Suzanne's Perfume Journal

In the early nineties, I was enamored with the BBC television drama The House of Eliott, about two sisters, Bea and Evie, who, under destitute circumstances, start a business together that leads them to become the toast of the fashionable elite in 1920s London. When we first meet them, the Eliott sisters have spent the bulk of their lives under the constraints of a tyrannical father and are suddenly forced to fend for themselves when he dies and leaves them not only penniless but deeply in debt. Bea, the eldest sister, is thirty-years old and has spent her early adult years as the caregiver for the much younger Evie, now eighteen. Neither woman is educated, and when they are forced to sell their family home to pay off their father’s debts, the sisters decide to make use of the only worthwhile things they’ve inherited: their freedom, their dressmaking skills, and society’s changing attitudes towards women in the aftermath of World War I. They establish a dressmaking business that not only thrives, but, thanks to some fortuitous connections, eventually becomes the most coveted fashion house in London. The trajectory of their catapulting fame and fortune is anything but smooth, however, and that is one of the best things about this series: it depicts the kind of real-life frictions and ups-and-downs you’d expect to be encountered by these women.  But the very best thing about this series, more compelling even than the soap-opera drama that ensues from lives lived large, is the rich assortment of eye-candy that makes any “period drama” stand out. In other words, the fashions! (Not just the clothes, but the luxurious textiles and furnishings, too.)

Jean Patou 1000 can be purchased in a number of concentrations from NeimanMarcus,com, as well as from some of the online perfume discounters.  Prices vary.

Images: (top) actress Louise Lombard as Evie in The House of Eliott, the BBC drama series which ran for three seasons, from 1991-1994;  (middle) Lombard with fellow actress Stella Gonet in their roles as Evie and Bea Eliott; and (bottom) bottle image of Patou 1000 from

Like an Homage to 1920s Haute Couture:  Jean Patou 1000

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What is it about the Haute Couture fashions of the 1920s that makes that decade stand out in bas-relief as the most stylish of any period, before or after?  Perhaps its because these fashions reflect the marriage of two things—the first being the colonial, European class structure that was still firmly in place at that time (its oppressions are somewhat explored in The House of Eliott) and which was expressed, quite literally, in the warp and weft of the rich fabric of those lives; and the second being the shift that was taking place in society, which was the liberation of women (an overstatement, I realize, but certainly the twenties marked the start of that movement). So on one hand, there was the old-world craftsmanship and opulence of the materials, while on the other, there was a new-world sense of liberation and womanly empowerment inherent in the designs.  The marriage of those two worlds resulted in dresses that were richly embellished with beading, fringe, and brocade, yet which were more androgynously svelte, daring, and aware of the body than ever before.

It’s this kind of marriage that I am reminded of whenever I wear Jean Patou 1000. Really, I find it hard to believe this fragrance was created in 1972 (another era in which women were assuming greater power, but a polyester kind of era in many regards) and not 1922. Jean Patou 1000 is the perfume equivalent of a slinky beaded gown, or a fringed but fitted flapper dress: a rich cascade of expensive florals that nevertheless cuts a sportily sleek figure. Its notes, according to, include

Top: bergamot, coriander, eucalyptus, angelica
Heart: osmanthus, rose, jasmine, violet
Base: sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, civet

Only someone with a very discerning nose could pick out these notes, except for the very distinctive osmanthus and violet. This is a difficult fragrance to describe using notes and literal terms; what I can tell you is that the florals are accompanied by enough green, spiky top notes that there is a prickly coolness to them—such that 1000 smells more than a trifle haughty. The osmanthus is more leathery than apricot-like, but violets and rose add some maraschino cherry sweetness to the mix. It’s the kind of sweetness found in vintage cosmetics, a bit waxy, even a trifle powdery. Still this scent never settles into a warm, round kind of sweetness or floralcy; between the green top and the woody basenotes, it possesses a chypre-like angularity. If it were a dress, Jean Patou 1000 would be a gown of watered silk, cut on the bias; its fabric says it’s expensive, but its fit reveals its good bones…the cocked and jutting hip, the fine blade of shoulder.

I realize the unlikelihood of perfumer Jean Kerléo approaching the formulation of Jean Patou 1000 with the thought that it could be a stunning exercise in creative anachronism. And yet, to my mind, it is rather like The House of Eliott: an homage to an era in fashion, the likes of which we may never see again.

February 13, 2009: