The Stories Behind These 11 Famous Fragrances
A woman’s signature scent is something that should stand the test of time, sticking with those who have known her and reflecting her true beauty. That’s why there are some famous perfumes that have become linked to iconic celebrities, princesses and duchesses, and even Southern belles. It goes without saying that for a fragrance to withstand decades and transcend the evolution of beauty, it must be pretty special. From controversial debuts to revolutionary creators, these famous perfumes came on the scene loud and strong and have lived many lives since.
Chanel No. 5
Buy It: $105; chanel.com
Coco Chanel was a revolutionary figure in the fashion industry and created this scent for the new modern woman she represented. When perfumer Ernest Beaux presented her with 10 scents to test for her new fragrance, she selected the fifth—hence, the namesake that’s now become iconic. It’s been a favorite of famous women since then; and, when asked in an interview what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe historically responded “Why, Chanel No. 5, of course."
Miss Dior by Dior
Buy It: $94; nordstrom.com
Christian Dior created his first and most well-known perfume, Miss Dior, in 1947. He said he always remembered the perfumes of the women he knew during his childhood and that fragrance lasted much more than a moment. The light floral, elegant scent went without a name until his muse, Mitzah Bricard, exclaimed “Look, there’s Miss Dior!” when Dior’s beloved sister, Catherine, entered his couture boutique one day—and he had finally found the name for his most iconic perfume. Actress Natalie Portman is now the face of the fragrance.
Buy It: $77; amazon.com
This delicate scent with peach and floral notes was created by Hubert de Givenchy for his beloved client, Audrey Hepburn, and wasn’t even released to the public until years after its debut in the 1960s—until then, Hepburn was the one and only to possess it. Fittingly, the name is French for “forbidden." The two maintained a close friendship and partnership until Hepburn's death.
Buy It: $144; sephora.com
This fragrance hails from a romantic origin story stemming back four centuries in India. Jacques Guerlain was inspired by the tale of Emperor Shah Jahan and Princess Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the Taj Mahal and Gardens of Shalimar were built in tribute to after her death. When you get one of the seven wonders of the world built for you, I guess a fragrance is just a cherry on top?
Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant Paris
Buy It: $100; nordstrom.com
Princess Diana wore Quelques Fleurs on her wedding day, and the story goes that she spilled some of the perfume on her wedding dress right before the ceremony. As a result, she held her dress in that spot as she walked down the aisle to conceal the spill—the image seen by millions around the world. This perfume is super luxe and very expensive, and around 15,000 flowers are curated to make just a single ounce of it.
Joy by Jean Patou
Buy It: $80; amazon.com
Jean Patou shot to fame as a couture designer in Paris in the early 1900s, creating transformative, modern designs for women. His daring looks, such as his muse-and-tennis-star Suzanne Lenglen’s short (for the time) pleated tennis skirt, made him a revolutionary name in fashion. When the Great Depression bankrupted many of his clients, he thought of his jasmine-and-rose-infused fragrance, Joy, as a potential revitalization of business by marketing it as rare, treasured, and insanely expensive. And, surprisingly, it worked!
Yves Saint Laurent Opium
Buy It: $59; amazon.com
When Yves Saint Laurent launched this sensuous scent, with rich hints of amber and vanilla, it was faced with outrage. Having drawn inspiration from oriental culture, Laurent was immune to any backlash concerning the negatively-connotative name, refusing to change or apologize for it. The seductive scent and controversial name was enough to not only create public outcry, but also to inspire massive fame and popularity. The scent spread like wildfire and has never lost its notoriety.
Buy It: $168; amazon.com
The House of Creed was founded in 1760 and has gained a reputation as the go-to fragrance company of royal families . Creed Fleurissimo was commissioned for Grace Kelly to wear in her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, solidifying the scent of bergamot, Bulgarian rose, and Florentine iris worldwide as perfectly capturing Hollywood glamor and European royalty at the same time. The brand keeps its royal reputation by sticking with high-quality, luxurious ingredients.
Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps
Buy It: $33; amazon.com
The signature fragrance of French fashion house, Nina Ricci, L’Air du Temps was released in 1948 as a response to the end of World War II and an advocate for a return to peace and feminine elegance after dealing with the ravages of a world at war. With a gold bottle topped with doves, the spicy-floral scent has continued being a best-selling fragrance and is referenced in pop culture in the movie, Silence of the Lambs.
Jo Malone London Lime Basil & Mandarin
Buy It: $130; jomalone.com
When Jo Malone began experimenting with creating custom scents in London, she took a natural, no-nonsense approach that still dictates the direction of the massive line of Jo Malone London scents. The company was bought by Estée Lauder in 1999 for an undisclosed (but, by all rumored accounts, quite large) amount. The fragrances reflect inspirations from natural essences, most of which are reminiscent of English tradition and influences, like Blackberry & Bay, Amber & Lavender, and the company’s beloved Lime Basil & Mandarin—and they are hailed for their easy unisex appeal.
White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor
Buy It: $24; amazon.com
Perhaps because the maker is so iconic—dripping with diamonds and all—White Diamonds has stayed a best-selling celebrity scent for over 20 years. Elizabeth Taylor is a magnetic force that defies time. People were and continue to be enamored with her and her love of all things luxurious. Per her request, this perfume is packed with fresh flowers like violet, rose, jasmine, and lily. She said that her goal was to create something that could make every woman feel fabulous, just like her. She never left the house without her diamonds and her perfume, after all.