the search for a signature fragrance

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.

Guerlain boutique

a little bit of Paris in Las Vegas…

(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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  1. Debra
    March 25, 2016 / 3:36 am

    Well, first, thank you for posting about the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. We are headed to Vegas on Sunday and I will find that store!

    The closest I have come to a signature fragrance is wearing something “rose.” For a time it was Bulgari’s rose, then Aqua Nobile, then the Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin, and now it’s Roses de Chloé. I wish that I could pick a signature, but once I get tired of a fragrance I never go back to it; the smell begins to put me off and something I once loved is abandoned. Bizarre!

    I’m looking forward to seeing the following comments as I love fragrance and love reading about what others wear.

    • Lori
      March 29, 2016 / 2:18 am

      Have you tried the various Les Parfums de Rosine?

  2. Mustangs
    March 25, 2016 / 4:08 am

    Love your blog! I work in a fragrance free work place but I do sometimes like to wear something light outside of work. Jo Malone has a wide range from heavy to light. Right now I love their Earl grey & cucumber and Wood sage & sea salt.

  3. Sharon
    March 25, 2016 / 4:09 am

    My chemistry makes fragrance problematic. Nothing ever dries down remotely close to the initial spray and often takes a sour turn.
    I recently took a cruise and was perusing the beauty shop on board when I came upon Chanel Chance Eau Vive. First impression was very strong grapefruit, but it dried down to a very subtle warm scent on me. I LOVE it. Shalimar belongs to my mother:) I can’t wait to see what others wear and love.

  4. GingerR
    March 25, 2016 / 4:24 am

    My mother-in-law brought me some Shalimar from a trip to Europe one time and I liked it.
    The problem with having a favorite perfume is when it gets onto other people’s radar and morphs into the gift they give you. I have several bottles of one that I liked at one time, but I’ve since changed to something else.
    I feel like fragrance is something you need to buy for yourself.

  5. Valerie
    March 25, 2016 / 4:27 am

    Years ago on a business trip to Paris, my husband purchased a small bottle of perfume for me — at the airport on his way home. It was “Bleu de France” by Bernard Lalande. I adored it and received comments whenever I wore it, but it’s no longer made. 🙁 It pops up occasionally on eBay or Etsy.

    These days I go for more earthy scents and usually wear an oil called Egyptian Goddess or another perfume called “Karma.” Interestingly, when I wear either of these, women walk up to me and ask what I’m wearing, but I don’t really get comments from men. Regretfully, my husband has lost his sense of smell!

  6. March 25, 2016 / 4:28 am

    What a great campaign…it smells like Paris! He should be in advertising! I am also headed the way of Las Vegas and hope to visit there. I love so many fragrances I do not have a signature. My favorites in the last couple of years have all been Tom Ford.

  7. Cher
    March 25, 2016 / 4:50 am

    I have had only 3 or 4 signature perfumes since I started wearing perfume. SHalimar as a young girl (20’s), Royal Secret( worn til it was no longer produced), Angel( when it was only sold at Neiman Marcus) and most recently have been searching for The One. Love Cartier’s Le beuget un Dragon, which I love, but
    Sadly doesn’t last on me and finally…Bond No. 9, Nuets de SoHo. I don’t want to smell like every woman in the room so will search til I find something personal to me. It’s a hard process, but will worth it when you finally know when it’s The One! Good luck! Suggestions: Jo Malone,Bond No. 9 because there are so many options. NOrdstroms is my go to place to search as they are happy to give you as many good size samples as you want.

    • Lynn
      April 5, 2019 / 10:42 am

      I cannot find Royal Doulton anymore. Apparently they don’t make it any longer. Does anyone know what would smell very similar. Soft fruity baby powder smell.

  8. cher
    March 25, 2016 / 4:57 am

    Research tells me now that Royal Secret is still produced. JUst hard to find.

  9. Susan
    March 25, 2016 / 5:07 am

    I have always been attracted to “clean” smells. I have been wearing Perry Ellis 360 ever since it was introduced. I constantly get comments on it, even from strangers. I also love Pure Grace by Philosophy.

  10. Carol Wayne
    March 25, 2016 / 5:21 am

    My fall back has always been Chanel #5….but I like to try other fragrances too…right now I love Carven parfum….I got a sample of Hello in a Birchbox and I wore that for a bit. There are several Serge Luyten I really liked but it was only sold at Barney’s here in Dallas and it has closed. Joy is my absolute favorite and what my husband loves the best. It was what I wore one our wedding day.

  11. Mary
    March 25, 2016 / 5:34 am

    I wore Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir for many years. And to show how fragrance can make a impact-my adult daughter told me recently that when she was a child and I had to travel (all too often) on business, she would go to my scarf drawer and put her face into my scarves to comfort her as they held that lingering scent. She said it smelled of Mom.

