Monday, June 4, 2007

Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt : Perfume Review

Vanderbilt was given to me as a gift years ago. My initial feeling towards it was indifference: Nice enough, but most definitely not me. Ten minutes later I was knocked back by its intensity, left reeling in a nauseous state of despair that no amount of washing liquid would help subside. Yet, I could not bring myself to give it away. I feared its effects, every cell of my body still remembering the reaction it caused, but I still somehow craved to smell it again and again, intrigued and beguiled. I’d only dare sniff the stopper, fearing a repeat performance of my erstwhile experience. After several such experiments that only served to make that strange attraction grow, I decided to let go of my fears and test it on my skin once more. Tense and fearful, I sprayed my wrist gingerly, awaiting the inevitable dizziness and revulsion I had associated so strongly with that first encounter. It never came – I was inoculated. I took the bottle out of its box that day and displayed amidst my other fragrances. It had been accepted.

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
Picture of Gloria Vanderbilt courtesy of


Juvy Santos said...

Divina, it's funny that you reviewed this. I remember having a mini of Vanderbuilt that my mom had given to me a long LONG time ago (we're talking fourth grade or so here), and I remember it being very made me dizzy too. I wonder where that mini's gone to now. I'm curious to re-sniff it.

Juvy Santos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Good evening Divina,
Thank you for such an amusing and interesting review: is this the fragrance you were telling me about recently which really upset you? So many 80s fragrances are like this, aren't they: they shriek "This is me!" I owned a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans (pale lilac!) which had the swan motif, but I don't remember the fragrance. Perhaps I'll give it a miss, so thank you for helping me save my pennies. As always, lovely writing!
Best wishes,

Divina said...

Good evening ladies!

Arhianrad: Ooh, a mini! I wonder what it looked like? You know aside from the more common flacon with the cheap golden-colored stopper, Vanderbilt was also issued in a beautiful flacon with a glass stopper featuring the swan. If you find your mini I'd love to see a picture of it, especially if it is the one with the glass stopper!

Linda: Hi sweetie! No, this is not the perfume which recently turned my stomach.. It was a sample that did the trick but I can't really remember which one. I remember it was something I sampled cause I was hoping to review it here, but I had to scrub it off almost instantly. (argh!) I have to admit I usually love the statement 80s fragrances make though. But Vanderbilt really goes too far! Give it a sniff sometime if you are curious though, I do think it is quite unique. Warm hugs to you.

Divina said...

PS: LOTS of women swore by Vanderbilt jeans years ago! Everyone I have met that wore them was somewhat of an addict! Myself, I never tried them. Nice to see them mentioned though :)

Juvy Santos said...

Divina, I remember that the mini had a stopper, but I think it was plastic rather than glass..definitely not a spray top like the flacon you've got pictured. If it's anywhere, it's somewhere at home inside my dresser, though.

chayaruchama said...

I remember this as having a lovely bottle, and the scent itself TERRIFYING me, lol.

Will have to go hunting for a re-sniff...
Many years have passed-
One must keep the mind open and flexible !
[Funny , though, how we can cling to a scent for a bi-annual sniff.]

Unknown said...

Basically, you post describes my relationship with Quelques Fleur (although, QF is a bit more refined). I keep smelling it and then ask myself "Why am I doing this to myself!?"

Divina said...

Gooooooood Afternoon Ladies!
Forgive the excitement but I passed my exams! *does a little dance* One stressor left :P After this weekend I'll probably be slightly more sane. ;)

Chaya, do you have a bi-annual sniff as well? :D Do tell!

Jenavira, I have not yet sniffed Quelques Fleur, but now you got me curious!
Nice to know I am not the only one though ;)

Anonymous said...

Dear Divina,
Many congratulations! I've been thinking about you today and am so glad that you have good news! A propos of nothing, I'm wearing Chanel Cristalle, which is about as far away as you can get from G.V. May your weekend be a wonderful success,
Warmest wishes,

Juvy Santos said...

Divina, CONGRATS! That must be a weight off of your shoulders :)