Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How To Choose Your Signature Scent

Smells conjure memories, both contended and yearning. Mama has always worn Sunflower by Elizabeth Arden and when we were young and she would leave for a trip, Mama would always spray our pillow-cases with her perfume. I cried myself to sleep several nights, my face buried in the pillow, wishing it was really she. Still, even at that young age I enjoyed the drama of feeling she was near, yet knowing she was across the country. Theatrical? Never. Dad has worn Old Spice as long as I can remember. The smell of it always brings to mind Sundays and taking my turn with a sweaty, rosy toddler who was just waking up from a nap on Dad’s shoulder during the sermon. A faint impression of Old Spice always clung to their clothes the rest of the afternoon.

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I love to smell good. That ought to be a given for most people, I know. I particularly love to spritz on a good perfume. I leave the house many mornings feeling successful because I’ve walked past Dad, who is making the coffee, and he has asked A) who smells so good or B) what I’m wearing. I’ve also been accosted by a man at a gas station wondering what perfume I had on, but that’s a story best forgotten. One of the consistent things I noticed when traveling through Europe was that people there know how to pick good cologne. It is too bad there is no polite, non-creepy way to address a foreign man and ask what fragrance he is wearing and where I might buy a bottle. I adopted a men’s cologne a couple years back and carried the store’s business card in my wallet for months. The card smelled of Royalle Rugby and spun the general idea that I had received a hug from a special guy every time I took out cash to purchase something. I still visit the store often, test a bit on piece of paper, and carry that imaginary hug with me for an hour or two.

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I’m twenty-three now. A few weeks ago I decided that, since my best friend had recently found hers, it was time I found my signature fragrance. I’ve been a subscriber to Birchbox for a year and a half now (and never regretted it). Some of my favorite boxes are the ones that contain perfume samples. The samples always last much longer than I even hoped and give me a chance to try something new. I’ve also been given a couple perfumes in roller-ball or mini-spritzer form. Princess by Vera Wang was a birthday gift from Mama. Walk On Air by Kate Spade and Rose de ChloĆ© are gifts from my best friend’s mother. None of them have been quite 100% SIGNATURE ME though I willingly wear them as beloved scents when I want a change of pace. But I found my signature scent without terribly much trouble. Want to know how to find your own? Read on.

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Finding My Signature Scent:

1.)    I began by noticing which fragrances (lotion, body-spray, etc.) I already owned and liked or disliked. We’re drawn to smells that interact well with our body’s chemistry so pay attention to the smells you enjoy. I knew, for instance, that I always feel not-so-happy with a sporty, sunny body spray from Bath & Bodyworks called Peace, Love, & Daisies, while other sweeter, fruity scents float my boat (I’m a huge fan of their Blackberry & Vanilla spray). In the same way, I know that I don’t enjoy the  rich, dark, sultry scents of various Victoria’s Secret and B&BW lotions I’ve been given (“Black Amethyst” and “Midnight Pomegranate” for example), but adore the lighter, more playful “flavors” like Hello, Darling and Vanilla Lace. Armed with these observations, I headed to Nordstrom’s perfume counter.
2.)    I told the lady at the counter that I was looking for my signature scent, and she smiled, like she’d heard that before. She works at a perfume counter. Chances are she has heard it a thousand times. I started to circulate the counter, sniffing the bottles I liked, the designers I respected. Thank heavens they had coffee-beans to clear out my senses once in a while. There was a lot of sniffing going on. And you know what I found? Designer’s fragrances match their style. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but it was true. Versace fragrances were rich, opulent, and too couture for me. Burberry’s were minimalistic, tailored, tidy. I liked them but they didn’t express the overflowing bounty that is my personality. They were me on a shy, rainy day in a good trench-coat. Not me bounding through life with creative, reckless abandon. I checked out my best friend’s choice for herself from Tory Burch and smiled: it did bring to mind Katie’s vivacious, professional, simultaneously self-contained and wildfire personality. I needed to find my equivalent.
3.)    One of the first fragrances I tested was Hanae by Hanae Mori. It was sweet, perky, unexpected, and delicious. I loved it. But who is Hanae Mori? I’d never heard of her. However, no matter how many perfumes I tested, I always, always went back to Hanae. I sprayed some on my wrists and continued into the mall to spend the afternoon shopping with my sisters.  When I still loved it as much at the end of the trip as I did at the beginning, I went back to the perfume counter (to my sisters’ annoyance) and did a thing you ought to know about: I discovered that you can buy a small, purse-size atomizer for $6 at the counter and they fill it (for no additional cost) with whichever perfume you desire. BAM. Hanae by Hanae Mori was mine to keep. I’ve been wearing it for two weeks now and still love it. As soon as I empty the atomizer, I’m ordering a full bottle. Hanae is my signature fragrance. Watch out, world.

