Drugstore Divas Week – 2016
This week I’m revisiting popular perfumes available at US drugstores. The sort of perfumes that many of us know but many of us perfume lovers completely ignore.
There’s a critical window in childhood where things imprint on you, especially pop culture. This window of time one’s first exposure to what is cool or not. You’ll find yourself for years aspiring to be that. Then the world will cruelly remind you that that is no longer cool. As an adult, you look back and either laugh about it or admit that you’re still striving to become whatever that is.
My critical time of imprinting was from Like a Prayer to Erotica. This was the age where Lil’ Victoria started to pay attention to what was cool and what was glamorous. During this era, I was absorbing pop culture like a sponge.
At this age, I spent a lot time at my aunties’ house. They had teenage daughters who exposed to me all these concepts that would stick with me long into adulthood. Through my older cousins, I learned what was cool. For example, A Tribe Called Quest was cool. I begged my aunt for an Atlanta Braves t-shirt¹ so I could be like Phife Dawg in “The Can I Kick It” video. Through stacks of Vogue adorned with Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford I learned what was considered beautiful. Madonna taught me that one could be both cool and glamorous.
I’m sure my mere presence was irritating to teenage girls, but I liked them. I’d observe their pre-date beauty rituals. This was the early 90’s so it was ridiculous. This meant using weird potions like hair gel, drawing on your brows with the same liner used to line your lips and dressing like Salt-N-Pepa. The ritual was always finished with generous sprays of cheap perfumes that I saw advertised in those fashion mags that I loved: Coty Exclamation or (Covergirl) Navy.
I knew these perfumes had to be cheap because my teenage cousins owned them. I saw them buy the perfumes with the money they received from “babysitting” me. Even though the perfumes were cheap, they were probably cool because I didn’t know of any “old people” wearing them. Even from my young “figuring out the ropes” age, I felt like Navy was a bit off from the sort of “cool” that my cousins had perfected. The ads were prim and preppy. During one pre-date ritual observation, it occurred to me that Navy was “glamour” or “beauty”. The ads mimicked the sort of Vogue covers that were popular at the time that had starched whites, gold jewelry and stiff updos. The models were young, fresh Absolutely Fabulous Patsy girls (even though I didn’t have that reference at the time).
The fragrance itself is a huge one. Looking back, the thought of teenage girls wearing this fragrance is traumatizing. The funny thing is that I *do* remember the fragrance being traumatizing. I remember it being strong and I distinctively remember its taste. Even though I could technically sneak a spray while the girls were away, I never did. I had no desire to smell like Navy. Plus, it was so strong. They would have known I was meddling in their rooms.
Just as I remember it, Navy is a big, thick, dense perfume. It opens with stewed peaches and a dirty hair costus. The green notes aren’t fresh or dewy. Actually, the greens are dank and musty. Nothing about the flowers comes across as fresh or even alive. They are dried, pressed in old books somewhere (even has that “old book vanillin” going on) on bookshelves covered with dust. The florals are dusty with stale dried spices. At times it reminds me of dried rose petals and old cinnamon sticks. Other times it reminds me of dapper clove-dusted carnations. And sometimes it reminds me of dirty hair, dirty skin and a musty basement (thanks to the vintage-y feeling Jean Couturier Coriandre-y sort of spices). Either way, it always reminds me of thick velvet drapes that haven’t been steamed in over two decades². Primarily the perfume is an “amber” but it has everything else going on too. When I’m not paying attention to it (which is difficult because it’s always *there*), it comes across a loud, very powdery and slightly sweet amber. It eventually dries down to a powdery amber with anise spiciness.
Looking back at Navy and then wearing it now, it’s a bit confusing. The ads would make you believe it was some nautical thing. It’s not. It’s a dense oriental perfume, like Guerlain Shalimar on a meager budget. It’s almost vulgar in that it really differs from the sort of perfumes that are popular now. I actually felt self-conscious wearing this (and I swear someone switched subway cars over it). It gave me feelings of wearing something that was overdressing the clothes I was wearing while also simultaneously making me feel “cheap”. I think 90% of those feelings are my own bias to the scent (knowing that it’s inexpensive and associating it with a time 25+ years ago). Even without my relationship with this fragrance, Navy doesn’t fit in with today’s world (it or many other scents from the 80’s and 90’s). This makes me love it but it’s something I’m never going to wear. It makes me feel like I’m walking around in French twist helmet and a polyester, knock-off version of a 90’s era Givenchy skirt suit WITH white pumps and too dark hosiery. I can’t be comfortable feeling like that is my uniform…
Notes listed include green notes, peach, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, amber, musk, vanilla, coriander and cinnamon. Launched in 1990³.
Give Navy a try if you like amber-heavy oriental perfumes or “big perfume-perfumes”. Or perfumes like Boucheron Femme, Hermès 24 Faubourg, Parfums Divine Divine, Guerlain Shalimar EDT, Givenchy Ysatis and/or you are feeling nostalgic.
Projection and longevity are above average. This is not a “cologne” and if it is, I’m scared to know what an EDP would be like! Navy is one of those perfumes that’s as big as the careers of early 90’s supermodels. A spray is cloying. I put on three drops and quickly had regrets. One drop is enough for me. And one drop will last all day. And even then, I regretted that one drop on an 80º+, 95% humidity day…
Navy is available at most drugstores and retails for about $15. It can also be found at discounters like Perfume.com.
Victoria’s Final EauPINION – Musty, powdery amber oriental. I seriously can’t believe teenage girls wore this but I was there…and they did. I’m sort of happy that Bath & Body Works was invented.
¹When you’re in Atlanta this involves very little begging. This is your basic “hand-me-down”.
²I had David sniff it because I thought he may have remembered it. He recoiled and said it smells like “baby powder and dirty carpet”. I really can’t disagree.
³I’m reviewing a Dana Navy bottle that I purchased in 9/2015. It’s not vintage.
Want more reviews? Try…
Fragrantica – Dr. Marlen’s review
Fragrantica – Member reviews
Basenotes – Member reviews