Christian Dior Dior-Dior Bottle by Lauryn
Here’s to the girls who stay smart
Aren’t they a gas?
Rushing to their classes in optical art
Wishing it would pass
Another long exhausting day
Another thousand dollars
A matinée, a Pinter play
Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s
I’ll drink to that
And one for Mahler
… A toast to that invincible bunch
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch
Let’s hear it for the ladies who lunch
Everybody rise, rise
Rise– “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company by Stephen Sondheim
The Great Elaine Stritch sings Ladies Who lunch in the original cast of Company, 1970, Photo by Martha Swope
Christian Dior-Dior problem was one of timing. She was too smart to be just a lady who lunches – she went to Vassar, you see – yet you could find her on the shoulders of the women who gather in Le Cirque and Chez Pascal for their afternoon ritual of salmon salade (always spelled with an “e” on the end), chilled fruit cup and 2 glasses of Chablis. Make that three. The scent of citrus chypre no doubt mingled with cigarette smoke and hair lacquer that always seemed to haunt these places between 11 am and 2pm. As the women chitchat, their husbands down the street at JG Melon or Harper’s, Dior-Dior’s woody florals hugged them like they wish their husbands would as they discuss the latest exhibition at the Whitney, their hearts breaking silently, bit by tiny bit, underneath their Chanel and Hattie Carnegie suits, she swirls around the regally, reminding them who they are.
Dior-Dior ad, 1976
Christian Dior Dior-Dior was Edmond Roudnitska’s last fragrance for the brand was composed in 1976, a chypre with a strong citrus vein, later augmented by jasmine, lily-of-the valley- and some quiet woods. Dior-Dior was created at a time when the world was shifting from the make love, not war flower culture and ‘Nam protests to exclusionary club culture that gave ordinary folks a way to be a queen for a night with the right gear; the angry demands of the women’s movement and Black power; the decay of U.S. cities taken too long for granted. Against this backdrop, Dior-Dior seemed doomed from the start. She was too well-bred, too ponies and country clubs at time when green, menswear-inspired fragrances were taking over the female perfume market and decadent, after-dark seductresses like Opium were making bad girls out of nice girls. You couldn’t see Christian Dior-Dior being sported on the arms of the salesgirls at Bloomies, the way Aliage or Tatiana were, As perfume goes, she was the upper-class lady who lunches. One Truman Capote’s famous “swans.”
Edmond Roudnitska courtesy of Michel Roudnitska
I am not selling Dior-Dior short, only remarking that she came about at the wrong time; in the forties, when women work waist cinchers and smart hats, she would have been a star. She is unmistakably beautiful: a full-bodied cocktail of lemons and bergamot straight out of the bottle with a skanky jasmine chaser. Had Roudnitska run with that opening, Dior-Dior could have been a luscious, classy sister to the more overt bombshells Roudintska’s growling Femme or a sexier sibling to the ladylike white florals such as Evyan’s White Shoulders. But Christian Dior Dior-Dior seems born out of time. And were it not for her precise Roudnitska construction and richness, she might seem more modern that the other great Dior scents that preceded her. For one thing, nothing in this perfume calls our man or woman to me; its perfectly balanced blend of citrus at the top and jasmine and lily-of-the-valley in the heart may seem to lean feminine, but the woods that come in in the middle quiet all that down. I don’t know for certain, but I am pretty sure there is a big helping of sandalwood in here that roughs up Dior-Dior’s prettiness a bit. And the substantial presence off moss in the base adds some contrasting bitterness that keeps Dior-Dior from falling into pretty.
Women at the Palm Court, Plaza Hotel, 1970s
Like shadows of the pals she keeps meaning to call but doesn’t, Dior-Dior contains shadows of friends who have fallen away: Eau Sauvage with its tousled, feral citrus; angular Diorrissimo, with her patrician lily-of-the-valley and blond bob, and movie star Diorella, the Anouk Aimee of the lot, her hints of overripe fruit and that peek of cleavage from one casually opened button. But Dior-Dior holds her secrets to her chest, never letting one or other of those former relatives comes through too noticeably. After a few moments it is clear she is her own woman – or man – and, after that animal jasmine lets loose for a few minutes, one who isn’t going to tell you anything indiscreet.
Thérèse and Edmond Roudnitska with Mr. Christian Dior: Photo Courtesy of Michel Roudnitska
So, what does Christian Dior Dior-Dior smell like? First, let me say that my dwindling bottle is the EDT, not the parfum, which I long to try. One quick dab and my first impression was Miss Dior’s well-married sister: buttoned-up white florals and sunny citrus. The type of perfume you wear to the ambassador’s residence when you want to make a good impression without offending anyone. But as Dior-Dior developed on my skin, I began to smell secrets: that hint of decaying fruit that so marks Diorella, the musky hints of sweaty skin in Eau Sauvage mingling with all that cheerful citrus. The diamond glitter of Diorissimo’s lily-of-the-valley hauteur. As they coalesce, I realize how unmistakable Roudnitska stamp is here – nothing is overdone, each note balances its partner, the richness of the florals goes so far and then stops on a dime. And then the exquisitely constructed chypre takes over the fragrance like a conductor ruling over his orchestra, and green notes become noticeably present. A big splash on my wrists – bigger than I intended – turns Dior-Dior into a symphonic chypre, stunningly beautiful, opulent, timeless. And very much her own person. I have read some reviewers say this perfume is perfect for the repressed Severine of Bunuel’s Belle du Jour; but for me, this is more the fragrance for Emma, the woman having a regretful affair with her husband’s best friend, in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal. There is just that tiny note of sadness in the perfume I cannot quite pin down but that makes it irresistible to me.
So, here’s to the ladies who lunch. Everybody rise.
Disclaimer: Dior-Dior EDT from my own collection. My opinions are always my own.
Lauryn Beer, Senior Editor
Please enjoy the following article by Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen and Guest Contributor Mark Behnke: Edmond Roudnitska, “The Greatest Perfumer of The 20th Century” which was a Perfumed Plume Finalist in 2018
This content was originally published here.