THE FAIRY GODMOTHER OF 5TH AVENUE ~ Quelques Fleurs L’Original by Houbigant

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When she swept past the doorman at Bergdorf Goodman she smelled of Prell shampoo and crisp starched linen.  He smiled and nodded as he held the door open for her, she was one of his favorites of the working girls who breezed over from Madison Avenue on their lunch hour and out again in less than fifteen minutes. She was as fresh and just as pretty as any young ingénue on or off Broadway.

1961

There were so many of them hurrying along 5th Avenue, secretaries and stenographers from the advertising houses and the book publishers. Between 11:30 and 2:00 p.m. they hit all the department stores from Bonwit Teller to Bergdorf’s with one thing on there minds; a free spritz of some exotic and impossibly expensive perfume. June Ramsey was no exception. She smiled at the doorman. He winked at her, like he always did.

She worked at Harper and Row in the secretarial pool for $75 a week. For her perfumes were a luxury she could not afford unless it was some horrid eau de toilette from Woolworth’s. She was not a Woolworth’s kind of girl.

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“If you want to smell like Chanel No.5 but can’t afford it honey, just dab some Palmolive dishwashing liquid behind your ears. Smells just like it!” Louise from accounting had given her that tip one day during a coffee break.

“No June that is so cheep! Do what I do. Make Bergdorf’s perfume counter part of your daily toilette routine.” Maggie from the reading department whispered so that Louise would not hear her dig. “And especially if you have a big date!”

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She stood at the counter looking at the assortment of romances bottled and packaged for dreams. There was Shalimar, No.5, L’Interdit, all exquisite, but somehow not right for tonight. June fingered the buttons on her home sewn Simplicity “Chanel” suit and closed her eyes.

“Having trouble deciding?”  June opened her eyes. There next to her was an exquisitely dressed woman of 50 or so. She smelled amazing and looked every inch very, very Upper East Side.

“Oh! Yes, I mean no… I am just looking.”

The woman nodded and then picked up a bottle of perfume and showed it to June. “This is my favorite for a very special night out. Like the one you are heading for tonight I am guessing.”

“How did you guess? It is a first date; he is taking me to see that new show, “Camelot” at the Majestic.”

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“I am good at reading people.  Here why don’t you try it? It is called, Quelques Fleurs.”

“Well, I… I can’t afford it. $30 a bottle.” She sighed

“A sample spray can’t hurt your pocketbook,” She smiled mischievously. “Besides, all the girls who work around neighborhood sneak a spray. I bet you do too. And you never know what a perfume like this one might add to your first date.”

“Alright, maybe just one little spritz.”

“Close your eyes my dear….”

 

When June walked out of Bergdorf’s the doorman caught a whiff of her perfume. He grinned and looked back into the store. Mrs. Goodman was afoot and playing fairy godmother to the working girls again.  He chuckled at the thought of just how surprised that young lady would be when she opened her purse.  There she would find a bottle of Mrs. Goodman’s favorite perfume beautifully wrapped in Bergdorf Goodman tissue paper with a kind note tucked neatly in among her lipstick and Kleenex.  Mrs. Goodman always had the girls close there eyes when she sprayed them. That was when she made the drop!

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***

 

Quelques Fleurs L’Original was created by the nose of Robert Bienaime for the house of Houbigant in 1913. It is still in production today and presented by the house with great attention to the finest absolutes in its notes and to the preservation of the original beauty of the perfume.

I have to thank my dear friend at Niemen Marcus, Michal Gizinski for giving me a sample of this amazing perfume to try out. He, as I have said before is one of my great teachers in the realm of perfume. I am ever thankful for his guidance and generosity.

Just imagine it, this perfume is one hundred and one years old and yet as fresh and romantic and relevant today as it was in the twilight of the Edwardian era.

The top notes are orange blossom, green notes, tarragon, and bergamot, lemon and citrus. This burst on the skin fresh and bright as spring’s first flowers is gorgeous. It is a rush to the senses of white blossoms from rows and rows of orange trees and lemon on warm hillside groves. If you have ever been in such a grove you know just how beautiful this arrangement can be.

Then the heat of your skin awakens the garden that lies in the mid notes. A really stunning and photo realistic rose that truly to me smells of fresh cut roses, not that sharp synthesized rose I usually smell in perfume. But a real rose. The tuberose ads a generous helping of high glamour along with a indulgently lush jasmine. Oh does it ever sing! Behind these notes there are traces of lilac, heliotrope, creamy ylang-ylang. And intertwined are rapturous hints of lily-of-the-valley, violet and iris and even an earthy dash of one of my favorite notes, the austere silvery orris root. You have the entire garden here from deep within the earth up to the sky. “Hey buds below, up is where to grow!”