While I adore Hanae and wear it glibly, I’m a creature of variety and love to have my little arsenal of other fragrances. I was interested to see how consistently my personality lined up with the descriptions of the perfumes I love! I like fruity, but not wholly fruity. I like florals but not heavy florals. I’m not a sultry, provocative, mysterious woman so I don’t wear sultry, provocative, mysterious scents. I’m colorful, joyful, vivid, and feminine. I’m classy, funny, and stylish. And the scents I wear ought to be the same. I’ve illustrated the MVPs in my world below:

1.)    Walk On Air by Kate Spade (from the description): Walk On Air by Kate Spade New York is a fragrance that celebrates the graceful confidence of its wearer. Sweet and tender layers of lily of the valley – the flowers of happinesss and joy – magnolia and crinum lily envelop the skin like a breath of fresh air. The fragrance exudes delight; it’s an invitation to seize the day and envelop yourself in the promise of something wonderful.
2.)    Rose De ChloĆ©  (from the description): A sublime, powdery rose. Feminine, natural, sexy, & chic. (This scent is something I’d wear out to dinner…if I ever have a real swanky date, I’m planning to try Chanel No. 5)
3.)    English Laundry by Christopher Wicks (from the description): Quince mingled with white chocolate, jasmine, rose, and orris root make up this classic country-inspired scent.
4.)    Princess by Vera Wang (from the description): Princess is all about a new attitude. It’s about claiming something magical and mystical in your life. It’s all of the characteristics that we would want to possess and what resides in all of us young and old. Created for the modern day Princess, this sheer, fruity floral fragrance is definitely born to rule! The scent sparkles with the captivating, sweet, tart aroma of delicate lady apples and the coveted Tahitian tiare flower and finishes with a tasty vanilla chiffon – a treat fit for royalty.
5.)    Hello by Harvey Prince (from the description): For their latest fragrance, the brother duo behind Harvey Prince decided to mimic the joy of waking up to a warm day with the sun shining and flowers blooming. Meet the results: an energizing mix of citrus and floral notes that will keep your optimistic even when you get up on the wrong side of the bed.
6.)    Vanille Extreme by Comptoir Sud Pacifique (from the description): Sweet, warm, and delicately spiced, Vanille Extreme embodies all the richness and sensuality Comptoir Sud Pacifique fragrances are known for. A must for any Vanilla addict!
7.)    Hanae by Hanae Mori (from the description): The new fragrance by Hanae Mori is inspired by a tiny flower in the forest, brilliant and beautiful; Hanae embodies the spirited youth of the fashion icons from Tokyo, New York, and Paris. “For Madame Hanae Mori, the image of the butterfly – a soaring symbol of flight and promise – is never far from its home: the flower. Beautiful, joyous, and elegant, the pair is a symbol of freedom and femininity.”

Have you found your signature fragrance? Does the description of the scent match your personality? I would love to hear about your experiences or, if you decide to go on a quest after reading this post, what you discover about your perfume preferences! There is really nothing like someone saying, “Someone walked past me downtown today and her perfume reminded me of the time we walked all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial together and you almost pushed me into the Reflecting Pool.” Good smells, good memories, good times.


  1. Isn't it amazing how every girl has her own personal style, and they're all different but they're all SO COOL? (As long as you keep it within bounds, of course--I'm not talking about those individuals who dye their hair bright green and wear metal piercings.) But within reasonable limits, there's SO much you can do with style, it's not even funny.

    1. It really is amazing. I also love how mainstream fashion (up till this year when the dreaded 70's trends came back) has been taking a retro trend...so much easier to find the classics I love when the whole world wants them!

    2. Yes. I'm especially happy that longer skirts seem to be coming back, at least a little--like with the "maxi" dresses--because that's what I wear most of the time anyways!

  2. I want to create my own perfume, but I have never gotten the nerve yet to walk to a liquor store in the first place and then to ask for vodka to make perfume . . . eeep!
    I do not really like most perfumes and colognes and many smells period, but I want to try to make a perfume based on essential oils. Perfume is like the final touch to being perfectly polished in style.

  3. I must admit I never put too much effort into finding a perfume...I just tried all the samples that came in my mom's mail with catalogues and such. :) That hit-or-miss method actually turned up a good one, though: Yves St. Laurent "Manifesto." After I'd used the sample for a while I knew I really liked it, and so I ended up getting a pretty glass bottle as a Christmas gift that year.



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