My New York State of Mind. Perfume Review: Norell
By Beth Gehring (Please welcome Perfume-Smellin' Things' new contributor, Beth. Look for her articles on Tuesdays.)
Since 2001, I can never greet the morning of September the 11th without a deep nostalgia for the New York of my past, strolling hand in hand with my very glamorous mother in the middle of the 60’s, while we hunted the city for gorgeous jewelry as well as beautiful pieces of silver and china to line the shelves showcases of our store. To an impressionable 10 year old , New York women were impossibly elegant and fashionable creatures and I dreamt of the day that I could become one of them, strolling down Park Avenue with a handsome husband on my arm, my own briefcase and the world at my command.
Moving further ahead in time , the style of New York designer Norman Norell and the classic fragrance that still bears his name were completely essential to the image of myself as a young , sophisticated working woman. Because of Norell, I bought a tuxedo, had it tailored and wore it with gobs of pearls and black patent stiletto heels. His designs were cool and elegant, basic black, winter white and strong clear reds, and the beginnings of what we would today call “New York Style”. Actually when I think back on it, Norman Norell WAS the absolute essence of New York style. He wasn’t high wattage; his clothes were absolute perfection to wear. He spared no expense or detail with anything that bore his name. Norell was my favorite fragrance then, cool, green and patrician with absolutely no shortage of glamour or blue blood sophistication. I couldn’t afford his clothes then but I painstakingly copied the style, doused myself with the perfume and felt fabulous!
Norell is still utterly captivating to me but in its newest incarnation no longer seems as feminine as I remember. It’s strange, because all of the components for a romantic fragrance are there in the initial breath of rose, jasmine, ylang –ylang, carnation and clove, but the forest of vetiver, oak moss and myrrh in the base make it a bit too strong for intimacy. Norell IS sexy and warm, but distinctly tough in the way that women were trying to be when I came of age.
Norell is not a fragrance that wears well with pastels, ruffles and lace, but it is a stylish perfume that weds beautifully with the old fashioned attitudes of tapestry, bridle leather and polished oak. It is the scent of old money, Wall Street, Carnegie Hall, and an early morning walk down Fifth Avenue. It doesn’t want to go to Starbucks for coffee; it wants to dine at the Park Lane (pre Leona Helmsley!). It becomes exquisitely sultry after midnight when worn in the company of a fabulous man, aged bourbon and a contraband Cuban. It is for me the elusive and glamorous scent of the old New York that I love. It is still the scent that I wear when I need to charm and disarm at the same time, the sensual weapon I love to wield playfully in a roomful of difficult men! Norell’s sexy, warm masculinity becomes a heady blend of seduction and contradiction when worn by almost any woman and although perhaps some might find it a bit dated, for me it remains completely relevant , undeniably classic and the definite scent of a very glamorous (and sadly bygone) era.
Norell can still (thank goodness!) be found online at fragrancenet.com
Pictures courtesy of Parfums de Pub and Lulu’s Vintage.