Friday, September 5, 2014

Hows and Whys of Perfume

" A woman's perfume tells more about her than her handwriting." - Christian Dior

I saw this quote and it made me start wondering, when did we trade the honesty art of perfume to the commercialism of body sprays? Somewhere along the way we lost Chanel No 5 to Japanese Cherry Blossom. While I enjoy having an allergy attack in Bath and Body Works as much as the next person, I have begun to realize that the scent industry has become highly overdone and impersonal. It used to be that you had a handful of classy scents to choose from. You picked one, took it home, and proceeded to pour it into a work-of-art bottle and set it on your dresser. Perfume was part of the normal morning beauty ritual; right after bathing with soap-scented soap. Today we barely pause to admire the decadent bottles on the glass counters at the department store, and then we go home and everything that touches our skin is a different flavor. Each morning we end up leaving the house smelling like a fruit salad. There is no artistry or honesty or mystique in that. I would equate it to ladies being stuck in the LipSmackers stage and missing out on the all of the gloriously beautiful and expressive colors of lipstick.

Perfume tells a story about the wearer. It comments on her personality; expresses how she sees herself, and thereby can expose hopes and dreams; and is her signature on life and the air around her. We are so ready to put written signatures on emails, texts, letters, and other documents, but for some reason it is intimidating to put a signature on one's self. In my opinion the culprit is our phobia of labels. We are careful not to label anyone else and we fear them labeling us to a degree that we are afraid to do enough internal digging to label ourself. As esoteric as it sounds, one must know themself to pick a true signature scent. Unlike cheap body sprays and scented lotions, perfumes are an artistic combination of flowers or musks or powders and other scents that react with the body chemistry of the wearer to produce the final scent. Each one is distinctive with it's combination of layers. Whatever scent you choose should fit your personality but also set you apart from everyone else. People should smell it and think of you. Ladies, your man should be able to find you blindfolded using only his nose. Clean Linen won't really help out a whole lot.

So how do you pick something that is this important? It will be a process, so don't expect to waltz into a department store and leave with the first pretty bottle. Honestly, sometimes it seems the fancy bottles are over-compensating for the evil-smelling potions they contain. Also be prepared that the perfumes will smell differently on you than they do on the little sample paper strips. They're a good starting place, but always test it on your arm before you make the investment. Before I explain the choosing process, you have to decide what you're looking for. You can either have one year-round scent or a lighter scent for summer and a darker scent for winter. Two is the maximum though, because if you have more than that, you are missing the point and seriously just wasting money because they will go rancid before you get the chance to use them. Yes, perfumes go rancid and when it does it becomes an atrocity worthy only of Snape's potions class. That's why it really is better to skip the "discount scent" stores and go straight to places like Ulta or a department store. Often the product is discounted because it is close to rancid or already there. Just a side-bar between friends.

So now to the choosing process. Before you can really start, you have to decide if you're a floral, a citrus, a musk or a powder. If you have absolutely no idea what that is or how to do that ask for help. I know it's shocking, but that's actually why there are ladies behind the counter. Normally the darker the skin tone, the muskier the scent. So once you decide what you're looking for, start sniffing! I'll tell you up front that you won't be able to tell a single thing about a perfume by spraying it into the air. Start by smelling the bottle around the liquid ejection hole. If that piques your interest, spray some on one of the paper test strips. Let it dry before you smell it, otherwise you will merely get a noseful of alcohol and propellant. If you still like it, spray some on the inside of your wrist. Again, let it dry. If you still like it, wear it for a couple of hours and then smell it again. Perfumes will change with the air and your body; especially if you're glistening. If you still love it, then you've found the one. In case anyone else was seeing the parallel, perfume is a little bit like a man, and the whole choosing process is similar to dating. So be patient.

So you bought your signature. Now what? Application is very different from a body spray. You can't just spray it all over because you will gag all you are around. Neither can you spray a cloud and just walk into it. That will do nothing. Application must deliberate and careful. Whatever you do, do not get it on your clothes or it will take the color out of the fabric. I definitely learned that lesson the hard way. I think Coco Chanel explained this best. "Where should one use perfume?" a young woman asked. "Wherever one wants to be kissed." If you're an affectionate person and this confuses you, this simply translates into the inside of the wrists, behind the ears, behind the knees, and the sternum. Don't use all the spots. Pick two or three, apply one spray in each place and you're ready to go. So ladies, let's ban the body sprays and and embrace the honesty and femininity of perfume.

"A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future." - Coco Chanel


  1. We got many allergy attacks wandering through BBW growing up. :)

  2. I love the insights and perspectives you share in all of your posts on here! And the quotes are epic! :-D haha please keep posting! My blog covers the modeling and photography side of the fashion world, which ends up, in many ways, drowning out the simple and profound beauties of the fashion as many become focused solely on advancing their portfolio and their career. Your posts are eye opening and inspiring!