Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vintage New Orleans: Magnolia Rene Perfume

Today in California it is rainy, windy and cold, a typical February spring day but terrible Oscar's weather. Never mind, the fruitless pears are in full bloom here. All this rain puts me in the mood for a New Orleans spring day. The weather in New Orleans was always warm even when the sky filled with dark daytime clouds. There are Magnolia trees growing in California, which surprised me at first but the ones I've found are nearly scentless, nothing like the ones in New Orleans. The way magnolia perfume hangs in the warm, heavy air just before an electric storm, when everything else has become perfectly still, yellow tinted; that's a headspace I want to capture. (Edit: perhaps Kenzo Fleur de Magnolia can take me there... )

However all I have here, now is a nice old dimestore perfume called Magnolia by Rene of New Orleans. Magnolia smell is hard to describe. It's similar to jasmine, and similar to gardenia, but not really like either. It's sweeter with rubbery-waxy hints and a carbenuba, shoe-polish note. This perfume captures the magnolia of my memory perfectly. As it warms, it becomes more spicy, faintly medicine tinged, like sweet cream tinged with saffron and thinned with coconut milk. The dry down has faint civit-honey and hay notes with a fleshy, almost necrotic undertone. Something in that base reminds me of fresh leather, or the smell the flower gives off as it over-ripens, when the thick petals begin to turn slightly nutty and brown.

The quality of this fragrance is hard to judge. You can't even find a perfume that smells like this today (that's NOT a good thing), yet it was just a cheap little novelty back then, a small souvenir or token from a date back when it was new. So what if it doesn't have great performance characteristics, and leaves just enough to smell a trace after only a couple of hours! The bakelite cap does look sort of nerdy, but I really love the stepped shoulder design of the the little art deco bottle.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the vintage vogue lives.


Alba said...

Hi! looking for information about Rene perfume I found your blog.I have the counterpart a mini same as yours but with the gardenia perfume.
Love you blog.
vintage perfume is my middle name! :O)
I will start reading your blog.
It's beautiful congratulations.

Anonymous said... partner recently shared with me that one of her seemingly silly, but greatest regrets was not purchasing (the no longer manufactured?) Magnolia at a shop in Los Angeles several years ago. Does anyone know where i might begin looking to acquire a bottle of this perfume? I'd love nothing more than to give her this as a gift..

thank you,


Anonymous said...

Oh my!!! My mother used this when I was very little in the late 1950's. I just loved the bottle (that seemed bigger then) & fragrance on her. Been looking for it for ages. Thanks for posting. Brings back wonderful memories.

Amelia said...

dachyfam: Thanks for your comment- my favorite kind; it's great to find these old touchstones to our hearts. Happy 2011 to you.