Thursday 12 September 2013

Dita Von Teese edp review - a less lairy LouLou?

Although my interest in fragrance was pretty minimal most of my life, I did get excited about LouLou by Cacharel.  I bought a bottle, no less, a very unusual move at the time.  It reminds me vividly of my year teaching English in a lycee on the French riviera.  I lived in a villa - well, more of a bog standard bungalow that had been embellished with squiggly flourishes of wrought iron - with two fellow students, who rejoiced in surnames that were also body parts (Dick and Knuckles).  They were both extremely body-conscious as it happens, with matching eating disorders.  One of the duo existed entirely off Granny Smith apples, which she sat munching while devouring the complete works of Emile Zola, I never did figure why.  I once thought of writing my memoirs from that year and calling it 'Three Thin Women of Antibes' in a homage to Somerset Maugham.  

Now my villa-mates may have been slim, but they punched above their weight when it came to 'relationships' - I use the word loosely, because they were.  Yes, the year was punctuated by a steady procession of hot-tempered, arm windmilling Frenchmen coming and going at our villa, while I stood meekly by, occasionally emptying waste paper baskets full of apple cores.  In short, the Mediterranean is a very sensuous part of the world, and our villa arguably its pulsating heart - or pulsating something...  

My next visit to the area was in the mid to late 80s around the time of the launch of LouLou, a loud, intoxicating, tropical oriental centred around the sweet note of tiare.  I promptly bought it, possibly even at the airport - I don't remember - and it has served as a symbol of pugnacious sensuality ever since.  I must have worn it back then, but I cannot abide it now, as it gives me an instant headache, in much the same way that Giorgio does.  If you eyeball that note list you just know there is no way your that your forehead is going to escape its darkly heady vice:

Source: fragrantica

Notes: violet, plum black currant, marigold and anis, tiare flower, tuberose, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, orris, Tonka bean, vanilla and balsam.

And as it happens, Fragrantica, from whom I pinched that note list, agrees that LouLou is a polarising scent: 

"LouLou is a controversial perfume that people either like, or dislike, the one that provoke different emotions, and indifference for sure is not one of them."  For sure not.

Fast forward to 2012, and the release of burlesque artist Dita Von Teese's first eponymous scent, which is also built around the tiare flower, and which I think has some crossover with LouLou, though you might not think so from the notes. 

Dita Von Teese ~ Source:

Notes: bergamot, peony, Bourbon pepper, rose, Tahitian tiare flower, jasmine, incense, patchouli, musk, guaiac wood and sandalwood.

For starters, both scents have raunchy connotations.  As Elena explains in her review on Perfumeshrine:

"LouLou was meant to evoke the great film actress Louise Brooks and her Lulu role in the silent 1928 Pabst film Pandora's Box (tamer than its title would hint at, but not by much considering)." 

Another similarity is the fact that they are both cheap, and in LouLou's case, the bottle is both cheap and tacky.  Dita Von Teese, on the other hand, has a brassy-looking box with a hideous red plastic inner tray, but the bottle itself is pure class!  How many ways do I love the bottle?  Let me count the ways...!  I make that at least three.

- It has a flat facet you can rest it on.

- It is an intriguing cross between Neela Vermeire's classy ribbed flacons and a small incendiary device.

- It has a cute tassle that will amuse your cat for hours.  (Note to self to get cat.)

Bottle resting on its flat facet, though it probably would have done so anyway on that soft surface

Then as I say, they both feature the tiare flower, which isn't that common a note in perfumery, and which has a distinctive sweetness to it that not even a shedload of other foghorn florals in LouLou can manage to mask. And both scents are sweetly floral - not unduly so in Dita Von Teese's case, mind.  Then while LouLou mugs you with a fuggy base of vanilla-esque variants, Dita Von Teese is relatively sheer and inoffensive, with no noticeable base at all.  I'd describe it is a watery, faintly tropical floral braced with a shot of pepper that gives it the faintest smidge of raunch.  I completely agree with Natalie of anotherperfumeblog's of Dita Von Teese here.

So for the princely sum of £10.80 (for 20ml) delivered from Cheapsmells, I think I have discovered in Dita Von Teese something rather remarkable - a 'louche-lite' aka an 'office-appropriate business scent'.  Which isn't meant to be tautology - or oxymoron - though it may look that way.

