“Where Should One Use Perfume?” “Wherever One Wants To Be Kissed”

Coco Chanel? Arlene Dahl? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The brilliant fashion luminary Coco Chanel was once asked about the proper application of fragrance to the body, and she gave an entertaining reply about osculation. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared as a short item from a columnist in “The Boston Globe” of Massachusetts in 1962. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

MAKES A DIFFERENCE
“A woman should use perfume wherever she wants to be kissed” . . . Mlle. Chanel.

Marcel Haedrich, the editor in chief of a popular French women’s magazine called “Marie-Claire”, encouraged Chanel to use a tape recorder to describe her life story. In 1971 Haedrich published “Coco Chanel Secrète” based on Chanel’s recollections. The book included the following passage: 2

Où faut-il se parfumer ? demanda une jeune femme.
Là où vous voulez vous faire embrasser, répondit Coco.

« Ces journalistes américains sont des enfants, disait-elle, j’ai vu celte réponse cela m’a valu l’amitié des journalistes américains, je leur avais dit quelque chose qui faisait rire tout le monde ».

In 1972 an English translation appeared under the title “Coco Chanel: Her Life, Her Secrets”. The text above was rendered as follows: 3

‘Where should one use perfume?’ a young woman asked.
‘Wherever one wants to be kissed,’ I said.

“Those American reporters are children. I saw this answer printed everywhere. It was a bore; but I think it earned me the friendship of the American reporters: I’d told them something that made everyone laugh.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1973 a columnist in the “Chicago Tribune” printed a similar remark: 4

To the French, love and perfume go together like caviar and champagne. They say perfume is to attract the opposite sex and should be applied wherever a woman expects to be kissed.

In 1975 an Associated Press article presented a remark from actress and author Arlene Dahl: 5

French women place perfume on parts of the body where they want to be kissed, she says.

In 1986 a columnist in the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” of Missouri printed an instance attributed to Chanel: 6

Coco Chanel said it:
‘Where should one use perfume?’ a young woman asked. ‘Wherever one wants to be kissed,’ I said.”

In 1997 “The Sun-Herald” of Sydney, Australia printed an instance: 7

“A WOMAN SHOULD WEAR PERFUME WHEREVER SHE WANTS TO BE KISSED,” said Coco Chanel, one of the leading figures in French perfume making over the last 100 years.

In conclusion, QI believes that Coco Chanel deserves credit for this remark. The phrasing of the 1962 version and the 1971 French version are both substantive candidates.

Image Notes: Portrait of Coco Chanel from 1920. Picture of bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume from arz; released into Public Domain. Both pictures accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Images have been cropped and resized.

(Thanks to Elaine Partnow who listed the saying in her 1977 reference “The Quotable Woman: 1800-1975” and helpfully pointed to Marcel Haedrich’s 1971 book.)

Notes:

  1. 1962 December 27, The Boston Globe, Crossing the River Changed His Figure? by Joe Harrington, Quote Page 19, Column 4, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)
  2. 1971, Coco Chanel Secrète by Marcel Haedrich, Chapter 14: Sixième victoire: le « come-back », Quote Page 201, Éditions Robert Laffont, Paris. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1972, Coco Chanel: Her Life, Her Secrets by Marcel Haedrich, Translated from the French by Charles Lam Markmann, Chapter 14: The Sixth Victory: The Comeback, Quote Page 165, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified with hardcopy)
  4. 1973 February 18, Chicago Tribune, Section 4, Choosing the right French perfume by Marie Mattson, Quote Page C10, Column 1, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  5. 1975 December 15, Clovis News-Journal, Perfume Pleases Sense Of Smell by Vivian Brown (AP Newsfeatures Writer), Quote Page 6, Column 4, Clovis, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)
  6. 1986 November 23, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Better Than Football by Joe Pollack, Quote Page 7F, Column 2, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com)
  7. 1997 July 6, The Sun-Herald (The Sydney Morning Herald), Section: Timeout, See It! Hear It! Do It!, Quote Page 12, Column 2, Sydney, New South Wales. (Newspapers_com)