A Proper Perfume

ChildThe subject came to mind after I had been writing a post on mothers, daughters, and perfume.  If you didn’t care for the perfume you smelled on your mother, what would you have chosen instead?  Mine wore Tabu, which I thought most inappropriate for a mother, but what would I have recommended to my mother, if she had been able to hear my advice at the age of thirty or so?

This is a delicate subject.  Everyone who wears perfume wants to smell attractive, or at the very least not off putting to other people, but is perfume like clothing?  Do we give off signals to others by virtue of the perfumes we wear?  Do perfumes have semiotic sub-texts, the way that just about everything else in our lives seems to now, or are they purely a matter of marketing and the accidents of skin chemistry?

Tentatively, I would say that they do have some meaning.  The individuals who saturate themselves in musk are not pointing out to the world the arm’s length at which they hold the animal world.  Heck, if they’re wearing Muscs Khublai Khan or Le Labo’s Patchouli 24, they are pointing out their own beastliness, and its possible attractions.

But Mothers, being Mothers, need to reserve this sort of thing for date night, if they use it at all.  What are the best scents for mothers?


Well, you knew that didn’t you?  If she’s a working mom from an urban center maybe a floral aldehyde is best.  It says, intelligent, tasteful, probably hard working, just as the floral says, feminine and nurturing.  The smarter and more efficient the Mom the more I would nominate those Aldehydic florals.

Chypres are the preserve of the Tiger Mother. You know the one I mean. This Mother will stand there and stare at you while you bring out your dead; or alternatively your Chemistry grade. She’ll glare and ask you why the heck you can’t pull your socks up, mister?  She’s a sure thing for scents like Ineke’s Gilded Lily. She’s good in Aromatics Elixir, or Azuree too.  She’s a lady who watches Ps and Qs and keeps them (and you) in your respective places.

Alas, orientals are suspect for mothers, as indeed I suspected long ago when I worried about my mother’s choice of Tabu. A mother who wears Opium is affirming that she is the center of her own universe and that the universe in question is a pre-Copernican one, everything revolves around her.  Efficiency and strictness seem preferable to whim induced anarchy.  Even the suggestion of this is best avoided. You may wear Obsession and be the most responsible Mom on the block, but would you wear it to court during a Custody Hearing? No, of course not.  There you are, the proper perfume should pass muster even in a courtroom.

This leaves us with the only other acceptable alternative for Moms, the Citrus scent, because fruity florals are just out having fun, and this is not the Mom’s mission in life, so we will pass over them.  Citruses best for the busy Mom who lives a life of vehicular hyperactivity, and tries to talk her kids into a similarly participative lifestyle. Light Blue  and O de Lancome are best for this type.

But then I take a step back and look at me, the wearer of heaven only knows what next week so long as it fits in with my blogging schedule.  Animalics, Orientals, Gourmands, Tobacco scents whirl past in a nonsensical rotation.  My child ought to be a mess, but she seems okay for now.

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10 thoughts on “A Proper Perfume

  1. Interesting topic. I’ve thought for ages that Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, despite being marketed as a wedding perfume, is the quintessential perfume to be gifted to mothers. It’s feminine and safe, and not too sexy and not at all dirty or animalic. No son or daughter, or father or brother for that matter, wants to think of the woman as being too sexy (that is reserved for the husband!) but of course they are happy to signal that they think she is ‘beautiful’. Beautiful’s mossy facets give it an air of maturity and wisdom but without the threatening intelligence that a chypre might imply. Beautiful therefore captures the ideals that many men have of their female relatives. Lauder is pretty good at this sort of thing – several other perfumes work in this way too – but Beautiful does it best.

    I like Beautiful very much but I have to be in an exuberant and very feminine mood to wear it!

  2. Yes Lauder do have this sort of perfume down cold. In fact just about everything in their line could be worn by mothers- except possibly my old partner in sin, Sensuous Noir! Beautiful is lovely, and the only reason I could ever come up with for not wearing it was the fact that several of my relatives already did.

    Also good picks for Moms are Antonia’s Flowers ( really a classic floral which I hope gets adopted by more people because it’s like No 5; immortal, wearable anywhere, basically perfect) and anything with osmanthus in it, 1000 or Parfum d’Empire’s Osmanthus Interdite.

    • Those are good tips. I see 1000 in the shops quite a lot at the moment and I must give it another try. A few years ago I was lucky to even see Joy. My impression is that the new owners of the Patou license have increased the distribution, which is great.

  3. Mothers and perfume… as I’ve mentioned before, my own mother seems to own the clean/soapy/aldehydic floral: No. 5, Anais Anais, Coty L’Effleur (long discontinued now, but I well remember her telling me, “I like it because it smells like nice soap”), and Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue. Beautiful would probably work for her if the sillage were less.

    I’m quite glad you didn’t suggest mothers wear fragrances that smell like cookies.

    My own children seem to associate me with the following: (vintage) Emeraude, Mary Greenwell Plum, Le Temps d’une Fete, and Iris Poudre. They may be the ones I wear most often, true, but there we have a soft oriental, a modern floral chypre, a green floral and an aldehydic floral. All rather mommishy in category, I think.

    • Well those are lovely smells to be associated with!

      I don’t dare ask what my folks think I smell like these days-a hodge podge probably, mostly a Caron stew.

      Oh and btw smelled Krigler’s Mediterranean Peach the other day, a very true to life sweet peach with a lovely musky floral dry down, genuinely pretty for summer. The Hub thought it reminded him of peaches literally-but how bad can that be?

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