Juan-les-Pins ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons via jwieski


Ines said...

It seems Dita's perfume is a little, largely undiscovered gem for everyday wear. :) I know Natalie enjoys it a lot and I still find it incredible it was she who told me you can actually find it in Zagreb (shame on me, I thought it wasn't available here).

Kathryn said...

Hi Vanessa, thank-you for this uncannily timely review. I think folk who love perfume and encounter the same launches and marketing at similar times (because they live in the same country) must share headspace sometimes too! I have stood in different branches of Boots on at least three occasions this summer with the Dita perfume box in my hand wondering whether to blind-buy, weighing up the bargain price against the lack of tester. I walked away because I couldn't even see the bottle and the box was cellophane wrapped so Dita remained elusive and I spent my money on more unnecessary lipstick and a much more expensive ebay Opium splurge! Loulou remains fascinating to me and although I don't wear it any more I keep a small bottle which I sniff when I need a fix to take me back, not so much to a specific memory, but more to an earlier (and considerably younger) time in my life when I was discovering art house cinema as well as perfume and the link with Louise Brooks and old films was irresistible! So, to cut my ramblings short I'm delighted to see the bottle, and being all too attracted by black glass (so disappointed with Coco Noir but almost bought it for the black glass alone!) and also tassels on anything, I think I may now need to go and buy this.
Thanks again!

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

That is exactly how I would describe it. Natalie is indeed a big fan, also Tara. I just wonder whether you might find it a bit too tame, but I'd say it is worth a punt for sure, especially for such little outlay. And it is stocked locally!

Vanessa said...

Hi Kathryn,

Lovely to hear from you, not least because I am in fact a closet Kathryn! (It's my first and official name for passports, insurance policies and the like. ;-) )

I think it very likely that we share the same headspace - never was it more true that things are 'in the air'. And I feel and empathise with your indecision - I have dithered at fixtures in Boots and in department stores more times than I can remember, and buying unnecessary lipsticks - or eyeshadows indeed - is a very common outcome. And those can also be a bit of a blind buy, in the sense that eyeshadow on the back of the hand may not behave in the same way on the lid. But I digress.

Based on its packaging alone, I would probably have stayed my hand where Dita is concerned, as it does look decidedly tacky. Though as I say, the bottle is a charming ornament in its own right that I deem well worth a tenner of anyone's money, and you get a wearable perfume with that too!

So interesting about your Loulou memories of arty films and Louise Brooks. I have a friend who works her bob like you wouldn't believe...;-) I can see myself walking up the steps of this faux-villa in Antibes, looking at the semi-tropical vegetation in the garden and I can picture the tangled foliage on the Loulou box so clearly in my mind's eye, though the perfume hadn't been released when I lived in France. So it is more like a retrospective association with that era of my youth.

I should just mention that the opening 30 secs to a minute of Dita Von Teese do smell a wee bit chemically / synthetic, but this phase passes very quickly and the rest smells much more expensive than its price tag. Katie Puckrik has also given DvT a thumbs up - you can catch her video review here, if you haven't seen it.

Tara said...

Vanessa, Lou Lou passed me by so it was good to get a crash course on it from you. I can also now place the apple-eating baker mentioned in your email :)

I really like Dita Von Teese and blind bought the 20ml version pictured. Totally agree with your reasons for liking the "flacon" and for hating the nasty cheap packaging. It does fall down on the lack of base but I guess that's where the money ran out. It's been a nice cheap summer thrill for me though and I don't have anything else like it.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

That is indeed the apple-eating baker - well remembered! Loulou is an odd scent - objectively speaking, it is loud and borderline suffocating if I am honest, yet it seems to be strangely evocative for people, myself included.

I do so agree that Dita Von Teese falls down on the lack of base - they very likely did run out of money, haha! But it is exactly as you describe - 'a cheap summer thrill' - and one of only two bottles I have bought all year, the other being my Ebay purchase of La Perla.

Anonymous said...

So glad this has earned you as a fan. I wore it so much over the summer that I keep feeling as though it deserves a lot of credit. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

I first came across Dita Von Teese in Germany last year, where it made a favourable impression on a blotter, then I promptly forgot about it. Your review played a key role in prompting me to reinvestigate it, for which many thanks!

Undina said...

