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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Divine by Divine and thoughts on Proper Perfume

The other day, I was talking with a friend about what a Proper Perfume is like. I came to the conclusion that it has to be abstract, i.e. to smell of no particular ingredient but rather to appear as an amalgamation of several, almost indistinguishable notes (classic Chanels are an example of how such abstraction is done); it has to interpret its inspiration in a non-literal, non-obvious manner (most of Etat Libre d'Orange scents are examples of how not to interpret an inspiration); it -and this is directly related to the first two requirements - has to be in fact a Perfume, not a Smell: I don't want to smell of actual rain, actual snow, actual rose... I want to smell of rain as interpreted through an abstract prism of perfumer's unconventional imagination. "Realistic", for me, is not a compliment for a fragrance. It can be entirely natural, but, to be a Proper Perfume, it still has to smell man-made, not found-in-nature. (Demeters and a lot of CB I Hates are smells. Genius in their realism, but smells. Old Guerlains and old Diors, Editions de Parfums and Annick Goutals are perfumes.)

Divine by Divine is a Proper Perfume. If you read that it consists of tuberose, coriander, peach, vanilla and moss, among other things, you will smell them. Otherwise, the fragrance will unfold as a beautiful harmony in which no voice can be heard and recognized better than others. It is a group effort and it is an abstraction. It is complex, but, as a perfectly tailored silk dress, it appears seamless and fits effortlessly. The progression from fruity-spicy top notes, to the creamy floral heart to the mossy, vanillic drydown is classic, and yet the perfume smells like no other. Because it is so buttery-smooth and accordant, it is very easy to wear, but it is not a casual scent. And it brings me to another important characteristic of a Proper Perfume... However mundane real life is and however few evenings in the Opéra, chic soirees and formal dinners an average life contains, a Proper Perfume has to be glamorous. Which Divine certainly is.

So what to wear to elegant Holiday parties? This! Impeccably refined, rich and, as such, slightly old-fashioned, Divine is a perfect companion on a dressy occasion.

Available at and, $120.00 for 50ml.

Image source, Ralph Lauren.

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Blogger tmp00 said...

I think what I like about that kind of perfume is the fact that you can look at it like you look at art- you can move in close and discern the individual components or you can move back and just take in the whole. Unlike a Manet, you can actually pick these up at the local Sephora or at LuckyScent. Also, wearing a Manet invites theft. Wearing a classic perfume invites nicer importunities..

12:22 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

What a perfect summation of a Proper Perfume! I completely agree - as old-school as I am in my preference for classics, I really want perfume to be greater than the sum of its parts. I think of Lady Caron this way - it is such a seamless blend that nothing stands out, a masterpice of subtle glamour.

I will look for Divine to try, it would seem to have been made for me!

2:28 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I long for the last of the holiday parties attended by women wearing red Chanel suits embellished with Cartier, Christmas-themed brooches, who are always escorted by somber-suited men wearing holly in their buttonholes. I may be able to overlook the lack of stylistic creativity if a handful of guests wear what you so eloquently describe as a "proper perfume". I'm on my way to click the "buy a sample" button of Divine now, that I may add it to the sensory mix, should it (as I fully expect it will) live up to your intoxicating description.
Thank you for the lovely review, Marina!

2:35 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Nicer opportunities...I like the sounds that :-)

7:48 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I think I am basically old-school too. And I think Divine has your name on it, in capital letters.

7:49 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I think, Christmas-themed brooches notwithstanding, those women would in fact wear proper perfumes. I am thinking Chanel No 5 and Private Collection.

7:50 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't get invited to elegant Holiday parties... so for Christmas I've been wearing Diptyque's L'Eau. so that I can smell like searing potpourri.
I'm also 19 and not really that into "classic"... or glamour....
I'll leave Divine for more sophisticated people :) :) :)

8:18 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I think, with a (nick)name like that, you should be invited to a lot of elegant parties :-)

8:20 AM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Ah, but I never would have been able to appreciate Proper Perfumes had I not slipped in through the back door of Smells... I think of PP's, especially the Divine line, as perfumes In the French Manner. All caps, please. And I do love that line.

Also, I am giggling at your swipe at Etat Libre, which I totally agree with, but--as you will see when you check your email--sometimes that unfinished quality can be very appealing to me, since I am more than a little unfinished myself. Sometimes I can live up to a Proper Perfume and sometimes I want the perfume to come down to my level.

Merry Holidays to you and to all!

11:18 AM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

And then I had to turn my computer back and come back because while I was typing the above (I realized) I was wearing Joy(a Proper Perfume if there ever was one), with a messy up do, red lips, and jeans. There are some PP's that transcend their category for me--I forget their properness because I am too busy enjoying their beauty. :-)

11:36 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Not only did I read the email, but I happen to totally agree about that ONE ELdO. :-) In that the simplicity and the unfinished feel work.

11:46 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

And yes, Joys is a Proper French Perfume :-) Must go so well with red lips!

11:47 AM EST  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

As is so often true, I enjoy the post, benefit from some learnin', then read through the comments, and have some more fun (& often more learning).

I'm a bit with Alyssa, who backdoored through smells (I still have my bottle of Demeter Rain), but have to admit it was my fascination with Norrell (which started as a family tie thing, but then grew into a research project for me, then actually started me seriously sniffing).

There are still some Proper Perfumes I can't wrap myself around personally, but I am fascinated by any which are well-constructed. And I love how perfume is both a portraiture and a temporal art...the development is a movement through time, and the images are presented along the way AND as a whole. Very, very cool.

Season's Best to you, Marina, and all who visit. :)

12:18 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I remember your post about Norell...which is certainly a proper Perfume. :-)
Happy Holidays!

12:19 PM EST  
Blogger Madelyn E said...

Dear marina,
I think of what you termed a proper perfume -to me is simply a "perfume" not a smell.
There are many that come to mind to me especially during the winter months when fragrances "smell" best". Some of these PP's would be the Chanels such as Chanel No. 22, Bois Des Iles. No. 5, Caron's Montaigne. Dior's Miss Dior , Diorissimo.
I have classic standards like you.
Thank you for such as lovely review as always. It is always welcome to read about what perfume should be about .
Merry Christmas !

1:56 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello from europe - this is an old post but I hope you don't mind if I just write that I have such Perfect Perfume - it's jean patou "sublime"

3:47 PM EDT  

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