May Muguet Marathon: Fleur de Cristal

May Muguet Marathon: Fleur de Cristal

Welcome back to the May Muguet Marathon — I was away in London for a week or so and took a break from blogging, but had many perfume and scent adventures which I’ll recount this summer. Today’s lily of the valley is Fleur de Cristal, by Lalique, launched in 2010 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rene Lalique, founder of the famed crystal maker. Lalique crystal is instantly recognizable, with its flowing Art Nouveau forms, inspired by nature and often featuring female figures, flowers, and animals. M. Lalique created many beautiful perfume bottles, including in collaboration with legendary French perfumer Francois Coty. One of them is the gorgeous “Clairefontaine” bottle, which depicts sprays of lily of the valley blossoms emerging from a crystal globe. (In fact, Jessica McClintock put out a limited edition perfume splash bottle of its eponymous fragrance that has a lily of the valley stopper inspired by the famous Lalique Clairefontaine bottle). I love Lalique crystal; maybe some day I will own one of their iconic perfume bottles! Many are available through online auctions and antique sellers. Lalique has also launched a number of well-received fragrances under the house’s own name, and most come in very beautiful bottles of the house’s own design.

Fleur de Cristal comes in its own striking bottle, a clear, heavy flask whose top is embedded internally with rings of single lily of the valley bells.

Ad for Lalique eau de parfum Fleur de Cristal with perfume bottle

Fleur de Cristal; image from http://www.lalique.com

It is an eau de parfum marked as having 69% alcohol by volume, an unusually low percentage for an EDP.  (Most EDP will show about 80% alchohol by volume). Although this doesn’t mean that the Fleur de Cristal EDP is thus 31% fragrance oil, which would make it an extrait de parfum, it does seem to show that there are additional non-fragrance contents, which I’m guessing may be fixatives to help with clarity and/or longevity. After all, if one is selling a fragrance with “cristal” in the name, one can’t have it turn cloudy! Also, Fleur de Cristal does seem to have unusually good longevity for a light floral fragrance. The other day, I applied a few sprays in the morning, did not reapply all day, and twelve hours later, my husband commented that he liked my fragrance although I could no longer smell it on myself.

Top notes are: jasmine, bergamot, pink pepper; heart notes: lily of the valley, stephanotis, ylang-ylang, carnation; base notes: sandalwood, cashmeran, amber, musk. The perfumer was Raphael Haury. Chant Wagner called it a “solar muguet” on her blog The Scented Salamander, and I would agree with that description. The opening is sunny and bright, thanks to the bergamot and jasmine, with a touch of green. I don’t smell the pink pepper, but it probably adds some rosiness to the opening and ties it nicely to the heart notes, which include carnation (another lightly spicy floral note). The lily of the valley emerges as shyly as the real flower does, peeking out from behind the opening notes and gradually coming into olfactory focus, supported by the other floral notes, especially the stephanotis. Fleur de Cristal reminds me a bit of Something Blue, launched only a few years later, and they have a number of notes in common. The only fruit note in Fleur de Cristal, however, is the bergamot in the opening; and overall, the impression it leaves is more flowery than Something Blue. It also lasts longer on my skin than Something Blue.

If you are wary of lily of the valley scents, this might suit you. It isn’t a soliflore or soapy at all, it is a light, fresh floral with a very pretty progression of gentle flower notes leading to a soft base. It is widely available online for reasonable prices, and I’ve seen it still for sale at Neiman Marcus. Have you tried this, or any other Lalique fragrances?

 

 

May Muguet Marathon: Jessica McClintock

May Muguet Marathon: Jessica McClintock

Raise your hand if you’ve ever owned a garment by Jessica McClintock or Gunne Sax? That’s right — most of us females can put our hands down now. First under the name Gunne Sax, then under her own name, designer Jessica McClintock made the skirts and dresses teenaged girls wanted, from the 1960s until 2013, when she ceased manufacturing and retired. The company long dominated the market for girls’ special occasion dresses, but it also had a strong presence in the market for wedding dresses. Its specialty was figure-flattering, somewhat modest, feminine dresses, evolving from its 1970s-1980s look of prairie-style high necks and puffed sleeves. Thirty years ago, she launched her own fragrance, Jessica McClintock, and it became as ubiquitous as her dresses — maybe more so, as it appeals to a wider age range than the girls and young women who flocked to her racks for prom, special occasion, and wedding dresses. The fragrance continues to be licensed and sold, and you will find it almost everywhere, often in a gift set.