I loved the story (you definitely should start writing your memoirs! ;) ) and I like the bottle - for reasons mentioned and in general. But that's it. Sorry about the perfume.

I've never worn Loulou but I own a mini of it (the modern incarnation - if there actually was what to reformulate to start with (it smells cheap and artificial to my nose but I don't know how it smelled in the beginning).

patriciacha said...

Vanessa I just can't be drinking or eating anything when i read your reviews from now on. "you just know there is no way your that your forehead is going to escape its darkly heady vice" too funny Even looking at the bottle of LOU LOU looks like a fun house torture device. I understand though, if i see a bottle of LouLou you know i'm going to have to sniff.Must be a phase young girls have to go through. My daughter used to practically bathe in Exclamation! when she was a teenager, talk about headache. I doubt i will find Dita's perfume were i live but will be on the lookout.Sometimes the bottle gives you an idea of what lies in store, sometimes not. Thanks for the review :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I got about 2000 words into the story once - was going to model it on A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, but I got stuck after that. Not sure how to structure and pace things - am better at the quick vignette, I realise. But thanks anyway!

Sorry Dita Von Teese didn't work for you - do pass it along.

The modern Loulou is cheap smelling and very potent, and I have no idea whether the 80s one was fundamentally different or whether I was less fussy/discerning back then. ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi patriciacha,

Sorry to interfere with your mealtimes, lol!

You are quite right - that LouLou bottle does look remarkably like an instrument of torture - brightly coloured to disarm the victim...;-) I would be interested to hear your take on it. Only sniff it when you are feeling emotionally and physically robust, mind. I took a whiff on a channel ferry and it spoilt the rest of the journey. Well, that and DKNY Pure (pure musky fug!) between them.

Mals86 said...

I will love you forever for the phase "pugnacious sensuality."

I remember disliking LouLou very much when it was new, although I have not smelled it in decades and can't quite recall what exactly it was like. What I do remember was a back-of-the-throat rasp that just ruined it for me. I've run across that effect from time to time in other things, and I doubt very much I'd like LouLou now.

I did rather like DvT, but like you thought it had very little base. It wasn't hefty enough to stick around on my scent-eating skin.

Suzanne said...

I'm probably one of the few perfume lovers on the Internet who has never encountered LouLou, but I really love the name. (Wow, what a cheap-ass bottle, though!)

And in regards to Dita von Teese (the perfume), if it doesn't have much base, it's probably not my cup of tea. Although I'll definitely try it if I come across it: you can't ask for a better price, considering that the perfume is a "stripped down" (heh heh) tropical floral that apparently has some interest to it, if Natalie, Tara and you all like it.

Thanks for the review and for your story. I hope you didn't always have to empty the waste basket of its apple cores ... in fact, I'm kinda wondering if you left something in that story out. No "hot-tempered, arm windmilling Frenchmen" for you? How about one of the tamer ones? ;-)

Sarah Waite said...

I will make an effort to smell this as soon as possible. I'm trying to get over my white flower phobia, maybe this will be the one! x

Vanessa said...

Hi Mals86,

Hehe, glad you liked it! ;-)

I found the present LouLou completely OTT but have no idea why it seemed okay back then, as I normally run a mile from foghorn florals. DvT would be lovely with a bit more incense or sandalwood in the base, but it does last a reasonable amount of time on me at least.

Vanessa said...

Hi Suzanne,

'Cheap-ass bottle' is about the size of it, haha! I don't think you would succumb to Loulou's brassy charms, so I wouldn't rush to seek it out.

And Dita Von Teese is probably too 'pale' even to be 'pale and interesting' in your books. A 'stripped down tropical floral' is an excellent descriptor though, for all the reasons you imply. ;-)

There is another story from my year abroad, which I wrote up in 250 words and won a prize for in a Good Housekeeping magazine competition - a box of chocolates, as I recall. ;-) If I can ever find it, it might just deserve its own blog post. A fey philosophy student called Pierre was involved...he wasn't hot-tempered, just downright peculiar. And when it comes to oddness, I speak as someone at the flatter end of the bell curve myself.

But mostly I did empty waste paper baskets. And I cleaned the villa up when my villamates vamoosed at the end of term.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

Haha! Well, I reckon this one might very possibly serve as entry level therapy!

Lavanya said...

