Playing with Your Perfume

First of all, should you?  There are two schools of thought on this one and I remember a post on Bois de Jasmin from a year or two back, featuring a piece from French Elle on this subject of layering scents.  Some whole lines are predicated on the idea that you should combine things, Jo Malone for instance, but other people are adamantly against the idea, their notion being that a finished perfume is a complex piece of engineering, and should be worn as is, and not tinkered with.

I was in the latter camp for a very long time.  I don’t think it ever occurred to me to change anything about the scents I wore, except to switch them from time to time. I didn’t spray anything on top of anything else, I didn’t combine deodorant this with body crème that.  But of course I knew that some women did, however I figured that they were the sort of ladies who were more sophisticated than I was, and that they  had a better sense of olfactory style than I did, and – let us just cut to the chase here. I assumed they were French.

Then one day about a decade ago I got bored with the perfume I happened to be wearing that summer, which was L’Artisan’s  La Chasse aux Papillons.  It just wasn’t doing anything for me, so I sprayed it on top of …Cabochard. Do you know,  it smelled fabulous.  The combination was much more entertaining than the Papillons by themselves.  I called the duo “Papillon Cabochard” and wore it for the rest of the summer and people liked it and complimented me, which wasn’t happening before because alone on my skin Papillons smelled like un-sauced over-cooked pasta.

Since then, I confess, I sometimes mess with things.  If I get bored with something I go and look for something else to put it with, to jazz it up, to juice it a little. It’s perfectly easy to do. You just start with the heavy scent and spray the lighter scent on top, the results are mixed sometimes godawful and sometimes unexpectedly delightful, and the easiest way to go about it is to use something heavy like Azuree and spray something citrus on top of it, like Chanel’s Cologne for instance, et voila!

Having already got a penchant for dark heavy or leathery scents, I often will go this route, and I’ve decided to take the advice of Jean Claude Ellena (also mentioned in French Elle) and combine Caron’s Poivre with…he said L’Air du Temps, but I think I’ll go with Bellodgia.

There are limits, of course. I won’t go doing this with Guerlains even though I know, to cite that French Elle article again, that Frenchwomen have been known to combine Aromatics Elixir with Mitsouko, or  Shalimar with Habanita, or even Apres L’Ondee with Violette de Parme.  Other than that, well….

Anyone else care to admit to this particular perfume sin?  And if you do cross perfumes, which ones do you combine?

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4 Responses to Playing with Your Perfume

  1. Meg says:

    I normally don’t layer at all, not out of any overriding beliefs or principles, but because my daily tastes run to very definite, strong, stand-alone fragrances. I can see practicing with very sheer, light, or vague fragrances — in fact, I have a very generic no-name amber perfume oil that I sometimes throw on before applying an overly quiet floral– but that’s about it. Still, that Papillons/Cabochard intersection sounds pretty scenic to me. May have to give that one a look-see….

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Hi Meg, You sound like me in preferring scents with a defined character, and this little trick does tend to give some “backbone” to things which are tentative. I sometimes like the heavy formulas lightened up with florals-obviously. Another suggestion from that same French Elle piece was Aromatics Elixir and Tea Rose but I’m thinking of mixing Private Collection with something green like D’Orsay’s Tilleul to give it exponential green-ness! Looking forward to more of your explorations of vintage finds, they are vicarious perfume highs.

  2. Undina says:

    I do not layer even those perfumes that are supposed to be layered (Jo Malone). I can’t explain why exactly: I like the idea itself. But every time I think about doing that I say to myself: maybe next time.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      You have to proceed with caution. I try out combinations first on cotton squares, so that I haven’t committed to skin application at once. If it works on cotton, it usually works on skin. If I’m still unsure, I try out the blend on a foot, and if that’s a success, it’s good to go.

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