  12. Susan G
    March 25, 2016 / 5:42 am

    We wear different types of clothing at different times of the year, and for different occasions. Scents work as accessories and should reflect our different clothing choices. My favorite perfume is Luctor et Emergo a great day-time, casual perfume. I love Frederic Maille’s perfumes. I’m now retired, and on a budget, but perfume is an affordable luxury that pulls a look together.

  13. E E Faris
    March 25, 2016 / 5:44 am

    I always wear First by Van Cleef & Arpels. Although I hear it’s hard to find now.

  14. March 25, 2016 / 5:50 am

    Like Susan, I love “clean” fragrances, or citrus. There is a Canadian fragrance line called “Clean” out now and it’s lovely. I wore it for a couple of years, and then moved on. Right now I’ve been wearing See by Chloe for a while. Still loving it. I guess I’m monogamous when it comes to fragrance… but nor forever. Lots of Susans and Sues on your blog lately… including me … and you:)

  15. sandypatti
    March 25, 2016 / 5:54 am

    I love florals with an exotic undertone , which is nothing like my personality! Favorite for the last few years is Prada Infusion d’Iris. Heavenly! xo


  16. March 25, 2016 / 6:02 am

    I started as a child wearing 4711, a man’s cologne but so fresh. Then Muget de Bois, a lovely Lily of the Valley fragrance. Used Chanel #5 as a late teenager. Wore Yves Saint Laurent original Opium for many years. Then I used First by Van Cleef & Arpels for 10 years after smelling it on a friend from the Netherlands and falling in love with it!. Found Joe Malone Orange Blossom, and that has been it for the last 15 years!!! If I could find a good gardenia or tuber rose fragrance, maybe I would try that.

  17. Pink Azalea
    March 25, 2016 / 6:10 am

    I like to wear Chanel No. 5 Paris, Hermes 24 Fauborg (starting to smell too sweet), Estee Lauder Beautiful, and 57 (mostly in fall/winter. I’ve had these bottles for several years, but seem to use the No.5 the most. Got a sample of Jour d’Hermes and got 2 compliments so I’ll probably buy that next. I really like the Hermes fragrances. They seem beautifully composed. My husband wears Eau Sur le Nil (one of their unisex fragrances) and I wear that occasionally.

  18. LXP
    March 25, 2016 / 6:15 am

    Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez. Which I can no longer find. Disappointed by some counterfeit fragrances. So desperately seeking my signature scent.

    • Sweet Sue
      March 16, 2017 / 3:35 pm

      LXP, I’m pretty sure that still carries Bal a Versailles.
      I like it, too. I guess we women either love the “clean” scents (ugh, basket of laundry) or the dirty ones like Bal or Femme.

    • Sweet Sue
      March 16, 2017 / 3:37 pm

      Sorry, that’s

  19. stephanie
    March 25, 2016 / 6:41 am

    I would love to find my signature fragrance because this long search for it is proving costly! I recently sampled and then bought the new perfume Miu Miu which is divine and is as close to finding perfection as I have come. A beautiful white floral with no fruity notes (hurray) and a nice touch of spice. I also adore Love Story by Chloe and Balenciaga B. My son has worn L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme since he was a freshman in high school and 6 weeks ago at the age of 21 he left for Parris Island for a 13 weeks stay at bootcamp courtesy of the Marines.Not a day has gone by when I havent gone into his room and spritzed some d’issey. It is like he is standing beside me for a moment. Bittersweet.

  20. Rebecca J
    March 25, 2016 / 6:48 am

    I have two friends who absolutely have a signature scent. One wears Tova by Tova Beverly Hills and the other Eastee Lauder Private Collection. I feel I’ve searched my whole life for a “one and done” scent. Like you, I have a few that I wear for different seasons or occasions. Many years ago a trip to Paris got my hooked on Annick Goutal Eau de Hadrien (fresh and citrusy) and Petite Cherie (peachy notes). These days I’m a Jo Malone girl – orange blossom with nutmeg and ginger (winter) and bayberry and bay with wood sage and sea salt.

  21. sybes1
    March 25, 2016 / 6:54 am

    I’m with you Susan. I love fragrance. I had to learn the hard way that one must pick a fragrance that is not too overpowering (remember Poison?) and spritz it on judiciously. I too have used Chance but switched to the Eau Tendre. Currently however I’m using Le Labo Rose 31 (I think it’s called) and a Prada scent (maybe La Lune) that’s unisex. I keep searching also. It’s not easy. I’ll try to remember to try La Vie est Belle. The search goes on….

    • yvrjanice
      March 26, 2016 / 3:04 pm

      I remember buying Poison in the 80’s when it first came out and twice (!) people at my office complained that someone was spraying “Raid” around the office. It turned out that the fragrance ended up smelling like bug spray on me after a time. Guess that’s why they called it Poison? Nonetheless, I have a rather extensive fragrance collection as I love mixing it up depending on my mood and just can’t commit to any one fragrance.

