Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Perfume is weird

I will never buy perfume because Men love it! How many times have you heard that?

Most of the men I grew up with could barely dress themselves without their wives laying out their clothes for them. I can't imagine letting those guys choose what perfume I wear.

My husband is a most-excellent fellow, yet he has strange ideas about perfume that make me think, phew! Glad I don't buy based on his likes/dislikes. The only time I put on D&G's The One for Men, he walked into the room and said "Ugh, you smell like an old lady!"


And then, the only one he's EVER complimented, even stuck his face my elbow crook and sniffed extravagantly, was Tabu. Ahaha, of course. (It WAS vintage Tabu, which I think is wonderful, but really. Tabu. So predictable.)

I will also never get is the perfume is so transformative! thing. Perfume becoming part of dreamy, wishful identity-making makes me uncomfortable. I don't spritz on Vol de Nuit and lapse into a daydream about being mysterious and interesting and angular, a film noir femme fatale. I'm 29, I live in the suburbs. I've got two kids. I got all kinds of identity: natural birth advocate/feminist/writer/art student/frazzled mom/baker/wife. I don't really need to bring perfume into that. I don't become anything altered when I wear it. I pick perfume based on my moods/whims, but I don't need it to stand in for the way I feel about myself on a certain day. I don't need it for that.

Neither of these are great sins to me or anything, but they're the things that throw me off in perfume blogosphere. There's another one, but it's all tied up in race and white privilege, and that seems like it might need a whole post for itself. So another time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I'm a perfume everyday kind of person. I can't understand 'unscented'. Even when I was recovering from the stomach flu, I sprayed a little something on to comfort me. Just a little, just for me. I wish I remembered which perfume it was now. Maybe it's better not to remember. That means I didn't develop any bad associations with the scent.

Today I dabbed a little vintage Michelle by Balenciaga parfum on my hand. Just to see how buttery the gardenia was. I want all my gardenias to smell like they've been macerated into melty, unsalted Kerrygold. Mmmmmm. I want them to go on creamy and almost edible. Michelle isn't as voluptuous as I'd like, but she's spiced with something cinnamon-y, so she's that much more gourmand. I want to eat ice cream that tastes as good as this smells.

But I'm taking everyone to the movies today and need to wear something that won't bother any other patrons. White flowers seem to bother people, so I'll go for a soft, comforting layer of Nombril Immense again. Woot! I woke up with Nombril Immense in the crook of my elbow and it smelled so lovely. I want to wear it ALL THE DAYS.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Summer Scents

A lot of people reach for a citrus or fresh splash when summer comes, but I hate the way these scents can wither under the oppressive LA heat or take on a metallic bite. I like perfumes that can melt with me.


It's been so hot in LA, which means I get to dig out all my summer favorites. I love Shalimar in the summer, when it blooms all smoky and hay-sweet and vanillic. It takes a good sheen of sweat to make Shalimar go all golden and buttery on my skin. I love smelling it later when I get undressed for bed, the dry-down all salt-tinged suede at my throat. It's amazing to me that I used to find Shalimar old ladyish. Now it seems like a young, wild-child scent. Like something I might want to wear when I drive down to Chatsworth to go two-stepping.


All winter, I bypassed my musk scents. When it's too smoggy-overcast outside, I don't really want the skin-cling of musk on me, making me feel that much more weighed down and dirtied. It's only when the weather spikes above 70 that I start looking at my favorite musks again. I love the nutty-leather jacket scent of Annick Goutal's Musc Nomade. Its earthy-herbal musk is such an easy wear compared to animalic, skanky musks. I think I'm a bit anosmic to ambrette. I can't smell it at all in Le Labo's Ambrette 9. So perhaps the barely-there nuttiness of Musc Nomade is an anosmia thing.

I also love Narciso Rodriguez for Her, the edt and the body lotion. The lotion is especially warm and salty-skin smelling. Just thinking about wearing it during the winter made me a little queasy. But now, when it's hot and it'll haze there, all humid and girl-smelling, I love it. I can't wait until high summer to really sink into it.


I've had so much luck with antique malls lately (just this morning I grabbed up an unopened, boxed vial of vintage Tabu parfum) that suddenly I'm one of those vintage perfume people. You know the ones, who are like "Oh, this? It's vintage [insert obscure frag here]. You can't buy it anymore." I don't know what to do with all this stuff, I just put it in a shoebox that I open sometimes to ogle. It seems like a too serious responsibility for me, to own vintage frags. Who is this perfume collector I've become? I barely feel like an adult woman! What am I thinking? What if there's an earthquake! /anxiety attack!

But I wear them anyway. I'm not going to keep a box of unused old perfume in my closet so that they can all be shipped back to the antique malls when I pass away. I'm glad I wear them too. They really don't make them like this anymore.

Vintage Emeraude. I don't even know how to start. It's probably the most gorgeous perfume in my collection. Who would have thought, this drugstore standby would end up being my favorite thing? From my splash bottle, it starts off like you've powdered it on, a soft puff of scent on your wrist. But as it goes, it deepens, becomes rich and sunny. It's powdery but not in a powder-bomb way. It's smoky, but not barbecue. It's a gorgeous Shalimar-type scent that's much more grown up. Not ladylike exactly, but for a lady. It lays close to the skin, but I never feel naked in it. A few dabs here and there with a skirt and blouse and I'm halfway to put-together, even in the summer. Especially in the summer. Gorgeous.

