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Barbara Redmond

By Edith Kunz

“Perfume that rocks the room” peeks at the mysterious ways Frenchwomen manage to appear sexy, smart and recklessly chic from the book Fatale: How French Women Do It by Edith Kunz (used by permission).

Documented evidence exists that perfumed oils were exquisitely bottled in Egypt during Cleopatra’s lifetime. Pressed citrus and floral essences were also used in the bath houses frequented by the wealthy citizens of early Roman times. Yet the French have no qualms about claiming credit for the creation of perfume only 500 years ago for the sophisticated court of King François I.

Perfumes are the greatest traitors in the world; they herald, they outline, and they declare the most delicious of intentions. – Paul Valéry (1871-1945)

Like bubbly champagne, which may be imitated by wine growers around the world but must come from the French region of Champagne to have true status, perfume carrying the ultimate mark of distinction must be produced in France. The universal reputation of French perfume is one more ingenious marketing story the French have managed to sell to a world hungry for glamour and romance.

Always creative and resourceful at touting their own talents, whether their accomplishments are valid or exaggerated, French entrepreneurs deserve respect for successfully proclaiming themselves supreme authorities in the domain of allure and seduction.

The actual reasons why the sweet smelling extracts came into vogue with aristocrats of the 16th century did not have a particularly glamorous basis. The beautifully decorated, but unventilated, salons were packed on gala evenings with frolicking French socialites who bathed infrequently. Moreover, during the colder months affluent people wore layers of woolen garments topped by silks and satins, which looked elegant but did not have the benefit of modern-day dry cleaning. When it was too damp and icy to open the windows for fresh air, party guests were very happy, for obvious reasons, to catch a whiff of flowers or spices surrounding a pretty lady.

Women wore tiny bunches of violets or tuberoses tucked in their bosom during social events, and among the privileged set it became the rage to dab distilled oils of rose petals or orange blossoms on strategic parts of the body for romantic occasions. It was expected that fresh floral bouquets from indoor hothouses would freshen the household atmosphere of all the noble mansions and royal palaces.

The demand for seductive aromas quickly gained popularity with all those who could afford the costly extravagance. Very chic ladies wore leather gloves impregnated with musk, lavender, or rose oil and then added finger rings with tiny hinged boxes holding a few grains of aromatic spices. Dried rose petals were placed in dainty silk bags and then conveniently tucked into corsets and pantaloons of women who wished to enhance their sex appeal.

The most prestigious estates had “still-rooms” in which the guarded family recipes for perfumes and domestic medicines were prepared. Ladies of rank took great pride in their hand-written notebooks of secret elixirs, and the valuable formulas were carefully handed down from one generation to another.

The civilized ritual of tub baths came into fashion in the 18th century after effective room heaters made the drafty châteaux more comfortable. Voltaire considered bathing in rose water or jasmine lotions the “luxury of luxuries,” and he asserted that it was wrong to believe the gossip of the day that “only women of easy virtue were in the habit of bathing daily in fragrant waters.”

After centuries of study and interest in the arts of making themselves more attractive by using artificial aids, applications and perfumes, Frenchwomen have become highly efficient in the methods of enhancing their physical assets. Techniques for personal grooming and feminine charms are systematically taught to young French girls as a natural part of the growing up process.

Probing into one’s habits of personal beauty rituals is a delicate matter in France, as the women are hesitant to acknowledge or discuss their world-wide reputation as savvy seductresses. They prefer to spend less time talking about the matter and more time applying their skills and reaping the benefits. It is easier to get executives of the fragrance industry to divulge helpful hints about the effective uses of perfume that keep captivated noses on the pleasure trail.

Elegant women in French society are not heavy-handed with application of fragrance, although they somehow have the ability to emit waves of fresh blossoms all day without getting caught dabbing on their perfume in public. One of their secrets is their extensive knowledge about the body’s pulse points and how these spots and other warm hidden areas are useful in relaying the sweet scents most effectively.

An experienced Frenchwoman can make her presence known by her personalized fragrance formula, and she knows exactly the places on her body to apply the essence for the most lingering effect. Most clues concerning the guarded ritual in applying perfume à la française point to the eighteen key areas of the anatomy that emit the sensuous scents by body temperature and heartbeat.

Daily beauty habits enable Frenchwomen to maintain their hair, skin and nails in the best possible condition, in readiness for any unexpected romantic opportunities that interest them. True femmes fatales will plan meticulously for intimate encounters even though they can give the appearance that a surprise surrender is utterly spontaneous.

The final preparation for a special man begins with a relaxing bath in rich aromatic oils, making certain not to soak in water too long, as the skin must not pucker. Then a light touch of the towel, leaving a slightly moist effect when a scented body lotion is smoothed on from earlobes down to the toes. The fragrance is allowed to set for a few moments, then come the clouds of scented dusting powder to lock in the flavors and coat the skin with a pale angelic finish.

The same fragrance (or a compatible one) is then applied while still in the state of undress by dabbing the pulse points with a moistened cotton puff. Key points to consider are:

heels, arches, and between the toes;
the inner and outer anklebone;
behind the knees;
the underside of the derrière;
the pubic area and the navel;
under each breast and between the breasts;
the shoulders and upper arms;
inside the bend of the elbow;
the pulse points at the inner wrist;
the back of the hand and between the fingers;
the hollow at the bottom of the neck;
all around the collar bone;
under the chin;
along the jaw line;
behind the ears and on the earlobes;
on the temples;
along the back of the neck to the shoulder blades;
around the hairline.

