We have strong associations with fragrance. Fragrances, whether pleasant or not, tap into a more primal part of our brain, and we may have indelible associations with certain smells.
I’m going to stop here for a disclaimer. I love “fragrance” (perfume, if you will). I understand that some people do not, and may have very adverse physical reactions to it. I get that, and do not advocate drenching oneself in scent, or using fragrance in such a way as to cause physical discomfort to those around us. I avoid using fragrance on airplanes, for example, or in situations where those with sensitivities may have to be in close contact with me. But if not, I use fragrance (judiciously) and enjoy it.
We’ve heard for years that memorable women have cultivated a “signature” fragrance. Mademoiselle Chanel had her No. 19. A close friend of my mother’s had an unwavering and distinctive fragrance, which I learned a few years later was Guerlain’s Shalimar. It’s a lovely fragrance, and I still adore it but can never wear it because it “belongs” to Mrs. N.
(I learned last weekend that the reason Guerlain’s “Mitsouko” and “L’heure bleu” have the same shaped bottle is that they were both introduced close to the same time when there was a shortage of glass bottles. At least that’s what the Sales Associate at Guerlain told us.)
I’ve made a conscious effort for years (and failed) to find a single signature fragrance. My moods change, my chemistry changes, my nose changes. I’ve settled on a few fragrances that I rotate between, depending on the time of year, the situation, and my mood. For many years, I adored Chanel’s original Chance eau de parfum. It had a blend of sophistication and modernity that appealed to me. But a few years ago it hit an olfactory sour note (I blame the chemical changes from menopause) and I put it aside, though I still love it others. I’ve played with a lot of fragrances in recent years, but have found very few that appeal both to me and le Monsieur.
One lesson I’ve learned is to wear a fragrance for several hours before making a decision to buy. Some that smelled wonderful at first began to annoy after an hour or so, and by the three-hour mark I’d be ready to attack my skin with a scouring pad to remove the scent. (Though allegedly a paste of water and baking soda, allowed to sit on the skin for a few minutes, is the most effective remover. I have not yet tried this.)
Here are the three that I currently wear:
- Chanel No 5. Both the original and the Eau Premiere. Both of these garner more compliments from random people than any other fragrances I wear. The Eau Premiere feels like a lighter, better option for daytime/work. The original is for “date night.” 😉
- Serge Lutens “Chergui.” This is my “bad girl” fragrance, probably due to the tobacco notes (as close as I come to smoking). When I want to feel a bit edgy, this is the one I reach for. But this fragrance is a bit too much once the weather warms up, so it’s primarily a winter option for me.
- Lancôme “La Vie est Belle.” I’ll admit, I surprised myself with this one. I spritzed a little bit on a whim while I was trying some Lancôme eyeliner, and immediately loved it. When le Monsieur’s feedback was “it smells like Paris,” I had to have it. This is the one that will elicit his remark “you smell pretty!” most often after I’ve applied.
Do you have a signature fragrance? What do you look for in a fragrance?
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