Traditionally, the kind of fragrances available, particularly for women, has been a sign of the times. Witness these weepers: In the Garden of My Parish Priest (1895), Queen of Lilies (1893), Ashes of Roses (1912) and Pearls of Hyacinths (1922).
There also has always been a slew of celebrity scents: Empress Josephine (1900s), Borgia (1920s), Duchess of Windsor and Mae West (1930s), Brigitte Bardot (1960s) and Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass (1970s). And certainly, not to be excluded, were the potent (in name and scent) fragrances women wore just before and right after World War II: Little Guillotine and Atom Bomb.
The names (and scents) have become more sophisticated over the years, but the costs of many of these specialized fragrances have consistently remained in the pricey genre.
Is a change in sight? Not likely. California alone is the home of $300 million-plus a year fragrance industry, with chemists continuously striving to create scents that will evoke our spirits and tempt us to dip into our wallets.
Yet despite the number of enticing options, many consumers are averse to paying high prices for them. Thirty-five dollars for a two-ounce eau de toilette spray or $45 for two ounces of eau de parfum is a lot of money.
Fortunately, there are some alternatives. Here are several suggestions:
THE BODY SHOP
If you're interested in fragrant novelty items from a shop that recycles, makes naturally based products and is adamantly against animal testing, then this is the place to visit.
The chain was created in Brighton, England, in 1976; there are more than 600 branches in 40 countries, including three in Orange County. According to Nicola Bird, manager of the South Coast Plaza store, "Prices are anywhere between Thrifty and Bullock's prices, depending on the product."
Offerings include 30 perfume oils ($7.15-$19.25) derived from flower extracts, aromatic resins and balsams and synthetic fragrances; eau de toilette in an atomizer ($7.80); complete lines of skin oils ($3.85-$9.30), facial cleaners ($4.90-$15.95), facial fresheners ($5-$19.50), facial creams ($7.75-$12.10) and facial treatments ($2.50-$11.25).
There are also full lines of lotions for body, hands and feet, bath oils, shower gels and a unique selection of scented soaps ($1.95) and the Endangered Species soap group ($1.40), in which small vegetable-based glycerin soaps are pressed into the shapes of endangered species.
Also worthy of mention are the many shampoo lines, the mother and baby products collection and gift items that include potpourri packages ($9.55), gift baskets ($21.50) and T-shirts ($12). All T-shirt proceeds are donated to animal organizations. Customers are also encouraged to return empty bottles for refills.
Brea Mall, (714) 990-9101 ; MainPlace/Santa Ana , (714) 547-8238 and South Coast Plaza, (714) 540-4343.
FRAGRANCES FOR LESS
This outlet offers 300 women's fragrances and more than 100 men's fragrances. Prices are 10% to 20% off highly advertised fragrances at regular retail and 50% to 60% off fragrances that have been discontinued in the United States. The discontinued ones make up a good portion of the inventory, because the store imports from around the world.
"Lou Lou and Catherine Deneuve are two fragrances that are no longer offered" in the United States, says Jessica Watson, manager of the Cypress outlet. "Yet we try to keep them on hand, as many of our customers regularly request them."
Watson also says that rare and hard-to-find perfumes are generally in stock. Laura Ashley and Society by Burberry are two examples. In addition, the outlet will special order scents upon request.
"We keep a customer list on hand," she says. "Since we are in touch with our buyer on a weekly basis, most of the requests can be fulfilled."
The outlet's shelves are regularly stocked with a wide range of popular brands such as Paloma Picasso, Giorgio Red, Fendi and Opium for women and Polo, Drakkar and Photo for men. As with the women's fragrance lines, the store stocks hard-to-find fragrances for men, such as Nino Cerruti (usually only found in European stores) and Caesar's Men, which sells for $19, compared with $30 at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
To complement the fragrance lines, an extensive selection of body creams, lotions, shower gels and soaps for women and sprays, after-shave lotions and deodorants for men are offered at discount prices. Cosmetic lines are also carried (50% to 80% below original retail prices), and costume jewelry sets are prices at $7, compared with the standard department store price of $25.
Free gift wrapping is available, and the stores have a complete refund policy if the customer is not satisfied.
10151 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 761-2780 and 18569 Main St., Huntington Beach , (714) 841-4740.
ROSS AND MARSHALLS
Discount stores such as Ross and Marshalls can be depended on for good prices and variety of products.