Making Sense of Victorian Scents

Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#1
pot-pourri-by-herbert-james-draper-1897.jpg

Pot Pourri
Herbert James Draper, circa 1897
While a Victorian lady was not known for wearing excessive fragrance, perfumes were as much a part of her beauty regime as hair and skin care. These perfumes were generally simpler than the ones we know today and consisted, in large part, of florals and other botanicals, such as rose, violet, lemon and lavender.

Perfumes were rarely applied directly to the skin. Instead, our Victorian friends used their perfumes to scent handkerchiefs, gloves and clothing. Some even added a touch of fragrance to their hair pomade or lip salve.

Some fragrances were consistently popular throughout the 19th century. However, others were popular for a short time and then fell out of favor. When it came to purchasing perfumes, Victorian women had a wide variety of choices. Perfume did not have to be an expensive product bought from fashionable perfumers. Chemist’s shops and pharmacies sold a variety of popular, inexpensive perfumes, toilets waters, and other scented products to the Victorian ladies of more moderate means.

At the beginning of the Victorian era, the predominant fragrance was Eau de Cologne. It was created from a base of neroli oil - an oil derived from orange blossoms and flowers from the bitter orange tree. Ruth Goodman, the author of How to Be a Victorian, describes Eau de Cologne as “a sharp, clean scent that cut through other smells.” It was diluted with distilled water and sold as a relatively inexpensive scent for Victorian women.

hoyt-co-perfume-advertisement-19th-century.jpg

Eau de Cologne advertisement, 19th century.
An 1840 edition of the Saturday Magazine reported:

Herbs, drugs, and flowers, are made to yield their aromatic odours for our use. Among the former we may mention marjoram, sage, thyme, lavender, &c., while of drugs, frankincense, mace, cloves, benzoin, storax, and many others, are held in great esteem. Orange-flowers, jonquils, jessamine, roses, violets, and other fragrant flowers, are also largely employed, and thus, by a judicious use of some of these various essences, we may impart to our dwellings or our dress, the delightful odours of our favourite flowers, at any period of the year.”

The Saturday Magazine named Otto of Roses “the most costly of all the perfumes and the most powerful.” Its title as most expensive perfume was eclipsed by the trendy complex scents of the 1880s and 1890s, but Otto of Roses remained a favorite fragrance throughout the Victorian era and into the 20th century.

3650855089_6f3cddda79.jpg

Rose Otto Hydrolat Organic - the “hundred-leaved rose

More to come...



Sources:
Eugene Rimmel’s 1865 Book of Perfumes
Floris and Penhaligon’s websites
Mimi Matthews In Style
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#2
goutal1.jpg


By the middle of the Victorian era, bergamot and lemon oil surpassed Eau de Cologne to become the most popular fragrance for women. According to Ruth Goodman, the author of How to Be a Victorian:

Bergamot and lemon oil, sometimes employed separately but more often used in combination, was the signature smell of the middle years of the century. Almost everything was scented with this mixture from hand creams and hair pomades to pincushions. The fashionable scent of the mid-century was within the grasp of more people than Eau de Cologne had ever been. Even a working-class home, as long as the adult male was in full-time employment, could boast a pot of lemon and bergamot in some form.”
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#3
Near the end of the 19th century wealthy women began to demand more complex and unique perfumes. By the 1890s, singular scent fragrances gave way to high-fashion perfumes made of “eight or twelve different extracts” and were sold in “slim, beautifully decorative glass vials.” The other Victorian ladies were “awash in lavender oil.” Lavender was used to scent everything, from hair products to soaps and water. It became so popular that a new industry of lavender growers rose up to meet the demand.

Floris_MGZOOM.jpg

It seems no study of Victorian fragrances would be complete without visiting Floris. Located in London, Floris was founded in the 18th century and is the oldest perfume house in the world. It is still in business today and several fragrances produced during the 19th century are for sale today. They include Malmaison and Special No. 127.

floris-original-sign.jpg

Original sign at Floris.
Visit Floris at https://www.florislondon.com/en_usd



Sources:
How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
Floris website
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#4
ebd1adb8-95e1-11e5-94e3-3b1ef12c36b6.jpg

Many botanical fragrances never went out of style during the 19th century. The best source for learning about these popular scents is Eugene Rimmel’s 1865 Book of Perfumes. Here are a few of the descriptions from his book:

Jasmine is “one of the most agreeable and useful odours employed by perfumers.” (In 1876, jasmine was very costly, reportedly fifty dollars per fluid ounce.)

Lavender is “a nice, clean scent, and an old and deserving favourite.”

The rose is "...the queen of flowers, the rose — the eternal theme of poets of all ages and of all nations, but which for the prosaical perfumer derives its principal charms from the delicious fragrance with which Nature has endowed it. And well does the perfumer turn that sweetness to account; for he compels the lovely flower to yield its aroma to him in every shape, and he obtains from it an essential oil, a distilled water, a perfumed oil, and a pomade. Even its withered leaves are rendered available to form the ground of sachet-powder, for they retain their scent for a considerable time.”

Violet is "a scent which pleases all, even the most delicate and nervous, and it is no wonder that it should be in such universal request.”

Eugene_Rimmel_1820-1887_full.png

Eugene Rimmel was an exquisite perfumer by trade, but he was also very well known for several other creative pursuits. One of his most successful was the creation of the first commercial non-toxic mascara. He is also known for creating the first commercial mouth rinses and "Toilet Vinegar."
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
1,860
Location
44022
#8
ebd1adb8-95e1-11e5-94e3-3b1ef12c36b6.jpg

Many botanical fragrances never went out of style during the 19th century. The best source for learning about these popular scents is Eugene Rimmel’s 1865 Book of Perfumes. Here are a few of the descriptions from his book:

Jasmine is “one of the most agreeable and useful odours employed by perfumers.” (In 1876, jasmine was very costly, reportedly fifty dollars per fluid ounce.)

