They sing, they sparkle, and they’re not concerned about who’s watching. Sometimes they even surprise you long after you’ve grown accustomed to their might.
Dior Dolce Vita is certainly one of them. It’s the perfect oriental for winter, like crème brûlée with a thin slice of peach on top. It has all the boldness of a true gourmand scent that spices up its vanilla heart with cinnamon and cardamom to create perhaps one of the most festive compositions out there. And yet, it also contains woody notes that are capable of turning it into an entirely different animal by sheer power of context.
Dolce Vita was introduced in 1994 under a name that evokes the hedonism of Federico Fellini’s most famous movie. If you’re looking for the culprit of the retro feeling you might be experiencing, this is it—not a specific note, not the way the fragrance is composed. It’s the combination of branding and unapologetic, full-body strength and longevity, fairly typical of Dior perfumes from the last century but largely missing from today’s mainstream perfumery. This is what you might be recognising as old and maybe even dated when first experiencing Dolce Vita.
The truth, of course, is that it’s actually pretty modern, albeit not in the broad and vague sense of the word. Dolce Vita perfume is closely related to Feminité du Bois, a Shiseido perfume from 1992 which was revived as a niche fragrance in 2009 by Shiseido’s former artistic director Serge Lutens. More specifically, Dolce Vita and Feminité share the same creator, perfurmer Pierre Bourdon, who gave them a similar structure with fruit and spices up top, flowers in the middle and woody vanillic goodness in the base notes. No aldehydes or moss to speak of, nothing bitter, sour or screechy sharp. Nothing to remind you of dusty wardrobes and pale flesh-coloured stockings.
Back when it first came out, Dior Dolce Vita was considered a summery, girly scent, and marketed accordingly. However, tastes have changed since then and the whole world of fragrance has shifted further into Davidoff Cool Waters, which means that any bold vanilla oriental now automatically counts as a “heavy” perfume for an elegant lady at least in her late thirties, if not older. Let’s get the basic semantics right, then: Dolce Vita Eau de Toilette might not be a lightweight, but it also ain’t heavy. On the contrary, it is bouncy and cheerful, it’s the kind of scent that lifts your chin and straightens your back without weighing your shoulders down.
The trick, given the current olfactory landscape with its vlogger-endorsed variations on anything that goes well with a Rebecca Minkoff bag, is to own it. Dolce Vita smells truly young without giving off the air of an unchaperoned teen. It’s neither sticky sweet nor tamed before its time, and that’s becoming increasingly rare. If you can, resist the tiny scared voice that’s telling you to leave it at the back of your cupboard until you find it in you to put on a pair of black pumps and faux fur. This perfume loves floral dresses with purple tights. And the best part? If you have a man in your life, you can actually share it! The woody notes of the Dolce Vita perfume tend to get picked up on significantly more when a guy wears it, turning this seemingly feminine fragrance into a surprisingly unisex composition.