, however, managed to get the romantic new fragrance placed in the five and dime stores for 25 cents a bottle and in expensive Baccarat bottles with their dazzling crystal stoppers for considerably more in the upscale department stores. With this strategy women from all walks of life, even during those rough years, could pamper themselves and dream of Paris nights.The floral scented perfumes and colognes with their woodsy base added a sense of sophistication, romance and escape to otherwise ordinary lives. By 1955 Evening in Paris had become “The Most Famous Fragrance in the World.”
Most perfumes today are chemical concoctions whose scents mimic the flowers and essential oils used by their predecessors, a distinctly unromantic fact. But perhaps the time has passed when a single perfume can hold sway over so many hearts and minds. As popular as it was, Evening in Paris had dropped off the radar screen by the mid-sixties.
If you’re interested it can still be found at online auctions like Ebay in its original form and from a few select vendors like the Vermont Country Store who are banking on its nostalgic appeal. For me, though, it represents a schoolgirls’ dream of faraway places, silvery stars twinkling through the Eiffel Tower in an inky Paris sky and dashing suitors hoping to claim my heart. That’s probably where I’ll keep it.
Image: Free Digital Photos