Bvlgari Pour Femme by Bvlgari (1994)


I bought this perfume with a gift card from Steinmart that was a Christmas present from a non-favorite boss who is no longer my boss and anyway I had to travel to Wheaton which is simply never “on the way” for me.

If that sounds a touch ungrateful, I don’t really care.  He was a touch ungrateful. And I had to buy a tank of gas rendering the gift card more of a coupon than an actual gift.  I don’t bitch much, but when I do it’s usually about old men and I think that’s just fine.

But let’s not burden this darling perfume with all that.

It’s a rose, and by any other name *might* smell as sweet, but let’s be clear: before anything else, it’s a rose.**  It is, in fact, a jammy rose which happens to be my favorite thing (See my posts on Stella, Safran Troublant).  It was clearly inspired by  Yves San Laurent Paris, a perfume that probably shouldn’t be worn in public because it is audacious and the color hot pink rendered in scent form.  Also, I cannot prove that Paris inspired Pour Femme, but it was designed by the same perfumer, Sophia Grojsman, who at the very least seems not to have been done with the Paris idea.  She is my favorite perfumer, and renders roses in ways nature did not intend them.  All for the better.   This is Paris designed to be worn in public.

In fact, perfume critic Tania Sanchez (Perfumes:  The Book) insisted it is a summer fragrance designed for steamy city streets, “when the air felt so humid, you thought you might be able to kick up and swim through it.  Good and bad smells everywhere seemed to have not merely presence, but weight, nearly combing your hair as they raked past.  Bvlgari Pour Femme, wafting up from the cleavage, it’s obvious natural environment, seemed to clear that thickened air.”  Precisely.  It is a perfume for a hot August afternoon on a crowded subway, if donned lightly.  When combining public transit and perfume, one must have a light hand and of course, if in doubt, leave it out.  Like smoking, public cell phone use, and unsolicited opinions, perfume is an activity to be attempted by the conscientious.  Many days, I go without. **Note:  Tania Sanchez calls Pour Femme a “mimosa violet” so, hey what do I know?

Bvlgari Pour Femme is very “go anywhere.”  You could wear it on a date as easily as an interview.  It would attend a barbecue as soon as an opera.  Versatile, yes, but too quiet to sing, “I’m Every Woman,” yet too present to not sing at all.  No, Pour Femme is a romantic of the slightly pop variety, with not enough mystery for jazz, but enough heft for emotion.  “Dreamlover” is her tune, a welcome respite from less considered radio muck, much like the sweaty summer day she’s relieving us from.

This is not a Mariah Carey incarnate type of thing, however.  First, Mariah has her own perfume line (don’t bother).  Moreover, I wouldn’t assign Mariah something this…this restrained.  No Pour Femme is Cher.  Cher Horowitz, that is.  Well-dressed, well made, smarter than she looks, and associated with luxury brands.  I wouldn’t say she’s “a virgin who can’t drive,” but rather say, a Virgo who doesn’t (see public transit discussion above.)

Pour Femme isn’t entirely floral, and that’s a good thing.  Woods, a bit of musk, and icy iris (in perfumery, not a particularly floral note but rather a chilly, rooty one) keep its well shod feet on the ground.  In fact, Pour Femme would go great with Cher’s white collarless shirt from Fred Segal, her “most capable looking outfit.”  It’s pretty, sure, but it knows how to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, squish in extra place settings and still declare “the more the merrier,” all while correcting someone’s Shakespeare while she’s at it.

If Pour Femme deviates from the Cher Horowitz image in any way, it is in the one characteristic that it shares with my aforementioned former boss: it’s cheap.

Four stars.


Prada Amber by Prada (2004)

Ambers tend to be the kind of perfumes you don’t want to accidentally break in your bag because they never. go. away. The drydown, under perfect conditions (an old suitcase, a trunk,  a drawer) can last for years. So I was surprised when after about two hours Prada Amber had seemingly disappeared. I thought hmmm. Well, if I’m going to write about this thing I better reapply. And so Reader, I basically bathed in it and now, while making my way to lunch with girlfriends I find myself subliminally apologizing to everyone whose paths I cross.

Imagine the opening of Austin Powers, with the choreography punctuated by “Sorry!” at the 4 and 8 counts of each phrase.

When you’ve got on too much perfume, you feel like you’re starring in a goofy comedy with bright colors and everyone else is in an episode of like, Parenthood or something.

However, while I did overload (Shit AND damn), that’s not Prada Amber’s fault. Luckily,  I’m a fan. If a bit reluctant about my momentary heavy handed enthusiasm.

