Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shocking by Schiaparelli c1936

Shocking by Schiaparelli: created by Jean Carles and launched in 1936 in France and 1937 in the USA.  The perfume was said to be "first developed by Mme. Schiaparelli for her own use" according to a 1938 newspaper ad.

It was named after a particular shade of hot pink that she named, "Shocking Pink", which was also used by designer Paul Poiret, her mentor.

In the 1943 book This is Fashion, author Elizabeth Burris-Meyer explains "1936 — Schiaparelli introduced a member of the magenta family as Parlor Pink; later famous (1938) as Shocking Pink with only a slightly less blue cast to it."

Shocking is one of those intense classic perfumes that never seem to lose their luster. Truly a gem in the world of perfumes, it still manages to inspire sensuality and confidence in the woman who wears it well.

Fragrance Composition:

So what does it smell like? The perfume is classified as a woody oriental fragrance for women. It starts off with an aldehydic, flowery top, followed by a sweet, honey accented floral heart, layered over a sensual, warm, animalic base.
  • Top notes: aldehydes, bergamot, estragon, raspberry
  • Middle notes: honey, oriental rose, jasmine, carnation, ylang ylang, narcissus
  • Base notes: incense, cedar, patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, vanilla, musk, amber, cloves, civet

Shocking is a perfume that I could never wear, it always seemed too grown up for me, but now at age 34, I am fully understanding the beauty of this audacious scent. I have some vintage parfum that a reader sent to me several years ago - gratis, along with some other older perfumes, like Salut de Schiaparelli, Fougere Royale by Houbigant, Dawamesk and Mitsouko by Guerlain.

When I applied the parfum, its initial blast of aldehydes make me scrunch up my nose, as the top notes have soured over the years, then it settles down into a heady, woody, spicy, dirty civet laden, honey dripped roses dream. I can't stop sniffing my arm. The incense like drydown reminds me of vintage Toujours Moi parfum.


Shocking was presented in various bottles over the years, so I will try to cover as many different bottles as I can in this article to give you an idea of how old your bottle is.

The Galveston Daily News, 1947:
"Schiaparelli's famous scent . ....Shocking. Schiaparelli's Dusting Powder 3.75, Schiaparelli's Shocking Cologne 5.00, Schiaparelli's Shocking Sachets 3.50."

The Dressmaker Dummy Bottle:

While working for Elsa Schiaparelli Leonor Fini designed the flacon for the parfum, "Shocking," which was based on Mae West's dressmaker dummy. The whole presentation is made up of 20 separate parts, made in three different countries, and it took thirty ladies to assemble it.

  1. The tiny glass flowers represent anemones, morning glories, poppies that were blown in Murano, Italy. The colors are baby blue, pink, red, yellow and sometimes dark blue with contrasting stamens.
  2. Two green glass leaves, also made in Murano, Italy.
  3. Wires attached behind the pierced flowers and pierced leaves
  4. Wires wrapped with green florist's tape.
  5. Wires gathered like a nosegay, twisted into a point and held in place with a measuring tape. 
  6. Frosted glass stopper 
  7. Gilding on frosted glass dauber
  8. Gilt baudruchage cord wrapped around neck of bottle
  9. Onionskin membrane seal
  10. Bottle Made in France
  11. Silk-Screened cotton tape measure
  12. Gold "navel" label
  13. "S" logo for Schiaparelli embossed on "navel" label to be placed over tape measure
  14. Clear glass dome imported from Czechoslovakia
  15. White lace pattern silk-screened on glass dome
  16. Pink velvet cushion for bottle
  17. Gold platform for pink cushion
  18. Pink velvet base for gold platform
  19. Perfume
  20. Closeup of glass morning glory with contrasting glass pistil

This bottle came in four sizes, from 4 3/4" tall down to a 1 3/4" miniature size.

The 1/3 oz bottle that came in a leather travel pouch dates to after 1948.

Originally the bottles were made in Czechoslovakia and some newspaper ads at the time mentioned that the glass was "Bohemian". While other sources claim the bottles were French. The bottles were then fitted with tiny Czechoslovakian (other sources say Murano blown glass) molded colored glass flowers which were wrapped around the neck of the bottle in a bouquet. A faux tape measure with the words "Shocking" and "Schiaparelli" glued on served as the perfume's label.

The resulting bottle was housed in an elegant glass domed case with printed white lace accents. These domed cases for perfume were also seen for Yesteryear by Bab's Creations (1939) and It's You by Elizabeth Arden (1938).  The ensemble was then packaged in a shocking pink presentation box lined in shocking pink satin. Various editions of the box were launched over the years as the styles changed.

One of the neatest presentations was made to resemble a bound book, it's green velvet spine is stamped in gold with the name of the perfume and Schiaparelli.

