When I was young enough to be somewhat self-sufficient as a child, my mother decided to become an Avon Lady. If I recall correctly, she didn’t become an Avon Lady until the 1970s, but I know that prior to this time she made purchases herself and her own Avon Lady used to come visit because I remember them sitting around the kitchen table having coffee and looking at the products. Being Depression era babies and very Midwestern, my parents were never big on luxury or glamour. But I do recall times being very young when my mother and father would go out for an event and there was a great deal of time getting ready with hair, makeup and dressing up. Of course, this meant applying perfume as well. Like many women, my mother had a mirrored tray on her dresser with these little jewels of perfumes. I was fascinated by these tiny bottles with the gold top and crystal bottoms that smelled so incredible from a very early age. I never knew what these little jeweled perfumes were until I stumbled across a listing on eBay for 5 1/8 oz. perfumes for sale…in the tiny jeweled bottles that I remember so well. And to boot…all were unused except for 1 and all for only $17. I have no idea which of these my mother had on her dresser, but here’s a short review of each. I guess it all makes sense now that these perfumes which I recalled would have been Avon. But for me and I’m sure many, Avon was never really associated with little gem perfumes, but more for their strange and befuddled decorative bottles. In any case, let’s see if these little jewels live up to my memories…
Sonnet: Sonnet opens with a rich oriental floral spice. It’s deep, maybe a bit powdery and incredibly dreamy. The perfume hits the back of my throat and fills it with its intoxication. As it dries down, the perfume becomes more woody and masculine. The perfume is blended so wonderfully that I can’t pick out any specific notes and I wasn’t able to find any information on the original notes, but did find that the perfume was created in 1972. Sonnet is romance and glamour all wrapped up in one perfume. After some time, the drydown on Sonnet starts to reveal a carnation note and it then becomes very spicy. I really love the opening, but wish it would remain a more rounded floral rather than a spiced floral. Sonnet gets a rating of 3 bones. It would have been higher, but the drydown get a bit too spicy and a bit soapy for my taste. Wait, it does calm down after a long time and the spice moves to more of a cream. Maybe I was too harsh at first…let’s give it 3.5 bones.
Moonwind: Moonwind opens with this rather masculine edge…could this be Avon’s answer to Miss Dior? It’s deep, woody and hay like florals are incredibly pretty…but not made solely for women, this can easily be worn by a man. Perfume Intelligence states that Moonwind was created in 1971 and is an aldehyde woody floral. I say it’s Miss Dior…or just call it Miss Avon. Unfortunately, unlike Miss Dior, Moonwind starts to fall a bit flat in its’ drydown…as if something good was being sucked out of it and instead a slight vanilla was added. Overall all though, a solid perfume at 3 bones.
Topaze: Topaze opens soft, powdery, slightly soapy and with a big projection of aldehydes. Where Sonnet and Moonwind were deep and mysterious, Topaze is floral on a trapeze, meaning it feels like the florals are strung out on a high wire or clothesline. They’re bright, yet mature and pretty. There is nothing young about Topaze, but wearing this would make an entrance a noticeable and big one. The florals are cool here and there is something a bit aloof about Topaze and a bit too much soap, but overall, it’s very classic and worthy of 3 bones.
Fragrantica actually had a posting for Topaze:
Topaze by Avon is a Floral Aldehyde fragrance for women. Topaze was launched in 1959. Top notes are aldehydes, coriander, peach, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are carnation, iris, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, benzoin, civet and vetiver.
Occur!: Occur! is the dirty girl in the mix and my favorite of the bunch. There’s a preponderance of coriander that jumps up to greet you as you apply the perfume. This is a rich, opulent and grand perfume that reminds me of medieval heavy velvet and tapestried frocks. But as soon as I say that, the perfume begins to lighten and the rich oriental opening starts to break free to reveal a more radiant soul. Occur! is hard to describe except that this ambered beauty has a bit of beast because the civet is very noticeable in the drydown. To my surprise, I really like Occur!. 4 bones for Occur!
Created in 1962, Occur’s top notes include aledehydes, bergamot, cardamom coriander. Middle notes include muguet, francinsense, vetiver, myrrh, jasmin, patchouli, carnation. Based notes include amber, leather, honey, moss, musk castoreum, vanilla civet.
