Lanvin’s Famous Perfumes from the 20th Century, Part 3 – Prétexte

Lanvin Pretexte Extrait © Victor Wong
Lanvin Pretexte Extrait © Victor Wong

If you are not an avid collector of vintage Lanvin perfume extraits that come in rectangle bottles, here is my unofficial guide: Extraits with silver labels and all black stoppers are the oldest (~1940s, fig.1), then comes gold labels and twist caps with gold collars (~1950s-1960s, fig. 2), and occasionally blue labels and black plastic screw caps (~1960s, for small sizes, fig. 3) and finally black labels, gold lettering and twist caps with gold collars (1970s-80s, fig. 4). Assuming the formula and the quality of the materials used have never changed, I suggest getting the ones with black labels (only apply to Arpège, My Sin and Remuer) because they smell freshest.

Lanvin Prétexte

Created by Andre Fraysse, Lanvin Prétexte debut in 1937, had a good running of 25 years, and was discontinued in 1963. I have two versions of Prétexte extraits, one that comes in a 1oz bottle with a silver label (1940s) and little samples with gold labels that indicates they are from the 1960s. The 1oz bottle is much more valuable and hard to get, but the little samples smell much better.

Pretext is a stunning, resinous, powdery, floral chypre with a strong animalic, soft leathery base. The opening has an unmistakable aldehyde note, immediately follows by two distinct scent accords of equal strength: 1) creamy soft white florals (narcissus, iris) and sandalwood and sweet tonka, and 2) a rich chypre base (patchouli, oak moss) with leather, civet, woodnotes. As the scent develops, interestingly part 1) wins and becomes a soft sandalwood floral perfume. I’d dare to say overall Prétexte smells richer and creamier than Arpège, but it doesn’t have the signature abstract floral uniqueness that Arpège possesses.

Author: Victor Wong

A perfume lover - niche, designer, modern, vintage, I love them all. I am also the owner of Zoologist Perfumes, a small Canadian perfume house. Please visit or for more info!

4 thoughts on “Lanvin’s Famous Perfumes from the 20th Century, Part 3 – Prétexte”

  1. Victor–Two days ago, I opened my mother’s box of Lanvin perfume, expecting to find “My Sin” or “Arpege.” (Mother was born in 1912 and managed to dance–and work–in NYC her way through the depression and onward, working into her 80s, dancing into her 90s! What I found, with the classic small bottle closed tightly, was a tiny quantity of brownish liquid that smelled heavenly when applied to my skin–& its fragrance lingers, still. I think I won’t bathe again until the aroma vanishes! But the bottle entitles it “PRELUDE.” No, it’s not the Balenciaga of that name (and the Balenciaga Prelude was issued far too late to have been used by Mother), it’s definitely Lanvin. But I see no reference to it on-line. I do see that Lanvin produced a line of gowns with that name in the late 1930s. Do you know anything about this?? Please let me know. Many thanks!


    1. I have never heard of Prelude by Lavin before. I guess just like Robert Piguet of the 40s, they introduced a lot of perfumes, and many of them did not sell well, and they only kept the popular ones. I guess Prelude didn’t make the cut?


      1. Victor–What I first and erroneously read as Prelude actually is Pretexte, from the earlier years. It is heavenly—and adheres for days! Love your informative analysis of it! Sincerely, Holly Neumann.


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