It was first only introduced in one size (2 oz) and retailed at $27.50, but in 1938 it was introduced in a smaller size (approximately 7/8 oz, about 3/4 oz) and retailed at $12.The smallest size was the miniature and held just one dram, it has a tiny brass screw cap.

The bottles ranged in sizes (all sizes listed below are bottles only, not including domes):
  • 2 oz bottle stands
  • 1 oz bottle stands
  • 3/4 oz bottle stands 4" tall.
  • 1/2 oz bottle stands 2 7/8" tall.
  • Dram bottle stands 2" tall.

The little dressmaker dummy bottle could also be found in a leather pouch for travel. The bottle holds 1/3 oz of parfum. Leather travel case dates this to after 1948. The bottle stands  3" tall x 1 3/8" x 5/8".

Cube Stopper Bottles:

First presented in 1938, this clear glass bottle was created to hold the pure parfum, and was not only used for Shocking, but for several other Schiaparelli perfumes such as So Sweet, Sleeping, Salut, Le Roy Soleil, Zut, etc. 

It is a tall, upright rectangular shape and features a faceted glass cube as the stopper. The smallest size features a stopper that has an attached dauber. The base of the bottle is usually molded with "Schiaparelli" and "French Bottle". I am unsure of the manufacturer of the bottle, but it is not a Baccarat design, it may have been made by Pochet et du Courval.

This bottle came in various sizes:
  • 1/4 oz stands 2.5" tall. (this stopper has an attached dauber)
  • 1/2 oz stands 3" tall.
  • 1 oz stands 3.5" tall.
  • 4 oz stands 3.75" tall.

These are the various measurements of the bottles I have found online.
  • 2 3/8" tall 
  • 2 1/2" tall = 1/4 oz 
  • 3" tall = 1/2 oz 
  • 3 1/2" tall = 1 oz 
  • 3 5/8" tall = 1 oz
  • 3 3/4" tall = 4 oz
  • 4 1/2" tall = 2 oz 
  • 4 3/8" tall

Eau de Colognes:

Shocking was also available in cologne concentration by 1938, originally presented in a modified form of the dressmaker dummy bottle, but later cologne bottles were more simplified cylindrical shapes.

The Stage, 1938:
"Schiaparelli is launching a Shocking cologne, in the dressmaker's- dummy bottle."

Eau de Parfum:

In 1964. Shocking was presented in Eau de Parfum Mist, a 3 oz aerosol perfume.

Solid Perfume:

Adorable heart shaped lockets containing solid perfume were decorated with lattice studded with hot pink rhinestones, these lockets were attached to key chains and necklaces.

Ancillary Products:

Shocking spawned many matching products from soaps, dusting powders, talc, lotion, rouge, lipstick.

The Bath Essence was introduced in 1939. "Only ten drops and the entire bath will be perfumed."

The Shocking Talcum was launched in 1941, it was highly scented and left a "clinging", non-streaky texture that was perfect for the warmer months.

All items were packaged in the familiar shocking pink cartonnage, sometimes trimmed with printed lace for a totally romantic feel. The happy intermingling of red, gold and white attracts the eye of the roving shopper to Schiaparelli's Shocking scented lipstick, rough- and face-powder containers. The 1950s "So Sweet" makeup line was scented with Shocking. Vivacious' lipstick from the Shocking perfume line.

Introduced in 1939, the scented bath sponges were small, fluffy round pads when dry in the package but when they come in contact with the bathwater, they blossom into big, soft washcloths scented with Shocking.

Who could resist the adorable heart shaped or the dressmaker dummy shaped bath soaps?

From 1948:
"A dual gift of Valentine significance is Schiaparelli's "Two Shocking" a heart-shaped cake of soap plus a small bottle of Shocking perfume. This fragrant pair is ribbon-trimmed and attractively packed in a gift box at $5 at Saks Fifth Avenue."

List of Special Presentations:

In the 1930s and 1940s, competition between perfume companies was extremely fierce, coupled with the ending of the great Depression and the second World War, money was tight for customers, so the perfume companies had to devise new ways to entice customers to part with their money. One way to catch the customer's eye was to package the perfume in colorful and imaginative packaging.

Elsa Schiaparelli was the queen of perfume presentation. Her ingenuity spawned curious and unique presentations that  would have delighted any woman. By using mixed material such as glass, fabric, plaster, metal and early plastics such as acetate, she was able to get around the wartime restrictions that were placed on supplies that were usually reserved for perfume packaging.

Here are some of her fabulous presentations:

In 1938 the "Shock-in-a-Box" jack in the box presentation.When the lid is opened, up jump four purse size flacons of Shocking perfume crowned with flowers and a golden tinkle bell.

Also in 1938, "Beau Geste",  takes the form of a white surrealist plaster hand cushioned luxuriously in a Shocking pink satin and holds a bottle of Shocking perfume (in the bottle with the cube stopper), all encased in crystal.