Jessica McClintock gift set

Jessica McClintock fragrance; image from http://www.evine.com

Like her dresses, Jessica McClintock is a “safe” buy, but also very pretty and reasonably priced. The Washington Post summed up the brand’s aesthetic perfectly in this article addressed to Jessica McClintock herself (yes, she’s a real person):

Your dresses set the stage for some of our most memorable and awkward high school experiences — and you let us feel picture perfect for those moments. (We might not have had Facebook, but as any ‘90s girl knows, disposable camera photos are forever.)

You were our introduction to strapless dresses, our testing ground for colorblocking. You taught us to embrace polka dots and satin ribbons and ruching at the waist (that one we really owe you for). But most importantly, you helped us feel pretty and sexy before we really knew what pretty and sexy felt like. Those sweetheart necklines, those curvy waists — we were Oscars stars, posing for our parents at backyard pre-prom ceremonies like they were red carpet paparazzi.

They were sweet, simple, attractive dresses, ones that we and our moms could both agree on. No zebra print or cutouts or questionably placed sequins — these were classic dresses that “showed off our shape,” as our mothers would say when we waltzed out of the department store dressing room. We thought we looked beautiful and grown-up in those strapless A-line frocks, and miraculously, our mothers agreed. And it’s no small feat to find common ground between a teenage girl and her mother. You, Jessica McClintock, accomplished the impossible.

But then you did more than that: You made us happy with our bodies. There is no more self-conscious creature than a teenage girl, with her ever-expanding hips and chest and her gawky arrangements of limbs. But your body-skimming frocks, cinched in at the waist with helpful boning in the bodice to remind us to stand up straight, worked with our changing bodies, not against them. We felt safe and secure in all that sturdy satin (er, polyester), feminine in those layers of tulle and beautiful with our shoulders (because who doesn’t like their shoulders?) exposed like grown-up women.

Or, as her longtime divisional designer Erena Shklovsky told Bustle magazine:

Even more relieving for parents was the fact that McClintock’s dresses flattered figures without showcasing too much of them. That made the designer an outlier in the increasingly provocative prom market, which now favors cut-outs over class. “Jessica, she had two points of view on prom: She had designs for good girls, and we had designs for sexy girls,” Shklovsky says. “But even our sexy girls were still good girls.”

And that’s what the fragrance is like: sweet but not too sweet, pretty, tasteful, a little sexy but still innocent, and something both teenagers and their mothers can like. And a bargain, too!

The fragrance has remained popular all these years because it really is good. It’s not great, it’s not a masterpiece, it won’t blow anyone’s socks off, but it’s just a really nice, wearable scent with more character than the tidal wave of fruity florals that has drenched the market in recent years. Per Fragrantica: “Top notes are cassia, basil, ylang-ylang, bergamot, black currant and lemon; middle notes are jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are musk and woody notes.” When I first spray JMC, I get a burst of tart citrus, evenly divided between the bergamot and lemon. The cassia, black currant and basil add to the tartness and inject herbal greenness.

Very quickly, the lily of the valley steps to the fore. Or, as Victoria at EauMG says: “BAM. Lily of the valley all up in yo face. Plus some citrus. And some greens.” On my skin, I don’t smell much of the rose and jasmine in the middle stage, but I can sort of tell they are there, hovering around the perimeter and adding some nuance to the lily of the valley. The green, herbal notes of the opening phase persist, and make this more of an aromatic floral than, say, a white floral. Given that the citrus notes, as usual, vanish quite early, the ongoing tartness that provides the contrast to the lily of the valley note is likely from the cassia and blackcurrant. If you know what the plants look like, there is also a pleasing reference to the visual contrast between the shiny black fruit of the blackcurrant and the pure white bells of lily of the valley.

Here’s something worth noting: I ended up having much more to say about Jessica McClintock than I had expected. And that too is characteristic of this fragrance: there is more to it than one might think, and its appeal sneaks up on you.

Close up of lily of the valley flowers

Lily of the valley; image from http://www.pixabay.com

cassis-berry

Blackcurrant berries and leaves