Should Your Perfume Reflect Your Life?

Should Your perfume reflect you?

Should Your perfume reflect you?

There’s some very good advice out there for anyone who wears clothes (most of us, most of the time) and it’s that we should not buy anything that doesn’t fit in with our activities.  This means what it sounds like.  If you live in jeans and that’s what your life requires, or you are seldom out of Athleisure then don’t go buying the  vintage brocade ballgown from Oscar de la Renta circa 1985. Though who wouldn’t want to rock a train in  the coffee aisle of Shoprite?

Perfume though is different, or let’s say it ought to be.  You can’t see a mismatch between someone’s dreams and someone’s aspirations, you can only smell them.  This is probably what Roja Dove means when he says that “perfume can lie for you”, and it may be what is meant by those perfumers who claim a woman should have a perfume for “courage”. 

On the other hand is the school of thought that says a perfume should reflect who we are and what we like to do.  “I believe a fragrance should make you feel more yourself” says Massimo Ferragamo and somewhat unwillingly over time I agree with him.

Why unwillingly?  Well, you know perfume is fun.  You should be able to do what ever you like whenever you like and that should be all there is to it.  However all these many years later what I have discovered is that you will never wear a perfume that doesn’t suit you for long.  Believe me I’ve tried.

Or  reflect an idealized you?

Or reflect an idealized you?

There’s a range of course.  Some people can wear florals and orientals. ( It often shakes down that way).  Others wear chypres and citrus scents ( not just men), still others like green scents and animalics (interesting characters these) and then there are people like me  who have to have leather perfume in the line up no matter what (we’re often readers).  Why?

I have not really got a clue but I know that just as we will buy the same pair of leggings fifteen times, we buy the same perfumes.  Either they are the same note (always rose or tomato leaf) or the same brand ( Hermes again?) or else we choose the same perfumer (well I just happen to like Lys Mediterranee and Poison…and evidently Edouard Flechier too ).   Maybe our Id is showing, better check your hem, zipper, button gap- the whole roster of involuntary exposure.  None of which will help in

Or the heck with it-I'll just put on what I always do?

Or the heck with it-I’ll just put on what I always do?

the least,  because when it comes to what we love and re-buy reason is not what’s on display.

Like most people I like to think that I know what I’m doing and that my taste is cultivated and considered and etc.  The truth though is that like everyone else I buy the same perfumes over and over and those are leathers, chypres and probably citrus perfumes usually by Ernest Daltroff or Patricia de Nicolai.  Why do I do this?  There’s no really good answer but I like to think it’s largely because of being… me.

Do you have a set of perfumes you return to over and over again?

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18 thoughts on “Should Your Perfume Reflect Your Life?

  1. Yes, I return to Chanel No 19 constantly, and for many years chypres were my heartland. I’m not sure they are any more because for several years I’ve been trying perfumes outside my normal taste – gourmands, rich orientals – because how very dull it is to only wear what you THINK will suit you. You’ll never know what you are missing out on. I’ll keep doing this, but ultimately I think I agree with you. You won’t wear a fragrance that does not suit you for very long. Chanel’s Coco is a case in point for me. Loved it for a few months, after which I just knew it was wrong. Glad I got to know it though.

    Great post – thanks!

  2. Actually on reflection I think my judgement is even more basic: does this fragrance remind me of food? If so, it may not be for me, especially if it is also rather sweet or very sweet. (I don’t have a sweet tooth with food, so I guess there is a correlation there.) This is not to eliminate all foodie or sweet fragrances, and there are plenty of fragrances – Bandit for instance – that are too bitter for me. But it’s my benchmark.

    I guess the important thing is to know what your boundaries are and how far you can expand them.

    • Interesting comment in the light of Vanessa’s nearly opposite take. My Mother was the same, no food. If it smelled like food she would NOT wear it. This was a serious ban, she would not even wear Arpege.

      I wish the food element in scents would recede a bit. I think Roudnitska was correct in observing that sweet and fruity synthetics can camouflage strong synthetics, the whole structure can read as cheap.

      Gourmands are here to stay and I like my vanilla, but sometimes I think being selective about sugar notes ( example: La Vie Est Belle) would make scents “date” less quickly.

      • Oh crikey, no food notes at all?? That is extreme. The peach I suppose, in Arpege? To me it’s about how food notes are balanced, so I can tolerate Arpege. I recognise the peach but no way would I eat it. Life must be rather difficult for your mother these days, fragrance-wise. Still, she knows what she likes!

  3. I’d say I am most drawn to woody and gourmand orientals, but with lots of sideways excursions to explore other styles from time to time. Ultimately those are most ‘me’ I realise, and would form the core of any desert island restrictions.

    • That vanilla! It’s a seducer. Once you get into vanilla and benzoin and the rest of the oriental crew it’s pretty hard to get back on the straight and narrow path of florals and chypres.

      I guess that’s why the Guerlains have always tried to get us addicted to vanilla. As an additive to perfume I do love it, and look for it now even in old things like L’Aimant and Pour un Homme…

    • There must be- and when it comes to fruity leather chypres there must be Le Parfum de Therese and Femme ( I read that Roudnitska always said Femme was not really a chypre but a leather/fruit/floral) at the very least. That’s a wonderfully specific taste. Not really one of Mitsouko’s many friends and relations.

      I suppose you know the old Worth Dans la Nuit? Sounds like something you’d like.

    • Fruity leather chypre – great sounding concept. Maybe Bottega Veneta? The osmanthus in that to me has a fruity quality, apricot perhaps, to pair with the suede. Hmmm …

      • Maybe Bottega Veneta also. I wonder what else would be a fruity leather chypre? I’m thinking Bois de Paradis the Michel Roudnitska scent from Parfums Delrae?