For Valentine's Day of 1939, a cute little heart shaped acetate box held a fragrant sachet and two miniature dram size dressmaker dummy bottles of Shocking perfume. The little bottles were the perfect size to carry in your handbag, while the sachet could be tucked inside your lingerie drawer.

In 1939, a 1/4 oz bottle of parfum was housed inside of a box that simulated a book. Called the "Shocking French Novel", this presentation was reused for several years into the 1940s.

For 1939, "Set to Music": Straight from France comes this Alpine chalet with four dram-size, dressmaker model-shaped bottles of Schiaparelli's Shocking perfume peeping from its double doors. Touch a spring at the back and the chalet becomes a music box playing "Amaryllis."

The New Yorker, 1939:
"Schiaparelli : Shocking, its bottle shaped like a dress form, tricked out with flowers, and sheltered by a glass bell, is still the ideal of glamour girls ... Set to Music consists of four bottles which revolve slowly through the doors of a little house while a music box plays; $10."

Get lucky in 1939 with the Spin and Win! The "Spin & Win" presentation consists of a mock roulette wheel holding four mini dram size perfume bottles. A spring mechanism allows the wheel to revolve when pressed. The box is covered in shocking pink paper adorned with numbers in white. The inside of the lid is covered in shiny gold foil paper.

The New Yorker, 1939:
"Spin and Win, four little bottles of Shocking, whirl around like a roulette wheel when you open the box; $5."

The Winnipeg Tribune, 1939:
"Spin and Win" Schiaparelli's joyous "spin and win" roulette wheel setting holds four "baby" dressmaker dummies, each filled with a half - dram of "Shocking"$5."

Easter 1939 gave us a rayon satin covered "Easter Egg"with a print designed by Vertes containing a bottle of Shocking perfume.

The Shocking Scamp was a limited edition for Christmas of 1940. Designed by Fulco de Verdura, it is a little figural fencer brooch to be worn on a lady's lapel, it was also called the "vest bottle" in a 1949 newspaper ad. Made of enameled metal, the cage would hold a dram sized bottle of Shocking perfume. To use to the perfume, you just remove the head which served as the stopper. The perfumed brooch stands 5 1/2" tall. This little cutie was discontinued by 1949 and is very hard to find today.

The New Yorker, 1940:
"Schiaparelli's Scamp lapel pin, a gaga little figure flailing its flexible arms about, contains a dram of Shocking perfume and comes with two bottles of the stuff for refilling ($7.50)"

Fashions of the Hour, 1940:
"Wonderful Schiaparelli fantasy, a perfume boutonniere she can pin on her lapel. This stalwart gilded fencer holds a 1-dram bottle of Shocking perfume and in the box are two extra drams.  $7.50."

1940 Schiaparelli's Shocking Love Birds perched in a gilded cage with tiny flowers strewn about. The two bottles hold 1 dram each of intriguing Shocking perfume. 

c1947 A pink heart decorated box lined with tufted satin, holds 3 miniature bottles of such well known perfume favorites as "Shocking", "Sleeping", and "Salut".

For Christmas 1951 and 1952, Shocking could be purchased in a gold color metal filigree flacon studded with simulated rubies. It came in a protective case of blue calfskin leather. Screw Top, 2 1/2" tall.

Shocking For the Boudoir:

Other items were for the boudoir, a shocking pink satin and black lace panty shaped pouch for nylons, another pretty item is a pink and white lace printed satin lingerie case. Cute scented sachets to be tucked inside your dresser drawers or to be hung inside your closets would freshen up your clothing. More whimsical items like a pink and black lace printed box contained four decks of cards.

Fate of the Fragrance:

Shocking was reformulated by perfumer Martin Gras,and repackaged in 1979 by Schiaparelli-Pikenz. Up until then, the torso parfum bottles displayed the crisscrossed dressmaker tapes with a round golden seal with a S. On the 1979 onward bottles, shocking pink velvet replaced the dressmaker's tape measures and were covered by a small pink heart with a stylized S in the center.

Shocking was discontinued but in 1997, it was reformulated by Martin Gras of Dragoco and relaunched again in new packaging (shown below) in 1997 by Schiaparelli-Pikenz. As you can see, these are spray bottles of eau de parfum. Notice the heart shape is angled higher on one side.

Zut was also reformulated and relaunched in 1997 as you can see from this advertisement.

In 2008, Shocking was relaunched in its original formulation by the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie at Urban Retreat at Harrods, London. Notice the bottle design looks like the original 1936 version.

"Composed of over 500 ingredients, the original floral has been re-launched in a limited edition Baccarat numbered crystal bottle, the shape of which is based on the curvaceous torso of Mae West."

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