Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Indiscret by Lucien Lelong c1936

Indiscret by Lucien Lelong: launched in 1936. Pronounced as "AN-DEES-KRAY", in French it means "heedless, indiscreet."

Indiscret was introduced by Lelong in 1936, and for almost the entire production run, the name was spelled without a letter "e" on the end.  But for a few years, the name was spelled "Indiscrete." I have seen vintage magazine advertisements that use this relatively rare spelling, and they are dated between the early to mid-1940s, so I suppose that roughly corresponds to the years that this spelling variation was used by the company, not sure if this was a typo or intentional.

Fragrance Composition:

So what does it smell like? The original vintage version was classified as a crisp, green chypre fragrance. It features sophisticated florals, highlighted with a warm carnation note, facets of citrus fruits, balsamic fern, and hot spice notes including a spicy musk of pepper, Chinese cinnamon, celery and henbane layered over sultry ambergris and red sandalwood. jasmine, carnation, and two species of roses.  Sophisticated floral with spice.
  • Top notes: aldehydes, Sicilian mandarin, Moroccan neroli, tiger orchid, Calabrian bergamot, white peach blossom, caramel, Iranian galbanum and Tunisian orange blossom
  • Middle notes: pepper, fern, French carnation, Jamaican pepper, Grasse jasmine absolute, cypress, basil, Grasse rose absolute, Bulgarian rose, French rose de mai, Chinese cinnamon, Zanzibar clove, Parma violet, Nossi-Be ylang-ylang, Portuguese tuberose, rose geranium, Provencal lavender and Florentine iris
  • Base notes: resins, henbane, Florentine orris, Tyrolean oakmoss, red Mysore sandalwood, Atlas cedar, Java vetiver, Singapore patchouli, celery, Guaiac wood, white musk and South Seas ambergris

Le Petit Parisien : journal quotidien du soir, 1941:
"'Passionnément', by Lucien Lelong, is quite a confession. It whispers what the lips barely dare to spell.. 'Passionnément'. Each syllable flies away like an fragrant dream, in a complicit and silent echo. More precious is 'Impromptu', more tenacious too, evoking this XVII century with mannered splendors. 'Indiscret', on the other hand, as its name admits, has a more disturbing charm. As for 'N', mysterious as well as audacious, it suits the spiritual woman, while 'Whisper', all of sweetness and confidence, is a harmonious melody which seems like a distant song. Finally, 'Orage', a young girl's fragrance, fresh and light like a burst of youthful laughter."

L'Amour de l'art, 1950:
"Indiscret by Lucien Lelong: It is there, it circulates against your lips, in the corner of your ear; this fragrance is impetuous, but the scent of jasmine gently persists. In the car, at the show, on your fur, it accompanies you, different according to the hours although identical to itself and its bottle in the shape of a folded handkerchief seems made for those who seek escape at their fingertips."

Combat, 1955:
"Indiscret by Lucien Lelong: the greedy lips, the flowing hair, the starry eyes of intimate impulses, the body languid with a feigned weariness, to have it before your eyes, the one that is said to be fatal, you just have to breathe in it. the scent it leaves behind, perfidiously musky, but nuanced with the voluptuousness of the garden (the arrogance of roses, the exoticism of ylang ylang, and the mystery of ferns bathed in caramel and chypre."

Marie-Claire, 1937:
"Indiscret by Lucien Lelong: warm and a little peppery. Very original. Persistent note: jasmine and ylang ylang. For the woman of the world. She does honor to her husband when she goes out with him, and receives in a perfect way. Elegant, distinguished, 'the charming Madame X.' "

The New Yorker, 1943:
" Lelong: His Indiscret, one of the spicier perfumes around."

Atlantic Monthly, 1953:
" Indiscret perfume 2 ounces, $25.00 other sizes, $3.00 - $16.50."

Harper's Bazaar, 1956:
""Indiscret" — flowers and spice, everything nice, blended into a most dashing, fetching fragrance, by Lelong. One ounce, $16.50."


Most unusual is the frosted glass bottle for Indiscret, inspired by a dropped handkerchief created by Verrières Brosse.

Woman's Home Companion, 1938:
"Parfum "Indiscret," in crystal draperies, one of the world's most favored perfumes. $5 to $60."

Esquire, 1959:
" Cambodia bottle filled with Indiscret, 1/4 ounce, $17.50*, Lucien Lelong."

