Paris Scents: Spray-by-Spray at Sephora

My Sin by Lanvin Photos by Theadora Brack

Miles of beauty at Sephora

By Theadora Brack

Rise and shine!
Fragrance fanatics, this one is for you.

One of my favorite hotspots in Paris to get beautified in a pinch is the Sephora on the Champs-Elysées. Boasting a dramatic ramp and a ruby red carpet, it’s one of the largest Sephora boutiques in the world.

A superstar since 1969, the classic French chain is a cross between a gigantic supermarket and a glitzy playground, with testers available for every product sold.

Dig a scent? Ask for a free sample. They’ll happily prepare one for you.

So where to start?

To help make-up your mind, I’ve created a spray-by-spray shopping list of some of the famous (and sometimes difficult to find) fragrances available here. Sharpen your pencil! Here’s a list of my favorite scents, along the stars who loved them. Time travel just got easier!

Glamour by Bourjois 1959


“Arpège” by Lanvin (1927)
Princess Diana, Rita Hayworth and Jayne Mansfield fell for its full-bodied scent.

“Cabochard” by Grés (1959)
Shaped and named by Madame Grés after voyaging to India, “Cabochard” translates to “stubborn” or “headstrong.” Gloria “Norma Desmond” Swanson was mad about it.

“Femme” by Rochas (1945)
Mae West, Joan Crawford, and Carole Lombard all found the original formula simply diva-licious.

Mae West’s curvaceous torso inspired the shape of not just one hourglass-shaped bottle, but two—for Femme by Rochas and for Schiaparelli’s Shocking!

“Fleur de Rocaille” by Caron (1933)
Ava Gardner wore the original version, inspired by Monet’s water-lily paintings.

“Jicky” by Guerlain (1889)
Not only were Brigitte Bardot and Sarah Bernhardt devotees, but so were Roger Moore, Sean Connery and Peter Sellers.

Created the same year the Eiffel Tower was built, ”Jicky” was one of the first fragrances to be made with synthetic ingredients.

Do make me over at Sephora

“Joy” by Jean Patou (1930)

Patou launched it just after the stock market crashed, because he wanted to lift the gloom and give his American clientele something they could still afford to buy. Even so, it was immediately nicknamed “the most expensive perfume in the world” because it took 10,000 jasmine flowers from Grasse and 360 roses from Bulgaria just to make one ounce.

Grace Kelly, Josephine Baker, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Lauren, Marilyn Monroe and Mary Pickford all helped spread a little Joy around.

“L’Interdit” by Givenchy (1957)
Count Hubert de Givenchy fashioned “L’Interdit,” (“The Forbidden”) for muse Audrey Hepburn, as well as her luscious garments for films like “Sabrina,” “Funny Face,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Paris When it Sizzles.”

“L’Heure Bleue” by Guerlain (1912)
“L’Heure Bleue” (“Twilight”) softly wooed both Catherine Deneuve and Wallis Simpson (Duchess of Windsor), who smartly paired it with Guerlain’s other classic, “Mitsouko.”

“Mitsouko” by Guerlain (1919)
Celebrating the end of WWI, Jean Harlow, Ingrid Bergman, Charlie Chaplin, Anaïs Nin and Serge Diaghilev all took to Mitsouko’s bold intensity. Jean Harlow’s husband, Paul Bern (MGM producer), sprayed himself with her Mitsouko just before committing suicide, only two weeks after their wedding. Talk about lingering power!

Out of the mist your voice is calling, ’tis twilight time

“Vol de Nuit” by Guerlain (1933)

Created as a tribute to flyer Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of “The Little Prince”), aviators around the globe, along with Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn, all found the scent of “Night Flight” heads above others. Its bottle evokes an airplane propeller.

Fly me to the moon!

Sephora is where I also pick up my beloved Bourjois eye shadow and blusher. Available in sweet candy-colored pots, I’m hooked. Historic Bourjois has been creating cosmetics (along with an extensive repertoire of wildly popular fragrances) since 1863. Back in the day, even actress Sarah Bernhardt was a fan!

Here’s more skinny

70 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8th arrondissement
Open: Monday through Sunday, 10 AM to Midnight

13 thoughts on “Paris Scents: Spray-by-Spray at Sephora

  1. Wow, I love sampling those perfumes till I get dizzy, ha, ha, ha! My husband is quite a loyalist so since he gifted me my first Chanel Allure, I was stuck with it.


    • Malou! What a sweet Valentine’s Day story! I’m a fragrance loyalist, too! I’ve been wearing “Petite Cherie” by Annick Goutal for years, years! For the love of vanilla, Chanel Allure is a keeper. Great choice! Chanel No. 5 was my very first fragrance. Memories! Theadora


  2. How lovely – and you reminded me I need a refill for my Vol De Nuit (love it; even prefer it to Mitsuoko). I could almost sniff the classic perfumes as I read… sigh…


    • Hello Kate, I love Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko! L’Heure Bleue is another moody-bluesy favorite. Also, Guerlain’s flagship on the Champs-Elysées is definitely worth a peek and a sniff! I get weepy each time I make my entrance! It’s located 68 Avenue des Champs Élysées (next to Sephora). Enjoy the day! Theadora


      • That would just be toooooo tempting (I do have a bad Sephora habit when I’m in Paris; I really mustn’t add to it)! I didn’t like L’Heure Bleu as much; it was a bit too powdery on me… mind you, I managed to use a 100ml bottle quite quickly. Hm.


  3. Great stories! This one gives me chills – “Jean Harlow’s husband, Paul Bern (MGM producer), sprayed himself with her Mitsouko just before committing suicide, only two weeks after their wedding.” Do you know why??
    These are classics for sure. How are the bottles – as nice as the old/originals?


    • Vivian, I love Jean Harlow, too! You’ll find this tidbit interesting. When her film “Platinum Blonde” was released in 1931, fans followed suit and started dyeing their hair. A craze was launched! As a publicity stunt, Howard Hughes offered $10,000 to the first hairstylist who could match Jean Harlow’s shade!(By the way, her husband Paul Bern committed suicide during the making of “Red Dust” in 1932. The reason is still a mystery. Clark Gable was her co-star.) Enjoy the day! Theadora


      • Thx for the reply. HH was a genius marketer! I’m guessing that Bern was jealous of Gable, thought Jean and he had “a love thing” going on.


      • Vivian, I love your theory. It’s very Law and Order! At one point Harlow was a suspect. Perhaps you should add the “laughing vamp” to Fashion Examiner’s list of fashion icons all-stars?! (By the way, I’ve been enjoying your New York Fashion Week coverage.) Cheers! Theadora


      • Interesting, didn’t ever hear about any of this – maybe/probably the Studio swept it under the rug – not good for one of their big stars to be under investigation, huh? Who else would you put into the “laughing vamp” category? Glad you’re enjoying the FW coverage – was great having Laura Wood there to help w/ the late night stuff as I’m the morning person type.


    • Dear Diana, Ah, too bad! For the love of beauty, plan a pilgrimage to Paris! Or New York. There’s now a Sephora in the old Charles Scribner’s Sons (publishing house) building. It’s gorgeous! Built in 1913 by Ernest Flagg (Scribner’s brother-in-law), the historic building is located at 597 East Fifth Avenue. It’s a beauty! Theadora (Are you able to order from the website? I know! It’s not the same.)


      • Yes def not the same if you order from the website… Last time I was in Paris I spent at least 1 hour in the Champs Elysees Sephora, Now that you told me about it, I have to check the one from New York too 🙂


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