More, more, more… Coco by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Big. Blousy. Really rather beautiful.

There were two 1980s.

The one where women wore military cut pencil skirt suits with NFL shoulder pads and went to work on Wall Street.

Where the females of the species needed bigger balls than all the men and shorter fuses than fourth of July fireworks just to get ahead.

And then there was the other one…

Then there was a world of femmes fatales with super-structure soft-brushed hair styles and wardrobes of endless sable coats and satin negligees that slipped effortlessly to shag pile bathroom floors before pedicured feet dipped into 36 inch deep baths of milky eau and sky high bubbles.

This was the world of Coco.

A world of interiors of unabashed retro-romantic re-imaginings.

So come now as we enter the faux Roman Spa bathroom, three colours of marble and a gold leafed vanity unit, and gasp as we grasp an incautious glimpse of our deshabille heroine.

First inhale the rich pot pouri of orange, peach, pomegranate and rose petal.

Then catch our unawares hostess’ perfume: a textbook exercise in the floral meets the oriental: rose rises again with jasmine and orange blossom cut through with clove.

Finally a resinous wave of bath oils as you approach her lascivious body, her beating heart.

Reaching out to touch her alabaster skin… you pause… amber, sandalwood, labandum and the animal sexuality of the Diana of the sunken corner bath suite.

No, no.

You retreat.

You must not touch what you cannot afford.

And this is a rich beauty priced high above rubies.

Less is less. More is More.

Excess is best.


Coco by Chanel is the quintessential smell of the decade of apparent plenty.

More than a dozen years after the death of Gabrielle and a decade after the launch of Cristalle, it was time to ring the changes at Chanel: to herald the dawn of a brave new world.

The world of cool as ice creations such as No19 was long gone, their sparse feminism to be replaced with an enormous outpouring of fin de siecle flouncing femininity.

No perfume encapsulates these gestural sexual politics better than Coco.

So these new attitudes divided, so does the perfume.

Some encounter classic rose and sandalwood. Others an almost fruity almost sweet vanilla that betrays much of what was to follow within a decade. Another house holds that this is a grand floral, while others still cry animalic wood.

In truth this apparent confusion belies the truth: Coco is complex.

It is a perfume that sought to be everything to every man and woman, just as it could be argued women everywhere found themselves having to do just that at just the same time.

And yet, and yet, the overall effect is not of confusion but of an overabundance of confidence and an unquiet coherence that brings contentment to all who encounter it.

This scent maybe identity crisis underneath, but on the surface it’s a mini-series superstar.

Oh yes and my goodness did it, for better or for worse, change the game.

The cry went up:

‘Madame Chanel is most definitely dead. Long live Coco.’


At the time it would have seemed inconceivable, but today, can a man wear Coco?

Hell why not if he’s got the hotel room to go with it!

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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24 responses to “More, more, more… Coco by Chanel The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Lilybelle

    Hell, why not if he has the hotel suite bathroom to go with it!! 🙂 Bravo, Mr. Perfumed Dandy! I couldn’t wear Coco back in the day, and I still can’t, but I adore it. It’s so big and BEAUTIFUL. I get colors and sounds from it — ambery colors and clicking, sliding bracelets of gold and cinnabar.

    • Oh Lily
      That’s just it ‘… ambery clours and clicking, sliding bracelets of gold and cinnabar..’.
      Normally sliding off the flesh I should think, as this is another perfume with ever such a big hint of naughtiness about it.
      Beautifully naughty though!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. rosestrang

    Sir Dandy, you’re spoiling us with another treat of a review! Spot on with the ‘Faux Roman Bath’ – that is so very 80s! I did wear it, at the right time but in the wrong place. In the late 80s I was living on a Greek Island with an architect who was restoring an ancient village, we were surrounded by chaos, rubble, lizards, stray cats and God knows what else, but I kept Coco Chanel in a niche amongst the crumbling bricks because I needed a reminder of indulgence and luxury!

