Friday, 15 January 2010


I’ve always yearned to be a Femme Fatale: oozing mystique and an exotic allure, instantly enslaving every man who claps eyes on me. Perhaps not like Salome, who was a little, well, perverse, not to mention wicked, more Zuleika Dobson, a femme so truly fatale all the Oxford undergraduates hurled themselves to their doom in the Isis, for unrequited love of her.

In truth, I’m not sure I have it in me – I’m too blonde, too British, too married. I haven’t the sophistication to be heartless, which seems to be an essential femme fatale ingredient, and I suppose I’d probably rather be stouthearted and loyal, than full of wiles and enchantment. After all, with the exception of Zuleika, who is last heard of boarding a train for Cambridge, literary femme fatales tend to come to a Bad End.

It’s not without regret that I admit my lack of femme fatale-ness: don’t all women long to be beguiling and mysterious, and to entrance and ensnare, just a little?

But perhaps there is a way to embrace one’s inner siren without having to go the full Morgan le Fay: scent. The subliminal olfactory message of exactly the right scent is able to hint at something complicated and intriguing beneath a prim and rather proper surface, and perhaps even transform one from housewife to houri with a mere spritz from a magic bottle. Such is the alchemical power of perfume.

Mitsouko does this for me, which is possibly why I don’t wear it that often: it feels somehow too intimate, too revealing, as if I’ve said too much. So in the office I tend to wear another defining Chypre, Diorella, which doesn’t have a hint of femme fatale about it, in my opinion.

And so there I was, content to just dabble timidly in femme fatale territory on special occasions, by means of a dab of Mitsouko -which is, after all, one of the world's most divine scents - until I made an extraordinary discovery: Ormonde Woman, a smoky eye of a perfume, thrilling and novel, yet subtle and intriguing.

Lured in by the promise of Black Hemlock as a key ingredient – and anyone who knows Waffle or I will testify to our predilection for offering each other a Hemlocktini, when times are tough or tedious - I tried it only to be instantly and utterly seduced by its exquisite unconventionality.

I don’t think I’d ever smelled anything like Ormonde Woman before – India Knight - whose opinion on scent I’d trust even above the great Guru himself, Luca Turin – described it to me as ‘beautiful yet sinister’, and I can’t think of a more apposite description. Hemlock – an unusual and expensive ingredient when used in this kind of concentration – immediately roots one’s expectations firmly in femme fatale territory (do I need to mention Socrates? I thought not). Its siren song is the spice-market top notes of cardamom and coriander that create instant allure, before ceding to a more conventionally feminine heart of violet and jasmine absolute.

It’s subtle, yet hypnotic, and even now, more than five hours after I last sprayed it on, I keep raising my wrist to my nose to breathe in the beauty of its base notes. These are uncompromisingly masculine - vetiver, cedar wood, amber and sandalwood – and I think that’s what makes Ormonde Woman so astonishingly sexy: It’s such a seductively feminine scent, but then leaves you with these complex and beguiling, yet somehow male, traces of wood and incense.

You see – the more I write about it,I’m more under its spell: it’s not simply about bringing out any latent femme fatale in me, Ormonde Woman is itself the femme fatale: an original, beautiful, enigmatic temptress, and above all one that is wonderfully confident and wholly uncompromising. Wouldn't you love to be like that? I absolutely would, which is possibly why I'm mad about it.

I should stop evangelising before you gently suggest that my enthusiasm is bordering on zealotry: So tell me, what perfume makes you feel like a femme fatale?

Ormonde Woman. Eau de Parfum 50mls £68

Ormonde Jayne - 12 The Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SL
T. +44 (0)20 7499 1100


Ellie said...

Chanel no.5.
And... we're done.

Wildernesschic said...

Tom Ford Black Orchid .. but I may have to try this Ormonde Woman .. I think I need all the help I can get !

Mr London Street said...

A great piece. It's interesting that picking a fragrance can sometimes feel like striking a compromise between who you are and who you'd like to be, if only sometimes.

I always feel faintly embarrassed if I'm asked what I'm wearing and it's relatively obscure. "Oh, you wouldn't have heard of it." "Try me." And they never have. I get much the same at parties when people ask me what sort of music I like.

