Reviewing Marilyn Monroe’s Favorite: Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5… the stuff of legend!

I’m so glad that I got to share about Chanel No. 5 in a video for you guys! There are so many myths and tales surrounding it, that I couldn’t possibly cover it all in one video, so it’s good that you’re here reading my article. I’ve got the No. 5 details, from the notes, to its creation, to the truth behind that famous Marilyn Monroe quote, so read on!

  • Notes
  • Bottle Design
  • Creation
  • Suggestions for Wear
  • History with Marilyn Monroe

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Chanel No. 5 is one of the most legendary and highly sold fragrances in the world. In part because of its birth in 1921, in part because of it’s stellar blend of ingredients, and in part because of Marilyn Monroe.  So what’s in it?

Top Notes: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Neroli

Middle Notes: Jasmine, May Rose, Ylang Ylang, Iris, Lily of the Valley

Base Notes: Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Amber, Patchouli, Musk, Vanilla, Civet, Ambergris

Yes, there are a LOT of notes in this fragrance! They all combine on each individuals skin to create a unique blend – one note isn’t really pulled out of this. To me it smells very luxurious, clean, & warm. It smells like someone you love just took a bath and then went outside on a cold night, and then came back inside and you gave them a hug. It may seem odd but when you smell it, you might understand!

The Creation

Coco Chanel commissioned Perfumer Ernest Beaux to create the fragrance. She kept requesting that he add more jasmine, more than seemed to make sense. But the 5th sample (according to legend) was the one with just the right amount of jasmine that it blended perfectly with the other essences. She chose to name it N0. 5 because it was the 5th sample and because 5, in numerology, is a lucky number.

In 1921, the artist Sem created the illustration below to advertise the fragrance for the first time.


The Bottle Design

Although now seen as an international sign of luxury, the No. 5 bottle & name were quite minimalistic. Fragrance bottles prior to this were very ornate, as were the names.

Antique perfume bottles, pre-1900s

The Chanel No. 5 bottle has hardly changed from its chic, minimalist origins.

The bottle design, name and scent all made No. 5 seem worlds more modern than the popular fragrances of the time.

Style Suggestions –

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself appeared in an ad for the fragrance in 1937.

Black – of course , Coco Chanel’s favorite color, goes perfectly with this. Black tuxedo, Little Black Dress, black ballgown, or a black t shirt. While it goes perfectly with an elegant evening outfit it’s really nice to wear this with a simple but clean t-shirt and jeans, I think. It feels like adding a string of pearls to your outfit.

Age suggestions –

It is considered a very “ladylike” fragrance. I wouldn’t let age stop you if you are younger, but I think this really starts to make sense on someone who is out of teenage/very early twenties. If you are younger and would like to test it out, I think it could be nice sprayed in the bath.

Marilyn Monroe & The Legend

In a 1953 interview for Life Magazine, when Marilyn was asked the question, “what do you wear to bed”, she replied one of the following:

“What do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5 of course!”

“Just a smile and a few drops of Chanel No. 5”

“A few drops of Chanel No. 5”

(While the cover to that Life Magazine is world famous, finding the actual article has proven more difficult. If I find the exact quote I will update)

This coy quote went 1952’s version of viral, and helped to make the already well selling fragrance even more cemented in the public’s mind as the epitome of glamour.

Years later, in 1961, Marilyn mentioned this quote in an interview, and discussed it in her own words (you can hear them in my video above!) She said:

“You know, they ask me questions. Just an example: “What do you wear to bed? A pajama top? The bottoms of the pajamas? A nightgown?” So I said, ‘CHANEL N°5,’ because it’s the truth… And yet, I don’t want to say ‘nude.’ But it’s the truth!”

In these unpublished shots for Modern Screen magazine in 1953, you can see the classic bottle of No. 5 on Marilyn’s bedside table:

Note that while Chanel is widely famous as Marilyn’s favorite perfume, there are a few more which are known to wear, although slightly less famously. I’m very interested to actually get my hands on those that still exist & share more with you about these as well. Let me know if that’s something you’re interested in!

You can also check out Chanel’s video about the legend, here:

I love that so many years after her life I can smell something so close to Marilyn’s own favorite perfume! If you’d like to try Chanel No. 5 for yourself, visit:

If you liked this, definitely check out the footage I got of her gorgeous, $5m dress at Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!