  22. Pamela
    March 25, 2016 / 6:57 am

    Have a range of perfumes to suit my mood, the occasion, the weather etc. Favourites include both Chanel 5 and 19 (I used to wear Chanel 19 at international conferences and heaps of men used to ask me what it was – they loved it so much they wanted to buy it for their wives), Hermes Caleche, also Hermes Un Jardin Mediterranne, Eau sur le Nil, Jean Louis Scherrer, L’Eau d’Hadrien, Ralph Lauren’s Safari, YSL Ysatis, and lots more. Usually prefer the greener and woodier notes with a touch of floral or exotic. My mother’s favourite perfumes were Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew and also Beautiful. I can never wear these because to me they will always be hers. I find Shalimar a little heavy, also Opium. I buy my perfumes in the designer boutiques in Paris or the department stores like Le Bon Marche, that way can be sure they’re the real thing. Also they usually give heaps of lovely samples as well.
    Have never understood why a woman would want to confine herself to one scent when there are so many beautiful varieties available. I like the freedom to choose according to mood. For me it would be so boring always to use the same scent every day. Best wishes, Pammie

  23. Renee
    March 25, 2016 / 6:57 am

    Although it’s possible that you have turned against a favorite fragrance due to menopause or changing tastes, it is also quite likely the fragrance itself has changed. Fragrance houses often change formulations over the years, yet swear they have not. The ingredients, being organic, can evolve over the years as well. Everything that is grown reflects a sense of place and time, like terroir in wine.

    I wore Miss Dior in high school and the fragrance today bears no resemblance! I still wear Chanel 5 and recently discovered Dior J’Adore.

  24. March 25, 2016 / 7:05 am

    Hands down, Michael Kors original scent. It’s uncanny how consistently people comment that they like it in me. . . Mostly women!!

  25. Linda Boardman Kerr
    March 25, 2016 / 7:13 am

    Acqua di Parma is always good and fresh and clean/sexy. When I’m feeling seductive it’s SL’s Tubereuse Criminelle. Love Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille too, and strangely–because it’s so old fashioned–Mitsouko.

  26. rose
    March 25, 2016 / 7:13 am

    These days I am wearing Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn’s fragrance–Acqua Di Parma Colonia.

  27. Carol Egan
    March 25, 2016 / 7:29 am

    Joy by Jean Patou. In the 80’s I wore Paco Rabane and Fracas, when I could get ahold of it. Now it is just Joy.

  28. March 25, 2016 / 7:36 am

    Agua de Loewe, bought in Spain and wonderful ever since!

  29. Therryanne
    March 25, 2016 / 8:13 am

    After my Mother passed I began to wear Chanel no. 5, as an everyday professional scent it garners the most praise. I live in a very humid climate and now I trade that out for Donna Karen Cashmere Mist in the hottest months.

  30. Lori McKee
    March 25, 2016 / 8:13 am

    Youth Dew always reminds me of my mom.

    I found a scent I liked and then my mother-in-law stole it! When she wears it (often when we are together in her car), I also also smell her dog. Ruined it for me. Also everyone buys it for me now (as someone mentioned above) and it just got old. I still like it and wear it occasionally – Jessica McClintock – smells lily of the valley-ish to me – which I love.

    Would love to find a signature scent.

  31. Patricia
    March 25, 2016 / 8:19 am

    I’ve been wearing Rose 31 by Le Labo and Marni (by Marni). Both are rose based but very woodsy, too. Funny, because I really dislike most rose perfumes. Rose 31 is very pricy and Marni is no longer available in the US, so I hesitate to wear them much. Also, most of my dressy or business events involve sitting close to people for one to two hours, and I don’t want force my choice of perfume on them, even though I think I apply it sparingly. But this post reminds me how much I like these fragrances, so I think I will stop thinking of fragrance just for special events, and wear it more often for everyday. Thanks, Sue!

  32. Kathryn
    March 25, 2016 / 8:29 am

    Judging by the amount of comments, it is obvious that fragrance is so very important in our lives.
    My first perfume, purchase for me by my mother was 4711. Then I was given White Shoulders – I distinctly remember feeling so grown up. Now I wear a few different Jo Malone fragrances which I custom mix for classy and clean. Dior is my fresh and sexy self, Sisley #3 is my warm and happy self. All of my fragrances share commonalities but each shimmers a little differently. I think that choosing my fragrance each day is an extension of my clothing choice, mood and occasion.
    When my children were small, the last thing I would do before leaving on a trip was to spray a little of my fragrance on one of my scarves and leave it on each of their pillows. Still a powerful ‘scent memory’ for them!

  33. Debra
    March 25, 2016 / 8:34 am

    I love scents, too, but the ones I try in the store always smell so different (and not as appealing) after a few hours. No signature scent here….I like change. Right now I’m wearing Philosophy Fresh Cream (when the weather is cool; it’s a “winter” scent to me); it smells good enough to eat….like a crème brulee. I also like Hermes Elixir de Merveilles. Looking for something to wear in summer now.

