Vintage Perfumes: Should I Dive In?

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Sandra

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Heya APJ! How are you doing?

It has been too darned hot to wear and smell perfume. Temperatures have soared to the near 40 degree mark and that is when my skin just says – water please, otherwise we will melt away. We live next to a pool and I am so shocked of how cold the water still is. Besides you can’t actually swim any laps as people are just standing in the water to cool off. It really isn’t my cup of tea, but I need to go for my son. So, please forgive me but I have nothing about perfumes I am currently wearing. I smell like suntan lotion and perspiration. Yuck.

Vintage Perfumes: Should I Dive In?

Lately, I have been reading about people’s vintage treasures and wondering what all the hype is about. I just wish I could get my hands on certain perfumes for reference. Several years ago I received some vintage Mitsouko as a gift. I wore it until there was nothing left and missed it tremendously. It was as if I was wearing golden paint during the day. I could not get enough of it. Then, another friend sent me some more vintage Mitsouko. Ahhhh – I dabbed it on today and have been mesmerized since its application.

I have not had the time to go downtown to test out the various incarnations of Mitsouko that can be found. Hopefully one of these days I can manage an escape and see if I get the same swoon worthy, eyes rolling to the back of my head reaction that I get with vintage Mitsouko.

So, here I am toying with the idea to buy a vintage gem. This would be a big step for me as generally I stay away from vintage perfumes. It terrifies me. Not the perfume, but the act of buying the perfume. Somebody back in Vienna organized a couple of vintage treasures for me to love. She knew the dealer and I trusted her. Those perfumes were loved and used and now I have no idea how to go about it. I am wondering whether or not I should just dive in – head first… Of course I do not want to go crazy. I simply wish to experience what others swear by.

I would truly love to smell vintage Shalimar, Chanel No. 5, Chanel No. 19. Or wait… Oh my goodness – what I would do for another bottle of Shiseido Feminite du Bois Extrait! That was to die for. Or how about smelling a vintage Chanel Cuir de Russie, Caron Tabac Blond or Robert Piguet Bandit? If memory serves me right, there should be a vintage Sung EdP by Alfred Sung, or Lauren by Ralph Lauren. Gosh, I wore Fidji for years and also Caleche. Are they worth looking into?

Let’s talk about it. Do you have any vintage loves? Which perfumes do you swear to buy only in vintage formulation? Do you think it is worth it? Or do you firmly stick to no vintage camp and wonder what all the fuss is about?

Have a wonderful start of July! Attached are some pictures of our first week of summer vacation.

Oodles of fragrant kisses,

Sandra xo

87 thoughts on “Vintage Perfumes: Should I Dive In?

  1. I, like you, was hesitant to dive down the vintage rabbit hole. My house has a wonderful, hidden, shady lily-of-the-valley corner, and after a few springs in heaven I thought I would try Diorissimo. The word on the all-powerful internet was that the new was not as good as the vintage, so I searched for vintage perfume. Found a sealed small perfume from about 1980, and the seller offered samples (he has a lot of vintage). I said I’d always wanted to try Chanel 19 and 22. You won’t believe it – he sent a sealed vintage 19, the little sample bottle – 5 ml I think? Also decants of the 19 EdT and 22.

    Well, the 19 vintage parfum and EdT were both fabulous, the parfum a little more so. After a few months, I began begging the seller for more 19 if he had it (during a move, the parfum leaked out, so I now have a very fragrant box). He lives in Japan and was silent on e-mail for months. Hard on the paranoid – I kept wondering what I’d done to offend him. Finally heard back, and now I am the proud owner of two sealed bottles of No. 19 parfum.

    In my case, vintage Diorissimo and No. 19 are worth the time and effort. I did find access to sealed, unopened bottles, so that is, I think, the best chance of the juice not being spoiled.

    I don’t intend at the moment to investigate more vintage. I have enough perfume for a while, and am saving for a new fountain pen – my other obsession. But I am enough of an antiquarian to believe that it’s worth pursuing original formulations if one likes that sort of thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey there Empliau, Thank you for sharing the lovely story. I can only imagine of how magnificent the vintage Diorissimo and No. 19 are. I too would love a vintage No. 19. I am keeping it small and realistic. With the moves we have had I don’t want to be stuck needing to get rid of something. The collection is much more manageable these days. Now, your fountain pen sounds interesting. I too love fountain pens and finally found my dream pen. I hope you can get yours soon.
      Sandra xo