  4. Perfume for courage? a beautiful idea. I’m not sure how perfume can reflect one’s life, if it’s as kaleidoscopic as so many women’s lives. Such an esoteric link. However, when I smell a richly attired older woman who wafts heavy florals or Expensive fragrance whatever the fragrance may be, it does whisper or rather shout Money and privilege (a lovely idea, too!).

    I once worked as a secretary in a psychologist’s office. One shrink was a lady who wore such heavy orientals her office smelt like incense being burned. It was stomach churning, and I usually like orientals. There were other moral issues with her that probably accounted for my negative reaction, I admit.

    Juicy Couture and Mariah Carey stuff are such bottles of cotton candy and orange citrus. They’re fun, but they get old fast to this nose. You’ve smelled one, you’ve smelled them all.

    In Sept. 2016 issue of InStyle magazine, Juicy Couture is calming the sweet syrupy scent down a little with “I Am Juicy Couture”. That’s if the scent sample in the magazine is true to the bottle. I’m not convinced it’s better than the syrupy original.

    Same magazine Jimmy Choo is advertising “Illicit Flower” as “the new women’s fragrance.” Didn’t he do “Flower Bomb”? I liked it better, a full floral. This new one or its magazine sample at least, was a weaker floral. Seems they’re trying to shift away from the heavy stuff of recent years that reached the youth market, (think heavy, childish, candy sweet with the fruity) but not sure where to go and what to replace it with. They’ll figure it out.

    I think Ms. Allen really has something with the question of why women return over and over again to the same fragrance, or the same family of fragrances, or even the same “House of….” and stay brand loyal or scent loyal. It must be our genetic code that recognizes some complex of odors that link to the survival mechanism. Our life experiences have made us rule out certain fragrances to safeguard our health, and over time that info must create a well worn memory path that says Yes or No or Not Sure to our brain when we smell something. Only the Yes feels safe, so we stay with it. This is just a lotta fluff and surmise on my part, but we are creatures of habit with perfume for some reason. Of course, one’s natural choice in fragrance may have been marred by some bad association with the perfume and forced us onto secondary loves. Which then become first loves out of constant familiarity.

    I think it’s good to buy any perfume you want to, and smell many different offerings both high and low end. The beauty of the reptilian brain that processes scent is that you can bring back the memory of a lost day or season of your life by simply reopening the bottle and spritzing again. The feelings will come. The words will come. Fragrance is a huge aid to memory, so use many of them.

    ps (long comment, but….

    I saw that Ms. Allen’s husband, Bruce, has written a book about Siege of Malta. I was thrilled. I am a Malta enthusiast bigtime, and a lover of Grand Master of the Knights of St. John, the incredible Jean de La Valette who saved Malta at the siege of St. Elmo and other sieges in 1565. My son and I went there.

  5. Very perceptive comment. It’s true that our reptilian brains do give us subliminal signals and sometimes very vivid and impromptu memories. I certainly had one the last time I was in Rome when I smelled the oleanders in bloom, my daughter’s babyhood came back to me all at once.

    I do wonder how people will feel smelling things like Illicit Flower twenty years from now? For one thing many of these all synthetic perfumes may not age well and for another they are as you say so extremely sweet.

    Yes we are Malta fans too as you can see, I loved the St. Elmo episode in the Hub’s book.

    (Bruce Ware Allen here- Malta can get into one, and the siege in question is indeed an exhilarating tale.)

  6. Such an excellent piece. You’ve got me thinking again. What I buy and what gets worn are quite different here sometimes. I love fragrances that are easy wear. Isn’t that the worst thing a perfumista can say? Aren’t we supposed to want to push boundaries and be fragrantly outrageous?
    Well sorry but I like to feel comfortable in my smell.
    From citrus to vanilla, sugared fruit to pepper, oakmoss to civet; I can love them all as long as they feel like they fit.

    As to the Illicit Flower question, I think there will be a whole generation of perfumistas crying for a sugar sweet fruit-chouli like in their youth or that their mothers wore.
    Portia xx

    • Oh Portia sorry I missed this!

      And I know what you mean-I do try to wear outrageous sometimes-but then I revert to Nuit de Noel or Vanille Tonka or something I wear all the time.

      But this makes me wonder do you have a favorite perfumer, contemporary or past?

  7. I think we, people who are into perfumes, are much more adventurous with perfumes we buy/wear than an average consumer. Of course, we still like what we like but we push boundaries much farther.
    I love florals but I venture into almost all other genres and have favorites in each of them.

    • So after all this experimentation do you think there’s a genre you wouldn’t adopt? Like Fougere’s for instance?

      I know what you mean but I always find that there are some areas that are still no trespassing zones. Orientals are a bit hard for me and I only wear woody orientals. It’s hard to talk yourself around personal inclination even if you know something is great. Mitsouko still smells like furniture polish to me 🙂

      • Oh, sure! While I will keep trying perfumes from the genres that do not work for me (and I re-test Mitsouko and Chanel No 5 at least once a year 😉 ), I will not go beyond testing.

        On the other hand, since I’ve never got better with figuring out perfume’s classification without reading it on Fragrantica, and I do not read much about new perfumes until I try them, I usually know if I like the perfume or not before I have a chance to predict if I would like it or not based on the information about it.

        • At least you keep your nose in the driver’s seat on perfume. That’s where I often get it wrong. I read about something first, think it will be great, get disappointed, in that order, instead of just smelling it 🙂

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