  34. Katie
    March 25, 2016 / 8:43 am

    As a teen I wore Blue Carnation by Roger & Gallet. Then I discovered YSL’s Opium, a scent that also seemed to appeal to others since perfect strangers would ask what I was wearing. The formulation has changed over the years, but I was able to purchase some of the original scent on eBay. I also purchased a collection of Guerlain sample perfumes. The miniature bottles are lovely; – Shalimar was my mother’s favourite.

  35. Christine
    March 25, 2016 / 8:55 am

    Chanel No. 19, Fracas, Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien and Gardenia, CK Obsession, Chanel Crystalle and Rpger and Gallet Eau de cologne extra-vielle. I am addicted to perfumes

    • Sweet Sue
      March 16, 2017 / 3:42 pm

      Crystalle is such a perfect summer perfume, isn’t it?
      And for summer nights, I like Fracas but it’s become very expensive.

  36. March 25, 2016 / 10:02 am

    Tresor, since I tried it in the bathroom of the Hard Rock Cafe in NYC in 1993! More in summer though. In colder weather it used to be Dune, now Magnifique.

  37. March 25, 2016 / 10:17 am

    It’s Tom Ford for me every time – and pretty much any fragrance he cares to create. Hi male range is also amazing and the spicier notes are fabulous of Grey Vetiver are fabulous.

  38. Cathy D.
    March 25, 2016 / 10:22 am

    My husband took me to the Floris boutique in London on our honeymoon and bought Florissa and Stephanotis. Those, plus Edwardian Bouquet in winter, were my scents for decades. Sadly, it is now next to impossible to find Floris of London products in the US. He also took me to a Guerlain boutique many times when we were in Paris, and we always bought a different Guerlain classic. I never wore them much but still love to smell them from time to time. You cannot beat Jicky and Champs-Elysee. I’m still looking for a Floris replacement, and it may be something by Jo Malone. Sadly, my bridge club where I spend two afternoons each week has a perfume ban. Apparently some members are allergic to scent.

  39. Patrish
    March 25, 2016 / 10:29 am

    Fragrance is similar to the soundtrack of my life. I know where I was, how old I was and the memories associated with both music and fragrance. From a very early age, Evening in Paris, to Chanel No5, to Shalimar (1965-1969), to Lanvin’s Arpege, on to Tresor,
    even men’s cologne…..anything Vitiver. More recently, Chanel 31 Rue Cambon and anything Hermes…..Fragrance is part of getting dressed. All my favorites have been ‘signatures’ at one time or another. Remember sending a loved one a letter spritzed every so lightly with a fragrance? Great post. Thank you.

  40. Lana
    March 25, 2016 / 11:08 am

    I like Caesars Woman, sadly no longer made also like pleasures.

  41. March 25, 2016 / 11:28 am

    I only wish that we could split a bottle of wine and have a great conversation about fragrance. I’ll just reply instead! I also have three signature fragrances. When Bonaparte and I were a “new” couple, he returned from a trip to Paris with a new scent by Guerlain and he said the scent reminded him of me. It was L’Instant. Never in my life have I received the amount of compliments on a fragrance that I do with this one. I actually had a man follow me through a store before Christmas to finally stop me and ask what scent I was wearing! Whoa! My second scent is one I’ve been wearing for years. Fragonard’s Fleur d’Oranger. I love the scent of orange blossom so much and Fragonard’s is the only one I’ll wear because it is true orange blossom. It smells so clean and fresh. In fact, I love to sniff myself when I wear it. I only wear it in the summer (but I’m wearing it today as an exception). And my third fave is another Guerlain scent “La petite Robe noire”. The first time I smelled it was at Orly airport while we were waiting for a flight to Nice. I went crazy. I could smell the cherries right away and spritzed some on. Bonaparte, at first, hated it, but as the scent wore down, he asked me what I was wearing because it was so nice! It is also very special to me because on one of my last shopping trips with Bonaparte’s aunt, Daniele, She took me to the Guerlain boutique on the Champs Elysees, where I was treated like royalty, and told me to pick out anything I wanted. I went with cosmetics and La Petite Robe noire. Daniele’s signature scent was” L’heure bleu” and she smoked so the scent of that perfume and cigarettes is another of my faves. Sounds gross, I know, but it just brings back memories. In fact, even though I would never wear it, I want to buy a bottle of L’heure bleu just so that I can open it up every now and then and think of her! OMG. This is one of my favorite posts! Thank you!

  42. Liz
    March 25, 2016 / 11:38 am

    I’m also a Eau d’Hadrien fan. Diptyque’s l’Ombre Dans l’Eau is another favorite.