Lavender is “a nice, clean scent, and an old and deserving favourite.”

The rose is "...the queen of flowers, the rose — the eternal theme of poets of all ages and of all nations, but which for the prosaical perfumer derives its principal charms from the delicious fragrance with which Nature has endowed it. And well does the perfumer turn that sweetness to account; for he compels the lovely flower to yield its aroma to him in every shape, and he obtains from it an essential oil, a distilled water, a perfumed oil, and a pomade. Even its withered leaves are rendered available to form the ground of sachet-powder, for they retain their scent for a considerable time.”

Violet is "a scent which pleases all, even the most delicate and nervous, and it is no wonder that it should be in such universal request.”

Eugene_Rimmel_1820-1887_full.png

Eugene Rimmel was an exquisite perfumer by trade, but he was also very well known for several other creative pursuits. One of his most successful was the creation of the first commercial non-toxic mascara. He is also known for creating the first commercial mouth rinses and "Toilet Vinegar."
From "The History of Women and Their Eyelashes" in Marie Claire:
5. The Slightly-Toxic Lashes of the Victorian Era, 1837 to 1901
It was during the Romantic era that cosmetics first came into use, although homemade substances and elixirs were still common. The first mascara was developed by Eugène Rimmel (yes, that Rimmel), a perfumer to Queen Victoria, and was primarily comprised of coal dust and Vaseline jelly. His invention caused quite a sensation.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,349
Location
Hannover, Germany
#11
goutal1.jpg


By the middle of the Victorian era, bergamot and lemon oil surpassed Eau de Cologne to become the most popular fragrance for women. According to Ruth Goodman, the author of How to Be a Victorian:

Bergamot and lemon oil, sometimes employed separately but more often used in combination, was the signature smell of the middle years of the century. Almost everything was scented with this mixture from hand creams and hair pomades to pincushions. The fashionable scent of the mid-century was within the grasp of more people than Eau de Cologne had ever been. Even a working-class home, as long as the adult male was in full-time employment, could boast a pot of lemon and bergamot in some form.”
I was surprised to hear about bergamot and lemon oil! Here it was lavender oil, as far as I know…
But as a teen I once read a book where the people made "rose balls" from almost rotting rose petals, to put into cabinets and give them a rosy scent. They needed incredibly many petals, but the result were balls that had a silky touch and gave an intense scent when touched. Seems I'm still as much fascinated by that as I was as a young girl!
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#13
I love art in general and art of that era in particular.
You're not alone in your love of Victorian era art or art in general. I could stare at a beautiful paintings for hours. As a matter of fact I love to go to the art museum, grab a seat on a bench in front of one I like and just "lose" myself in the piece.
 

AshleyMel

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 26, 2016
Messages
1,903
#15
Another lovely thread for us! Thank you Ellie!
I always loved the vintage perfumes my grandmother kept in her dresser drawer. As someone who is very sensitive to smells, I prefer florals and botanicals. Very delicate. Scents now just seems to smell...well, artificial.
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#16
Look @Eleanor Rose, there is still Rose perfume (for you I do even reveal the secrets of my bathroom, hahahaa)
View attachment 212209
Andrea, is that Jeanne Arthes Eau de Parfum Rose? If so, you might also like their Cassandra Intense Rose. The description alone was enough to make me want to try it. :giggle:

Cassandra Intense Rose "is the multi-faceted scent of this undergrowth flower that grows in the shade in spring. The fragrance that transcribes to perfection the tender and romantic woman that is both plant and flower with powdery accords."

It's ingredients are quite nice - bergamot, rose petals, lychee hearts (an edible fruit), cedarwood, freesia, Lily of the Valley, and rosebuds with an amber and musk base.

Lychee hearts:
litchipng.png


 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,349
Location
Hannover, Germany
#17
is that Jeanne Arthes Eau de Parfum Rose?
Yes, it is! It was a gift and I was sceptic at first, because usually I prefer fresh scents, but after I had tried it I was hooked. Not to sweet, not too powdery and a very multilayered scent, very elegant.

Another "old" fragrance is patchouli. I like it a lot, but when was a teen, my Mom would not let me use it because she called it a,"soiled dove scent". Has anyone heard of that before?
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,155
Location
central NC
#18
I've heard the phrase "soiled dove" many, many times. :giggle: I thought that was just a Southern expression that Southern mommas used to strike fear in their daughters! @AshleyMel, have you heard this expression?

In fairness to your mother @FarawayFriend, patchouli can supposedly act as an aphrodisiac. :wink: It's also used to mask the scent that marijuana gives off so that may be where the aphrodisia effect comes in.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,349
Location
Hannover, Germany
#19
I've heard the phrase "soiled dove" many, many times. :giggle: I thought that was just a Southern expression that Southern mommas used to strike fear in their daughters! @AshleyMel, have you heard this expression?

In fairness to your mother @FarawayFriend, patchouli can supposedly act as an aphrodisiac. :wink: It's also used to mask the scent that marijuana gives off so that may be where the aphrodisia effect comes in.
Thank you, Ellie!
Well, my Mom of course used the German word which is much less favorable than "soiled dove"... I used that expression, because I find it more gentle than"prostitute" or the German word...
 

Similar threads




(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top