Bird of Paradise: From the sound of this perfume I was expecting a Tahitian treat of a South Seas perfume. Instead it is an over the top; big, big, big perfume that is all gag-worthy oriental. When I first received this, I tried to scrub the perfume off, but it’s so strong that it wouldn’t abide with my wish. So for purposes of this post, I have deemed to not put it on again. Needless to say, Bird of Paradise is 2 bones at best and that’s probably being generous. Created in 1969, I saw comments online that this was Avon’s answer to Cinnabar but that makes no sense because Cinnabar was created in 1978…but I could see the comparison.
Like many childhood memories, my recollection of these little crystal bottles were a bit exaggerated. What seems like a jewel then, really is just cut glass and a metal top. Like many Avon products, they are a facsimile of what they are trying to represent. But that doesn’t tarnish my memories and my recollection of that mirrored tray with those incredible jewels and the scents themselves are familiar to me and evoke warm memories of my childhood. For $17 this was a great eBay purchase and I am surprised and rather delighted that these perfumes actually have stood the test of time. Now, all of these perfumes above are the parfum extrait versions of the fragrance. I noticed that their were many cologne versions on eBay and I can’t speak to how those compare. But if you’re looking for something fun at the right price you may want to check out these Avon classics.
Happy Mother’s Day!
May 10, 2015 at 8:27 am
I remember all of these from paging through the Avon catalog as a kid and mom giving me the samples to play with. My mom still has an Avon lady that goes to the house. Sorry to see that Bird of Paradise was more like Pigeon from Hell for you. I used to love the fun bottles Avon had. I still have a few. I’ve got a turtle one that still has Sweet Honesty in it, a seal, and a poodle.
May 10, 2015 at 8:37 am
My mother had a whole collection of bottles that were on a shelf. Some of them were fun, some were atrocious. “Sweet Honesty”…that is such a 1970s name for a perfume. I forgot about that one. It sounds like something that Linda Blair would wear to the roller rink in 1977. LOL.
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May 10, 2015 at 9:14 am
This was such a fun read for me. My mom wasn’t into Avon, but I remember going to friends’ houses when the Avon lady came and it was an exciting event! We would play dress-up in the rec room and appear at the kitchen table in our full-skirted crackling fifties evening gowns, hoping to entice enough to get a spritz of perfume or a swipe of lipstick to complete our ensembles.
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May 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm
Holly… I LOVE that memory. Yes, it was so much fun looking at all the treasures and the little catalog was just so much fun to read. The joy in looking at a book I think outweighs any online experience that is there today. I’m sure kids still play dress up, but not sure it’s quite the same.
May 10, 2015 at 8:14 pm
Steve, I think that experience was one of hope and an understanding of limits. The little Avon catalogue was IT, and it was understood that whatever purchases were made were frivolous, fun, risqué and perhaps necessary for a woman to compete in the climate of those times. I think it quite likely that it may have been serious business for the adult women who undertook it.
I am grateful that I don’t have those limits, but I’m often daunted by the fact that I can get whatever I want by simply clicking on a keyboard. I’m so grateful to the women who went before me who paved the way, and one of them was my mom.
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May 10, 2015 at 11:06 am
Nice memories and these perfumes. For someone who recoils every time she bears civet, I am drawn to Occur! along with its simple yet emphatic name.
May 10, 2015 at 12:17 pm
LOL. Yes, not quite sure about the exclamation point. When you wear this what occurs…obviously something spectacular!
May 10, 2015 at 5:05 pm
Oh for goodness sake, part of my comment got fat-fingered into oblivion on my iPhone but you got the gist anyway!
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May 10, 2015 at 1:37 pm
I’m so glad you did this Mr Hound. I have such fond and vivid memories of Avon- it was very much part of my childhood. I had a Giraffe with Occur in it. My Mum and my sister wore Topaze and Moonwind and I also have fond memories of Foxfire, Eau Givree, Sweet Honesty and Odyssey. They were all good quality and affordable and I wish that Avon would launch a retro range.
What a great eBay find you had. Thank you choosing vintage Avon for your Mother’s day post. Times have changed so much but I still get an Avon brochure and am very fond of my Avon Lady Jill. I could order it all online of course, but it wouldn’t be half as enjoyable as the 3 week wait and the paper bag of goodies you’d forgotten you’d ordered.
Warmest wishes and thanks
May 11, 2015 at 7:42 am
Sam – I’m so glad that the post resonated so well with you. For those of us who lived outside of the city, Avon was one of the few outlets to beauty products. And there was something very special and exciting about each new catalog. I remember helping my mother fill her orders on our ping-pong table in the family room. All those fun treasures going into each bag. I can’t tell you what my mother’s favorite scents were, but all of these feel very familiar to me.