  43. Mumbai
    March 25, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    1. and always “First”, van Cliff. 2. Faubourgh 24, Hermes . ..I always get back to that scent. In between I use in winter…Artemise from Penhaligon, which has a super sillage . For summer…Light Blue from D&G. so fresh

  44. March 25, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    I am a Chanel girl, currently wearing No. 19, which I love. I love Sycamore for daytime, 31 Rue Cambon or Cuir de Russie for nighttime. I also love 27 la Pausa for daytime. Unfortunately, Chanel has requested that decanting services not offer Chanel perfumes, so I am very sad that now I can’t sample at will from The Perfumed Court. If you don’t know about them, go to the website. They even have some very hard to find and/or discontinued perfumes. My current favorite is Coco Noir. It is actually lighter than Coco, so not sure why they call it Noir, but it is a lovely daytime fragrance.

  45. janie
    March 25, 2016 / 1:03 pm

    I’m with you – Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle is my favorite. I bought it after reading your previous review of it, and even my teenaged granddaughter loves it.

  46. March 25, 2016 / 1:33 pm

    Have been wearing Annick Goutal’s eau d”Hadrien for years as well as Jo Malone Lime, Basil, Mandarin (love the lotion!). Both are clean, fresh scents–more on the “green” spectrum of scents.

  47. Sandra
    March 25, 2016 / 1:40 pm

    I alternate among First, 24 Faubourg (which I agree has more of a sweet smell lately), Sensuous (Estee Lauder) and Ferragamo. One whiff on Blue Grass transports me back to my 20’s. I splashed so much Shalimar on me when I had a summer job in my teens, my manager ordered me into the ladies’ room to scrub it all off. I learned the hard way that if you can smell your own perfume, you are wearing too much! 🙂

  48. Melissa O'Neill
    March 25, 2016 / 2:01 pm

    First perfume was Chanel No 19 which i still love. Was introduced to Guerlain in my 20s and still wear Mitsouko at night, Vol de Nuit during the day and L’Heure Bleu for cocktails. I also add into my rotation Chanel Cristalle. But my most recent happy discovery is Estee Lauder Azuree which gets more compliments than any other perfume…

  49. Juli
    March 25, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    Oh my, you’ve opened Pandora’s box for me with this post. For many years I thought I was firmly entrenched in the “signature fragrance” camp, with a small seasonal rotation of favorites. Thirty years ago they were Paco Rabanne’s “Calandre” (tragically, discontinued), Jean Patou’s “Joy”, Chanel No. 5, and Palmoma Picasso’s “Paloma” (which I’m certain has a changed formulation which no longer works with my chemistry). It’s only been in the past decade that I’ve ventured away from my former beloved fragrances, and now have a rotating array of new, pretty bottles of perfume and eau de toilette to wear, depending on the mood and occasion. So, what’s taken a place on my bureau these days? “Doulton” by Royal Doulton, “Champs Elysees” by Guerlain, “Flora” by Gucci, “Boudoir” by Vivienne Westwood (my “bad girl” fragrance), “Lychee Rose” by Mistral (a new favorite), and an oldie but goodie, “Blenheim Bouquet” by Penhaligon……originally a men’s fragrance, but now considered “unisex”. I now enjoy losing myself in the fragrance department at Nordstrom’s (that’s where I recently discovered Bond No. 9’s “Chinatown”) and seek out interesting apothecary shops when travelling (e.g. Merz Apothecary in the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago is worth a visit!). This spring we are planning a trip to Paris, and what do you think I’ll be bringing back home? Perfume, of course! Thank you, Susan, this is one of your best, and all your posts are outstanding.

    • March 26, 2016 / 8:05 am

      I loved Paco Rabanne’s Calandre also!!! it’s been years and years: wish they would bring it back. Another discontinued love of mine is a more recent Kate Spade fragrance: think it was just called “Kate Spade” and it was lovely.

  50. Gina
    March 25, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    I’ve been wearing Creed perfume for years, and in particular Orange Spice. Love, love love. It smells a lot like Kouros (but has been around much longer), which my first serious boyfriend wore, but I’m SURE there’s no connection there. 😉 Sadly, Orange Spice was “vaulted” a few years ago, which means that Creed has taken it out of production. I hoarded a couple of extra bottles when I found out, and I’m now working on my last one. Thankfully, they make so many other wonderful perfumes that I’m sure I’ll stay with the brand. Also love their Silver Mountain Water (worn by the late, great David Bowie), so maybe I’ll revert to that.

  51. Duchesse
    March 25, 2016 / 2:26 pm

    I wear too many to list, but wanted to point you toward the fragrances of Hiram Green, whose scents are sold via LuckyScent in the US. They are utterly divine •all-natural• fragrances. You can wear them anywhere, around anyone, without guilt. (If a person cannot bear a natural fragrance, he or she ought to never walk through a park. His Shangri-La is one of the best fragrances I have ever tried.

  52. Jill
    March 25, 2016 / 3:17 pm

    Valentino men’s and women’s mixed!

  53. March 25, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    Everyone’s comments have reminded me of scents I wore when I was a young thing. This has been a fun walk down memory lane!

