About a year ago I decided that I was going to give up on the idea of ever wearing perfume. So many times I had tried and failed. I would buy it (or convince a man to buy it for me) and then never wear it. When I did wear it, I found it overwhelming. I was finally willing to admit that I don’t wear perfume because I don’t like perfume. And I was okay with it.
Seconds later I thought, “Maybe you’ve never found the right one.” Huh? I never considered that. And the more I thought about it the more I realized I had never put much thought into choosing a perfume. I never learned how to go about it. I wore Tea Rose*, Giorgio and Eternity in high school, Chloe in college and most recently, Miracle. None of them were right. I have to admit in the past I picked perfumes because of the brand/popularity or the bottle design. (I’m not even going to admit wanting Jean Naté and Charlie when I was little.)
I started to entertain the idea of finding a “signature scent”, something I would be known for, that people would associate with me. I love how a smell can evoke an emotion or a vivid memory. I decided that I would make finding this perfect me-fragrance one of my resolutions for 2015.
I started by trying the perfumes at some of the places I usually buy clothes or make up.
At Clinique I tried Happy, as well as Happy Heart and Happy in Bloom sure one of them would be perfect. I did not like them.
I tried Banana Republic. I remember my friend Joan wore W. I loved the look of their new line. I tried all of them (on perfume cards). My 6-year-old daughter insisted that Rosewood was the best so I brought the card spritzed with it home and kept smelling it throughout the day. Interesting, but not right.
I sampled the fragrances at J. Crew, 31 and 57. Not me.
Sometimes you need to know what you don’t like. A friend of mine wears a very strong, distinct perfume, Light Blue by Dolce and Gabbana. I didn’t know how to describe it but I knew for sure it was not my taste. It’s funny because it was closer to what I ultimately chose than any of my first choices.
In an effort to be able to describe what I was looking for, I started doing some research. There’s so much to learn about perfume — top notes, middle notes, base notes — concentration… I found this list of categories really helpful:
8 Major Perfume Categories
Citrus: Infused with essence of citrus fruits. Lively and energetic. Good for daytime. Examples: Clinique Happy, Burberry Weekend for Women, Cartier Eau de Cartier for Women, Jo Malone Grapefruit, Calvin Klein CK One, The Gap Close
Floral: Sweet and romantic. Single note, or combination of various flowers. Examples: Chanel No 5, Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, Lancome Tresor and Anna Sui
Fruity: Fresh and spicy. Smells of apple, peach, berry, mango, often blended with florals. Apply sparingly. Examples: Liz Claiborne by Liz Claiborne, Avon Fire Me Up, Harajuku Lovers Lil’ Angel, Ralph Lauren Ralph Wild, Marc Jacobs Splash: Apple 2010, Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy Now 2010
Green: Smells of fresh leaves and newly-mown grass, natural and energetic. Unisex. Good for daytime. Examples: Calvin Klein Eternity, Chanel No. 19, Ralph Lauren Safari, Escada Sport Country Weekend, Sung Alfred Sung, Escada Magnetism, Adidas Adrenaline Woman
Oceanic: A blend of synthetic compounds to evoke natural aromas such as mountain air, ocean spray or clean linen. Crisp and fresh. Examples: EChristian Dior Dune, Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers, Davidoff Cool Water Woman, Giorgio Beverly Hills Ocean Dream
Oriental: Exotic and distinctly feminine, earthy, animalistic base scent such as musk or ambergris, often combined with warm notes such as amber. Bold yet mysterious. Examples: Elizabeth Taylor Black Pearls, Yves Saint Laurent Opuim, Guerlain Shalimar, Givenchy Organza, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Versace Crystal Noir
Spicy: Notes of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and pepper. Examples: Chanel Coco, Jo Malone Vetyver, BCBG Girls, Givenchy Ysatis, Estee Lauder Cinnabar
Woody (Chypre): Base notes of bark and moss. Unisex but not masculine. Examples: Estee Lauder Knowing, Chanel No. 19, Britney Spears Believe, Ralph Lauren Romance, Gucci Envy Me
Here’s what I ultimately learned about finding your signature scent:
- You have to smell them! Obviously. But I don’t think I got this until recently.
- You have to smell A LOT of perfumes—preferably one at a time.
- Try on magazine “scentstrips”. I came across one recently that I had tried on years ago and fell in love with. It turned out to be the one I chose.
- When you’re at a store, spray perfumes onto perfume cards and smell them, then spray the one you like best on your wrist. Then leave the store. Smell your wrist throughout the day.
- Ask people to smell you (preferably people you know well.)
- Try to narrow down what type of scents you like. Before I started this process I would have told you I’m a “Citrus” kind of gal. I’m not!
- When you think you found the one, get a tester. I bought a 0.03 oz. vial from Amazon for $5.
- When you run out of the tester and you really miss it, you know you’ve found the one!
- Perfume vs. Eau de Perfume? Perfume has more oil/less alcohol and even though I was afraid it would be too strong, I chose it because I felt like it smelled better and lasted longer.
- In the end, I ordered my perfume from Amazon. I almost bought it at my local department store, but it seemed like such a big bottle and a big price tag, so I waited. Good to know: sometimes stores will let you return perfume if you change your mind.
- To apply: you can spray the perfume into the air and walk through it, dab it on wrists and/or neck or my new favorite: spray on the inside of your shirt.
- And, finally, I discovered that you don’t need to pick just one. I read a blog post from someone who said they liked Narciso Rodriguez For Her in Fall and Bobbi Brown Beach in Summer.
And here it is. The winner, My Signature Scent:
“A modern classic, for her seduces with purity, grace and subtlety. Musk, the heart of the scent, is refined by a synthesis of floral notes and hints of soft amber. Sensual and addictive, for her is femininity at its most powerful.”
Do you have a Signature Scent? More than one favorite?
* Most of the links are to the web site www.fragrancex.com just for consistency and so you can see the product photo and read the helpful little description. I don’t have any affiliation with them.
love this post, SUCH great tips. i never thought to get a tester size, but that’s so smart. thank you!
Thank you Joanna! I just saw this: http://www.vogue.com/slideshow/1786943/perfume-france-chanel-yves-saint-laurent-francis-kurkdjian?mbid=social_facebook
Dolce & Gabanna “Light Blue” was my signature scent for years. Then Gucci “Rush” but I decided it was too sultry for daytime. Then Calvin Kleine “Euphoria.” Now I am trying “Flower Bomb” and I don’t even know who makes it.
My issue with perfume has always been that I think I have some gene or hormone that makes it dissipate from my skin the instant I put it on. Perfume is a bit too expensive to evaporate so quickly. That being said, I still try every day. Maybe I’ve just been using the wrong scent?!