Thursday, May 29, 2014

Updated thoughts on Vanderbilt comfort. Something occurred to me just now: what if the feeling of comfort I get from the perfume Vanderbilt comes from associating it with 'old ladies'?

At Fragrantica, it is deemed very poor form – n00b behaviour – to dismiss a perfume as smelling like or being for 'old ladies'. The usual rebuttal is twofold: either "this perfume isn't for old ladies, it's for real women who flaunt their confidence, sophistication and taste" or "when you get older, you might find your tastes changing and maturing and then you'll understand".

Personally I reject it because the perfumes I tend to like are those with long histories which, simply because they've been around for decades, have accumulated memories of people's grandmothers and mothers wearing them. Rather than using perfume to express my modernity, I use it as a kind of olfactory continuity between me and all the glamorous women in the past who've previously loved and worn these scents.

This is an extension of my thinking about secondhand clothes – I use these signifiers of 'old-fashionedness' to draw on previous iterations of feminine glamour, and as a means of affective time travel. Also, generally I prefer to find echoes of human continuity throughout history rather than seeing radical breaks between the past and present.

But anyway, usually I seek these feelings from 'classic' perfumes, which Vanderbilt isn't. It's a daggy perfume. But what if its dagginess – its association with mums and grandmas – is the source of my feelings of comfort? What if I am dousing myself in this perfume to imagine being hugged by an older woman who loves me?

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