The process is completed by tucking an aromatic cotton puff inside the bra between the lady’s two tender treasures.

The artful application of fragrance takes about fifteen minutes from “bath to blush.” However, the time spent promises long-range results. Grandes dames also saturate their hankies, gloves, scarves and fans with provocative scents to make certain the message that a personality has arrived is perfectly clear. We know from the most elementary biology class that nature has made the male animal very susceptible to sensuous female signals through smell.

Women well versed in “pleasure power” fluff their pillows and sheets with lavender sachets and powders while augmenting the atmosphere with perfumed candles. Delicate copper rings filled with perfumed oils are placed on the top of low voltage light bulbs producing floral or spicy aromas from the warmth of a lighted lamp (pink and apricot tinted lighting provides the most flattering glow to the complexion).

Those who toy with aphrodisiacs know that appealing to the senses does not start and stop with touch alone. To set the stage for sublime moments one can activate all the forces of sight, smell, taste and sound to arouse the anticipation for the final explosion.

Throughout recorded French history appreciation and nourishment of the human senses have been refined arts practiced by seductive women. It is the formula of driving human reactions to the summit that Frenchwomen strive to perfect, never forgetting the importance of a beguiling atmosphere to complete the spell. Rousing the curiosity of an intelligent man with original and provocative details is often neglected by American women who live at a faster pace.

The talent for applying seductive trifles and frivolous minutiae is a category where Frenchwomen are peerless. The hypnotic effect of a shadowy, fragrant atmosphere in a cozy French boudoir is heightened to the fullest with a few delicate details that play on the senses. Paris brims with geniuses that excel at showing off their glorious monuments, bridges and gardens with lighting effects, and the lessons are not lost on its private citizens. French hostesses know exactly how to make a room glow with chandeliers, sconces and perfumed candles that show off the complexion of beautiful women to full advantage. A man cannot define all the forces in action; he only knows that he feels nurtured in the company of a caring woman.

The French embrace many aspects of the modern world; however, Frenchwomen have no intention of giving up candlelight just because electricity is abundant, nor do they want to sterilize their abodes with antiseptic smells.

Disarming an important guest with a sensuous setting is the first step for captivating his sentiments. Good aromas, warm flickering light, sounds of stringed instruments, and rustling fabrics set the stage for an award-winning performance. Add a few gourmet nibbles and a fine wine, and the grand prize will be forthcoming before the night is over.

Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination. – Voltaire (1694-1778)

edith kunzEdith Kunz unmasks the delicious deceptions plotted by Frenchwomen while suggesting how contemporary women can flirt like a coquette, charm like a courtesan and emit sensuality with cool confidence by merely adjusting one’s attitude and garter belt.

Fatale Kunz 2013-03-05 at 11Fatale: How French Women Do It by Edith Kunz was published in 2000 and is still in constant demand, now in its third printing. In addition to Fatale, Edith has also published: Middleage men Kunz 2013-03-05 at 10 cropThe Merits of Middle-Aged Men and Where to Find Them. The book, published in 2010, answers the question: how does a single, intelligent woman of a “certain age” find a worthy candidate who is willing to satisfy her fermenting sentiments? Paris Passion Place, a romantic guide to Paris by Edith Kunz and illustrated by Jennifer Gulledge, has served as a timeless manual to the City of Light for decades. A committed Francophile since childhood, for the past several decades Edith has chosen to live part of each year in Paris. During the winter she resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, French Impressions: Edith Kunz on the mystique of the Frenchwoman (sexy, smart, and chic). Edith Kunz, author of Fatale: How French Women Do It, shares clues that unmask the delicious deceptions plotted by Frenchwomen while suggesting how contemporary women can flirt like a coquette, charm like a courtesan and emit sensuality with cool confidence by merely adjusting one’s attitude and garter belt. Her latest book, The Merits of Middle-Age Men and Where to Find Them. Books to enjoy at a sidewalk café with a bottle of wine and a French omelette.

French Impressions: Isabelle Burdel on the very complex and marvelous alchemy of perfumes. Isabelle Burdel, founder and master perfumer at Salon Privé, Canne, offers her rare expertise of making very complex perfumes available to private individuals. She also shares her inspirations that allow her to create such perfumes that infuse the emotions and uniqueness of a person into a single perfume.

Perfume: discovering the perfect luxury experience, by Andrea Johnson who shares tips on finding the right fragrance, which is not always easy. A biochemist and former fragrance sales associate, Andrea writes about choosing a fragrance that reflects your personality and drawing people in with a scent.

Beauty Confessions from a Globe-trotting Parisienne. Parisienne Bénédicte Mahé shares a French woman’s approach to beauty and makeup; and how the relationship Americans have with beauty is very different from that of the French. Including her list of Beauty Resources in Paris and a vocabulary of French to English translations. (French)

French Lingerie: Mysterious and flirty, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience searching for the perfect lingerie in Paris boutiques and her “fitting” with the shop keeper, Madame, in a curtained room stripped to bare at Sabbia Rosa. Including a French to English vocabulary lesson for buying lingerie and a directory of Barbara’s favorite lingerie shops in Paris. (French)

Text copyright ©2013 Edith Kunz. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.