Cassandra and Rose Mortmain go to a luxury department store in London to get two fur coats their aunt Millicent left them as inheritance. Before getting to the right floor, Rose wanders in the perfume and fashion accessory department. Some Guerlain perfumes are displayed in a glass case: they are Shalimar and Véga.
The selection is historically accurate: the film is set in the 1930s, a decade during which both perfumes had been released. Shalimar was launched in 1925 and Véga in 1926.
When Cassandra (Romola Garai) and Rose Mortmain (Rose Byrne) visit a luxury department store in London, the smell that impresses them the most is a bluebell perfume spritzed by a sales assistant. Rose establishes a connection between that smell and heaven, emphasized by the unusually posh place they’re at.
Later in the film, Cassandra and Stephen Colley (Henry Cavill) have the same conversation; it’s Cassandra who utters the “I can smell heaven” previously said by her sister. In this case, they’re not referring to the perfume, but to real bluebells.
Rose writes a letter to Cassandra, describing the preparations for her upcoming wedding to Simon Cotton. She speaks of her visit to the same luxury store she went to with her sister some time before: the place, she explains, has the same exact smell, “heaven and bluebells”.
Cassandra is over the moon when Rose gives her the bluebell perfume as a birthday present. This is a fictional perfume, but the label and the box remind me of Penhaligon’s Bluebell, an intoxicating perfume created by Michael Pickthall and launched in 1985.
Lady D and Kate Moss were/are among the fans of this floral green fragrance, a triumph of hyacinth, made peculiar by earthy tones of cloves and cinnamon.
Rose Mortmain (Rose Byrne) complains because her family is poor. She’s hungry and sad, she can barely stand living in their castle. Her wishes include a roast-beef dinner and a make-up item (a Tangee lipstick).
Rose is surely referring to Tangee’s “changeable” lipstick, which was first sold in 1922. It was the best-selling lipstick in the United States between the two world wars: it looked orange in the tube, but it turned natural-looking when applied. Much to my surprise, this lipstick is still on the market.