Sweet Talcum Powder

One of my favorite passages from Harper Lee’s book “To Kill a Mockingbird” is:


“Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”

Many ways of life have changed since I was a girl, and true to my aging, I don’t think hardly any of them are for the better. And being from the south, one of the things I miss on a daily basis is floral scented talcum powder. When I was a girl, a lovely scented powder could be bought at the dime store.


Powder was available in a variety of fragrances, even at Dime stores. Brands such as Cashmere Bouquet and Evening in Paris were sold for very little money, therefore ladies in any income bracket could afford it.

If you had an Avon Lady, she would bring it to your door. It came in boxes,

Or tins.

One of my favorites as a girl was Here’s My Heart.

If you needed a new powder box and puff, that was available, too.  There was a wide variety, everything from less than a dollar, to something very nice from a department store.

I miss powder.  Yes, I know.  I’ve read the stories about how it can cause ovarian cancer. Flirting with danger is never advisable, but it mystifies me how people can excuse driving after drinking – immediate death – and cringe and swoon over bath powder. Sifted cornstarch can make a passable substitute if one wants to avoid the danger.

We live out in a rural area. Wal-Mart just does not carry enough to choose from. They have Shower to Shower, generic Shower to Shower, baby powder and some in plastic containers with a thin puff. The drug stores don’t offer anything better. The discount perfume stores at the mall in the city carry some nice ones for about $12.00, but I just don’t want to spend $12.00 a month on powder.


The absolutely loveliest I’ve ever had was Pretty by Elizabeth Arden. My husband’s employer gave out Red Door gift cards for the spouses that was one of the things I bought. Apparently, Pretty is now running over $35.00, so I’ll just have to wait and hope for another gift card.

Well, here’s what I do: I buy the cheap baby powder from either Wal-Mart or the dollar store, pry off the plastic lid and add essential oil to it. The ones that I usually use are lavender, carnation, and jasmine – about 4 drops each. (Peppermint would be a fun one to use at Christmas time.) I let it sit for a couple of weeks, shaking it up every now and then. And then I pour it into my powder box.

It doesn’t fool me into thinking that I’m using Oscar de la Renta or Pretty, but it’s nicer and more feminine than Shower to Shower. And it costs a whole lot less than $37.50.

Now, if I just knew a good source for a nice fluffy puff….

This post linked to Frugal Friday @ Life as Mom where there are lots and lots of links to frugal postings.

*Update, November 16, 2011: The last time I added essential oils to a basic powder it took a little more than I remember. This is something that needs to be adjusted by each person to suit their own preferences as to more or less fragrance.

Also, Dollar Tree sells a lavender scented body powder made in the U.S.A. Considering that it sells for merely $1.00, it’s surprisingly quite nice.

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6 Comments

Filed under Books, Femininity, Fiction, Making Do, Shopping, Thrift, Using What You Have

6 responses to “Sweet Talcum Powder

  1. Geneva

    Talk about bringing back memories… Loved your blog on “Sweet Talcum Powder” I can almost smell the fragrance my Grandmother used to wear.

  2. Trish

    That is my favorite line from To Kill a Mockingbird, a book full of many wonderful lines!

    • It’s been over 30 years since I read the book, but that line sure stuck in my mind. The summer heat makes me wilt just like those ladies that Miss Lee described. I’ll think I’ll read it again soon. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  3. Carla — this post brought back the memory of how wonderful my mother smelled.

    When I was a teenager, for some reason (maybe to soothe my hormone incited mood swings) Mama started putting lavender scented talcum powder on my sheets whenever she changed them. I can still remember how wonderful it was to crawl under sheets that smelled of a combination of sunshine and lavender.

    • That wonderful fragrance of your mother – if I were betting I would say it was a delicate scent and not an overpowering, expensive, perfume one.

      And what a nice thing about the lavender scented bedding. I’ve read about that, but never tried it, but I’ll try it now. Target used to sell a house brand of lavender scented baby powder, but they no longer do. It was really nice. I don’t buy Johnson & Johnson products so that one is out. Maybe I’ll look at a Walgreen or CVS pharmacy and see if they carry a private label. Avon still has reasonable prices on powder, but I really would like the floral scents (like Lily of the Valley, or Jasmine or Honeysuckle) rather than some from their fragrance line.

      Wouldn’t some Desert Flower be nice right about now?

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