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BEAUTY : '80s WHIFF

Classics vs. ingenues

November 02, 2008|Emili Vesilind

These aren't light-and-fruity times. You can smell the gravitas in the air -- and on the wrists of stylish women all over. Serene florals and cheery citrus fragrances in the family of Prescriptives Calyx and Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey, which have been en mode since the 1990s, are giving way to headier scents -- classics such as Obsession by Calvin Klein and Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, as well as new concoctions that evoke the spritz-happy 1980s, when women didn't leave the house without bathing in Shalimar, choosing power scents to go with their power suits.

"I like sophisticated perfume," said Jeanna Bonello, a 29-year-old model booker for Wilhelmina in L.A. who rotates two classics, Poison by Dior and Boucheron, with two of the headiest new scents on the market, Tom Ford Black Orchid and Prada. "I have a really hard time when people smell like Victoria's Secret."

Amy Keith, a 25-year-old magazine writer who wears Angel by Thierry Mugler and Gucci Rush -- two unmistakable, potent fragrances -- likes the durability of a strong scent. "I'll suffer through the first two hours of a perfume being overbearing because I want it to last all day," she said. "It's like fashion. You either wear bright colors or you wear nude."

If you're looking to come on strong, here are some vintage fragrances -- and their modern counterparts -- that are guaranteed to leave an impression:

The Power Flowers

The Classic

Poison by Dior

Some perfume critics call the original Poison, a musky, fruity fragrance that debuted in 1985, a masterpiece, but others find it about as beguiling as hemlock. When I catch a whiff of Pure Poison, the updated blend, I still flash to '80s excess, a la "Wall Street" -- pure greedy genius. $82 for 3.4-ounce eau de toilette at Dillards.com.

The New

Love by Ralph Lauren

Bulgarian red rose, goji berry and Chinese magnolia mingle with amber, sandalwood and vanilla in this modern classic -- a rare commercial floral that could pass for a pricey custom fragrance. $90 for 1.6-ounce eau de parfum at Neiman Marcus.

The Spice Girls

The Classic

Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

This textbook Oriental scent, which debuted in 1977 and smells like cinnamon and black pepper floating in a pool of rose petals, is as aggressive as a samurai warrior but as slinky as a Halston jumpsuit. $50 for 1-ounce eau de toilette at Sephora.com.

The New

Strip by Agent Provocateur

This new Oriental -- built for the modern seductress -- is a blend of spicy, floral and woody notes that fade on the skin to a warm, smoky scent underscored by amber and musk. $75 for 50-ml eau de parfum at Agent Provocateur, Los Angeles.

The Delectables

The Classic

Angel by Thierry Mugler

This powerful perfume set a new bar for gourmand (or food-noted) perfumes when it debuted in 1992. And you know it when you smell it -- that strange cornucopia of peach, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and patchouli that adds up to the nostalgic smell of fresh cotton candy. $72 for 0.8-ounce eau de parfum, at Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills.

The New

Viva la Juicy

by Juicy Couture

"I could eat your wrist off," noted a friend after I spritzed on this new yummy fragrance, which blends floral and fruit notes with a base of amber, sandalwood and tasty caramel, vanilla and praline. Whipped cream not included. $65 for 1.7-ounce eau de parfum at Bloomingdale's at the Beverly Center.

The Bold Bohos

The Classic

Youth-Dew by Estee Lauder

This complex classic may scream "grandma," but it also embodies the modern, more-is-more trend happening in fragrance. Launched in 1953, it's heavy on the rose, bergamot and patchouli. Just don't wear it to a dinner party -- or anyplace else where there's a captive audience. $29 for 2.25-ounce eau de parfum at Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills.

The New

White Patchouli by Tom Ford

No modern company has nailed the complexity of classic perfumes quite like Tom Ford. This intoxicating scent, which blends white flowers with patchouli, peony and rose, evokes a young Katharine Hepburn -- glamorous, offbeat and wholly surprising. $92 for 1.7-ounce eau de parfum at Neiman Marcus.

The Rustics

The Classic

Samsara by Guerlain

Woody notes are common in modern perfumes (see almost every Comme des Garcons fragrance), but Samsara was a pioneering fragrance when it launched in 1989 -- with its slow-burning sandalwood base note topped by a bouquet of florals. $69 for 1.7-ounce eau de toilette at sephora.com.

The New

Prada Infusion d'Iris

This green-smelling scent is infused with orange blossom, mandarin orange and iris, among other notes, but quickly reveals its earthy base -- cedar and vetiver, with a dash of frankincense. Like the company's first sultry scent, the amber-heavy Prada, this one's not for the wallflower. $70 for 1.7-ounce eau de parfum at Neiman Marcus.

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