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      • Oh you can’t leave me hanging – what is the dream pen for you? I am trying to find a Nakaya Dorsal Fin 2 in Ao-tamenuri, but if I can’t (it’s no longer made, so I’m watching the second hand market).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sorry, did not mean to do that, just had to find the full name. I had a Sailor 1911 Fude De Mannen made which took over 1.5 years to receive as production was fully booked. The special nib enables me to sketch and write in different widths. Love it! Off to look yours up… xo

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            • I have two, both Ao-tamenuri, the Desk Pen with a yellow gold BB stub nib, and the 17mm portable cigar with a ruthenium BB cursive italic soft nib. The latter is just a little fussy (sharper edges – doesn’t write Greek well) but when all goes well it’s a lovely writer. And the lacquer is far more beautiful than the photographs can tell. (It took eight years of budgeting to buy them – sadly I’m not Jeff Bezos in disguise or denial.)

              Liked by 1 person

              • What beautiful instruments! I can only imagine what it would be like to hold one. It is probably to our benefit that we are not Bezos – we work hard for something and then truly enjoy it. Xo

                Liked by 1 person

            • I haven’t, and, i don’t think I ever will unless I stumble across one for silly cheap. I have a few pens I love to use, and a very strict upper limit on prices, but still i covet…

              Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried, I tried so hard not to fall down that rabbit hole. Particularly with the risk of buying unsniffed, and knowing that there are going to be disappointments along the way. But, with care and strict limits on spending…I have a little collection of treasures accumulated over the past few years that fit my taste for old school complex scents. The vintage Germaine Cellier perfumes chief among them–there’s nothing quite like them–and a 1950s Cuir de Russie, which is just beautiful, and enough Miss Dior to last a lifetime (fortunately so plentiful you can find it far more cheaply than the modern abomination). I have stayed away from vintage Guerlain, too much risk of bleeding money while chasing the perfect version of something.

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    • Hey Crikey, I have tried for years as well. I gave in this time simply because it was a friend selling them and I trust that person. I am still very hesitant about diving into the internet shopping from a dealer I do not know. I bet your Cuir de Russie is stunning as well as your Miss Dior. I am off to look up Germaine Cellier now. The Guerlains are my weak spot. Ugh….
      Sandra xo

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  3. If something comes my way, then very nice. . I am not interested enough to look for it though. I’m definitely not a “everything was so much better back then” person. No rose colored glasses for me. Great post. xxx

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  4. I have probably 1,000 vintages. I adore them. Dive!!!! There’s nothing like those early/rare materials. I still am not a fan of oakmoss but there are plenty of vintages that are not chypres or have a tempered amount for balance.

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  5. Vintages are fun. They can be found quite cheap as long as you go with the (auction) flow and do not start looking for a specific perfume. Once you do that, it gets expensive. Blind buying cheap vintages is one of the best things of collecting perfumes. Once in a while you hit the jackpot and find something you really love 👍

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  6. Not really a vintage girl… my tastes are definitely modern. If I were going to look for a vintage, it would be L’Air du Temps, my mother’s perfume, just for nostalgic reasons. But I hate worrying if the item will be in good condition, too much trouble.

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  7. Hey Sandra,
    The search for vintage is full of fun but also frustration. It’s gambling and I only spend spare money on it. Maybe one in ten that arrives is either a fake or turned, even from my most trusted sellers I’ve had this happen. That’s just the game, you can’t get upset.
    When a perfect vintage comes though, that you’ve paid a reasonable amount for, the moment of first sniff and swoon is worth every heartache.
    As you know I have a collection of vintage here. I love having these beauties and knowing that when they are gone there’ll be no more. It feels extra special to wear them on a daily basis.
    Portia xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Portia, I guess you are right in saying that buying vintage is like gambling. I will need to learn to not be upset if and when I ever buy a dud. Enjoy your beautiful vintage collection and especially on a daily basis. Love it.
      Sandra xo

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  8. I love vintage perfume, the history, authentic or near original formulation as the perfumer intended, and the quality of ingredients. However, I have learned to be selective in what I buy after initial mistakes. I only buy unopened and in box, and like Portia mentioned you have to be willing to gamble with the money you’ve set aside.

