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  • Writer's pictureBy Panthea Vine

The Art of Glamour #1 - Rita Hayworth’s Perfume

Rita Hayworth, the 'Love Goddess'
Rita Hayworth, the 'Love Goddess'

Rita Hayworth, the 'Love Goddess', with her dazzling smile and long Auburn waves, was the glamour Icon of 1940s Hollywood, but from her name to the colour of her hair, and to her on-screen image, she was a carefully manufactured package.

Born in Brooklyn in 1918 to a Spanish father and an Irish-American mother, Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino would go on to become a flamenco dancer and a bit-part movie actress, before undergoing the ultimate studio make-over.

Margarita Cansino, young Rita Hayworth
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The process involved raising her hairline with electrolysis, dyeing her naturally black hair red (for what turned out to be the rest of her life), and going on a restrictive diet to shed her puppy fat. Then there were the endless coaches, who worked on her voice, her acting, and her deportment. From this emerged Rita Hayworth.

Known for playing femme fatales, she understood the mystique of glamour and the captivating allure of a scent, of which she had a large personal collection. The perfume she's most associated with is the exotic and beguiling Shalimar, arguably one of the greatest fragrances ever created. To this day, it is Guerlain's most successful and enduring.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Legend of Shalimar...

In its time, Shalimar was the most revolutionary of all scents and the world's first Oriental fragrance.

Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1925, when the Orient was en vogue, it was inspired by the passionate love story between a Mughal Emperor and an Indian princess, and a magnificent location. The Gardens of Shalimar were the place where Shah Jahan met Mehr-un-Nissa, the woman who would inspire him to build the Taj Mahal.

Vintage Advertisement for Guerlain Shalimar Perfume
Image: Advertisement, John Paul Pennebaker for Marshall Fields 1934

Myths abound on the creation of the scent, with some saying it was an accident, but however it came into being, it is magical.

Composed of lemon, bergamot, jasmine, may rose, opoponax, tonka bean, vanilla, iris, peru balsam and grey amber, it’s cool citrus notes lead to a floral heart, and end with a warm and luxurious trail.

Guerlain Shalimar Eau de Parfum
Guerlain Shalimar Eau de Parfum

The elegant, exotic bottle is worthy of an art collection, designed by the artist Raymond Guerlain with curves modelled after basins of eastern gardens, crowned with a fan-shaped stopper crafted in deep blue Baccarat crystal, decorated with a silk ribbon and sealed with wax.

Shalimar is Guerlain's Flagship fragrance to this day, and though there are many perfumes, few are legends.

Not unlike Rita Hayworth herself.

The Art of Glamour, the style and beauty secrets of Hollywood's golden age


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