Halston Couture: Le Chypre, C’est Chic

One night, at a disco on the outskirts of ’Frisco, I was cruising with my favourite gang ...

Sound familiar?

It’s the opening line to He’s The Greatest Dancer, the 1979 anthem by Sister Sledge, backed and produced by pioneering disco outfit, Chic. A squelchy-bassed eulogy to a ‘champion of dance whose moves will put you in a trance’, to an unnamed ‘crème de la crème’ of the dance floor, dressed – unforgettably – in Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci.

The Scentimentalist has always regretted being born too late for disco, and has sought determinedly (and successfully) to make up for this ever since. Much of her adolescence (from the mid-to-late 1980s) was spent gyrating beneath glitter balls and frugging to Donna Summer and Sylvester. And, on reflection, little in this scenario has evolved even to this day.

Yet, in spite of relishing the ‘disco sound’ of at least a decade earlier, when it came to wearing perfume The Scentimentalist of the ʾ80s was resolutely of her era: not for her the pull of Charlie, Rive Gauche or Charles of the Ritz. Rather, she – like most of her sheep-like peers – was flirting timorously with Paris, Poison and Ysatis, to be succeeded finally by Coco and Calvin Klein’s Obsession.

Little did she know that, in as late as 1988, two bodacious (and borderline anachronistic) chypres were sashaying through the dry ice and onto the perfume scene: Estee Lauder’s Knowing ­ ­– which, typically, came in with a multinational bang – and Halston’s gloriously louche chypre throwback, Couture, which – on British shores at least – scarcely registered a whimper.

A chance encounter two years ago with a 4ml vial of the latter transported The Scentimentalist, for the first time, to an olfactory Studio 54. This – so much more than Halston’s wildly successful 1975 eponymous scent – appeared to conjure up the glamour and sleek chic of the Halston epoch.

With its amber-tempered patchouli and its languorous mossy base, Couture is the very Ultrasuede of chypres; it is Bianca Jagger, boldly astride a white horse. A scent that drapes the skin then clings ʾtil dawn, it is iconically enrobed in its Elsa Peretti bottle, half funky sterling silver and half round-hipped, frosted glass, and with its infamous angular neck that proved such a headache for its manufacturers.

The irony, of course, is that Couture was created some four years after Halston had been fired from his own company (his already disordered directorship was compounded by drug addiction). Hence, this scent is a strange, but fabulous, pastiche of a cultural moment when the jet-set and Beautiful People swayed in syncopated glitziness and descended into irreversible, hedonistic decline.

Given that this scent has been discontinued for many years now, hardcore fans of chypres should snap Couture up wherever they may find it. Mercifully, it still appears on the occasional discounter's website and is rarely overpriced. Seductive and sophisticated beyond the capacity of most contemporary perfumes, what is certain to The Scentimentalist is that, as with Sister Sledge's 'Greatest Dancer', when in Halston Couture, you’ll never leave the disco alone.

What perfume did you wear to the disco? Share your memories here with The Scentimentalist.


  1. Dear Scentimentalist, this is simply wonderful.

  2. The Scentimentalist18 January 2010 at 01:03

    Oh, Frances .... you weren't supposed to read this until I'd fixed my wonky formatting!

  3. The Scentimentalist18 January 2010 at 02:14

    What scents were YOU rocking in the 1970s, Frances? Did you have a favourite number, for doing 'The Hustle' at your local nitespot?

  4. well, not that I too would have been 3 when Studio 54 (or Filthy Whore as was often called) opened (i could have eclipsed Drew Barrymore who went when she was 10) - here is a list i chanced upon which contains a LOT of people who went there and even more who wish they did. I am unsure how the author came across all this information so treat with caution (interesting and exhaustive list all the same) ->>>


    GBF XXx

  5. Oh Scentimentalist, I was a late developer - I didn't start dancing till I was 20! Around that time, I was wearing cinnamon oil. High strength, though - useful for clearing space around me!

  6. The Scentimentalist18 January 2010 at 04:30

    Thank you, GBF! So Liza Minelli wears Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue and Patou's Joy! Fab taste!

  7. The Scentimentalist18 January 2010 at 04:33

    And - OH! - Bianca Jagger wears Patou's 1000, which is one of The Sentimentalist's favourites EVER!

  8. I was boogying on down throughout the 70s in my green velvet loons and egg yolk coloured smock, later followed by Brutus flares with strawberry applique patches, topped with a fitted angora woolly.

    I appear, however, to have gone scentless for the entire decade - with the possible exception of my Blue Grass phase - to which I have only recently tumbled in my 1975 diary.

    I was given a bottle of Halston in the mid 80s by a BF, but not this one, I don't think.

  9. Hi Flit! If the bottle you had was a bone-white colour, then it was the original 'Halston', which is -- apparently -- one of the best selling perfumes ever! Certainly massive in the '70s and '80s. It's also a chypre, but woody. The Halston line was bought out a couple of years ago by Elizabeth Arden, and in a bid to make it relevant and marketable again, they've reformulated Halston Woman and Man, much to long-time wearers' distress. I have been told that the recent version is a fairly naff floral, though I must confess I have not personally smelt it.

    Brutus jeans, by the way!!!

  10. If you wish I can dig up some info on Halstons perfume and accompanying empire (and the Max Factor connection) if you so desire - there is a book by S. Gaines called 'Simply Halston', which although quite salacious at times, goes into great detail about his perfume business as well as his personal and professional relationships with Elsa Peretti.

    here is a link to the book delivered to your door for US$9.50 post included (burn the glossy book cover - its awful - and the author looks like Claude Montana before he aged!)


    GBF XXx

  11. The Scentimentalist20 January 2010 at 03:49

    Hey, cool, GBF! Thanks! Very, very keen to read, and your recent Marchesa Casati suggestion was spot-on. :-)

  12. Disco is all well and good but in the 60s we were getting down to Tamla and Soul and wearing Antilope by Weil - sourced for me at Christmas by dearest daughter Scentimentalist. "How sweet it is...