    My German mom gave me 4711 when I was young, and I loved it. My grandmother wore Emeraude, and to this day when I miss her I use some dusting powder she gave me years ago. As a teenager asserting my independence, I bought essential oils, and wore Devon Violet. Over time I used White Shoulders (still do occasionally). I used Van Cleef and Arpel’s First, YSL Paris, and a scent called Tea Rose, which is now made at the Perfumer’s Workshop. Lately I’ve used Crabtree and Evelyn’s Evelyn Rose, which is light enough to wear when I’m teaching. A dear friend gave me a bottle of Hermes Amazone, which has become my “serious” scent along with Dioressence. A few years ago while traveling I brought home a bottle of “Welsh Violets” toilet water that I found in a museum store in Cardiff, and when I need to climb into a time machine, one spritz will turn me into a teenager again for a minute.

  54. ebh09
    March 25, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    My “scent” has evolved over time — from Chanel No.5 through college, and then after my first trip to Paris — Niki de Sainte Phalle (and the 1st edition bottle!)!! To Boucheron, then too many bottles of too expensive Amourage (until I either received a bad bottle or my nose had changed), and now I alternate between Chopard (for day) and Boucheron.
    This reminds me its time to stop by my favorite perfume store in Seattle (Perfurmerie Nasreen). Thanks!

  55. ladyjicky
    March 25, 2016 / 4:47 pm

    Never without a bottle of Mitsouko and Jicky by Guerlain .

  56. Lisa
    March 25, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Ici by Coty. It doesn’t matter what else I try, I always go back to Ici – and receive compliments about it all the time. It isn’t very expensive or fancy, but it blends better with my chemistry than anything else.

  57. March 25, 2016 / 7:03 pm

    My first boyfriend botght me Je Reviens, by Worth, when I was 16. I used to save up to buy the perfume by the dram — the original is no longer available. I moved on to Chanel No. 22, another aldehyde floral. My next signature scent was Diorama, which unfortunately also was discontinued. The current re-creation is just not the same.
    Currently I wear Flower Bomb (Viktor & Rolf) — men love it — I have had men follow me to ask what I’m wearing. In the summer I wear Miss Dior Chérie, which women ask me about. Still lust after Diorama!

    • SanMarie
      March 26, 2016 / 6:19 am

      I’m so glad someone mentioned Chanel 22.

  58. Macaroni
    March 25, 2016 / 8:34 pm

    I often prefer colognes for me. Indeed I do have a signature perfume TERRE D’HERMES by Hermes for Men, “possesses a blend of mineral note, Grapefruit, bay rose, pepper, geranium, Atlas cedar, benzoin, patchouli, vetiver.”

    • Macaroni
      March 25, 2016 / 8:35 pm

      Men’s colognes!

  59. Donna
    March 26, 2016 / 4:54 am

    I agree with your comment about wearing a sample for several hours before purchasing…I’ve had to scrub some off in a store restroom because I couldn’t stand them after an hour or so! I’ve always preferred a “clean” scent over floral or sweet scents, but I too have fallen in love with the Lancome La Vie est Belle! It’s definitely my go to fragrance…it IS pretty.

  60. March 26, 2016 / 8:07 am

    Hermes “Caleche” is my all time favorite. The ‘light’ version, very difficult to find, is lovely. BHV in Paris had had it a few years ago.

  61. Victoria
    March 26, 2016 / 8:22 am

    I used to love fragrance, but it destroyed my thyroid. Live and learn.

  62. March 26, 2016 / 11:09 am

    As a teenager, I wore sweet honesty(avon)..My first signature perfume was Chloe. Right now, I have Flowerbomb,,Euphoria,Rock n Republic,Japanese Cherry Blossom by BBW. I just got samples of Romance and Stella. I dress according to mood and the same with my fragrance..Robin H

  63. Vicki
    March 26, 2016 / 1:16 pm

    When my husband and I were going out – he bought me a bottle of Arpege. A couple of years later I found Dioressence and have remained faithful despite x2 reformulations. I adore Bal a Versailles & No 19 by Chanel and Amarige. My grandfather use to buy my grandmother Givenchy 111, which I also love, sadly very hard to find, so hanging onto my last bottle. When I wear Fracas my husband always comments. Last year I discovered Miss Dior Le Parfum and, it’s stunning.
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading the post & the comments.

  64. Sweet Sue
    March 26, 2016 / 2:02 pm

    I wear Femme and Bal A Versailles in the winter.
    Summertime, I like Fracas and Yvresse when I can get it.
    Many of my favorites, like Yvresse, Gucci 111, and So Pretty by Cartier have been discontinued.
    The problem is that I love flowery, somewhat fruity Chypres and chypre style perfume is not popular; too “old lady-ish,” I’m sure.
    What I don’t want to smell like ever, and this is what makes a horse race, is a basket of freshly done laundry or, God forbid, shampoo marketed to teenagers and former teenagers.
    The Philosophy perfumes, for instance, make me hurl.
    Now that my beloved mother in law has died, I might put Chanel No.5 in rotation; that was her signature scent.