Prada Amber is one of the more wearable yet strong ambers in the mass market, but it is not apologetic. While the true perfume freaks may find it to be a bit boring or a bit too close to Mugler’s Angel, I could see it being a gateway drug to the Eastern spice parties of the niche brands. That is to say if you’re a little bored by say, Chanel Mademoiselle (a similar juice) or D&G Light Blue (completely different), give Prada Amber a spin.
In general, I find Prada perfumes to be well made and intelligent if not exciting. You could really build a nice wardrobe with Prada alone. Candy is my favorite mainstream gourmand and a lot of fun to wear. It is a bit overtly foody but so much better than a lot of the sugar bombs that are available today. Infusion d’Iris is subtle, cool and would make a great job interview scent. I mean, sure. Not the most glamorous idea but sometimes nothing won’t do. The original Prada I found a little surprising, at least compared to the glut of fruity florals a lot of design houses were pumping out, particularly at the time. Prada Amber is a flanker of the original and in some ways, an improvement.  It seems to be the general feeling as, based on my not-too-thorough search, Amber now seems easier to find than its older sister which may have actually been discontinued
So let’s talk about the actual juice. In the top, it’s a little weird. I’ve heard it compared to Dune by Dior (a perfume I love). I agree. Dune is better but read on. Both perfumes share a marine note. Dune’s is pure ocean. Amber’s is. Well. Pool water. There is a weird chlorine note that disappears very quickly. It’s like Dune is reading a book on the beach and a storm is threatening to come in. Amber’s at the pool back at the house shouting, “Where is Dune? I heard thunder. Let’s get out of the pool and watch movies.” Dune is the studious melancholy one. Amber is a little more fun. But just a little. Angel is the one sneaking liquor and cookies and also she found a taco and she borrowed your top. If you’re looking for an amber party, quit thinking so much and go buy Angel. She’s the original.  No one will ever come close. She also might make out with your boyfriend AND you.  Dune and Amber are sisters.  Angel is their crazy cousin on Patchouli’s side.
But back to Amber. Amber, interestingly, quickly dries herself off from the pool, and puts on a sweater and settles in. I like this chilly stormy beach metaphor we’re using here. It keeps perfumes like Dune and Amber from being relegated to fall or winter (A place I would encourage Angel to stay).  Also a man could easily wear this. Prada perfumes are very unisex in general. Candy might be stereotypically “feminine” but Amber is not.  (I also think, much like the metaphorical sweater I’ve got Amber wearing) it could layer well.

The biggest note in Amber is the patchouli. It’s a refined patchouli. The good clean dirt kind.  A little rougher around the edges than that powdered cocoa patchouli I so adore (See Back to Black by Kilian and Chanel Coromandel), but it wears beautifully.  If you admire head shop hippie fragrances but find them to be at best embarrassing,  and at worst suggestive of a particular lifestyle, Amber might just be for you. It’s what I call J. Crew hippie. Slightly bohemian, but she’ll see you at brunch.  Even though she’s the spokesperson for J’adore, I suspect Charlize Theron might smell something like this.

There are resins here.  Spicy ones. No cinnamon excactly, but a very dry, almost raspy spice accord, as if cinnamon had a vetiver-like quality. I look forward to attempting to layer it with Commes des Garcons White. They share a non-foody spice and White would bring cedar to the mix. There is a creamy vanilla in the drydown but I still wouldn’t call this foody either.

After I climbed Sephora’s bullshit mountain – the product description has litrally no mention of what it smells like (“a scent inspired by the past, that embodies the future.” What?)- I did find a list of notes and for the most part I find them to be accurate.  I think the bergamot, in very Earl Grey form, provides that pool water note with that herbal vegetal bergamotty citrus spice. I don’t get much of the other flowers other than perhaps the mimosa in those early stages. The tonka and vanilla come out a little later making it nicely cozy and sensual. Early on, and lasting for longer than usual, is the orange.  It’s blended so well it merely reads “fruit.”
In short, Prada Amber is the girl that shows up at the party, immediately says something weird and for a second you’re like, “Who’s this chick?”  but then you find out she’s just nervous and she’s actually pretty funny and one time she met Jon Stewart and he was so nice.  And then everyone realizes they all think Jon Stewart is hot except for one girl (One of the Toccas) who is a Colbert holdout and we all respect that.
Prada Amber.  You don’t know her, but you totally know her.  She’s your best friend’s best friend from home and now you see why people love her.  She’s the girl you HOPE is also in the bridal party.  You’re going to be facebook friends and you ask her where she got that perfume because honestly, she just smells really good.

3 Stars