There comes a time, in the life of every perfumista, when the call of vintage perfumes becomes impossible to resist. Guerlain Mitsuko, Balmain Vert Vert, Hermes Bel Ami… These perfumes smelled so great they made history.
But these days, all you can find at the mall are boring subtle scents that smell all the same. Sure, some innovative things are still happening in the perfume world now, but the age of the classics is, sadly, over.
But you still crave it. You want a taste of it. And so you decide to hunt down that vintage bottle of Jean Patou Joy you just can’t leave without. There must be on somewhere! But where to look? And how to make sure its juice is still good?
Here are a few tips that will help you avoid disappointments and wastes of money in your quest:
1. Look For Sealed Boxes Whenever Possible
Sadly, perfumes don’t last forever. They too go bad, especially when they are continually exposed to light. That’s why, whenever possible, you should look for bottles that are still sealed inside their pretty boxes. A few of these may have gone bad too, so, if you can, ask the seller if you can open the box and take a sniff at the scent.
Most people, especially at garage sales, will happily tell you to go ahead. They want to make the sale, and if that’s what it takes, they’ll be more than happy to indulge your fancy. If instead, they say no, consider carefully how much you want the scent and are willing to pay for it. The risk may be small, but you don’t want to spend a small fortune on a perfume that has almost completely evaporated.
2. Don’t Ignore Little Known Perfumes
Everyone is looking for those last precious bottles of vintage Balmain Jolie Madame or Givenchy L’Interdit. Needless to say, they are now almost impossible to find. While you may still strike lucky, don’t ignore scents you never heard of, even when they are made by Avon (there are so many of these around).
While these may not be classics, cheap fragrances, in the past, were made with good materials, and don’t smell all sweet, synthetic, and generic like they do now. Even some of the Avon ones are really good. So go ahead and give them a sniff. You may just fall in love with one (or two, or three).
3. Avoid Ebay
Or at least turn to it as your last resort. While I’m a big fan of ebay, and have bought anything from there, from clothes to books, and even some jars full of loose eyeshadows, shopping there for perfume has become more and more difficult over the years.
Before perfume blogging really took off, you could find gems at bargain prices. Now that everyone is hunting for old scents, they cost an arm and a leg. Worse, unscrupulous sellers have started filling bottles with cheap juice and advertising them as the real thing.
Even when the seller is reliable, shopping on ebay (or other online websites) for vintage perfumes is risky. You have no idea how the bottle has been stored and whether the juice inside has gone bad. At least, at a market stall you can open the box and have a sniff. When you purchase online, you never know what you’ll get. If you decide to go down this route, buy from a seller with a good return policy and pay with paypal. But first, try the places below.
4. Ask Your Friends And Relatives
The best and safest place to hunt down vintage perfume is a close one’s old closet. That’s because perfumes are common gifts. Who hasn’t received several bottles of perfumes for birthdays or Christmas over the years? And not all of them very nice surprises. Perfumes are very personal, and it’s tricky to pick something a friend or wife likes and that agrees with her body chemistry.
When that’s not the case, the perfume lies forgotten and unused in a closet or even the attic. So go ahead, and ask your loved ones if they have some old perfume bottles that haven’t received much love. Chances are they do (but it may take them some time to locate it!). The best part? These are usually free. Your grannie or bestie will be happy to get rid of something they don’t use and do something nice for you.
5. Garage And Estate Sales Are Worth A Look Too (And So Are Thrift Shops)
Everyone, not just your friends and relatives, has some old unwanted bottle of perfume looking for a new home where it’ll be more appreciated. But you can’t just knock on a stranger’s door and ask her if you can have a look at her attic, can you? You need to wait until these people are willing to get rid of them.
When they do, they hold garage sales. Most of the stuff on sale is junk, but if you have a proper look you may find some treasures. Estate sales (a sale or auction to dispose of stuff owned by a person who has recently died or is moving and doesn’t want to bring her old junk to her new place) are another great place to look. So are charity and thrift shops, like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. You can find great bargains there.
If you have a bottle of perfume you don’t use or like much (or something you are willing to part with), you can try and swap that for a vintage bottle of Guerlain Mitsouko (or whatever other scent you’re lusting after). My favourite place for swapping is Makeup Alley. It’s full of perfumistas (and beauty lovers) with huge stashes who are always looking for people to swap stuff with so they can clean up their closets while trying new stuff at cheap prices (just the cost of postage).
Do you buy vintage perfumes? If so, what gems have you scored? And do you have any tips you’d like to share?