White Shoulders – a name to get right up the nose of the Civil Rights Movement if ever there was one – was created in 1943 by Evyan. It has head notes of aldehydes, white flowers (gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, lilac, lily and orris) and a drydown that contains amber, benzoin, musk, civet and oak moss.
Just one look at those ingredients and you know it spells trouble. Civet is no longer extracted from civet cats, for ethical reasons, though the smell can be substituted by various civitones, created in the lab. More troublesome now is the addition of oakmoss, which is being strictly restricted by the authorities as an allergen. Less oakmoss means less depth and the modern fragrance is apparently something a shadow of its former self.
However, it may still be to your taste because the vintage version (my bottle of EDP dates to the 60s or earlier) is a massive powerhouse of a fragrance that many might not like. Far from the dainty white floral you might imagine from the name, this is a full-on indolic (skanky) white floral that punches you in the face, while the musk and civet make it animalic and sexy. With that toned down in the modern version, it’s probably worth a look if your taste runs to lilacy, clean and powdery florals.
The modern version is good for office wear, weddings and other non-sexy occasions, and suitable for teenagers. The vintage, more womanly fragrance is unsuitable for things like funerals and trips to the gynecologist, unless you want to get more than you bargained for!
White Shoulders is widely available online and from general drugstores. Vintage versions are best picked up on Ebay or Etsy.