Vintage Perfumes That Will Always Remind Us of Mom
From White Shoulders to Chanel No. 5, the scents we remember best are the ones our mothers and grandmothers wore.
Fragrance can conjure memories like nothing else. A gardenia, a rose, a lily—we catch a hint of their perfume and are transported back to our mothers’ vanity tables, our grandmothers’ gardens, our own bouquets and corsages. That’s why we have such strong associations with perfume. It reconnects us with special people and special moments in our lives
And it doesn’t matter whether Mama’n’em chose vintage chic scents or something simple and sweet from the drugstore, we love it just the same.
When we polled our staff and our Facebook Brain Trust, we found that White Shoulders is apparently the official fragrance of Southern grandmothers. Many of us remember it fondly, along with Estée Lauder scents, particularly Youth Dew and Beautiful. Both of those spark memories of mothers and grandmothers. “I still stop by to smell Youth Dew for a vivid memory of my mom!” wrote Mary Jo.
Take a walk–and a sniff–with us down memory lane as readers and staff share the fragrances that take them back home. And please share yours with us in comments!
Simple Can Be Special
“My grandmother loved to smell orange blossom water because it reminded her of her time living in Florida. The first year I lived in Arizona and smelled orange trees blossoming, it instantly took me back 2,000 miles and 25 years, to a time sitting at my grandmother’s vanity table and smelling that little bottle.”
“My mom always wore Cachet.”
“Skin So Soft bath oil reminds me of my Big Mama. She always put it in her bath water.”
“Mama Helen used Jergen’s Lotion.”
Gifts From Dad
“I remember Shalimar on my mom. Dad gave her a new bottle every Christmas.”
— Nancy Anne
“Shalimar reminds me of my mom! Dad gave her the first bottle when he was in the Navy.”
“Daddy always bought Oscar de le Renta for Mom at Christmas. There is still a full bottle at her house now.”
Her Signature Scent
“Estée Lauder Knowing was my mom’s go-to for fancy nights out with my dad. If he was in a tux, the scent of Knowing would without a doubt be in the air. As soon as I catch a note of it, I’m instantly brought back to red-lipped kisses on the head and promises to peek in my room when they got home—even if it was well past bedtime.”
“My grandmother loves to sample perfumes in the store and isn’t afraid to try new beauty products, but she always sticks true to Chanel No. 5 in the end. And even though this scent has become cliché to some, it’ll be classic to me forever.”
“My mom, Barbara Wells, has been wearing Elizabeth & James Nirvana White for the past few years. I love it (and I always borrow it when I’m home).”
— Mary Shannon
Branching Out From Mama Just A Bit
“When I first smelled Le Labo Santal 33, the now iconic sandalwood fragrance, I liked it but there was something unfamiliar about it that made it feel distant. Now whenever I smell it, I think of one of the most inviting and sweet people I know, our food editor Lisa Cericola, who also shares a love for Le Labo perfumes. It’s funny how your perception of a scent can change, depending on the context.”
“Channel No5, Nina Ricci, Worth, so many others! My older sister, Sandy, was working in New York and Philadelphia when I was still in high school in Vincent, Alabama. I always loved it when she came home to visit because she brought all these wonderful fragrances with her at one time or another. I, of course, would get to use them when she was home. I thought I was something else. . . . She spoiled me in many ways. I love her so much.”
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