Portia Loves: Opium by YSL

Hi there crew!

Opium by YSL! It was a game changer. This was way back in 1977, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit Oz stores till later. It was only the lucky few international travellers or women whose husbands travelled for business that got their mits on a bottle. It caused a sensation. The name alone was scandalous and the strength! It could dry clean your curtains if you wore a couple of spritzes too much. I remember my Mum thinking it was a ridiculous concept, and she didn’t like the smell at all. Yes, I come from a long line of snarky, judgemental bitches. It’s hereditary, and we are kinda proud of it.

I, on the other hand, thought Opium perfectly marvellous. I’m about 10 years old by now and had very definite opinions of my own about everything. Already the world was seen through the black and white lenses of divine and vile, there was no meh. Even then I would make pronouncements instead of having a conversation, and once my mind was made up, it took a truckload of evidence to the contrary for me to even think about changing it. These were trying times for all around me, and me. My poor born and raised in God-fearing country-Australia parents were manifestly unprepared for such a child. It was like two sheaves of wheat had found themselves parents to a very camp, ridiculously beautiful, passionfruit vine. Let’s not get started on the wilfulness either shall we.

Anyway, Opium. So, fast forward a few years, and it’s the late 1990s. I’m finally introduced to my BFF Kath’s Mum. She ONLY wears Opium by YSL. We are not talking a shrinking violet in its usage either. This is an above 100ml per year wearer of Opium. At that stage, it was still in the pared down variation of the original spray bottle and smelled like a hairspray version of itself. Still recognisable after a while but cheaper smelling and shorter lasting. Then it all changed – the bottle, the scent, everything. Dad bought Mum a couple of bottles that she wore but didn’t really love.

Not sure exactly what year I decided to keep her in the original, but it was 10 or more years. Every time I’d see a vintage bottle at a fairly reasonable price (and that really ain’t cheap anymore), I’d grab it. I also grabbed all the summer flankers, extraits, men’s etc. I’m nothing if not dogged and obsessive.

Meanwhile Mum’s health started to deteriorate, and she slowly went from being all gussied up and out and about every day to an invalid. Still, she would spritz herself wet with Opium each and every day. The whole house smelled of it as you walked through the front door. Wonderful.

Anyway, two years ago Mum went on to the next grand adventure. We sprayed the chapel, her casket, the flowers and the house with so much Opium it was like a fog. It was a seriously wonderful service, and I was asked to do the eulogy.

Kath took what Mum had on her bureau to wear as memory scent.

I have had the same couple of bottles out on display for wear for ages (Opium Posie de Chine and Opium Secret de Parfum). Due to the C19 Lockdown though I’ve been going through my perfumes and assessing their merits. Especially my multiples. The vintage YSL box got a going over a couple of weeks ago. I was more than slightly surprised at how much Opium has been amassed. So, I decided to sell some off. Four bottles have gone on to fresher pastures, gave one bottle to Kath as an extra backup and a pair still in the sale list. I took 20% off what I paid for them, and they’d only been spritzed to authenticate, but they were still no bargain. Quite a few bottles got binned through the purchasing process because there is a lot of fake shit floating around.

So here is my pared down collection at this moment. Yes, I know it’s still a shitload of vintage Opium. Yes, I know I’ll never use it all up. Yes, I know hoarding is an illness. No, I’m not bothered by your judgement, actually I’m so used to being judged, it feels normal and right.

Ta Daaaaaa! Here lies my shame for all to see. Isn’t it marvellous? I will also admit to doubles of Opium Secret de Parfum, Opium Posie de Chine and an extra EdT that was a chemist tester that had lost its spritzer and cap.


Back: all BNIC: Opium Eau d’Ete, Opium Pour Homme Eau d’Orient, Opium Orchidee de Chine
Middle: Opium EdT, Opium Secret de Parfum, Opium Posie de Chine, Opium EdT, Opium Fleur de Shanghai
Front: Opium Sparkling EdT, Opium parfum, Opium EdT

I am wearing Opium Fleur de Shanghai at the time of writing. All the glamour of Opium in a summer weight and very slightly sweeter.


