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January 06, 2012

Building Perfume Wardrobe Guide Part 5 : Essentials


Part 1: Florals ~ Rose
Part 2: Florals ~ Jasmine
Part 3: Florals ~ Lily of the Valley and Violet
Part 4: Florals ~ Blends

The idea of a perfume wardrobe vis-à-vis a signature fragrance runs counter to many concepts held dear by perfume marketers as it does not engender brand loyalty. This is perhaps the main reason why magazines are full of suggestions on what perfumes to buy, but never on how to create a varied and interesting collection of scents. Some may argue that there are no steadfast rules as to what fragrances one must have and that sartorial categories do not apply to scents. If one feels like wearing Dior Poison (a ball gown equivalent) to work and Demeter Gin & Tonic (T-shirt and jeans) to a cocktail party, why on earth not? This may be true, but when one is just starting to enjoy fragrances and building a collection, it helps to keep a few guidelines in mind. One can always break them later!

My list of essentials may be whimsical and personal, but I hope it can highlight how to create a perfume wardrobe full of diverse scents suitable to different moods and situations. The categories are not gender specific, and I give examples of both masculine and feminine fragrances.

Refreshing, Uplifting Fragrance

This is a fragrance that will give you an immediate lift whenever you feel tired or worn down. I crave effervescent fragrances on grey winter mornings when the alarm clock wakes me up many hours earlier than I want. Or on swelteringly hot days when the air feels as thick as pea soup. Ô de Lancôme, Chanel Cristalle, Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine and Hermès Eau de Gentiane Blanche are some of the bright, crisp and vivid compositions that I like. My choices for this category tend to fall into citrus and green blends, which may not be the most long-lasting of fragrances, but they provide a pleasant jolt like nothing else.

Daytime “Office” Perfume (Smart, Casual Outfit)

One of the most common questions I receive on Bois de Jasmin is what fragrances could be appropriate for the office environment. Some workplaces are less tolerant of perfume than others, but it is best to err on the side of subtle when choosing a scent to wear in close quarters. This applies to theaters, movie theaters, restaurants and airplanes. Subtle does not have to be boring, and I can think of plenty of interesting understated blends with discrete sillage: Prada's Infusion line (Infusion de Vétiver, Infusion d’Iris,) Hermès Un Jardin en Méditerranée and Hiris, Lalique Encre Noire, L’Artisan Eau de Navegar, and Tom Ford Violet Blonde. Be careful with fragrances that appear delicate and fresh at first, but that have a strong, penetrating sillage such as Dolce & Gabbana Light BluePaco Rabanne Black XS  or other dry ambers. Some incense and leather blends like Armani Privé Bois d'Encens and Lancôme Cuir, on the other hand, may appear potent, but they wear quite close to the skin and create an intimate aura.

Of course, one can always tone down a favorite perfume by applying less. To have the most intimate experience of perfume, I find that applying a tiny bit on one’s chest (rather than neck) works best.

Day-to-Evening Perfume (Little Black Dress/ Crisp White Shirt)

This category includes the most versatile fragrances that are truly along the lines of a little black dress or a crisp white shirt: compositions with enough subtlety to make a great day time perfume and plenty of character to make the transition into the evening. Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, Love, Chloe, and Serge Lutens Bois de Violette are some of my favorites. For this category I find that woods, fougères, chypres and green floral blends work remarkably well, since many fragrances in those genres tend to possess understated elegance, distinctive aura and decent tenacity.

A few months ago, I ran a thread on the topic of favorite LBD fragrances, and you can find more ideas there.

Evening Perfume (Floor Length Ball Gown/Tuxedo)

Now forget about being safe and subtle! Some occasions call for bold, dramatic perfumes that make a statement: seductive orientals, sumptuous ambers, high-volume florals, etc. Guerlain L’Heure Bleue has one of the richest sillages, as does Robert Piguet Fracas. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, Paco Rabanne One Million and Thierry Mugler Angel  are examples of modern fragrances with powerful sillages. Some of my “ball gown” favorites are Guerlain Habit Rouge, Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower, Parfums d’Empire Ambre Russe, Yves Saint Laurent Nu and Serge Lutens Bornéo 1834.

Calming, Relaxing Perfume (Nightgown/Pajamas)

I am agnostic on the scientific claims of aromatheraphy, but I do know from personal experience that some scents are wonderfully calming and soothing. Orange blossom and violet blends have that effect on me: Penhaligon’s Violetta, Annick Goutal Néroli, Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne, Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli. For more ideas, please see this post with interesting comments: Relaxing Fragrances : How Perfume Alters Our Moods.

Something Eccentric and Fun

Consider your fragrance collection, see what you tend to like the most, and then try and go into the opposite direction. If you have mostly florals in your collection, sample some orientals, or vice-versa. Even if you do not end up liking that particular fragrance style, just trying something different is enjoyable. It helps me remember that perfume is pure pleasure, first and foremost, and that if I do not have some fun with it, I lose out on what makes this hobby so satisfying.

What about you? Do you have a perfume wardrobe? How do you go about building yours? Did I miss any essential categories?



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