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.
“Are you sure this is right?”
“Yeah, this is what she wears”, she said while picking up an oversized flimsy peach box.
“Maybe we could, like you know, find her something else. Something not sold at the drugstore and something…”
“That doesn’t appear to be so self-hating?”, she said with a giggle.
In college, my best friend and I would make a pilgrimage to the drugstore perfume counter every May to buy her grandmother a birthday present. It became a joke. Here we are next to creams for rashes and nail fungus picking up her black grandma a perfume called “White Shoulders”. A perfume launched in the 1940’s that has since been stripped of all glamour, residing in boxes with crinkly plastic “windows” in a place where you get your prescriptions filled. It just felt so wrong, on many levels.
One year we decided, it was time to get her something “better”. We bought her a Bvlgari. You should have seen her grandmother’s face when she unwrapped it! The guilt we felt! She didn’t want anything but White Shoulders because it was “AN AMERICAN PERFUME¹! The best perfume in the world!”
We eventually gave up, blamed our guilt-inducing liberal arts education for getting in the way of this special woman’s love of an old perfume. We continued to buy her left over Mother’s Day gift sets of this vintage-feeling perfume in the Georgia peach packaging. We’d laugh about the nipple-less bust and the lion’s mane hair.
“There’s no shoulders at all!”, we’d exclaim. “There’s only a relief of Barbie boobs!”
During this time, I didn’t even bother to wear this perfume but I was familiar with what it smelled like. It smelled like wicker furniture sets, vinyl place mats and those clear waterproof rain bonnets. It smelled like sweet but stubborn matriarchs.
I used to think White Shoulders smelled like white grapes. Smelling it now as someone that thinks a lot about perfume, I still get that but it’s not as a prominent as I remember. The aldehydic opening smells like Welch’s White Grape Juice and hairspray. These aldehydes set the mood for the rest of the fragrance: high-pitched white florals. It’s a powdery gardenia and heady lilac. The perfume eventually turns into what I think many people remember – rose and tuberose. It’s a heady, fresh floral with a whisper of clove. From a distance, it smells like a non-descript powdery floral. Up close, it’s a mix of perfume-y roses and tuberose. It dries down to a powdery amber with a greenness that’s somewhere between moss and vetiver.
Honestly, I’m surprised by how wearable this perfume is especially since I’m sure it’s nothing like the original AND that it’s so cheap (I paid $5 for a parfum). It actually smells really good, even the “on the shelves right now” version. I’m sure it’s something that is going to feel “dated” to many Americans (my husband said it smelled like “church ladies” and from what I understand, it is a popular perfume amongst certain holy roller crowds). I don’t see myself wearing this that often, but I appreciate it. It’s a pretty retro floral. Unrelated, I want my hypothetical bachelorette pad to have everything painted in the White Shoulders peach and pair it with gold accessories.
Notes listed include aldehydes, gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, lilac, lily, orris, amber, benzoin, civet, musk and oak moss. Launched in 1945.²
Give White Shoulders a try if you like vintage perfumes or powdery florals. Or perfumes like Caron Fleurs de Rocaille, Patou Joy, Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs, Chanel N° 22 and/or Givenchy L’Interdit.
Projection and longevity are above average. There’s a cologne spray which I did not try. After trying this, I’m really curious about the bath and body products. If anything, I want those just for the packaging.
White Shoulders retails for about $20 at most drugstores. It’s also available at discounters like Perfume.com.
Victoria’s Final EauPINION – Powdery, vintage-feeling white floral. It’s a lot more elegant than the places that sell it.
¹I’ve since found out that indeed it is a distinctively American perfume that was marketed as a very “patriotic” perfume during and after WWII. She was from a family of African American veterans and I’m sure a certain veteran (her husband), got her hooked on White Shoulders.
²I am reviewing a small bottle that I bought 4/16. This is not vintage.
Want more reviews? Try…
The Non-Blonde – Review of vintage
The Muse in Wooden Shoes – A post on gardenia.
New York Times – Obituary of one of the founders of Evyan, and oddly an informative read.
*Product purchased by me. Product pic from Amazon. Vintage White Shoulders ad from eBay. “Essence of Desire”, it says.
22 thoughts on “Evyan White Shoulders Parfum Perfume Review”
White Shoulders was my mother’s favorite fragrance when I was a kid. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful perfume I had ever smelled – I’m so glad to hear it still has some beauty left after all these years of reformulations. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it…) my mother’s taste has upgraded to Jo Malone, so I can no longer run down to the corner Drug Store for a quick gift.
For nostalgia, I’ll pick up a bottle of White Shoulders next time I’m picking up creams for rashes and nail fungus.
I’m sure it’s nothing like its former self; no perfume is immortal! However, I’m so surprised at how wearable it is and what a contrast it is in comparison to the environment it is sold in! Who knew one could find such glamorous things next to rash creams? 😉 In a pinch, I could really glam myself up for less than $20 – this parfum, Revlon Fire & Ice Lipstick and a little bit of Coty Airspun powder.
I think it’s worth picking up the next time you venture into the unavoidable drugstore. It’s really not *bad*. I was expecting something unwearable (just from price and reformulations). Wearing this was a nice surprise.
It’s nothing like it used to be, I cannot stand the recent stuff. I would love to find an old bottle of the real White Shoulders. It was beautiful.
The new stuff just smells soapy to me. Blech.
The good news is that if you’re willing to buy vintage, you can still find older bottles for sale on sites like eBay!
You know I went looking for this the moment I finished reading the post.