Hmm- I haven't smelled Lou Lou, but after reading your impressions and Natalie's, want to sniff DvT. It seems so reasonably priced. As for the lack of base, maybe it needs to be layered over Tam Dao or some incense/sandalwood base-heavy top-light perfume?..:-)

And I hope you find your story- I wouldn't mind hearing more about Pierre..;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Lavanya,

That would be a fun experiment to try - I must give some thought to what base-heavy scents I have. I wonder if Eau Duelle would work with it, maybe, or Santal Massoia.

Meanwhile, I found the Pierre story! It is even shorter than I remembered - 148 words - so the limit must have been 150.

Lavanya said...

Hi Vanessa!
I haven't tried either but from the description they sound like good choices.
ooh-story- do share!! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Lavanya,

I will do...;-). In the same folder was the opening chapter of my barely started book, 'Three Thin Women of Antibes'!

Lavanya said...

Haha..oh- to be a fly on those pages..:-)
You know, I used to be such a Maugham glutton in school, but I haven't read 'The three fat women.." oh is a short story- then maybe I have. hmm- my memory fails me.

Vanessa said...

Excerpts may be included in my next post... ;-)

'Three Thin Women of Antibes' is also a short story at this point!

Anonymous said...

Er, what does "lairy" mean? --AnnieA, on the other side of the pond

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

Good question! It means many things over here and I kind of meant an amalgam:

"Flashy, vulgar, exhibitionistic, pushy, confrontational, liable to induce 'an irksome feeling' in another person", and more!

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

I have run through a bottle of Dita Von Teeze because though I liked it very much its lasting power was extremely poor for me. It was respritz every hour, which I did religiously for about 4 nights and then empty bottle, sad face.
Lou Lou is an old fave and I'd not noticed the link, thanks for giving me a reason to repurchase DVT.
Portia xx

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

Wow, you got through a bottle very quickly - though they are only 20ml. I can imagine Dita Von Teese not packing a punch on your skin and the lack of base being a problem. I don't wish to overplay the LouLou link but I certainly associated the two scents on a few levels.

Carol said...

I also haven't tried LouLou is the Dita of these days!

Carol said...

oops I meant "or" the Dita yet...

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

I would be interested to hear what you think about either of these if you catch up with them!

Carol said...

Will do!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one here that thinks the Loulou bottle is fabulous? First of all I love opaque bottles because they are mysterious and also protect perfume. But this deep red and turquoise combination is the absolute yin and yang for me. Looking at these two colours at the same time just does something to me. It relaxes and energises me at the same time. The bottle can be described as looking like.... OK I won't say it.... but still this was very inspired given what bottles looked like in the 80's.

I vaguely remember Loulou and now it is practically impossible to find. With some luck you may find the oblong hideous bottle with red cap and turquoise body that followed this as a cheaper choice I guess. Dita Von Teese is a perfume I want to try for some time now. The idea that she is a natural blond dyed black and that she was married with Marilyn Manson have kept my imagination racing for some time now.

Off topic, I noticed that blogspot shows me as commenting anonymously unless I use my google identity recently. Shame of them! I am not anonymous.... I am Christos, of MemoryOfScent. Why do people over at Google start being so Apple?

Anonymous said...

OK they heard me and fixed this LOL but I swear I looked like an anonymous till I had proved I am not a robot

Vanessa said...

Hi Christos,

You are not anonymous, I know who you are! Blogger should get with the programme - and at least it looks as though it did eventually.

On to Loulou - I find opaque bottles annoying more than anything - though I take your point about their preserving qualities - because you can't tell how much is left in them. And that colour combo will always remind me of West Ham football team, and not in a good way - but that is a UK-specific assocation, I realise. Though if you are a football fan, you might like to check them out!

The oblong bottle is a much less pleasing shape, I quite agree. I only knew the original. My issue is with the cheap plasticky appearance as well as the colour scheme, but I like the shape okay.

I did not know that Dita Von Teese was linked to Marilyn Manson. Well I never. I hope you catch up with the perfume and that it doesn't disappoint. It is only £11 from Cheapsmells in The Channel Islands if you are up for a blind buy. ;-)

Vanessa said...

If it is any consolation, sometimes I look like an anonymous till I have proved I am not a robot - even when commenting on my own blog. ;-)