If your frosted glass parfum bottle (with glass stopper) is missing it's label, you can use this handy guide to determine bottle sizes. Please note that over the years the sizes have changed such as the bottle for 3 oz stood at 8" tall, but was later changed to 8.5" tall. The 0.25 oz size was originally 3.5" tall but was later changed to a limited edition size of 4" when reintroduced in 1997.
  • 0.25 oz stands 3.5" tall (Ref. No. 500, No. 1 size)
  • stands 3.75" tall
  • 0.25 oz stands 4" tall (limited edition from 1997)
  • 4.5"tall
  • 0.5 oz stands 4 7/8" tall (gilded bottle, No. 2 size)
  • 1 oz sands 5.75" tall
  • stands 6" tall
  • stands 6.5" tall
  • 2 oz stands 6.75" tall (Ref. No. 305)
  • stands 7" tall
  • stands 7.75" tall
  • 3 oz stands 8" tall
  • stands 8.25" tall
  • 3 oz stands 8.5" tall
  • Factice stands 13" tall

Other frosted bottles have a screw cap instead of the glass stopper.
  • 0.15 oz bottle stands 2.75" tall.
  • 0.5 oz bottle stands 5.25" tall.

Another fabulous bottle is the plaster cased flacon which held Indiscret cologne.  It is made of an ivory-painted, plaster of Paris over a glass inner core. The stopper is also made up of plaster and fitted with a metal post. There is a cork liner in the bottle neck to help keep the stopper in place. The bottle and stopper are elegantly molded with flowers and vines simulating the look of carved ivory. Care must be taken when handling the bottle if you do find one, as the plaster is prone to chipping and flaking off over the last 80 years. The bottle stands 8 1/4" h. x 3 1/2" w.

Woman's Home Companion - Volume 65, 1938:
"Lucien Lelong's "Indiscret" Cologne. . . romantic ... enveloping ... in a plaster flacon. $3.75" 

Drug and Cosmetic Industry, Volume 43, 1938:
"Lelong originally started using the plaster casing on the Indiscret bottle decorated intricately with tiny flower designs, which was brought out in 1936. The white plaster casing is again used on the Impromptu Cologne bottle and is carried out in the sunburst effect which distinguishes the perfume bottle and package."

Fate of the Fragrance:

Still sold in 1959.

Indiscret was discontinued for many years but was reformulated and relaunched in 1997. The bottle retains the original's design but was given an updated look by Marc Rosen.

HAPPI, Volume 34, Issues 7-12, 1997:
"The famed French designer of the early 20th century, Lucien Lelong, originally launched his fragrances in Paris, then introduced them to the States. This year, Parfums Lucien Lelong, now owned by Arnold Hayward Neis of Englewood, NJ, is resurrecting the designer brand in New York's Bergdorf Goodman, with a European rollout slated for next year. Lelong's fashion and fragrance creations were recently the centerpiece of an exhibit at French Institute in New York. The relaunched Lucien Lelong Indiscret fragrance.... 
"Indiscret is back, Parfums Lucien Lelong, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, has relaunched he classic fragrance Indiscret, originally created by Paris fashion designer Lucien Lelong in 1936. When Mr. Lelong approached a glassmaker to produce the bottle for Indiscret, he demanded that it looks like natural folds of draped fabric. The floral fragrance is packaged in a recreation of the original design."

HAPPI, 1997:
"The relaunched Lucien Lelong Indiscret fragrance is a modernized version of the original. Changes were made based on availability of ingredients, explained Eileen Paley, vice president, product development at Parfums Lucien Lelong. The bottle, however, hasn't changed. Mr. Lelong created the original to look the way fabric naturally drapes over the body Like other revived classics, Indiscret is nothing like the sheer scents of recent years. "The trend is back to classics of fragrance," said Ms. Paley."
"The woman who wears Indiscret is sophisticated, discriminating, gloriously feminine. She has a sense of style and a sense of self, an air of glamour that is compelling yet refined. She wants her fragrance to be as memorable as her presence."

The 1997 version is classified as a complex fruity-floral fragrance for women.
  • Top notes: mandarin, orange flower
  • Heart notes: Algerian jasmine, French tuberose
  • Base notes: scarlet oakmoss, Egyptian amber and other exotic essential oils 

1 comment:

  1. In 1980 I was given a tiny miniature of Indiscret and I LOVED it. I rather excitedly purchased the relaunched version a few years ago, but was disappointed. As stated in the quote by the company Vice President, it is indeed different. The original had a lovely exotic warmth. I did manage to pick up another original miniature, but it has begun to degrade. Time takes its toll!


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