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A perfume book worth reading

From Yardley’s patriotic English Lavender to Patchouli oil and the hippy shake, a new book celebrates one hundred years of the perfumes we love

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By Frankie Graddon on

I started wearing perfume when I was 14. It was Thierry Mugler’s Angel – a teenage classic. I remember trying a sample of it in the airport duty free on my way back from my summer holiday. The sweet, heady smell had me hooked and I begged my Mum to buy me the blue star-shaped bottle. After much negotiation it was agreed that I could save up half and she would donate the rest as an early birthday present. I wore it everyday until I was 17, when I discovered Issey Miyake L’eau D’Issy. The white lily a far more sophisticated scent for my advanced years, I felt. 

I have worn perfume throughout my teens and twenties. I have a bottle on my bathroom shelf (currently Marni Spice) and one on my desk (Giorgio Armani Si) and I enjoy wearing them a lot. I enjoy the way they make me feel – glamorous and like a grown up. I enjoy the way a scent can reflect my mood, be it floral and girlish, citrus and zingy or spicy and seductive. I enjoy the way a single smell can evoke a thousand memories; Chanel No5 will forever remind me of sitting on my Mum’s bed watching her get ready to go out for the evening. Hair curlers in, red lipstick on. 

I don’t know the first thing about perfume, but I know that I like it. Which is why when I picked up Perfume: A Century of Scents, I read it cover to cover. Written by perfume enthusiast Odette Toilett (aka Lizzie Ostrom) the beautifully illustrated compendium tells of the last one hundred years through perfumes. From the exotic Orient, Ballets Russes and Paul Poiret’s Nuit de Chine of 1913, to the flexi-hold hairspray and Hilfiger’s Tommy Girl of 1996. Each decade is revealed through the perfumes that encapsulated them. An emotive and fascinating read be you a perfume lover or not.

Every day this week Odette Toilette will be sharing passages from her book in podcasts recorded exclusively for The Pool. We start today at 3pm with Elizabeth Arden’s Youth Dew, the ‘suburbia perfume’.

PERFUME: A CENTURY OF SCENTS

LIZZIE OSTROM

£16.99

Out 22nd October

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