Men grow out of the femme fatale phase far sooner than you'd think, by the way.

hypotemuse said...

Musc Ravageur by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle (Maurice Roucel). Warm, complex & dramatic. Definitely a winter-only scent.

Rose said...

You have excellent taste is perfume- by which I mean similar to mine! I am more a L'heure Bleu girl but on occasion I wear Mitsouko which is a joy- finding the old Guerlains was such a revelation to me.

Ormonde Woman is a quite wonderful scent and I think that is because you can't quite put your finger on it. I think of it as bewitching but not in a black cats and brooms way. It's is at once very modern and very classic and I think it will and should last the tests of time- perhaps like the old Guerlains not every will know about it but that can make it better no?

I have wanted to write a review of this lots of times and never been happy with what I wrote but it really is one of my favourite scents

Great post- more perfume posts please!

Miss Welcome said...

I wish I could figure out how to "follow" you, but I'm an internet dolt - I love the way you write and I sent your last article around to everyone I knew would love it too.

Perfumes. I'm such an un-fatale that even my perfume is safe. Clinique Happy? Oh wait, that was ten years ago. Forumla?

No, I have a few designer ones (Prada, Gucci, Hermes) that were all gifts, but I love to wear them and pretend that I have an air of fashion about me. Coco Chanel is probably my most "fatale" because you only get to the warm woodsy fragrance after enduring the initial harsh chemical one for awhile (i.e. don't get into the car directly afterwards).

And then good ole Charlie. The Revlon 70's one that you can buy in the drugstore. The independent woman fragrance that always reminds me of my grandmother, who was pretty fatale herself in her day.

S said...

all i can say is that this is beautifully, beautifully written, MrsT, so beautiful that there's nothing clever i have to say....tanti baci

Charis said...

As obvious as it is, the original Agent Provocateur scent makes me feel like I have left the house without my knickers on, or in some state of friskiness.
I had to stop using it... but not before I smashed a full bottle (damn ceramic bottles!) in a leather bag and can't get rid of the now forever-absorbed scent.

I'm not complaining, I just need to be careful when and where I use the bag now... it seems to give me the same effect I get with a tipple and I become too naughty for my own good.

Anonymous said...

Wearing my husband's Kiehls musk. I tried and tried to love the big guerlain's because I know I *should* but then I realised it was silly. Am still waiting for the big perfume revelation.

Waffle said...

Ah, hemlock. What an inspired ingredient.

After we discussed this a couple of days ago, I was inspired to go to the posh Belgium parfumier to look for something a little more fatale and a little less floral. It wasn't hugely successful. They stood around me forbiddingly while I failed to find the words. I still smell bland.

Bryony said...

Apres L'Ondee - perfect.....

katyboo1 said...

When I first met my husband I was wearing Stella by Stella McCartney, which I love. Which is a good job, because he gets very upset if I change it, because I don't smell right. So I humour him.

I used to love Coco by Chanel for feeling grown up and feminine.

Diorella, Diorissima etc were what my mum wore while I was growing up. I smell them now and it takes me right back. Scent is so very evocative isn't it?

Helen Brocklebank said...

Ellie: Chanel No.5 is gorgeous, isn't it?It's both beautiful and seductive - not for nothing is it the most successful scent of all time. I love it in all it's variants, from EdT to the parfum itself (I spilled half a bottle in my desk drawer by accident. I nearly cried, but it does make my desk a bit more interesting)

Wildernesschic: I haven't smelled TF Black Orchid, but I'm rather drawn to the idea of Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de fleur, which has gardenia and tuberose too - always sexy. Which makes me wonder if you've ever tried Fracas? It's one of the worlds most enticing, heady, sexy scents. I think it makes the wearer instantly memorable

Mr London Street: I'm rather relieved to hear that men grow out of the Femme Fatale phase early on, it makes me feel as if I can relax and not worry about having to vamp everyone I meet.
And finding a scent that mediates between who one is, and who one wants to be is an almost impossible task - it's not just the time and commitment involved in trying as many as one can, it's also having a clear notion of the difference of who one is, and who one wants to be.

Hypotemuse: I'm not familiar with Musc Ravageur, though I really admire Malle. On googling it, it sounds divine, and beautifully warm and wintery.