  65. Sweet Sue
    March 26, 2016 / 2:06 pm

    I have a fondness for Mitsouko, but once made an entire row of theatregoers bilious because I drenched myself in Maggie Thatcher’s fave. Bad, Sweet Sue, bad.

  66. Susan B
    March 26, 2016 / 4:57 pm

    Thank you so much for all of these lovely comments, and sharing your favorite fragrances and memories! It’s been absolutely a delight to read each and every one.

  67. Jojo
    March 27, 2016 / 12:27 am

    What a wonderful exchange! These days I wear several Jo Malone scents. When I saw White Shoulders mentioned above, I started thinking about the scents of my youth – Love’s Fresh Lemon, Heaven Scent, Rive Gauche, Tabu, Charlie – and those Avon cream perfumes in jars (and the little white lipstick samples my mom always passed along). What a fun trip in the way-back machine! Thank you!

  68. Donna
    March 27, 2016 / 4:15 am

    When my husband and I started dating, I primarily wore Aliage, by Estée Lauder. He didn’t care for it, so we searched for one we both liked… Thirty years later, I am still wearing Beautiful, also by Estée Lauder. I have shower gel, lotion and spray, which are often gifts from my husband. I get compliments on the scent from random people regularly.

  69. March 27, 2016 / 6:53 am

    I’ve been wearing some perfumes for years: Jean Louis Scherrer (a massive chypre) since the 1980s, Chanel #5 since the 90s. More recently I’ve gotten more into big bold florals like Estee Lauder’s Tuberose Gardenia, Hermes’ 24 Faubourg … I just sampled Piguet’s Fracas and I believe I’ll be Going There.

    I’ve decided that fragrance is, for me, strictly seasonal. I can not imagine wearing Shalimar or *any* oriental in the heat of a Chicago summer. Every year after Christmas I love citrus fragrances, and beginning in February, I have a craving for powerful florals.

    Here’s another disadvantage to signature fragrances: the companies keep changing the formulas. How horrible to fall madly in love with a scent only to have it change!

  70. Christine
    March 27, 2016 / 9:45 am

    Confession: as a young teen, I wore Love’s Baby Soft. It was inexpensive and I loved it. I got a bottle recently at a drugstore and it doesn’t smell the same. I kept it, I just love to look at it. Silly, I know.

  71. March 27, 2016 / 11:49 am

    For several years, my fragrance has been Hermes’ aptly named “Un Jardin Apres La Mousson.” It evokes India’s timeless aromas, yet it’s modern in the way one can be in a hill town one day and in Sydney the next.

  72. Kathy
    March 28, 2016 / 9:07 am

    My appetite for scent changes daily! I use a wide variety of Jo Malone fragrances as they are beautiful on their own or are great layered in different ways. Very easy to create my own “signature” scents.

  73. Joyce Silverman
    March 28, 2016 / 4:46 pm

    I prefer men’s cologne . ..Hermès is my favorite…Light Blue . ..Gucci . .and on and on…

  74. March 28, 2016 / 4:59 pm

    Perfume is my stress-relief… I love reading about them, sampling them, searching out samples or half-bottles on eBay… I used to love Amarige and went through a big Jo Malone phase (I still love the fig one!) My current favorites are Azuree (so unusual!), Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar (perfect classics), new Chloe (perfect for daytime/work), Kiehl’s Musk (for weekends or outdoors activities), Cristalle and Chanel 19 for springtime, and a few old favorites for fun: Red Door, Green Tea, some toasted-sugar body spray for evening after-showers. When I am sick or in need of comfort I love Pink Sugar – too sweet for any other time but makes me feel comforted if I’m not feeling my best!

  75. Andrea
    March 28, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    In the past, Joy, Oscar de la Renta, lauder fragrance such as white Linen or Pleasures. Chanel No. 5, which I continue to wear. i like several Jo Malone such as Blackberry Bay, combining Lime Basil Mandarin and Amber Lavender but they fade quickly.

  76. Melissa
    March 29, 2016 / 3:24 am

    I used to wear perfume, through the years, Anais Anais de Cacharel, in high school Musk by Alyssa Ashley, Beautiful by Estee Lauder, Magie Noire by Lancome, now I find all of them disgusting… Smell preferences change over time.

    The last time I used perfume it was Christian Dior Addict and also Hypnotic Poison. I like the warm vanilla undertones.
    Anyway when I met the hubby he never complimented the way I smelled, usually a man would when a lady wears perfume. (It was not my washing habits I am a clean fanatic) But one day I was wearing my Rose water that I get at the Arabic supermarket I use that daily if I wasn’t wearing perfume. Anyway he went nutso over it, just kept smelling and saying how wonderful it was. I asked him, “don’t you like my normal parfume?”, he was too much of a sweetie to tell me he wasn’t one for heavy scents. He said perfume smells remind him of elderly ladies that don’t bath but would use cologne instead. So out went all my perfume.

