Take a Whiff on the Wild Side of 20th Century Perfume
Perfume has been — and continues to be — subversive. By playing with gender conventions, highlighting the ripe smells of the human body, or celebrating queer and louche identities, 20th-century perfume broke free from the assumptions of the prior century, and became a largely unrecognized part of the social and style revolutions of the modern era.
Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume (Lyons Press, 2013) features descriptions of over 300 perfumes, starting with Fougère Royale (1882) and ending with Demeter’s Laundromat (2000).
Scent and Subversion is lavishly illustrated with more than 100 vintage perfume ads and features essays on scent appreciation, a glossary of important perfume terms and ingredients, and tips on how to begin your own foray into vintage and contemporary perfume.
Scent and Subversion also looks to the future and includes interviews with scent visionaries such as odor expert and “professional provocateur” Sissel Tolaas, punk perfumer Antoine Lie, and Martynka Wawrzyniak, the artist behind “Smell Me,” the world’s first olfactory self-portrait.
The perfect book for perfume lovers as well as connoisseurs of modern fashion and design, feminist and LGBTQ historians, and fans of vintage advertising.
“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of scent in your glamour arsenal. In Scent and Subversion: A Century of Provocative Perfume, Barbara Herman tells you how to slip into multiple identities, define your narrative, and star in your own life.”— Mx Justin Vivian Bond, international cabaret superstar; author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels; and co-creator of The Afternoon of a Faun perfume for État Libre d’Orange
“Like writers who have understood history through painting, architecture, and music, Barbara Herman has laid out the 20th century through one of the most fascinating, personal, and innovative of lenses, the evolution of its olfactory art.” — Chandler Burr, author of The Perfect Scent and creator and curator of the Department of Olfactory Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City
“Scent and Subversion collects Herman’s reviews, but its genius lies in putting them in chronological order based on when each perfume was first produced. This allows Herman to develop a theory of perfume’s evolution in the course of the past century: review by review, evidence piles up. The story is about evolving gender roles and societal norms, from the smoky, sharp, groundbreaking fragrances of the twenties all the way to the watery, unisex ‘office smells’ of the nineties, and beyond . . . . According to Herman, when you pay attention to the narrative of how perfume actually smells, rather than how it is marketed, the story becomes delightfully non-linear.” — Emily Gould, The New Yorker
“I believe that the effective use of perfume is a vital stepping stone in the art of creating glamour, and I’ve always sought out rare and distinctive perfumes. In Scent and Subversion, Barbara Herman weaves an enchanting tapestry of words about the world’s most spectacular perfumes, a must read for any sensualist or maestra of glamour.”
— Dita Von Teese, the queen of modern burlesque and creator of the fragrances Dita von Teese, Rouge, Fleurteese, and Erotique
“Barbara Herman is an oracle of social history, and her sacred vapor is vintage perfume. For Herman, perfume is a time machine that reveals each decade’s particular obsessions with gender roles and sex. Scent and Subversion explores how in the space of a century, women went from smelling like animals while behaving like ladies–to smelling like detergent while pretending they weren’t animals. A rip-snorting olfactory perspective on 20th century culture, Scent and Subversion is entertaining reading for fumeheads and casual sniffers alike, and destined to become a classic of perfume research.” — Katie Puckrik, journalist, broadcaster, and perfume writer of katiepuckriksmells.com