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    • Hey Kathleen, Thank you for the invaluable tips. I will try to also be selective in my choices and only stick to one or two perfumes in vintage.
      Sandra xo

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  9. You must! I started this hobby in 2001 so I have been through pretty much every phase of perfume collection and have tried every category. The clear winner in my book is vintage fragrances. In fact, my experiences with vintage have been quite valuable in me understanding the marketing gimmicks of most niche brands who release subpar perfumes and often steal ideas from both designer and vintage creations. Even in the forums, I often feel that most perfume collectors are not proper hobbyists; they simply buy the latest and the most expensive stuff to have bragging rights and are unbelievably ignorant about the finest perfumes ever created. A true hobbyist enjoys smelling perfumes but also adopts an intellectual approach to the hobby. Most importantly, he/she develops a fine feel for quality perfumes irrespective of their prices or the brands behind them. And in terms of quality and value, vintages up to the 80s and some from 90s are clear winners in my book though 2 of my most favorite perfumes come from the first decade of 2000s though not later than 2005 and they also happen to be designer releases.

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    • Thanks Fazal! How right you are. Thankfully I dove right in… Mitsouko is a dream and I look forward to smelling my new friend. Do you have a couple of favorite vintage perfumes? Sandra xo

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      • Thanks Brigitte 🙂 Sandra, one of my favorite categories is chypre floral so I do tend to gravitate towards them. However, you find gems in every category. My loves are vintage Opium (I think vintage Opium is the best women perfume ever made), Shiseido Feminite du Bois (you already mentioned that), Donna Karan Chaos, Gucci No. 3 and L’Arte de Gucci, Shiseido Murasaki (first version), Ted Lapidus Envol, Houbigant Opercu (you will probably love it if you like Mitsouko), Dioressence (vintage) and Dior Dune are some that immed. come to mind. There are many gems in masculine category, too. I guess you are mostly looking for feminine ones though most of the above perfumes perfectly qualify as unisex today.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Fazal- wow, this was so beautifully put! As a person who wore fragrances in the 70s,80s and 90s BEFORE they were considered vintage I would agree with everything that you said. There were so many beautiful fragrances from many many years ago that many of the current offerings are copying but are not as good.

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    • You are right Brigitte. That is why I only bought from my friend. No need to get carried away as it is a dangerous rabbit hole. Sandra xo

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  10. Hard to say, Sandra. Always a gamble. However, I have had some unexpected gems come my way. Vintage First parfum, Halston Classic, Allure parfum, Vol de Nuit edt… Not ones I looked for but were just there and an unbelievable price.

    As for past loves, I leave it all in the past; in that I don’t look for them.

    Modern Mitsi might be one to keep an open mind to. The edt is my favourite. The peach is heavenly! The parfum just misses the mark. It lacks that ambery tree sap feel. The edp is quite heavy on the base notes, but sits happily between the lighter citrus of the edt and flat parfum. If I were to buy another current Mitsi, the edt is my choice. Wasser has done a pretty good job, given his hands are tied.

    I actually love modern Vol de Nuit over the vintage. Yes. I do. The bottle is meh, but I enjoy the top notes so much more. It is less stodgy. The vintage reminds me of an opp (2nd hand) shop that has had no air inside for a month. Lovely, but I love Wasser’s handling of top notes. That is his genius.

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    • First, Halston and Allure I wore when they were released so they weren’t vintage for me when I wore them. What you said about never looking back on past loves REALLY resonated with me. Because sometimes when I have the opportunity to “revisit” some of my very old loves they just don’t smell the same as I remembered because the top notes aren’t intact and the perfume has lost its “freshness” (for lack of a better word). And thank you for what you said about Vol de Nuit. I have a current EDT bottle gifted to me. I wore it a few times and put it to the side because so many folks review it in a negative light saying it doesn’t hold a candle to vintage. I am going to sniff it again with my eye on those great top notes.

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      • Brigitte, I think it is too easy to bemoan the past. If we do that, we miss the beauty of today. Given the palatte poor Wasser has to play with, he does an outstanding job of making the classics as intact as possible.

        Vol de Nuit comes alive on me in the modern form. If you have not smelled the vintage, then there is nothing to fear. It is a stellar scent, no matter what. Failing that, LET’S SWAP! 😜

        I have a list of scents that I feel are unfairly maligned because of reformulation. If one smells the modern version without knowledge of the vintage, then they are wonderful scents in their own right. Things like Paloma Picasso, Feminite du Bois, Fidji, Knowing, Romeo Gigli edp, Volupte and Mitsi. Well, all the classic Guerlains, really.

        Then there are some that are horrendous in modern form, no matter what. Fendi (the original), Beautiful, Safari and Tresor.

        It is pretty simple, if you love it, love it.

        I thank our lucky stars Wasser has such passion for the Guerlain heritage.

