By Julie Anderson
We loved designer fragrances in the 1980s! Remember, this was before every starlet and pop singer put her name on her own special concoction; we left it to designers to work their magic and celebrities to sell it. One little whiff would let us know if you were team Gloria or team Giorgio, or even a brazen Enjoli girl.
Check out these great vintage perfume commercials of the 80s. All sell a slightly different version of fabulous feminine glamour that is pure eighties, through and through.
This 1980 commercial for Charles of the Ritz’s Enjoli is so perfect for the 80s career woman. I love how it tries to make working really hard, ALL THE TIME, sound like good sexy fun. Come on, you know all the words: “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you’re a man!”
Sean Young was two years away from “Bladerunner” fame when she hawked Nuance perfume in this 1980 commercial. As the name suggests, Nuance was subtle. Haunting. Whispery!
Gloria Vanderbilt = THE SWAN. What woman doesn’t want to be graceful, elegant, coolly beautiful, right? Vanderbilt perfume promised to release the splendor of YOU. And, quite possibly, give you the gift of flight:
This 1981 commercial for Oleg Cassini fragrances sums up that 80’s lust for luxury with a few select images: polo, yachting, private planes, Rolls Royces, wine! The clincher is how they let you know it’s by Jovan, so it “doesn’t have to cost you the world.” Bonus!
I actually don’t remember Epris, but include this 1981 commercial because Jaclyn Smith is awesome in every way. Epris by Max Factor claimed to understand that there’s more to being a woman than minding your manners. Perhaps Epris didn’t stand the test of time, but it sure wasn’t Jaclyn’s fault:
I love this 1983 commercial for Charlie, featuring a young and lovely Sharon Stone. “The more you tease, the more you please… The fragrance for the fast lane!” Naughty! And totally non-PC:
Wowzer, you must watch this 1984 ad for Cachet, for the hairdos and outfits if nothing else, although the choreography is pretty choice. The girl reminds me a LOT of a young Belinda Carlyle:
Christian Dior’s Poison perfume had that dangerous-sexy vibe going on in this 1984 commercial. Hissing black panthers! Black flowers! Tribal-esque percussion music!
For that rich Beverley Hills kid panache, it had to be Giorgio. Duh. This brand was so well marketed that all it took was bold yellow and white stripes to evoke it:
Calvin Klein hit the whole creepy-obsessive love thing spot-on with Obsession. “She abandoned me to the wreckage of myself… and smiled.” But, whatever. It sure worked, right? Obsession is STILL super popular.
And erm, here’s another that’s a little on the icky side for my taste:
Moving on . . .
The always fabulous Linda Evangelista is selling Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium in this 1986 clip. Is it just me, or does that musical phrase sound an awful lot like George Michael’s 1988 hit “Father Figure?” Was George an Opium fan??
And, oh, Jane Seymour selling Le Jardin de Max Factor. She was the living embodiment of a Harlequin novel heroine, no? In her impeccable accent: “They say romance is back in style. I say it never went out.” So true, Jane.
Whew, Jean Nate! Sassy stuff! This commercial brings it all back: that frenetic Jean-Nate-Jean-Nate chanting and the helpful, albeit wasteful, “splash” technique the model demonstrated. I vaguely remember getting caught by my mom doing some perfume “splashing” and referencing the commercial (“but that’s how you’re SUPPOSED to do it, Mom!”). GENIUS marketing:
Dynasty cashed in on its enormous success with Crystal and Carrington perfumes in 1987. Now, I was a Dallas girl, so I suppose I’m biased, but wasn’t Blake kind of, you know, OLD for girls to get crushes on and for dudes to hope to smell like? Give me Bobby Ewing any day.
Remember Exclamation perfume? None other than Famke Janssen of X-Men fame is featured in this 1988 commercial. Another great snippet of bold eighties style:
I actually loved Anais Anais, but I probably never watched this 1988 commercial, or would have steered clear. I mean, opera? Fer real? I am very glad to learn how to pronounce it, though. Until today I thought it was “Anay Anay”:
Let’s close with Beautiful by Estee Lauder. They wisely used gorgeous Paulina Porizkova in a dreamy wedding ensemble for this 1988 commercial. Love the pouffy sleeves combined with the edgy short skirt:
Because we ALL wanted to be beautiful, right? And also romantic, powerful, shocking, innocent, and, of course, desperately sought-after. These evocative fragrance commercials hit on every facet of the 1980’s woman we yearned to be. Aaaah, the alluring smell of total fabulousness, 80’s style!