Vanities: David Bowie’s Dressing Table (and Perfume)

Photograph by Mick Rock, 1973

I’ve been immersed in all things Bowie lately, and I’m staring at these photos by Mick Rock for the hundredth time and feeling as frustrated as I did when I first saw them.

Here’s a recent quote about Bowie from Mick Rock:

“I have loads of pictures of him backstage getting himself ready, in ridiculous extravagant costumes, having a drink in a plastic cup,” Mr. Rock said. After Bowie traveled to Japan and met Kabuki performers, “his makeup got even more exotic. This Japanese makeup was like little pots, there was a lot of little powders involved, all carefully laid out, ready to go,” before a show, “along with the cigarette packs, and maybe a banana or two.”  (The New York Times, March 5, 2018) …

Photograph by Mick Rock, 1973

An article about Bowie’s “Makeup Do’s And Don’ts,” published in Music Scene in 1973, confirms the makeup bit:

“[M]ostly all of his makeup comes from a little shop in Rome, Italy, that imports fantastic colored powders and creams from India.”

That is fascinating, but I’m focused on another detail.

There on the dressing table, alongside the cans of Elnett and Streaks ‘N Tips, the Libby’s Orange C drink and the Champagne, the dirty ashtrays and the stack of Kansai Yamamoto bangles, there’s a single bottle of perfume.

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I wish I could nudge aside that obstructive pot of red pigment in order to read the bottle’s label. The fragrance must be a Christian Dior Eau de Toilette or Eau de Cologne, judging by its black-and-white houndstooth label and cap and its little black bow…but which?

Vintage advertisements show (and super-collectors will already know) that Christian Dior offered several different scents in this packaging: Miss Dior, Diorama, Diorissimo, and Diorling. All four were marketed as women’s fragrances.

It’s so frustrating to come this close and still not know: what perfume was David Bowie wearing when he performed as Ziggy Stardust??

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via eBay

I’m ruling out Diorissimo, a lily-of-the-valley soliflore, because it feels too delicate and purely ladylike for the “nazz” that was Ziggy.

As for the others…phew. I don’t know. I’m sort of hoping it was Diorling (created for Dior by Paul Vacher, released in 1963), with its edgier blend of leather and flowers.

If I ever find a photo that shows the bottle from another angle, or come across any published reference to Bowie’s scent of choice, I’ll be sure to share an update!

Note: Check out Mick Rock’s book The Rise of David Bowie, 1972-73 for many, many more Bowie images from this era. 



  1. I saw the Mick Rock exhibit at Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle and had the same reaction. I wanted to be able to see the perfume name! But I’m totally fine to imagine it was Diorling.


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