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Pure unadulterated Nude

GreenFruitFellow flu-sufferer Barbara asked for a full review of Bill Blass Nude in the parfum version when I mentioned that I had gotten my grabby little hands on it.

I discovered Nude from this post at Now Smell This, and I’ve never regretted picking up my approximately $12 bottle. (It’s still available for only slightly more money from lots of outlets.) What a glorious thing, to find a good and discontinued fragrance that’s actually plentiful and inexpensive! Shades of Donna Karan Gold! Bad for Bill Blass and bad for our thirty-years-older selves, someday in the future when we might wish we had more of this; but good for immediate gratification (the Unseen Censer is all about immediate gratification) and good for the wallet.

Usually I go straight for parfum strength when it’s available, as EDTs and similarly strong formulations tend to just fall off me. I had never seen a parfum of Nude until recently, and when I did I picked it up, because I love Nude. This is one case where I’m glad I got the standard (in Nude’s case, cologne) formulation before I got the purer one, because this is a rare case in which I actually like the cologne more than the parfum. I can smell more in the cologne, which is infuriating. I mean, do I now need to track down multiple formulations of the stuff for which I’ve just acquired the extrait???

Standard Nude is incredibly wearable, incredibly comfortable and uplifting. It’s a great summer scent, a great going-to-bed scent, a great post-shower scent. Not one website that lists its notes mentions fruit, but to me there’s a big ol’ pear (or maybe fig, unless fig scares you, in which case forget I mentioned fig!) right in the middle of this baby. In the cologne, though, there are more facets to the jewel: the clean sparkling aldehydes, the classic jasmine-and-rose florals, and a warm skin musk that is really delightful.

Some sites do say that it contains oakmoss, which is immaterial to me as I can’t smell it except in that I’m sure it flavors the blend; the orris in the musk base, however, is what gives Nude its distinctive clean but warm and musky drydown. Orris is something I can dislike, or like very much (I like it wonderfully in Chanel No. 19). To me it is sometimes overwhelming. Nude uses orris perfectly. If the whole fragrance was designed around this orris note, I wouldn’t be surprised. Smelling orris this way makes you realize why orris is awesome, why that musty clean concentration of iris root has been so critical to perfume for so long and why it’s so sad that so little of it is really produced from natural ingredients any more.

I mention this because if you love orris, you might not like Nude, and if you dislike orris, you might like Nude very much. And vice versa. Just don’t try or avoid Nude based on an orris orientation, if you see what I mean.

In Nude cologne, the balance between the clean and the musky, the floral and the root, the skin and the soap, recalls the classic balance of Chanel No. 5 without ever smelling the least bit like Chanel No. 5, and really is why this is a great perfume that so many people like immediately upon smelling it. I can’t really imagine why it didn’t become more popular. It’s like the orris version of Chanel No. 5 if Elie Saab was the orange flower version of Chanel No. 5. It really works. It must have startled people, or not suited them in the era of big-shouldered serious hit-you-over-the-head 80s perfumes (it debuted in 1990).

There’s this balance between soap and skin, but otherwise there’s nothing naughty about Nude cologne to my nose, unless clean warm skin strikes you as naughty. But in the parfum version, there’s really no skin at all, unfortunately; so how Nude is Nude then?

NudeParfumThe parfum concentrates the florals and musk into powder, which is not my most favorite feature of Nude, and the fruit note, which is of course synthetic and certainly doesn’t get less synthetic in concentration. It’s recognizably Nude, but it’s not necessarily the very best version of Nude.

So get the cologne for $25 instead of the parfum for $33. Unless you really like vintage powdery florals – and that’s not a knock on vintage powdery florals. I’ve been wearing a lot of vintage Vol de Nuit, preparing for another review, and it really strikes me that vintage powdery florals are indeed lovely. I keep thinking I don’t like powdery, but sometimes, I will admit, I do. In the case of Nude, what you have is something that isn’t a vintage, isn’t hard to get, and doesn’t have the musty or vomit note that drives so many of us crazy about real vintage perfumes. Being built on musk – a good musk, not a crap musk – instead of oakmoss or patchouli, Nude in the parfum is in fact a real alternative for those who want that vintagey vibe but dislike a lot of actual vintage perfumes. If you’re a girly girl who likes shabby chic and distresses her own dressing tables, … well, you should find a bottle of Belle du Soir from Le Labo’s limited Anthropologie collection. But if that’s too tough for you or you really like the idea of a clean vintagey floral, try the Nude parfum.


Image is Green by Quinn Dombrowski, via Flickr; used under Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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4 comments to Pure unadulterated Nude

  • I’ve never seen this perfume. I’ve never heard of this perfume. And now you make it sound so appealing!

    • Judith

      And the good news is it’s cheap!

      I honestly have no idea whether you’d like it or not. I’d really recommend the standard bottle over the parfum. I think it’s very likeable, myself, and not really like anything else. But if you don’t like musk or fig (or pear – the fruit note is kind of unidentifiable, but clean in that fig way), you might not like it.

  • Barbara

    So late in commenting. I saved this post to devote the proper time to it and life got in the way!

    Great review and interesting that you liked the cologne better than the parfum. The cologne is what I used to own way-back-when and which I don’t remember AT ALL. I am on a strict no-buy but could afford this, although the pear note scares me!

    • Judith

      I don’t think there’s a reason to fear the pear. It’s a lot less overt than, say, the synthetic peach in Champagne or J’adore. It’s part of the overall impressionistic build of the thing. I really do like the cologne better. And as you say, on a strict no-buy, it’s a breaking the rules you can feel OK about!

      And hey, I’m happy to see a comment any time!

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