Suzanne's Perfume Journal

through my mind; it consisted of Butterick sewing patterns, long bolts of fabric spread out on a cutting table, my mother’s hand caressing the cloth, and then her voice assertively saying, “We’ll take one and a half yards of this and three of the other.”

This memory is from my adolescent years, the now almost-forgotten ’70s, when my mother held the vain but determined hope that I would learn to sew the same way she did: under the tutelage of the 4-H program. Every spring, we had a day where the two of us drove to town to the fabric store and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours poring over the latest designs in the sewing books, sifting through reams of gorgeous materials, and dreaming aloud about the dress I was going to make for my 4-H project. The most exquisite part of

this memory is the girlish excitement we shared during those trips—flights of fancy borne on nothing more than the tissue-paper wings of a dress pattern and flows of pretty fabric.

Alas, reliving it requires me to follow it the whole way through, and at a point just beyond the fabric shop, this memory travels downhill quickly. While I did somehow manage to produce a dress each year and earn the coveted blue ribbon, it was not without much hair-pulling and whining on both our parts—not to mention a great deal of patient assistance from the skilled seamstresses who were my teachers. (A different one each year, which pretty much says it all.) Any work that involves parading out neat rows of things—whether they be stitches, ingredients or ideas—in an orderly, straight-line fashion has never been my kind of thing. I can’t even mow my lawn in a straight line.

But fantasizing something into existence—daydreaming it into the realm of the possible—that’s something I’m quite good at. And wearing Iris Poudre is a splendid reminder of those fantasies involving waterfall lengths of chintz, poufy organdy slips that show off a scalloped hemline, or a touch of eyelet lace peeking out from the edge of a gathered bodice or flounced sleeve. If ever a perfume could masquerade as a dress, it would be Iris Poudre. A luscious meringue of iris, aldehydes, tonka bean, musk, vanilla, sandalwood, and vetiver, this creamy-powdery scent has just enough stiff gloss to suggest formality, elegance, and restraint (the hallmarks of what society once looked for in a lady). Iris Poudre smells feminine and glamorous in a mannered way: the aldehydes here are on the soft side, providing just enough lift that, were Iris Poudre truly a fancy dress, here would be the pleated edges of its accordion sleeve, the quick glimmer of its single rhinestone clasp, the crinolined petticoat on which its skirt gently floats.

Even the powdery aspect of the scent, which one might assume to be prevalent given the fragrance’s name, is decidedly reined-in: an expression of silky ease rather than of grandmotherly comfort. Its deft employ lends an air of effortless chic to the fragrance, making me think that even people who dislike powder notes in a perfume might make a welcome exception for Iris Poudre. The creaminess of the fragrance arrives from its vanillic touches on a lightly ambery, sandalwood base. I can’t breathe it in without envisioning lengths of fabric as white and filmy as clouds, and as soft as a slip of fine charmeuse.

It’s amazing just how sharply certain perfumes can jog the memory, isn’t it?


A couple days ago I found a decant of Iris Poudre (by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle) that I forgot I owned and, naturally, haven’t worn in ages. Within minutes of spraying some on, an image from long ago flashed

A Trip Back In Time to the Fabric Store,

Courtesy of Iris Poudre

September 7, 2010:

Iris Poudre was created by perfumer Pierre Bourdon and is available from the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle website and boutiques, as well as from Barneys.com, where it is currently priced at $155 for a 50-ml bottle or $230 for 100 ml.

Images: Woman modeling dress (top of page) is from sewretro.blogspotcom; vintage Butterick pattern is from a vintage sewing Pinterest site; Frederic Malle Iris Poudre bottle photo is from liberty.co.uk.


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