Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

On the Character of Fine Women (Quote of the Week)


 An 18th-century perfumista who will not be dissuaded.
Madame de Pompadour (Boucher, 1750)
(image source)

“No female can be a fine woman, who uses perfumes of any kind, as these must be meant to predominate over some personal disagreeable odor.”

 – Anonymous, “On the Character of Fine Women.” (March, 1792)
                                             (From an article in The Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine)

Risky then, risky now? Negative attitudes about perfume-wearing persist today–though not in quite the same way. What do you think?


2 thoughts on “On the Character of Fine Women (Quote of the Week)

  1. It wasn't true then: women who could afford perfumes wore them, if not to mask their own odor (though probably most of them had to) then at least to cover the smells of the surrounding life (at least that's how I imagine it was having read Süskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer). And it's even less true now (I won't even go into details: everything, starting with the term “fine woman” itself).
    That's what I think.

  2. Hi, Undina, and welcome! You are right on both counts: women perfumed their clothing and linens to smell good, and carried scented pomanders and handkerchiefs to block out the foul smells around them. But at the same time, there was an ongoing argument against perume-wearing. It was often not recommended for “cultivated” or polite women. The etiquette manuals and advice articles for women from the late 18th and 19th centuries are fascinating. I stumbled over this quote in an editorial on etiquette of the toilette in an old magazine. Women are also urged to avoid face powder and artificial hair. Isn't it a treasure? We've come a long way, baby!

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