Powdery florals are my jam so I was surprised by this little cheapie!
I have enjoyed your articles this week. Whenever I’m in the drugstore, I peek behind the fragrance counter to see and smell some oldies but goodies, and to check out what’s new.
Revisiting these have opened my eyes. There’s some pretty stuff out there available to most of us! It makes me want to try more and see what else I’m missing!
Wow brings back memories! My father told me this was his favorite perfume and bought a bottle of it for me when I was in my late teens. My girl friends had given me Chamade and Youth Dew as Chritmas gifts and it started ab interest in fragrance. My father was from Virginia and somehow I always associated this with the US south. It was humid, heavy and floral unlike Chamade or Youth Dew. Must try this again. Thanks for the test.
You had quite the early collection 🙂
I can see the Southern association because of the gardenia. It still has that humidity that mention. It’s between humid summer and “clean just out of the shower” humidity.
I’d be curious to see what you think of the now version since you’re already familiar with the fragrance.
Oh gosh, I wore this and what I thought of as it’s “sister scent”, Most Precious, as a kid in the late 60s-early 70s on Saturday nights at the skating rink. They were both BWFs, but White Shoulders was the bigger of the two. I had the dusting powder for both, too, in pretty nice (but plastic) containers. While WS was in peachy-pink, MP was in blue-aqua packaging. Eventually, I lost interest in florals and entered my musk/patchouli phase, which I’m kind of still in. Old (but not rich) hippy. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.
I had to look up Evyan Most Precious. The packaging is adorable. I guess my hypothetical bachelorette pad would be inspired by vintage Evyan perfumes 😉
Hippie scents forever! That’s basically my post for tomorrow.
When I was a kid in the eighties, I occasionally wore my mom’s White Shoulders bath oil as perfume. It came in a squarish glass bottle. It was pure gardenia to me.
If this was available in a bath oil now, I’d buy that up. I’m a fan of Youth Dew’s bath oil.
I do remember it being more of a gardenia and being a “white grape” at first spray. I don’t know it’s reformulation, memory or that I’m using “parfum” but it’s that tuberose that I’m surprised by. I sure don’t remember tuberose, but in all fairness, I grew up in the South, so I was more familiar with what a gardenia smelled like than a tuberose.
I wore this in high school because my cousin said it was way better than the stuff everyone else was wearing. It was still sold at the perfume counter at the mall then. I recently acquired a bottle that belonged to another relative after she died. You’re right, the new version still smells pretty good. A woman who worked in my office wore it as well and she always smelled great.
I think your cousin’s advice is still relevant! I would have rather had this one than my cousins’ Navy!
It’s surprisingly good. Honestly, I expected for the new version to not be wearable. But, it is.
My first bottle of perfume was White Shoulders. My mother gave it to me as a gift when I was still quite young. I guess she thought it was an appropriate scent for a preteen. I didn’t know it then but now I think it was a pretty nice gardenia scent. At least that is how I remember it and I wish I had that bottle now. I didn’t wear it often back then because It felt too sophisticated. As I got older, I do remember wearing Halston, Obsession, Eternity, Champagne, White Linen and CK One. Although not necessarily in that order. I have never tried Navy or Exclamation but I really enjoyed your articles this week and loved the personal backstories for each.
It’s a really pretty perfume, so I imagine that in its former glory, it was something spectacular.
One of the lessons this “taught” me was that when I focus on newer things, there are very few memories and personal associations. Going though these gave me floods of memories, so much nostalgia! Actually all of those you listed that you once wore, I could write about with a more personal perspective because each one really impacted me in some way or another.
Thank you for reading 🙂
My grandmother wore this and I hunt old bottles just to smell and remember the best times of my childhood. My gran would let us use her powder puff with White Shoulders powder which smelt like southern heaven. We had no airconditioning and the windows were open with fans on. It was terrific. Thank you for reviewing this.
After trying this cheapie, I’m hunting for a vintage bottle to try. I was so pleasantly surprised that I have hope that vintage is even better. Plus, I like the peach/gold packaging…the only real reason I want the powder too!
I love a fragrance that reminds me of grandmothers 🙂
I remember reading about White Shoulders for the first time when I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. There’s a heartbreaking scene where an African American woman is “passing” as a white woman in a fancy department store, and Ohhh Shiiit, her uncle recognizes her, and he is “black as midnight.” She pretends she doesn’t know him, and he’s hustled away while the woman at the perfume counter shows her White Shoulders – very new, very elegant, very beautiful.
I’ve always been curious about White Shoulders since then, but never encountered it.
Where do people buy this so-called “drugstore” perfume? All the perfumes in our drugstores (Walgreens, for example) are locked up, and are just what you can buy at the fragrance counters, about the same price too.
Oh, gosh. I’m going to have ask my friend if she has read Fried Green Tomatoes because we’re still like “White Shoulders, really?!”
But, it really is a pretty perfume. I still need to seek out a vintage bottle to compare. But, overall, I can’t complain. The new stuff is really nice.
They’re locked up where I live too. I have been to ‘hoods where they are out in the open. These little mini bottles can be found on endcaps especially around Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. Even where I live, those aren’t locked up (because they’re like $5). These sort of perfumes only have drugstore distribution so won’t show up at Macy’s, etc. Their price accordingly (like how L’Oreal doesn’t cost the same as Lancome). If all else fails, you can buy online from like perfume.com or fragrancenet.com. I think big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart carries this (and Coty, Jovan, etc.) too. Anyway…you should sniff it!
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