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May 12, 2015 at 7:33 am
It’s lovely that this image is almost universal. Despite being raised in different parts of the word, I too remember the Avon lady visiting and it being a way of getting beauty products and fragrance to women who were often stuck at home for a variety of reasons. I will always be loyal to Avon even when their fragrances are sometimes hit and miss these days.
May 10, 2015 at 3:21 pm
Hi Mr. Hound
Can certainly groove on yr scented memories, as mine were similar ie. midwestern, frugal, scent part of good grooming etc. … tho mine differed in the fact that my mother and aunts were ‘displaced’ refugees from eastern europe (landing in Chgo).
At any rate, my matriarchal side were partial to delicate florals and therefore, Cotillion, Here’s my Heart, To a Wild Rose, and the various soliflores that Avon had on offer back-in-the-day (early to late 60’s). Genteel spring flowers tended to dominate what I was smelling when discreetly filching from my mother’s or aunties’ bureaus.
I recently had a chance to sniff some old Bird of Paradise juice — and my nose detected a Youth Dew clone — certainly in the arena of fainting-couch orientals. (Tabu, Odalisque, Habanita, Corday Jet — all heavy-hitting precursors to YD, Opium and Cinnabar). So whoever said ‘Avon’s answer to Cinnabar’ , might have gotten the timeline wrong, though the genre – oriental – was right 😉
May 11, 2015 at 7:50 am
Dewey, funny talking about your family. On Saturday night “I Remember Mama” was on television. I love that movie, both me and my husband grew up with Swedish/Norweigan relatives and can remember the lilting voices of our grandparent’s generation and all of their old world idiosyncracies. I don’t recall any fragrances or grooming that was related to them, but no doubt there were. Thanks for sharing your memories.
May 11, 2015 at 2:46 am
Avon hasn’t been a part of my childhood. The first time I encountered their products was in my early 20s and where I lived it was a luxury brand 😉
When I came to the U.S. for a while I was buying some cosmetics from their catalog (but not perfumes). Since then I outgrew the brand but from time to time I come across a fun bottle from Avon on eBay and entertain buying it for a while. But then I decide against it – it wouldn’t be a part of any old memory and I won’t wear it anyway – then why? But I loved reading about your memories.
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May 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm
U – At $17 bucks I had no excuse not to take a trip down memory lane 🙂
May 11, 2015 at 4:48 pm
Wonderful and daring post. Not exactly the subject of perfumebloggers. Who cares. In the seventies my mum was a customer first and lady as she had so many friends. I loved the scents yet amazed of the bottles and packaging. You could even smell the parcel. I would also help filling these paper bags, clipping the vouchers on them. The vouchers smelled like ink. Mum’s favorites were Moonwind, Unforgettable and Topaze. I loved Charisma then Brocade, Occur, Timeless, Unspoken. And their soliflores. Oh, and the men’s Deep Woods. Gorgeous! Every ‘goof’ would become elegant with that one on.
They had good scents too in the eighties. A few in the nineties like Tapage and Soie rouge. Purrr.
May 13, 2015 at 6:43 pm
Solu – I’m so happy that this post resonated with so many. I think that for many of us Avon was the kindling that started our appreciation and love for fragrance. And it all stemmed from wonderful relationships that were forged through friendships and personal connections that it seems many of us remember. Thanks for sharing your memories….and yes, I can smell the packages yet to this day. It’s a warm fuzzy of a memory if there ever was one.
April 5, 2016 at 5:40 am
Just found this post today, I love it! I am obsessed with vintage Avon and amassing a large collection currently. I love to review them because it feels like rediscovering a lost piece of the past.
April 5, 2016 at 6:51 pm
It’s easy to become obsessed isn’t it. So what’s your favorite vintage Avon scent?
April 23, 2016 at 5:19 pm
Charisma, there is nothing quite like it
June 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm
Thanks for this interesting article. I am a perfume lover since my teenage years. In the seventies Avon introduce me to the magic of perfume. In high school my classmates bring the Avon cataloges. Tuesday, I just received a vintage Moonwind cologne. It’s bring me back 40 years earlier when my mother use the Moonwind creme…
June 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm
Funny how those scents can whisk you back unto long held times and places. It’s so wonderful isn’t it!
June 25, 2016 at 6:01 pm
Since them I discover Guerlain, Caron and today the niche perfumery but I still lile a few Avon vintage ones because their are part of my ”perfume love affair”.