Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nose-talgia

So I just spent the last half hour staring at the screen wondering where to start with a blog post. Granted, the screen alternately said Blogger, Pinterest, and Feedly, but I digress.

The possibilities included the Wisconsin Quilt Museum trip last week, the story about a couple of quilts I saw for the first time last week, made in the 1940s by my paternal great-grandmother, and my progress on the Dad's Plaids quilt. Then there was a passel of other random subjects swirling around in my head, including the fact that I have been smelling my wrist every five minutes because I'm wearing a vintage perfume I used to love, and still do.

Tired of my indecision and general stuck-ness, I scribbled the aforementioned subjects on strips of scrap paper, folded them up and had Norm pick one, eyes closed.  I dubbed him The Decider.

Of course I tossed in the random thing about the vintage perfume, just to throw a wild card into the mix.

Guess which one he picked?
Perfume Nose-talgia!  I have no idea how this is going to go, but let's get the ramble started.

About a year ago (or maybe longer), something got me thinking about the perfume I used to wear in the late 1970s and early 1980s—Aviance by Prince Matchabelli.  I LOVED that stuff.  I wore it all through college, pretty much every day/night.

Oh, wait!  I just remembered why I was thinking about it!  I had read an article in Men's Journal about a guy who discovers the world of scents and perfume.  (I gave Norm a subscription to Men's Journal, but it's a great mag and I think I read more of the articles than he does.)  Anyway, this particular article totally cracked me up, but more importantly it also revealed a world of perfumery that I had no idea existed.  I just looked it up and found the article, "Who Am I and What Should I Smell Like?" and you can read it HERE.  

So I guess it was after that that I was thinking about the scent that defined my young adult years.  If ever I had a signature scent (albeit one shared with millions of others), it was Aviance. It was one of the first "grown-up" perfumes I bought that wasn't Avon and didn't smell like baby powder or bug spray.  My sister liked Charlie.  I loved Aviance.

Do they even make Aviance anymore? I wondered. Not the Aviance Night Musk that came out later, which I didn't like, but just plain Aviance.  So I Googled (as one does) and found that it was apparently discontinued long ago.  All good things come to an end. 

But that wasn't quite the end of the story.  In my search, I found out there are people who review perfume, specifically vintage perfume, and write fascinating stuff about it.  What were people who knew perfume saying about my beloved Aviance?  I found THIS review by Barbara Herman, author of Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume.  She said:

The idea that pheromones could be bottled up and put in perfume so that people would inexplicably lust after you was pretty big in the 70s. Aviance by Prince Matchabelli missed an opportunity to make that dubious claim, because it certainly has had, for me, the Pheromone Effect. For several days now, I've been having a straight-up, punch-drunk mad affair with this beauty. I didn’t know what Huffing was until I met Aviance.

YES!  This woman understood!  She went on:

It is so beautiful, so weird, and so right, I can't believe there’s hardly any information out there on it. Part of this makes me worry that perhaps it’s just a really cruddy perfume I happen to like. (We know there’s at least one in a perfumaniac’s perfume wardrobe!) If that’s the case, I’ll let it be Aviance. But I doubt it; I think this one’s an overlooked beauty.
Too bad my virtual trip down memory lane couldn't end at the corner drug store to buy it anymore.  But what about online?  After all, where did vintage perfume reviewers get their stash?  A few clickety-clicks later and I had purchased a big old bottle of Aviance "new in box, unopened" from eBay.

Whee!  I could not wait to revisit this scent!

When it arrived, I uncapped the bottle (which was pristine...not at all like it had been hanging out in the back of the linen closet accumulating 30 years worth of dust).


You know how a smell memory can take you back in time?  The first whiff shot me straight back to a rowdy dorm room at UW-W, getting ready for a big Thursday night of dime taps at a local watering hole, preparing to clomp downtown with friends in my brown Bastad clogs, striped cowl neck, and boot-cut Levis.  Ready to dance to Brick House under the disco ball, get sweaty and cigarette saturated, and hobble home in the wee hours, but not before standing in line for a slice of Chicago-style pizza to soak things up along the way.

I'm gonna have an Aviance night...  That was the tagline for a very dumb commercial, and yet what do I recall?  All those Aviance nights.  Good times and guy friends who told you you smelled great.  Also quiet times studying calculus and behavioral psychology and reading Carlos Castaneda for States of Consciousness class. Hey, it was a real class—it was the '70s—and if my professor's bloodshot eyes were any indication, he was well-versed in the subject.  

If there was such a thing as a smell-track to a time in your life, Aviance was it for 1978-1982.  Probably a while after that too, until the bottle ran dry.

The thing is, all these years later, I don't wear perfume very often.  The man I married prefers soap and water clean to anything in a bottle, and I can't really argue with that.  So when I do wear a scent, on special occasions (or when I feel a little nostalgic), it's purely because I like it.  Today was one of those days.

And I cannot stop smelling my wrist.  There is something about Aviance that changes from light, floral and herbal to its deeper, musky base notes over the course of the day.  And there are all these interesting phases in between.  Tomorrow morning when I wake up, it will smell even better.  "So beautiful, so weird, and so right."  Amen.

A couple other Aviance perfume reviewers said things better than I could, and if you like that sort of thing, see HERE and HERE.  I just nod my head when I read these.  Aw, yeah.

Do you have a perfume or a smell memory that takes you way back?  Back to where?

Now that I've broken the ice, blogging wise, I'll be back again with a quiltier post in a day or two. 

7 comments:

Quiltdivajulie said...

Are you surprised by the fact that Aviance was in my dorm room, too?

Great post!!

QuiltSwissy said...

I have been allergic to sweet and perfume-y smells and get migraines when I encounter anything that smells. And there are a lot of things out there that needlessly have perfume-y smells.......like the allergy nose spray Nasacort. go figure?

But what brings me back to the past is a man who smells (lightly) of tobacco and whiskey.

that was my grandfather and I am 5 again.

Sarah Craig said...

What a great post, P.! I love reading what you right - it's so evocative! For me, the scent was White Shoulders - I just loved it. But for my husband, it was always Chanel No. 5 that threw him over the edge. When we were first married, I couldn't afford it, but you better believe I got a sample squirt every time I went into a department store!

Sarah Craig said...

And I really do know how to spell "write" - I don't know how that happened!! LOL!

Hazel said...

I remember the slogan you mentioned, "an Aviance night". Hadn't thought of it in years!

Shay said...

I don't think Aviance made it Down Under or perhaps if it did I just didn't hear about it - but I can recall my first proper perfume at 16 was a bottle of Chanel No 5. I wore that for years as my signature scent.

My 30's were heavily populated by Havana which you cant get anymore:(

April Violets always reminds me of my mum ....and they just started re-making it . Guess what ? I bought her a bottle.

Karen said...

Omg love these random posts! I recall the tag line so clearly! So great eBay came through for you :). Bonnebell is coming to mind right now ...haha!!

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