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

I've given a lot of thought to smell. More specifically, how I smell to other people.

It's a subject that's difficult to avoid, really, given that I go out social dancing as often as I do. On top of that, I've always been--and perhaps this is the result of too many romantic comedies or country songs when I was little--enchanted by the idea of having a particular scent, something subtle but distinct, that people recognize as me.

I've been hunting for a signature scent for years, now, to no avail. My search is complicated by several factors: one, nearly anything with musk in it gives me a headache; two, Colin has an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, and that means I have to be extremely careful that what I choose is something he enjoys.

Listen to this song by a band whose name is shared by a common ingredient in perfume.

I don't have anything that I wear on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, I am in possession of a few different scents, some of which are among the rotation of things I wear when I go dancing.

Anna Sui's Sui Dreams: first, I love that the name is a pun. I fell in love with this perfume when my friend Leeann started wearing it, and she never should have told me what it was, because I could not avoid purchasing it. For comparison's sake: the top notes are nectarine, mandarin orange, bergamot and bitter orange; middle notes are freesia, peach, chinese peony and rose; base notes are nutmeg, sandalwood, musk, tahitian vanilla, cedar and anise. It's an unusual perfume--they classify it as an Oriental Vanilla--but Colin claims it smells like nothing but old lady. I disagree, but since he's the one who's smelling me on a regular basis, this one has fallen out of favor.

Same thing goes for Amor Amor, for a different reason; after I had J, it didn't seem to mix with my body chemistry as well. (This seems to be some sort of mysterious factor in perfume: the same perfume smells different on different people. I once had a woman say that if you spritz a perfume on your skin and taste it, and it tastes like soap, it works with your chemistry. I find this suspect, as any perfume I've ever tasted tastes like soap, and it's not at all a pleasant experiment.) I haven't used it in years, and in fact, I'm not entirely sure where the bottle is. Probably in the back of my cabinet. The notes are: mandarin, black currant, melati blossom, lily of the valley, white musk, grey amber.

I bought Gucci's Envy Me in Paris, after Kate and I had decided that that's what we wanted to bring home as a souvenir (we'll ignore the fact that you can purchase that particular fragrance anywhere in the States . . . ). It was sort of an impulse buy, since it was the only one we found that we liked well enough to take home. I wore it rarely, and used it today out of curiosity; it's less strong than I remember it, after a few minutes, and seems to fit me better than it used to. It's still not quite right, though. I feel like it's what I'd wear if I were wearing a pencil skirt and suit jacket to work everyday. Notes: peony, jasmine, pink pepper, litchi, pomegranate, pineapple, pink musk, seringa, white tea, sandalwood, teakwood, sensual musk.

I lusted after Victoria's Secret Satin Rose de Mai for several months, spritzing myself with it every time I passed through the store, before I finally purchased the body spray. (Part of my issue is that full eau de parfums always seem so absurdly strong, even if you spray them only once; plus, the body spray is cheaper.) Of course, once I actually owned it, it suddenly felt like it didn't fit. It's relatively light and sort of summery, but just doesn't fully feel like me. I still wear it when I'm dancing fairly often, though. The notes in it are rose, honeysuckle, grapefruit and mandarin blossom.

I received a sample of the company's Bombshell, and I like it, though it's quite strong. A friend bought me the body spray for Christmas, and I've purchased the rollerball version; while I like wearing it for dancing, there's always the risk that one of my other two friends may be wearing it on the same evening. So much for originality, I suppose. Plus, it feels sort of collegiate and show-offy at the same time: purple passion fruit, shangri-la peony, vanilla orchid, and Italian sunstruck pine.

My most recent purchase was Tisserand's Rose Absolute Oil (with jojoba, so you can apply it directly to the skin). It smells divine in the bottle, but fades almost immediately once I've applied it; I've taken to putting a heavy layer of unscented lotion on first, and then I can keep it around for a few hours. I like that it's so simple, but I worry that, unlike everything else, it's so subtle it's unnoticeable.

Perhaps it's completely absurd of me to think that I'll find anything so distinctly me that I can wear it on a daily basis; perhaps it's ever-illusive, like a signature drink; perhaps I really shouldn't bother, given that my nature is so easily dissatisfied with routine that soap and shampoo on regular days, mixed with a rotation on nights out, is more suited to me anyway.

Part of what spurred this post was this video I saw today of the ever-lovely Keira Knightly promoting Coco Mademoiselle (which I'm pretty sure I find repulsive, though I liked what she had to say about it):


  1. I'm with you on the musk thing. I've been all about the vanilla scent and people know me as the girl who smells like various forms of baked goods, seeing as nobody seems to be able to identify vanilla as being its own scent. I haven't been able to find a grown up version of it though, because of the musk. I just use Avon Naturals body spray in Vanilla, but I'm not terribly convinced it lasts much longer than an hour.

    I would love to find an actual perfume, or something that isn't too overpowering, but stronger than the body spray. I know my mom is very sensitive to perfumes and I even sneeze a little if I put something on that's too strong.

    I'm glad you made this post. I always forget about how much thought can go into a chosen scent... it really is a very personal thing.

  2. This post is particularly awesome for me since I wear Coco Mademoiselle. And since it also happens to be what my boyfriend's mom wears. But I love it so much I can't give it up!

    Apparently the lotion I wear also has a distinct scent without me realizing it, because my boyfriend says he can smell it on my pillow when I'm away. Maybe a lightly-scented body lotion is what you need.

  3. Mmm, vanilla. I love vanilla. One of my best friends hates it, though, so I can only use it in very small quantities.

    Not to sound like a Victoria's Secret consumer whore (though I totally am), but they had a fragrance called "Vanilla Sandalwood" for awhile that smells fantastic. It went on clearance, though, so you probably can't purchase it anymore . . .


Leaving comments is good karma.