Years later, the small, delicate bottle still stands on my dressing table practically full – I’ve never worn it outside the house. It is not a perfume that is easy to wear. Even though I love strong, assertive perfumes that make their presence known, I find Vanderbilt goes well beyond that call of duty. It is as subtle as a bomb, as gentle as a punch in the mouth. Yet, there is something inexplicably attractive to it, something that has me reaching for it –albeit rarely- from time to time. A certain quality that makes me want to spray a tiny bit of it on my skin every once in a while, mostly in times of stress. And a tiny bit is all it takes, its sillage being so potent that I am left tasting it with every fiber of my being, my tongue left in a state of shock as though I just swallowed a great big gulp of it. Where is the attraction coming from, then? Perhaps it is the fact that when I smell Vanderbilt I have no choice but to give in and let go. All my senses are hijacked by its furious mélange of flowers: forceful tuberose crowned with jasmine, dancing in a circle of carnations, roses and ylang-ylang. The dance is led by a most convincing orange blossom, full of nectar. Unmistakably fizzy aldehydes make the pineapple juice in the blend sparkle with effervescence, while sandalwood and musk fight to hold everything together. It leaves me unable to consider anything else: its unforgiving potent sweetness renders me unable to recall the scent of anything else I’ve ever known and makes me unable to concentrate on anything quite unpleasant, for it fills my mind completely. It is no wonder then, I favor it at times of stress. It is my own persimmon, my fruit of Lethe.
Even while wearing Vanderbilt myself, my mind always dissociates the perfume from my own body. It is never me whose wearing it, but someone else. Sometimes it is someone with a beautifully cut, pastel-colored tweed deux-pièces. Someone wearing too much powder and pearly, frosted pink lipstick, long out of fashion. Sometimes it is Gloria Vanderbilt herself, all dressed up for a summer gala. Her perfume is neither elegant nor refined. It is utterly feminine though, even while brash. I’ll never have to replace it, for I will never use it up. Those one or two sprays per year are enough reason for me to keep it. Perhaps as good a reason as the little swan on the bottle, delicately unfurling its wings under the cheap stopper, a subtle nod to the early spirit of eighties which spawned it.
Picture of Vanderbilt perfume courtesy of http://peachesncreamperfumery.net
Picture of Gloria Vanderbilt courtesy of www.divathesite.com