Is Chanel No. 5 an Older Woman’s Perfume?

I was thirteen when I first read that Marilyn Monroe only wore Chanel No. 5 to bed – nothing else. I immediately added the perfume to my Christmas list, and when I unwrapped it on Christmas Day, I was fairly disappointed. It smelled musky and pungent, it smelled dated… and after several more sniffs, it smelled like my Grammy. Grammy’s signature scent for as long as I could remember was Chanel No. 5, and I didn’t know it until that day.

I love Chanel. I’m fascinated by Coco and believe whole-heartedly that her contribution to not only fashion, but the women’s movement in general, is something to admire. She rose from nothing and created an empire and name for herself the world over – there are very few people who don’t recognize the name Chanel.

On my bureau I have my bottles of No. 5 and Coco Mademoiselle, the latter being what I consider my “nighttime” scent. Mademoiselle is sweet and fragrant, and makes me feel sexy and sophisticated, which says a lot for someone who still can’t walk properly in heels. Every once in awhile I try to rock No. 5, but I just can’t. It makes me feel anything but sexy and reminds me of pearls, and heavily-make-up faces of wealthy women from my Grammy’s generation – or more specifically, Marilyn Monroe’s generation had her life not been cut short. I feel like I’m not old enough to wear it yet, so the bottle just sits there collecting dust. I’ve had it for two decades now, and still I won’t part with it, because I hope someday I’ll be ready for it.

If you look up “classic” fragrances for women, No. 5 is always at the top of a list, alongside Guerlain’s Shalimar (both of these scents were launched in the 1920s), Joy by Jean Patou (1930’), Youth Dew by Estée Lauder (1950s – and my mother’s signature scent), and Opium by Yves Saint Laurent (1970s) – but who from our generation is actually wearing these perfumes? Are these the same women who are wearing pearl necklaces and have their nails manicured in the “classic” French style? More importantly, why does something “classic” have to feel so old and dated?

I can walk into a room and if someone is wearing Chanel, any scent by Chanel, I will recognize it instantly – now that’s love and admiration. However, for now, and maybe even for the next decade or more, my No. 5 will stay put on my bureau as I wait to grow up a wee bit more. When that day comes, I’ll also run out and buy my first strand of pearls to match… and I’ll learn how to walk in heels while I’m at it.

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    • Emily

      I’ve always wanted to be the kind of woman who wears Chanel No.5, but I’m just not. I make do with Chance. I have no idea if this is a generational thing, but it’s just far too heavy for me. Maybe someday.

    • Shevonne

      No, and I am dying for the new Chanel Eau Tendre

    • Megan

      I love Chanel No 5 and wore it for the majority of my late teens and early 20s but switched to the reinterpretation “No5 Eau Premiere” a few years ago. Same sexy timeless smell without the old lady connotations.

      http://www.chanel.com/en_US/fragrance-beauty/Fragrance-N%C2%B05-CHANEL-N%C2%B05-EAU-PREMI%C3%88RE-88145

    • Lexie

      I wear pearls daily. My hair is in a messy ponytail and my tights are slouching, but damn it if I don’t look at least a little bit intentional with pearls.

      I wear Lucky Brand perfume. It’s spicy and sassy. Too bad they discontinued it.

    • Satan

      heh, i have a similar perfume that i love by Clinique.
      it’s old, and dated – and i wear it specifically because it reminds me of my grandmother!
      although i have to admit, i don’t pull it out too often…

    • Meg

      I don’t have much of a signature scent, but I prefer sweet natural scents to the typical flowery alcohol-y ones. I’ve been wearing Vanilla Fields for years, among a toasted vanilla scent (Vanilla Hell) and spicy sweet Samhain from Goth Rosary (actually I would wear anything from Goth Rosary) and was surprised to learn how much I love Fantasy by Britney Spears. I think that’s the one I wear most often. All of them have at least a hint of the smell of baking in them.

    • Lucy

      I wear Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum every day, as well do I adorn a lovely set of pearls. I usually wear my hair up in a bun and wear natural-looking makeup, and can often be found wearing a dress/skirt or a pair of skinny jeans and a cute pullover. I love flats and heels. I adore 60s French style and Audrey Hepburn. I don’t feel old and like my grandmother when I wear Chanel No.5. Just because my great-grandmother wore it, that doesn’t mean it makes me any less youthful. She would have worn it during her teens and twenties, as well as the rest of her life. For some people, a scent just defines your personality. I’m sixteen years old, and this is just who I am. And I think it makes me quite youthful.
      However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t make others seem older. I think it just depends on what kind of personality you possess, and what kind of attitude you’re willing to put out to the world. :)

    • Kathy

      I swear by this perfume. LOVE it! I’m 24 yrs old. I wear six inch heels, and an assymmetrical bob (currently– I change my hair almost every month). I like my jeans tight and ripped, and my lips red. Lol anyway I say this to say, there is nothing old about me or my style. I just love the sophistication of Chanel no 5 and will never part ways with it!… NEVER!!!! Lol

    • Valeria

      I´m 25 and I´ve wear Chanel No. 5 from the day I was born to probably the day I´ll die, everyday and so has my mother and my grandmother. I don´t think it is “old” the same way a pair of diamond earnings will never be old. I do have to accept I love the classic looks, dress in black, white, beige, gray and navy blue…. but definitely is a personality thing!

    • Danielle

      I used the perfume since I was 19, I was born in the family and environment who love lux and glam. Meeting with other teenager with Chanel no. 5 is not rare at all for me personally.

    • Sue

      I’m 25 and I love my Shalimar…sophisticated yet sensual!