Rose: I always enjoy your fragrance posts - scent is an addiction, really, isn't it? I adore the Guerlainade of the old Guerlains, and L'Heure Bleu is heaven.

Miss Welcome: I'm an internet dolt too. I *think* one can use google reader or click the rss feed button at the bottom right of the page to follow blogs. I dunno - can anyone help? (NB. Am HUGELY flattered that you should want to. thank you). I like Clinique Happy - it does exactly what it says on the tin. And you're right about Coco and cars, but it's still luscious.

Shayma: You always smell lovely. And thank you for your very generous compliment.

Crazybutterflylady: Agent Provocateur is Newby Hand's favourite scent (Harper's Bazaar's Beauty Director), and one of the few contemporary classics. A beautiful, seductive floral.

Anonymous: Kiehls Musk on women is one of the great fragrance secrets - smells even better on women than on men.

Jaywalker: what can I say, the minute I knew it contained Hemlock, it was DESTINY. (Hemlocktini, darling?)

Bryony: Oh, Lord, Après L'Ondée is so beautiful. I love what it says in the Luca Turin book 'the...heliotropin is offset by a melancholy, powdery iris note'. Rightly one of the 'twenty greatest perfumes of all time' (quoting Luca Turin in 'Perfumes. The A-Z Guide)

Katyboo: I love the rose notes of Stella. Isn't it funny how one's husband doesn't want one to change? Though when I met Mr T, I was mad about Rive Gauche, and he made me change it because it reminded him of his mum. Nice....

Make Do Style said...

Interesting and timely, I'm in need of a new perfume and am open to suggestions.

Style At Every Age said...

Tom Ford White Patchouli, but love the sound of Ormonde Woman, on my next trip to London perhaps?

westendmum said...

I've always been a Chanel girl, sorry lady, myself but I’m gonna check out this Ormonde woman, she sounds totally diverting.

Anonymous said...

Just tried Ormonde Woman based on your recommendation and it is an interesting scent - much less "heavy" than I'd expected.

Lewis William said...

Wonderful! I must have a sniff soon. They have some nice men's things too. x

Anonymous said...

Nice post Mrs T.

I wear Gaultier₂ - which is unisex and has geeky wee magnets on the back so you can stick it to your partners bottle (its wierd, but I like the notion one could stick it to the refrigerator) Apparently it makes me smell lovely - I once was sitting next to a woman on the bus who told me I smelt like the best type of baking smell (cakes, not flesh) but she couldnt really pin it down - as I didn't literally smell of cake.

I covet the Fantastic Man fragrance from Harrods. My Mother (genetic not belgian) gave me a hankerchief for christmas, with two tester cards wrapped up in it, sprayed with this fragrance. It is hard to describe, but basically it smells like a gorgeous man - well worth a sniffter.


Anonymous said...

I love Chanel's Cuir de Russie; not an everyday perfume, but it's smoke and leathe and lust all together.

AwhirlinLondon said...

Jean Paul Gaultier's "Fragile." Adore it, although it takes a good deal of energy to wear and live up to. The problem, however: have been wearing the same perfume (Diorissimo) since I was 14 and therefore provoke something akin to outrage in virtually everyone I know if I dare try anything else. Really too bad.

Mrs Trefusis: Had you considered trying on "Bombshell" rather than "Femme Fatale" for size? I think it might suit you.

Unknown said...

I'd like to be a bit of a femme fatale, but I think my shoes are always too flat, I smile too much (and not in a seductive way) I'm too loyal and I'm too cheerful!
I'm going to try that perfume, "beautiful yet sinister" - I'm intrigued!
I wear Coco Chanel, Dior's Hypnotic poison, Le Labo Oud 27 or my latest fav... "Lumiere Noire" by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. x

UberGrumpy said...

I feel like a femme fatale pretty well all the time.

Or virtually any sort of femme for that matter

Norma said...

Oh dear. I have a ....thing about perfume, so please bear with me.

Happy but sexy = Etro's Shaal Nur
Upright fatale/sexy librarian = Magie Noire
Tough-as-Nails sexy = Bandit
Snow Bunny or heavy winter sexy = Annick Goutal's Ambre Fetiche
Everyday perfect fatale-ness = Mitsouko