The Thinking 

Even Perfume

October 5, 2012


IN HER ongoing series of posts on the ugliness of modern life, Kidist Paulos Asrat wrote recently about a new French perfume:

The decadence of modern culture continues with the legendary perfume house Givenchy releasing a new scent clearly named after Elizabeth Short, the murdered and mutilated California woman who became known as the Black Dahlia. She got her moniker through malicious gossip in Hollywood, where the legend is that she wore a signiature black suit to attract men as a prostitute. She went to California to try her luck in acting while doing all kinds of odd jobs from modelling to waitressing. Some of the men she attracted, including a string of boyfriends, became suspects in her murder.

The perfume itself, called Dahlia Noir in French, is a weak concoction of rose, sandalwood and vanilla, which sounds good, but doesn’t live up to expectations. The ad for the perfume features an emaciated model, hardly an Elizabeth Short. The banal square bottle is even worse. It is as though some force wouldn’t let Givenchy glamorize evil, and the perfume designers were stunted in their efforts to bottle the sordid story of Elizabeth Short.

I’ve blogged about the spiral toward evil that modern culture is taking. Givenchy is simply following those signs.

—– Comments ——

Jane S. writes:

It isn’t only a modern thing. The French are old hands at glamorizing the macabre, such as the “Victims Balls” fashionable during the Reign of Terror:

“The celebratory atmosphere following the “Reign of Terror” gave way to a number of frivolous yet gruesome fashions and pastimes, one of which was the Victim’s Ball. In order to qualify for admittance in one of these sought after soirees one had to to be a close relative or spouse of one who had lost their life to the guillotine. Invitations were so coveted that papers proving your right to attend had to be shown at the door, and some were even known to forge this certificate in their eagerness.

All the rage at these grand balls was to have the hair cut high up off the neck, in imitation of “le toilette du condamne” where the victim’s hair is cut so as not to impede the efficiency of the blade. There were several popular hairstyles including cheveux à la titus or à la victime for both women and men, where the hair is given very short and choppy cut, and the “dog ears” worn by Muscadins, where long flops of hair are left on either side of the face, but cut right up to the hairline on the back of the neck. And for the ladies, a thin red velvet ribbon worn round the neck, or red ribbons worn croisures à la victime, a kind of reverse fichu, or ceinture croisée, across the back of the bodice forming a symbolic “x marks the spot” across the upper back.”

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