Ballgowns or Jeans?

“Some of the most beautiful perfumes are like a ball gown, but sometimes you just want to wear a comfortable pair of jeans.”

Christopher Brosius

Dandelion Clocks by Pippalou

Dandelion Clocks by Pippalou

At this time of year, the ball gown analogy, though apt, breaks down to “the most comfortable pair of jeans”. Today was too lax and lazy for anything formal at all. I had been planning to wear my Guerlain LE Plus Que Jamais, but that was simply too grand. I had to roll around in Krigler’s Juicy Jasmine instead, the equivalent of a pop tune, rather than wear the complicated Miles Davis jazz piece that Plus Que Jamais is, or to continue the original comparison, shrug on a slightly slubby maxi, instead of a cocktail dress.

Does summer call for this sort of fragrance? I think so. In fact I can’t make myself wear anything that requires complication or thought. I just want comfort.

To this end I’ve compiled my brief list of End of Summer Perfumes, suitable for hammocks, barbecues, and porches. Their common denominator is the low number of easiness.  These are perfumes that almost anyone can wear and enjoy whether a newbie, a collector, or a perfumista with a perfume population explosion. 

1)      Juicy Jasmine, Krigler: I keep rooting for this apricoty-jasmine mix because it really is a wonderful floral and although expensive, wears smoothly for hours too. As easy to love as your favorite cut offs.

2)  Quelques Fleurs, Houbigant: One of the simplest of the old classics to wear and enjoy.  A true floral bouquet of roses and jasmine with a faint aldehydic top containing a smidgen of tarragon, QF has been called “a dumb blonde of a fragrance” by Luca Turin, but he may not have known that this blonde was the inspiration for N0 5, as Ernest Beaux once admitted.  Either way, this is softer, more floral, and gentler than N05 and a no brainer to pull off.  Why more people don’t try I don’t know, especially as QF can be found very inexpensively as edp.

3)      Farnesiana, Caron: Every year I end up wearing Farnesiana after July 30th, and although the mimosa bouquet is supposed to remind you of Spring, to me the yellow flowers and softly ambery haze of the perfume are August in a flacon.  The current version smells fine to me, but buy extract.

4)      Anne Pliska, Anne Pliska: This old variation on Obsession is still one of the best ambers for summer with a peculiar but refreshing root beer note chilling the whole concoction. If you love vanilla, and if love staying on budget, Anne is for you, and although you can buy Anne in parfum the edp is better.

5)      Go Ask Alice, Parfums de Voyage: One of the best patchoulis I’ve ever smelled, fairly priced,  easy to wear and  endearing if you do with its earthy notes crumbling around your toes like soil in a well tended vegetable patch. Pure joy.

A bee at work

A bee at work

6)      Honeyblossom, Aftelier: Hard to imagine anyone disliking this trip through a meadow full of clover and sunshine. An undiluted floral, with a honeyed dry-down, an all natural perfume that’s completely easy to pull off.  The smell of a bumblebee’s flight across a field.

7)      Conafetto, Hilde Soliani: Conafetto is quite simply Apres L’Ondee with all the difficult bits excised. You would think that would leave the perfume spineless and boring. Not at all, this is another fragrance that is very hard to say no to.

8)    Cologne, Chanel: Yeah, I know it’s cologne and I know you’ve heard this before, but this one actually is foolproof, the cologne even perfume haters can love.

9)      Calyx, Clinique (re-issue): An astute reader mentioned this one the other day, and she’s right. Calyx, one of the first and best fruity florals with so many fruit notes in the formula that it has Del Monte fruit salad beat, is  hard to dislike and difficult not to have a good time wearing. I have to recommend this one. May it

Clinique's Calyx

Clinique’s Calyx

find a new generation of wearers at its reasonable price point.

10)  Tokyo, Les Parfums de Voyage, Guerlain: This is another one that I’m a fan of because it’s really a very unusual Guerlain, and unusually easy to wear for a Guerlain. Tokyo’s green, not a gourmand, also  fresh, with a delightful green tea note better than my canister of The Mariage’s The Sur Le Nile! If you can find the old round eau de toilette bottles, Tokyo also has a beautiful Guerlain vanilla ending which is worth the six hour wait.

Do you have a surefire perfume that has no hard edges for the end of summer?

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9 thoughts on “Ballgowns or Jeans?

  1. As we were walking briskly this evening (around 8 p.m.) wearing jackets and trying to stay warm, my vSO and I just were talking about how typical that weather was for our August. The last three or four summers were like that so I didn’t really need “comfortable pair of jeans” perfumes. Last Sunday I wore Chanel No 5 to a farmers market. It was … interesting.
    If I were to go for a uncomplicated summer perfume, it would be Jo Malone Assam & Grapefruit, Earl Grey & Cucumber and Verbenas of Provence, Ineke Hothouse Flower or Keiko Mecheri Johana.

    • You have that consistent cool weather. I envy it sometimes, since we get heat, humidty, flooded basements every spring-and fall- you get the picture. In short, four exaggerated seasons.

      The idea of No5 at a farmer’s market is engaging, but I do enjoy the notion of Verbenas of Provence, or Assam & Grapefruit as comfortable scents :-)

  2. I’ve heard of Quelques Fleurs of course but never thought to try it until I read your review. You had me at the mention of tarragon! So I’ve just snapped up three carded samples on eBay, total cost about the same as a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

    The pot in which I grew tarragon last year has some green shoots poking up, now that spring is on the way here. If I brush my fingers over the surface of the soil I can just about pick up that magical scent! I’m dreaming of chicken, eggs, fish … scented with tarragon and eaten with a glass of dry white. Heaven!

    • You’re making me hungry Annemarie!

      I hope you like Quelques Fleurs, it seems to me to be one of those perfumes that’s hard to dislike, and QF is less of a character than No5. Also, mostly I’ve seen it classified as a floral, I ‘d love to hear what you think.

    • Chicken salad with grapes, pecans or almonds, and tarragon: magic.

      I have a tiny bottle of Quelques Fleurs parfum and it’s nice but I don’t love it. And I don’t really know why. I *should,* it’s right up my alley. But I don’t. (shrug)

  3. JEANS? In THIS HEAT, woman?

    In any case, I tend to be more comfortable in perfumey florals than a lot of people are, and more comfortable in florals than in almost any other fragrance genre. (I’m more comfortable in them than in cologne, which always feels weird to me. I don’t know.) But even for me, there are summery florals which feel casual and uncomplicated – Moschino Funny!, Hanae Mori Haute Couture (nope. no couture. that sucker is a floral-print sundress), Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete. And it’s not a floral, but it’s the only scent I’ve ever run across that smells like Actual Hay to me: DSH La Fete Nouvelle (drying grass, almond, and Dawn’s usual sweet musky base).

    • What heat? Do you have heat down in Virginia? Did you take ours by any chance? I mean last night the furnace went on-no lie.

      I love the Fete Nouvelle description, this reminds me of Parfum d’Empire Osmanthus Interdite which smells like hay to me, though missing the almond note which sounds scrumptious.

  4. D’you know, despite its high place in my HG stakes, I hardly ever wear PQJ – I know what you mean about it being grand, but I don’t think I have whole phases of wanting to wear either ballgown or jeans scents. I can easily toggle between the two from day to day, even in the same kind of weather. Though we happen to have all sorts at the moment.

    • Is it scent convention? Don’t know about you, but I’ll wear an oddball scent and feel fine with it ( Brosius’ Gingerbread) and then find something from By Killian or Guerlain like PQJ just too much work. Don’t know why, but the latter seem less like perfumes than smells, and the former are perfumes, and require pulling yourself together- as it were.

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