OK, so now it’s your turn to share a vintage story or a memory in the comments please.
Portia xx


23 thoughts on “Portia Loves: Opium by YSL

  1. Wow. That collection is quite a feat!
    The only vintage perfume that I ended up chasing fanatically much later is Gucci Nobile. When I was a teenager, I was randomly given a bottle, and I spritzed with abandon. Its bright freshness made me feel happy and confident like I was on top of the world. After the bottle finished, I didn’t think much about it and moved on to other random perfumes. It was only in the last couple of years that I started wondering if I could recapture that feeling of elation from a perfume, and looked for it, only to be shocked by the price tags (~$400 a bottle). Eventually I managed to score a mini at a reasonable price. Sad to say, it didn’t have the original effect… it feels flattened now, and smells like an old aftershave. Oh well—aren’t we lucky there are so many other perfumes out there to love?!
    P.S. Opium Sparkling… what’s that like? I’ve never heard of a “sparkling” flanker of anything. Now wondering why not?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Nose Prose,
      Yeah, it’s a bummer when our tastes move forward and looking back isn’t quite so lavish as we remember. I liked Gucci Nobile too, it was very nice.
      HA! Sparkling has sparkles in the juice. They don’t really show on the skin though.
      Portia xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When Opium was launched I bought a ton of it. I had a red leather biker jacket and was continually drowned in the stuff. And when I could smoke opium and wear it at the same time ——- but that’s a Strange Tale for the future. I have not worn it since about 1979/80. I think it is very of its era and has not aged well. But I want some so badly now.
    This is one of your best posts ever Portia. Brilliant.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Just spray me green and rename me Jealous A.F. Fantastic collection of one of my all time loves. I discovered Opium in the mid to late 80s and it has been a companion ever since. I really shouldn’t be so envious though as I have three at the moment in different strengths, and all vintage, not the current pretender to the throne. Kath’s mum and her whole house must have smelled amazing. A thought struck me that, apart from missing her physical presence, you’d also miss that unmistakable smell.


  4. I just realized that I don’t remember how Opium smells. I know that I smelled it at some point and didn’t like back then, but my tastes changed so much since, so I have no idea whether I’d like it now or not.

    Great collection and absolutely wonderful story: thank you for sharing it. After reading it I regret not knowing this perfume better.


    • Hi there Undina,
      It is something so far out of the range of anything I’d smelled before it. It stands out, as well as head and shoulders above, most of the offerings that have fallen by the wayside over time. I think you should get your sniffer onto it.
      Portia xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My mother’s two fragrances–Opium and Emeraude. I wish I had thought of scenting her casket with Opium, what a grand idea!


  6. Wonderful post Portia and what a fabulous collection. Hearing your stories is always a treat. Your parents hit the jackpot with you even if they didn’t always know it.

    I don’t have the nerve for buying vintage but I love my few old bottles of Vol de Nuit.


    • Thanks Tara,
      Yeah, you have to be ready to buy some shit stuff if vintage takes your fancy. Next time you’re in Sydney you can have a run through my vintage collection again and see if something else shuts.
      Poor old Ma & Pa. If only they could have lived a few more years. Imagine.
      Portia xx


  7. Ah, Opium is evocative for me too, as I found a bottle (early 90s vintage) in my mother’s washbag when collecting her things from the hospital where she died. I had no idea she liked it (I was ‘pre-perfume’ myself at this time). I love your idea of ‘fogging’ the chapel for your mum’s funeral! What a great idea. We will have to get used to doing something similar in venues during the pandemic, I believe.

    I wore Fleur de Shanghai the other day, which I love, and somewhere may have a little decant of Poesie de Chine. A tiny collection by comparison, hehe.


    • Hi Vanessa,
      Is it a sad memory or does it give Opium extra meaning?
      Our funerals are back to 10 people attending currently. Australia looks like it’s have a hefty second wave. Yesterday was the second highest number of reported infections since this all started. Fortunately not in our state but the one next door Victoria.
      Fleur de Shanghai! Beautiful.
      HA! You clearly aren’t as ridiculously obsessive as I am. Lucky you.
      Portia xx


  8. When I was posting on POL for years there was a woman there who loved Opium with all her heart. She would often post that she wanted the chapel, the flowers on the casket, EVERYTHING sprayed with it for her funeral, she liked to imagine the people attending whispering “it’s Opium.. that’s her scent you know”. I always think of this story and now.. I’ve read this story as a real event. How absolutely beautiful.

    I only have a couple bottles of Fleur de Shanghai which I adore, the vanilla is amazing and this one from 2006:


    I just love this LE!

    I used to wear it a lot but in recent years I’ve developed an aversion to carnation. Now I mostly wear Fleur de Shanghai :D

    Liked by 1 person

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