    It has saved a lot of money over the years and now if I try and wear anything else I find them all so heavy. I just feel I want my partner attracted to my smell, I know how important it is to me, so we both have to like it. I use it to cool off in the summer also, is very nice sprayed on cold. The smell doesn’t last, well I don’t think so but is so refreshing and smells like real roses on a dewy morning.

  77. March 29, 2016 / 8:03 am

    In my younger days into my twenties and thirties it was Nina Ricci’s L’air du Temps and Cacharel’s Anais Anais. My everyday fragrance for the past few years has been Eclat D’Arpege. It’s light, feminine and so lovely. I get compliments all the time. My special occasion, elegant fragrance is Coco Mademoiselle. I only use the body lotion as I feel I have more control over this luxurious fragrance.

  78. March 31, 2016 / 6:17 pm

    Over the years, I have become very sensitive to fragrance of any kind — perfume, detergent, etc. Too much exposure turns my sinuses to hamburger, and on behalf of others so afflicted, I thank you that you are so thoughtful on planes, theater venues, etc, where we are sort of stuck sitting in an assigned seat and can’t escape it. But oh, how I miss wearing perfume! Scents are so evocative. I feel my grandmother there when I smell Chanel no.5, and remember my wedding day when I smell Lauren. I haven’t gotten over my attraction to scent, even though I can’t indulge, myself. My daughter goes to a hippie sort of college in N. California, and I’ll admit that I find the patchouli-esque scent in her house (which one of her housemates wears) very nice, sort of cozy and earthy.

  79. Andrea M.
    April 3, 2016 / 8:07 am

    When I was my in late 20s and early 30s, I wore Oscar De La Renta, which now smells very ordinary to me, Currently, I’m wearing Miss Dior (fall and winter only), Elie Saab Le Parfum (adore!!), Love, Chloe(sadly discontinued), and Guerlain Champs Elysee

  80. Marie
    April 20, 2016 / 6:06 am

    Scents stir up memory, just like song floods back vignettes into our consciousness of a time that was. I inevitably, unconsciously find myself ‘leaving’ a scent behind, completely, never to return. The scent highlight a particular way of being in my life and then it naturally moves on.

    I began wearing one in high school. The ‘eras’ of my life can be marked as follows: Tatiana by Diane von Furstenburg, Cristalle Chanel, Elixir of Love by Caswell Massey, Pleasures Estee Lauder & finally, Narciso Rodriguez For Her.

    How I select? The scent must instinctively, spontaneously carry me to an ethereal place in my mind. It will make my eyes close to savor it within me, get lost in it and, in a split second, carry me to uncharted places in the expanses my heart Wow, what’s amazing. Writing that last sentence scintillates how I choose: A scent that will make me leave my mind behind! Very cool!

    Psychologically speaking then, a return to a scent fr the ‘past’ would never happen! The highs of that time belong there, locked in the beautiful gilded box of that scent-memory. No new ground to travel in there!

    Thank you for this post. It brought a new awareness to an old practice. :))

  81. Giensie
    October 22, 2016 / 10:05 am

    Always wear Coco, he original from Chanel. It suits me very well and I am always told that I smell so nice!

  82. Peggy
    November 6, 2018 / 3:59 pm

    I love this blog! Have always loved perfumes, probably because my mother, grandmaw, and great aunt all wore perfume regularly. My mother’s last scent was Emeraude and I love the way it smelled. Naturally, I would never wear it because it belongs to her. The first perfume I chose for myself was Avon’s Charisma; I loved it. During my late teens-early twenties I also wore Coty Tigress. I am most fond of spicy orientals. I have loved and worn, until they were hard to find, Machiavelli’s Beloved and Royal Secret. Then I discovered Guerlain and found my heart. Vol du Nuit was the scent that taught me how to identify my scent. When I smell a perfume that I want to wear, I “feel” it in the center of my head/brain, somewhere behind my eyes. It causes me to close my eyes and feel completely overwhelmed. This may sound crazy, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not a scent I want to wear. Vol du Nuit is very hard to find now and I have no Guerlain stores near me (New Orleans). I bought a bottle from but it had virtually no smell. Very disappointed. Guerlain Chamade is also one of my favorites. Really no one is as good as Guerlain, in my opinion. For a light and pleasant everyday fragrance, I like Avon Faraway. It doesn’t last but I like it. My husband bought me a bottle of Chanel No. 5 one year and I like it, but not enough. Have worn White Shoulders, also nice. Would love to find an easily available scent that touches me like Vol du Nuit and Chamade, but haven’t yet. Yes, I’ve tried Shalimar and it is lovely. But everyone wears it including my late mother-in-law, so I avoid it. Maybe I shouldn’t but there it is. Any suggestions based on my scent history are welcome.

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