Gone, But Not Forgotten Series Part 8: Hot in Pink – Shocking by Schiaparelli

Vintage Shocking Ad
Shocking de Schiaparelli

The Gone, But Not Forgotten series focuses the spotlight on those fragrances that, despite being absolutely wonderful, have suffered at the hands of the unfortunate inevitability, and my biggest bug-bear of the industry that is discontinuation. They may be gone, but this series aims to ensure that these gems certainly aren’t forgotten.

When I first had the idea for the series there was one perfume in the back of my mind that would be the ultimate addition, the holy grail of rare, discontinued perfumes that would be nigh on impossible to obtain. That perfume was Shocking by Schiaparelli. Luckily for me I have been able to get my greedy little hands on a 7.5ml bottle of pre-1970s Shocking Parfum, and I am pleased to say that I am as wowed by it as I thought I would be.

Shocking was created by Jean Carles in 1937 and was named after the shade of hot pink that Elsa Schiaparelli created for her collections. Schiaparelli was known for actively embracing the surrealist movement (her famous shoe hat is all the proof you need) and a lot of her creations took inspiration from Dadaism so it stands to reason that her most famous fragrance is bold, beautiful and unconventional.

Shocking Flacon
For Shocking’s flacon Schiaparelli chose a tailor’s dummy. The flowers on top represent the fumes of the perfume rising from the bottle

The Notes

Top: Bergamot, Tarragon, Raspberry and Aldehydes
Heart: Honey, Narcissus, Rose Oriental and Carnation
Base: Civet, Patchouli, Vetiver and Vanilla [1]

How Does it Smell?

Shocking is a floral chypre unlike no other. It opens with sweet fruit and herbs tickled by the sparkle of aldehydes. There’s nothing quite like the aldehydic-shimmer of vintage perfumes and Shocking definitely has it, albeit in a less effervescent manner than Chanel’s classics, but then again Shocking tries to set itself apart from the pack and isn’t like other perfumes from the houses of French couturiers.

My Vintage Shocking Mini
My vintage Shocking mini

Hiding beneath the sparkle of the beginning is a rich heart of flowers, the star of which is a rose, accented by jasmine, carnation and narcissus. All of which are glorious and beautiful.

The florals in the heart are big and ballsy, with a rich honeyed quality as if they have stewed in their own pollen for a considerable amount of time.

The flowers are heady but they are never overbearing nor are they particularly vampish. Shocking’s beauty lies in the fact that it is a relatively well-behaved fragrance that feels as if it is about to let loose and cause havoc at any given moment. It is the excitement of the unexpected and the promise of night time escapades to come that make it so compelling. Shocking is on the brink of being a complete and utter floozy, it’s just waiting for an excuse to do so.

In his book “The Essence of Perfume” Roja Dove says “To say Shocking is sensual would be an understatement – it is sexual” [2] and I wholeheartedly agree and one thing I have learned about Shocking is that the base is truly where the magic lies. There is something about the blend of civet, vanilla and patchouli that smells undeniably raunchy. It is incredibly sexy and most definitely feminine, the civet, like the florals which precede it, is syrupy and honeyed in the same way that hot, slightly unclean skin is. The raunch in Shocking isn’t animalic, it is human.

Once Shocking has taken you on a wild ride around the 1930s streets of Paris, she’ll tuck you in to bed, wrapped in her cosy vanilla and patchouli, dripping in the heat of the night. You may not want the night to be over but you can sleep soundly knowing that sweet dreams are guaranteed.

What really shocked me about Shocking wasn’t its “raunch” nor its strength, they were pleasant surprises not shocks. No, what really shocked me was how I instantly fell in love with it. Most fragrances take time to appreciate and love, not Shocking. Shocking is so beautiful, so cunning and so compelling that you cannot help but fall held over heels in love. But its a sad kind of love, an ephemeral love that cannot last, a love that brings with it the sorrowful realisation that they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Why Was it Discontinued?

Shocking’s latest incarnation was created in about 1997 and I believe it was discontinued a few years after. The good news is that there is talk of raising the House of Schiaparelli from the dead, which may mean that we might see a Shocking comeback, in what form it will be is still unsure.


Shocking, in various sizes, concentrations and ages, can be found at flea markets and online, but it is getting harder to find. You may need to really search for it, but it’s worth it! I purchased my mini from Miniature Perfume Shoppe*.


Image 1 downrightred.com. Image 2 liveauctioneers.com. Image 3 my own. [1] osmoz.com. [2] R.Dove. The Essence of Perfume. P 119. Black Dog Publishing, London. * Not affiliated.