Les Petites Robes Noires

Ah, the little black dress – THE staple of every chic woman’s wardrobe. Personally, I couldn’t live without one. Or several. Last winter, I bought two – a sexy, knee-length number with pockets (which reminded me of something a career gal in a 1940s screwball comedy might have worn) and a more romantic, calf-length frock with a full, draped skirt, nipped-in waist, plunging neckline and long sleeves. Very film noir-ish, it helped bring out my inner Veronica Lake.. (in my mind, anyway!).

Our emotional attachment to our favourite LBDs is almost as legendary as our attachment to our handbags. I never threw out my first favourite LBD, a long linen one with slits to the thighs and a nehru collar, from my graduation year of 1994 – and it came into its own this summer as I had lost weight.

The luxury Parisian brand Guerlain may never have sold clothes, but the latest addition to its collection of covetable fragrances is La Petite Robe Noire (edp from £42), a rose-based scent with black cherry, iris, vanilla and patchouli. It’s very pretty, and quite sweet – in fact, it reminds me of the new Lancome fragrance, La Vie est Belle, which one of my eight-year-old sons recently said smelt “yummy”. I admire both of these perfumes – and am drawn to the iris in both – but, personally, I find sweetness a turn-off, and my offspring’s comment sealed the deal. Lovely but, as Ira Gershwin said, “not for me”.

If having style is about knowing what you like and not compromising, then Edith Piaf – the subject of the stunning 2007 biopic La Vie en Rose, which I saw at the cinema on Friday – undoubtedly had a style of her own. I wouldn’t say she was a particularly stylish person but she had a signature look – and la petite robe noire was a key part of it. As if to highlight that this was a woman who knew what worked for her – sartorially anyway – there’s a scene in the movie where Piaf (played, magnificently, by Marion Cotillard – left)  is presented with a selection of black dresses. “La plus simple!” she decrees, as she proceeds to order that the collar be removed.

I’m not sure what she would have made of Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire but its sweet, easy-going nature certainly does not sound like the perfect match for the spiky, hard-to-handle and willful Piaf ..

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