Disclaimer: I am not a Guerlain expert, nor have I ever been...
But who doesn't love a good Guerlain? Even hearing the name makes me go a little wiggly-jiggly in the knees. From the pretty shiny bobbles that populate the makeup counter to the gallons of amber juices swirling around inside of precious crystal flacons, it's all good. Really good.
And there's nothing better in the whole world then something like this:
image: another travel guide
But Guerlain isn't just my mother's perfume, it's everyone's mother's perfume and therein lies a problem. If you're thinking about getting into collecting vintage Guerlain perfumes, know this-- everyone else is looking for vintage Guerlain perfumes, too. And for some (insane, ungodly) reason nearly all of them are perfectly willing to pay way, way more than you would normally ever think about spending on perfume. Just know that going into the whole thing.
Part of Guerlain's mystique may come from the grand story about their most cherished (vintage, pre LVMH) fragrances- Jicky 1889, Mitsouko 1919, Shalimar 1926 and Chamade 1969- that they were all created by Guerlain men for the women they loved. Each one is indeed like a love story, a masterpiece.
But be prepared because Guerlain will break your heart- it's the Guerlain curse. You haven't heard of the curse, you say. Well, stick around, try a few. It won't be long before you will find one, the one most likely and you'll have decided that you either a.) have to have it, but can't find or can't afford (see above) it or b.) can't wear it, but feel you have to be able to wear it. With Guerlain it always comes down to one of those two cases.
Take me, for example. Like many vintage perfumistas, I've decided. Mitsouko is the Guerlain for me. In fact it is 'the one'- the one perfume I'd wear if I couldn't ever wear any other perfume, ever; the one I'd grab if the house was on fire... But there's a problem: it's too darned popular. Why, it's almost a cliche... predictable at the very least. But I love it, it smells- well, just perfect. Plus they just ain't makin' it like they used to.... so I'm compelled to pursue it, endlessly... searching, searching for the all too rare bottle of that certain vintage to pop up. So there you have it- my personal Guerlain heartbreak...
Then you'll find those who really feel they should be in love with Shalimar. Don't ask me why so many people say they cannot wear it... must be they're only trying the vintage cologne versions, which to tell the truth can tend to go a little sour on the leather. But I think in its present condition LVMH has tamed this beast entirely. I can't imagine anyone not being able to wear the newer Shalimar versions (reformulations/flankers, whatever you call them). It's been neatly neutered- all fluff and pure sweetness, no teeth, no claws- but I'll admit, I love it.
I hope you decide not to take my tongue in cheek sour grapes to heart... and just to prove that I love y'all, let me give you a little tip about collecting those vintage Guerlain perfumes that beginners may not know- many of the older spray bottles can be unscrewed. I hate to have to say it- but you have to be smart about collecting- that means they could potentially be refilled or otherwise compromised. I'm not saying avoid those bottles altogether, I'm just saying you should know Guerlain has favored using these 'refillable' bottles for quite some time. Make sure you know how a certain perfume is supposed to smell and don't let one of these bottles be your first experience with trying a scent.
The Guerlain cologne bottle style below (with the pleats and cute little 'hips') circa 1960s-1980s is one example of the screw-off top and removable atomizer stick (leaving the mouth of the jar open)...
And there are squatty black plastic shouldered, fluted bottles very like the red shouldered one shown below, which also unscrew and can be refilled (I'm not sure about dates for this one):
If there are these two, there are likely to be others. Ironically, the blue and white decorated tin canister bottle, which is often referred to as refillable, is NOT refillable in the same, open and pour way.
The cartridges that fit into those bottles are sealed and cannot be easily refilled, diluted etc... just popped in and out. So, I quite like finding cologne in those bottles. Of course, I really like to find sealed, corded bottles like the one below, whenever possible:
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.
images: all the little thumbnails are from ebay auctions