Then finally in the dry down we find the woods and the animals of the garden,  Covered in Honey a civet romps among the roses, This little sexy cat is musky and sweetened by a dash of vanilla, tonka bean and amber. All of this is warmed by a creamed smooth sandal wood and the sharp masculine notes of Oakmoss.  It is a classic French romp in the sheets if you ask me. Sweet but not cloying, and a little dirty and not afraid to be just what it is, a real perfume for a person who knows how to be a flesh and blood sensual voluptuary who is madly in love with life.

As with most of the old school classic perfumes it is very long lasting on the skin. I got twelve good hours out of it and the sillage is impressive. They are going to know you are wearing a masterpiece when you wear Quelques Fleurs L’Original.

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Quelques Fleurs L’Original Five Platinum Stars *****

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27 Comments

  1. I can’t even tell you how much magic this post has brought to my (student/single mother of three) dull day. I imagine I’ll re read it many times. Thank you 🙂

    • Penelope how very sweet! Thank you so much. There is magic out there… and fairy godmothers do exist!

  2. I clung to every word, what a description! Shop girls (what are they now, they’re not gone, some other name of the times) did that run when I was in NY, me, total eye-glittering joy glowing in color and fragrance, I remember it shining and golden. Macy’s, Bloomies and Berdorff’s perfumes on the ground floor, you went in one door then out the other a block away, spritzed in between. Delirious. Newly important. I never had the experience of the girl in your fabulous story but believed every word you wrote, NY celebrities know their market and their futures. And most of all, like you, they know the elevating joy of perfume. Well done. You have the gift of transporting, I was there, inhaling it all, what a treat, thanks.

    • Thank you…You were the inspiration behind the story! I am so happy you liked and enjoyed it.

      • Bless your heart Lanier! I feel very honored. And I bet it’s the first story ever about an unrecorded perfume tradition. I loved the benevolent, angelic appearance and wise guidance from the owner, brilliant of you.

  3. Gorgeous. As always, I wanted the story to continue but it was guillotined right before my eyes.

    • Oh dear I am sorry to have left you hanging… well there are some hints buried in the tail of what happened next. And June had a fairy godmother so it has to have a happy ending.

  4. I, too, was put under the spell of Quelques Fleurs L’Original at Neiman Marcus by Michal Gizinski! Mrs. Goodman would be pleased to see new friends won over to this beauty!

    • Are we lucky or what Mary to have Michal in our lives? Big HUG!

  5. A lovely story for a lovely perfume. I’ve come close to buying this but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. It doesn’t smell like its me but there’s something about it I like.

    • Maybe it is the magical you that is just around the corner which is waiting in that bottle.

      • My dear, you say the sweetest things. No wonder all the ladies love you. I do believe in the magic of perfume so perhaps you’re right.
        Hugs.

  6. Just lovely, Michael!

    Is the part about Mrs. Bergdorf true? Hugs! Hilary

  7. Loved the story. And that perfume sounds amazing. Will definitely need to see if my neighborhood NM has a bottle I could at least take a wiff of.

  8. That was a wonderful story! You make Quelques Fleurs sound incredibly lush and sexy. Thank you for writing about it.

    • Julie, thank YOU for taking the time to read it and for your very kind comment.

  9. …a civet romps among the roses…

    Lanier! That is so, you! I love this story and I know now that I’ll love Quelques Fleurs.

    • Yes I have in my fashion romped through some roses on a Civet! It take some mastering. On other occasions it has been rather like this: “Fix the animal in the eye with a masterful gaze. Fix the master in the eye with an animal gaze in the asterful eye. Fix an Astor in the maze with an animal guy.”

  10. OMG! How is that not a movie. Or is it?
    Portia xx

    • It should be, shouldn’t it. But I have to share with you Portia darling that the some of the photos are from a movie. “The Best of Everything” 20th Century Fox 1959 staring Hope Lang, Diane Baker, Suzy Parker, Stephen Boyd and as Amanda Farrow, Miss Joan Crawford. All about three girls working at a publishing house on Madison Avenue in New York. You will love it!

      “Oh Caroline, now I’m just someone who’s had an affair!” A camp classic line if ever there was one!

  11. What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. My grandmother wore two fragrances and this was one of them. When I close my eyes and inhale that scent, I can see her.

    • Thank you Ellen for sharing that wonderful memory of your Grandmother. Isn’t it amazing the power that perfume has when it comes to memories?

      • It is indeed amazing. Many years ago, my grandmother went out to a restaurant and left her gloves accidentally(those were the days when ladies wore white gloves when they went out). She asked my Mom to go back and get them. When my Mom asked the owner, he showed her a lost and found with dozens and dozens of lost white gloves. My Mom picked them up and sniffed them. Within minutes, she had picked up a pair and told the manager these were my grandmother’s. When asked how she knew which belonged to my grandmother, she said that she knew them by their scent.


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