        It is the same for old cars. I admit to loving my Aussie muscle cars of the 60/70s. I grew up on the leaded fuel of them. But, I am incredibly grateful for my precious 2011 Micra. It is unbelievably reliable, cheap as chips to run, doesn’t scare the wildlife when I take off and doesn’t release noxious fumes into the backseat. People cry over the beauty of the old cars, BUT I forego all that for the beauty of no emissions, the wildlife in our front yard and the extra cash for perfume.

        And after a while, vintages kind of smell the same. They get a death of top notes, as you mentioned, a funky sort of fuzziness (oakmoss probably) and they lack the soaring range of notes something like Oliver and Co produce.

        I, personally, would love to have sniff festivals, where people bring vintages and we pay a fee to experience them. I would contribute to that, happily. There is no chance of heart break over broken bottles in the mail, money spent on spoiled scents, investing in a whole bottle etc.

        Vintages are great, but we are as equally blessed with extraordinary scents now, as Val constantly points out. No vintage holds a flame to Carillon Pour Un Ange by Tauer, or the brain freezing freesia of Antonia’s Flowers, or the cultish sweet dank of Coromandel.

        Allure parfum was pretty swish in vintage form, hey?! 😉

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    • Thank you Kate. I will actually try to go and smell some modern Mitsouko. I have heard lots of good things. Vintage Vol de Nuit EdT is one that I loved and I agree with you that the modern version is just as good if not better. I even have a modern Extrait of it which is lovely. You are definitely accurate in your assessment of Thierry Wasser. He has created many modern gems.
      Sandra xo

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  11. I’ve dabbled in vintage Sandra. My first purchase was two bottles of vintage Shalimar perfume, last autumn. I expected it to smell like what I wore and loved back in the 70’s. Problem was, I expected my purchases automatically to be from that specific decade. I mean vintage is from way back when, right? I was wrong. I think anything older than 20 years qualifies in the perfume world. One bottle was from the late 80’s and the other early 90’s. My expectations were not met. Both are very good, but do not have the full richness and tenacity of what I used to wear. Oh well, live and learn.
    I also bought a bottle of vintage Diva. I believe that was introduced the the early 80’s. And it’s note perfect. Exactly as I remembered it. Big, full, powerful and hangs around like a dirty shirt.
    So, I wish you luck. I would say, if you can not identify the year of the bottle by sight alone, perhaps ask the buyer if they can date it. This pre supposes that you might be interested in a particular time period. Whatever you do, keep us in the loop and have fun with it.

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    • Hi Marcella, such a shame that your expectations were not met. I am sorry to hear that. I actually quite like the modern Shalimar but would love to sniff an intact vintage one. Vintage Diva is stellar (love Diva). I bought a bottle a few years back and loved every last drop of it. It was just as I remembered it being in the 90s.
      Sandra xo

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  12. I’m probably a bit different to the rest of you, because I came to perfume collecting via the vintage route. I was shopping for Art Deco antiques once, and I found a beautiful Art Deco bottle of 1947 L’Heure Attendue in an antique market. That got me started and I soon had a thriving collection of vintage bottles.

    I don’t have grail scents that I want to try; I’m more about finding interesting perfumes. I tend to buy for their history rather than to wear, although being wearable is a plus.

    Apart from the Patou, my gems include a vintage Miss Dior in the herringbone packaging, Art Deco era Narcisse Noir, and two Jickys more than 100 years old. The oldest vintage I have is a sadly empty bottle of the original Farina eau de cologne, which is probably upwards of 200 years old.

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  13. I would buy perfumes such as Chanel no.19 or Carven Ma Griffe ,and perhaps some others, in vintage condition. But I don’t want to search ebay, really. So as long as I have no trusted friend to help me with hunting down the real gems, I have decided to stay away from vintage. Plus, I have a problem with calling perfumes from the 80s vintage 😂, even if one which has since been massively changed.

    I say go for vintage if you have enough time on your hands to hunt for the good stuff and the money to spend. But like most people point out, be prepared for some bottles which have turned. Not very different from wine, really.

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    • Hi Ingeborg, I understand you completely. I too have always wanted a trusted friend to help me out. Ebay does terrify me for some reason. Also, as others have said it is a gamble as I won’t know if the perfume has gone off or not. I have to budget a certain amount of cash that in essence I don’t mind throwing to the wind. Fingers crossed and let’s see if I venture further out. 🤞😅
      Sandra xo

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    • Good point Ingeborg. The definition of “vintage” is a good question, as it seems to be quite moveable. Same as “antique” which used to mean everything older than 50 years old. As time went on it just kept getting further and further back. You’d struggle to sell anything more recent than Art Deco as “antique”, and that’s 70-80 years ago now. The 80s is 30+ years ago now; I’d say that’s “vintage”.

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