    It seems dated now, I haven’t had it since then, but I was staying with a friend recently who had Coco and I tried it on for nostalgia’s sake, it really is an amazing perfume, but I come down on the side of spicy – I think in this day and age it’s pretty much unisex, but it’s still so recognisable, which No 19 isn’t, I suppose another decade makes all the difference

    You really captured it’s baroque OTT-ness, brilliant!

    • Lady Rose
      My goodness, I’m struggling to imagine Coco in that heat – and yet all that affluent aroma amongst ruins, that I can envisage!
      Of course there is something decadent about Coco – and you were living with literal decay, so there is a logic there.
      Dated? It certainly is very redolent of a certain time and place, but aren’t many of the best perfumes?
      As I’ve been known to remark before there’s nothing as passe as the recent past… I’m sure that Coco’s day will come again, a thing of such beauty will not go ignored forever.
      Thank you as always for your wise words.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • rosestrang

        I agree, it is a thing of beauty, even in the heat of Greece! Mind you it wore nicely in the cooler evenings at an outdoors taverna. But when I say dated I definitely don’t mean redundant, it is as you say – ‘redolent of a time and place’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if women in their 20s begin to appreciate Coco because they’ll be a few decades removed . I just can’t those shoulder pads out of my head when I sniff it, lovely and complex as it is!

  3. A man can most definitely wear Coco. I might even prefer it on a man. Yes, yes, I think I would.

  4. Yes it was and will forever be the 80’s scent. Bravo on a wonderful review.

  5. What about those gals in Manhattan knifing down the sidewalks in “military cut pencil skirt suits with NFL shoulder pads” wearing Nikes on the street and carrying their high heels in their capacious leather bags? Oh, the eighties! We could all do with a Roman spa bathroom and a splash of Coco! Another wonderful review, thank you, V

  6. ladyjicky

    Shoulder Pads , shoulder pads – I keep seeing Shoulder pads!!!!

  7. brie

    I wore Coco back in the day out of obligation as a huge bottle was gifted to me. Recently I re-aquainted myself with my empty bottle and realized how little I appreciated this gem….gorgeous! and yes to be worn by a man as well!! i would LOVE to snuggle up to someone wearing Coco!

    • Dear Brie
      Isn’t it always the way that we don’t truly appreciate what we have at the time of having – we so often need history to provide a certain perspective.
      I wonder how many young ladies donning Shalimar in the 20s truly valued the art they were applying to their skin?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  8. Cairo Rose

    Last summer I was packing my luggage and dropped a small bag of perfume samples in for fun. One of the treasures it contained was a small vial of Coco EDT. I have come to adore this scent and while I somehow missed it during the 80s, it is now on my wish list for purchasing this summer! Simply stated it is sophisticated gumption in a bottle!

    • Dearest Rose of Cairo
      Oh yes, The Dandy can quite imagine this being one for you after all the rose if very mush at the opening and the heart of Coco.
      I find this little structural trick, where the bloom appears not once, but twice to be one of the most entrancing elements of the whole experience.
      I do hope you will succeed in your summer purchase of this one!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  9. I think that Coco is a perfect example of a feminine perfume that can be worn by a man. Had it been created under the “unisex” label by Tom Ford nobody would have even questioned that.

  10. I’ve worn no.19 since the seventies, and have recently been enchanted by the aldehydic, elegant no. 22, but Coco stands alone – I may need to bite the bullet and get this one soon…

    • Dear Renee
      Welcome… and apologies for not having got back to you sooner… some computing problems Chez Dandy.
      Now Coco is wonderful, “baroque” is often a word used to describe it… but it’s a world away from those cut glass beauties you mention.
      I love No 22 too… but it’s never been suggested here.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  11. Laurel

    Boucheron smells to me exactly like something a woman in a brightly colored suit with enormous shoulder pads would wear.

    • Dear Laurel
      Welcome to The Dandy’s!
      Do make yourself at home…
      Now Boucheron is not one that has been recommended so far… says he consulting his ledger… so I will add it to the list.
      Now would that be Boucheron by Boucheron? That question sounds absurd, but it’s always better to be clear about these things.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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