Stop Hating On My 'Grandma Perfume'

Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson wore Estee Lauder Youth Dew, and you can't get more glamorous than that.
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Publish date:
December 19, 2013
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My article about historical perfumes got a few comments about classic fragrances smelling like
grandma perfume. I totally get it. After all, when our grams were young, these
were the fragrances that were readily available. They didn't have 1000 flankers of
Gucci Guilty or whatever to choose from, so they stuck with their favorites and
wore them every day.

However,
the more I get into perfume, the less I buy the whole "grandma"
schtick. It's just that our modern palate has been so whitewashed by
generations of clean/light floral/shampoo-style fragrances that
anything with balls freaks us out a little. We can blame CK One and its early '90s brethren for that, because they became popular as a reaction
to the loud perfumes like Poison and Obsession that dominated the '80s.

I'm
obsessed with perfume blogs like Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin. They're written so beautifully and their
contributors are incredibly knowledgable. I have been sniffing my way down
their "100 Perfumes Every Perfumista Must Try" and came upon Estee Lauder Youth
Dew
,
which I've mentioned previously.

Ah,
Youth Dew. It's described as a "spicy, sexy oriental/chypre" with
notes of bergamot, clove, cinnamon and amber. In the winter, I am all about curling
up with a sexy, warm scent since I'm currently not curling up with a sexy, warm
dude. So down to Macy's I went.

"Oh,
dear, you don't want that!" said the lady behind the counter.
"That's too old for you."

Ummm,
nah. How about not?

"I don't really like the whole fresh and light thing,
especially not during the winter," I said.

"Have
you smelled our new one, Modern Muse?" she asked.

"Yeah,
it's OK."

I
spritzed myself with Youth Dew and traipsed away. (Just one spritz! This stuff
is powerful.) It smelled incredibly familiar, but I couldn't place it. I asked
my mom and bingo! It was the signature scent of one of the dearest old ladies
of my life, my mom's Aunt Alyce.

I used to visit her often as a small child and
Youth Dew was the scent that permeated their home. I loved it instantly. Alyce
died last year and I hadn't seen her since I moved to Minneapolis, but it was a
lovely reminder of a woman I had admired.

Yes,
Youth Dew is the perfume of grammies everywhere. But who cares? The longer I wore
it, the more I enjoyed it. It opens loudly, with a Coca-Cola brightness and a
blast of balsam. It’s intense, but stay put! It dries down to a
lovely, slightly-woody spicy base and clings to your skin. In short, it feels
cozy and warm like a big beige cashmere sweater.

Joan Crawford and Gloria
Swanson wore it; can you get more glamorous than that?

Because
I thought Youth Dew might be a bit heavy for daily wear in a retail
environment, I went to eBay and purchased a bottle of the now-discontinued
Youth Dew Amber Nude. Tom Ford played around with the original a few years ago
when he was working with Estée, adding magnolia and carnation and playing up
the sandalwood. It's just a bit lighter than its predecessor, which is what big
classic fragrance companies do when they want to appeal to a younger nose.

YDAN
was all well and good, but I couldn't get the OG out of my head. I had read that
many Youth Dew devotees preferred to wear Estée's bath oil in lieu of the
perfume, so I went to Nordstrom to check it out. And helloooo, I'm
obsessed with soaking my life away in my giant clawfoot tub, so a product that
could do double-duty was a product I needed to get my cold little hands on.

"You
wear Youth Dew? How old are you?" asked the woman at the counter. I leaned
in so she could smell me. "It smells lovely on you!"

"I
know!" I said. She handed over the bath oil. "I wear it too,"
she said. "It just seems a bit mature for you."

"I
get bored with all those fruity florals," I said. "I wanted something
a bit more… classic."

The
Youth Dew Bath Oil stays closer to my skin than the spray, which I like. It's
quite strong at first, but it mixes with my body heat and becomes a lovely,
classic exotic spice as the day goes on. And two drops in the bath are divine!
(No more than that or you'll get a headache.) It feel so luxe and fancy to
lounge in a bath of hot, perfumed water, and you know I love to get fancy.

I've
been stopped a few times and complimented on my perfume. "It's Youth
Dew!" I say proudly. "Your mom probably wore it."

Wear a classic fragrance around for a few days and see how it develops. You may fall in love.