Orange blossom and tuberose ride in on a gentle wave of aldehydes where they meet fresh green and citrus with a pineapple accent. A praline accord fills the space underneath with a quite neutral and slightly oily hazelnut paste, and this sits opposite a dry lightly spiced tobacco leaf. There is a vague hairspray ambience, as though someone has just done their hair ready for an evening out before spraying on the Vanderbilt.
Being a floriental its a night time scent, more at home in a cosy cuddle than daily routines. Its soft, very feminine, and may be a bit cloying when the drier and spicy sides demur to its pink sweetness.
As the intro unfurls towards the more stable body accords it feels a bit uneven from time to time. Then, when it does become fully established, the profile boils down to a sweet pink light rosy floral with strong orange flower and tuberose accents over a layer of tobacco, set on a dry woody tinged oriental base that lasts and lasts.
Vanderbilt takes a lead from one of the biggest phenomena of seventies perfumery. A construction similar to Charlie's aldehydic head of hyacinth / cyclamen / muguet is used, but in Vanderbilt it's pushed into the background. The melon and plasticky leather heart which dominates Charlie is replaced by a heavier praline note, and Charlie's almost indiscernible spice is boosted up. The same high pitched riff is played by both, but in Vanderbilt its almost hidden by the backing band. It's instructive to compare the Vanderbilt note pyramid here on Parfumo with the pyramid for Charlie on Wikipedia. Given the similarities in head and base notes, you could be forgiven for being surprised by how different they actually smell.
Vanderbilt also differs in its level of sophistication; it's technically way ahead of the rather cheap pragmatism of Charlie, at least in the samples I have where the Charlie may be a reformulation.
Being an oriental, the bottom half of Vanderbilt's profile can be interpreted as a reference to another game changing seventies smash, one that couldn't be ignored. Vanderbilt uses the spices and opoponax oriental base of Opium but tones them right down. What we have is a structure that takes the rather functional blasé notes of Charlie, and an Opium-Lite style of oriental base and employs them in a characteristically Sophia Grojsman type soft rose-centred floral.
Perfume is a sign of the times like any cultural product, and this one reflects the eclectic flux of fashions that that were around in the early eighties. Trainers (sneakers) appeared for the first time, headbands and sports gear, unisex clothes for women; big jumpers, trench coats, and Gloria Vanderbilt's pioneering brand of figure hugging jeans of course. All of this ran in parallel with a continuing seventies legacy of flowing, more traditionally feminine clothes made in natural fibres and muted colours.
Vanderbilt the perfume reflects this fashion milieu with its elements of the conservative oriental form that represent the traditional seventies currents, and it also quotes the new paradigm of Charlie's cool aldehydic floral, co-opted as a symbol of the modern styles emerging in the eighties.
This L'Oreal product is pretty, well crafted and the makers were canny enough to give it the right moves. It was a big hit in its day, but its character is now at odds with current taste. By the standard of today's market (ie. what is sold on the high street,) Vanderbilt is heavy and over mature; its style rather passé. Even so, it remains stubbornly popular. French supermarkets still sell it in box sets at Christmas, and that's proof of lasting appeal if ever there was one.