Suzanne's Perfume Journal

January 1, 2008:

You know the type: when she walks into the room, she seems to take up all the space—all of the air, even. She is sinisterly beautiful, with dangerous curves and killer clothes that hug them in all the right places. She swaddles herself in featherweight silks, creamy cashmeres and buttery soft Italian leathers.  Everything about her—from her sultry eyes to her pillowy lips—reminds you that the boudoir is just down the hall; but then there is also her haughty bone structure, her regal comportment, that makes you realize it might just as well be an ocean away, for, clearly, the invitation is up to her—not you—and she doesn’t issue such invitations lightly.  She is not your plaything, but if you’re very lucky, you could be hers.

Today I am playing a game that perfumisitas love to play, where you match a perfume to the person you think most embodies it.  For me, the bombshell actress Sophia Loren is the perfect embodiment of the iconic fragrance Fracas, launched by the design house of Robert Piguet in 1948, a year before Loren, at 15, went to Rome in search of work in the Italian film industry.  Because Fracas was launched around the same time that Loren was coming of age, I wonder if it was a scent she might have worn, though it is doubtful, as according to Loren’s biography, she grew up in extreme poverty in Pozzuoli, the war-torn slums of Naples, and had gone to Rome in hopes of changing her fortune and fulfilling her dream of becoming an actress.  In an interesting parallel, Fracas owes its existence to a change of fortune, too, as French couturier Robert Piguet reportedly commissioned perfumer Germaine Cellier to create a scent to celebrate the rebirth of Paris during the final days of World War II.


Robert Piguet Fracas eau de parfum can be purchased at, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $110. It is available at other fine department stores, as well, and can sometimes be found at a better price at the perfume discounting sites or at

Images: Photo of Sophia Loren (top of page) by Bert Stern for 1962 Vogue, available from; the next image is from Fracas perfume image is lifted from,

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Fracas is a fragrance of voluptuous beauty: full-bodied, thick in all the right ways, sexy as all get out, and yet, never easy.  Tuberose is the dominant note in Fracas, the note that gives the perfume its waxy-white-petals feel: for indeed, if ever a perfume stirred a kinesthetic response upon smelling it, that perfume is Fracas, and it is akin to the feeling of being held in the creamy, perfumed cleavage of a goddess.  And while the tuberose is accented by other white florals (orange blossom, jasmine and lily-of-the-valley) that are in counterpoint to the fleshy tuberose, adding lightness and a touch of sparkle, the scent overall is intoxicatingly heady.  (For some, too much so: Fracas is not for the timid, and for those who don’t like strong scents, Fracas is almost a burden.  It is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it scent, inspiring fierce loyalty or intense dislike, and nothing in between.) Eventually, all of these white florals come to rest on a bed of woody base notes—sandalwood, vetiver, musk and cedar—but they take their sweet time getting there.

So, does wearing Fracas make me feel as if I’m channeling Sophia Loren?  Well, no, as much as I love perfumes, I don’t harbor any illusions that they will transform me into something I’m not.  My curves will always be on the bottom, rather than on top, and I will never have bedroom eyes or a sultry pout.  My husband, when he compliments me on a perfume, has demonstrated a preference for ambery tobacco scents.  Still, Fracas does make me feel sexy when I wear it, because I enjoy the titillation of its headiness, of something that feels lusciously, carnally fleshy and, at the same time, elevated, in the way that extreme femininity is elevated on a pedestal.  And if I feel sexier, well, then to a certain degree I am sexier.  And who can argue with that?