Dorothy Wilding, 1938. © William Georgina Hustler. Via: www.npg.org.uk
Poor little rich girl.
The fact that Joy by Jean Patou (voted “Scent of the Century” by the Fragrance Foundation in 2000) was the favorite perfume of American socialite and heiress Barbara Hutton is nothing less than an irony of history. No other word could be more unfitting for the unhappy life of a woman who’s often been dubbed “Poor Little Rich Girl”. Inheriting the fortune from her father, retail tycoon Frank Winfield Woolworth, on her 21st birthday made her one of the world’s wealthiest women, much envied for her possessions and her life of leisure. In reality she endured a disastrous childhood and seven unhappy marriages and, after being maliciously exploited by many of her husbands died in 1979 with only 35 hundred dollars left of her fortune. Show more
Her lavish débutante ball in 1930 cost $60,000 ($838,000 in 2012) — in middle of the great depression. Public criticism was so severe that she was sent on a tour of Europe to escape the onslaught of the press.
Her third husband Cary Grant was one of the few men in her life who appeared to genuinely care for her. The couple was dubbed “Cash and Cary” although Grant did not need her money nor to benefit from her name — he was a celebrity in his own right.
Joy was created by perfumer Henri Alméras in 1929 for Parisian couturier Jean Patou. It is considered a landmark example of the floral genre. In advertising Patou bragged about Joy being “the costliest perfume in the world” and indeed it was created as a paradox reaction to the 1929 Wall Street. Joy was voted “Scent of the Century” by the public at the Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards in 2000, beating its rival Chanel’s No. 5.
This perfume story was brought to you in collaboration with Elements Showcase New York, 2014.