Another new favorite is vintage Diorissimo. I read that one should never buy Diorissimo that has turned from golden/hay-colored to deep auburn or whiskey-dark. But I recently grabbed a bottle of a turned-looking Diorissimo cologne (in the houndstooth), and though it is a bit lighter wearing than my unturned vintage bottle, it is still Diorissimo.

I wonder if this is one I should try reformulated? I don't see how you can go wrong. To me, Diorissimo is just green, reedy lily-of-the-valley over girlish musk. I guess they've banned the aromachemical that makes up Diorissimo's lily? I don't know the details. But what a shame, because it's a perfectly simple, understated recipe. I don't usually like lily-of-the-valley, which can be sharp like a cold spike right to my frontal lobe, but the fresh greenery on top of Diorissimo and then the musky dry down that smells like girl-knickers is just so well-rounded and pretty. I sometimes like to dab a tiny bit on my wrist just for my own enjoyment while I make dinner or write. Anyway, this is a green scent I can get behind for the summer. It's got that refreshing dewy quality and squeaky-clean lily, but then an undertone of girl arousal. That's really what it smells like! I won't pull any punches.

For a modern take on the same idea, I'd go for Parfums DelRae's Debut. The lily there is almost cloying, but it goes musky quickly and is audaciously evocative of sexual arousal, I sometimes feel like I should pearl-clutch while wearing it.


People on basenotes are always saying things about patchouli that I don't get. One of my friends says "Patchouli is the spicest thing I can take, I guess," and I say "Patchouli is spicy?" And another girl: "Patchouli smells like a headshop to me," and I'm like "Patchouli is headshoppy?" All the headshops I grew up skulking around in smelled like Nag Champa. And the only hippie I knew who wore scent wore an essential oil called Rain (I think Neil Morris's Rainflower is of a similar style). So I don't have these kinds of bad associations with patchouli. But whatever, I have sandalwood problems. Does anyone else think sandalwood smells like peanut butter? No? Nobody?

So right now I've fallen for Etat Libre d'Orange's Nombril Immense. The ELDO scents I've tried (Fat Electrician, Charogne, Jasmin et Cigarette) were too indolic for me. The jasmine they use wavers between cleaning solution and the stinky halitosis breath. Fat Electrician left me reeling a little. I was worried when I traded Storer's Monk (too much civet!) for Nombril Immense-unsniffed-that I'd be disappointed.

Not so! Nombril Immense is strange and perfect and loamy. It smells like dirt and resin, but it's not heavy or sticky. The patchouli is earthy and fragrant. It's not a completely linear scent, but it starts out earthy and just gets deeper, richer, aromatic. I'd love to smell it on a man. My husband won't wear anything, I'd have to attack!scent him to get it on him. Sigh. This is exactly how I want my tv boyfriend to smell (who is Richard Alpert on Lost, ok?). For me, it's a light-wearing, cologne-type scent of the summer. I adore it.

That's my perfume post for now! I'll be back with stories about weird perfume compliments and exclamations.

Friday, March 19, 2010

L'heure Bleue

The citrus topnotes must have faded on this, because it's just the base now, all camphor-cream smelling aniseseed, musty flowers and a dry down that gets woodier and sweeter as it goes.

People say L'Heure Bleue is powdery, but it's not like the giant powder-bomb that Habanita is. I think they mean more that L'Heure Bleue smells like old-fashioned perfumed powder, and has a texture like wearing powder. It lays close to the skin, like the finish of a powder, and just barely kicks up this soft scent. It has the effect of smelling like it might be your own skin, the way it lays so close and subtle. But it doesn't smell like skin at all. It's very beautiful, delicate.


They still make Fracas and you can easily get a small eau de parfum roll-on for under 20 dollars at Sephora, which is kind of excellent. I've always liked this massive white floral (mostly tuberose) scent, but I only wear it once in a while because it has a screechy, in your face quality that is hard for me to pull off.

I saw this same little vial of the parfum at the antique mall for a song so I bought it and thought I'd give the vintage, pre-reformulation scent a chance. What a huge difference, holy shit.

Vintage Fracas is well-rounded, goes DEEP. I've noticed that most vintages have this quality, using now-banned aromachemicals to create depth and roundness. It's the difference between grape juice and red wine. They both come from grapes, but you're not mistaking one for the other. Fracas was made by the famous gender-bending perfumer Germaine Cellier, who was notorious for using 'bases' in her creations. A lot of houses have a House base. Guerlain has its vanilla-bergamot-lilac Guerlinade, old Caron's have their dark Mousse de Saxe, etc, but Germaine Cellier used handfuls of pre-made bases in each of her perfumes. This was seen as a sort of cheap cheat used by amateurs, but the effect was deep, round, multi-layered perfumes. Modern reproductions of her perfumes are shallow at best, because her ingredients lists were pages long, and a lot of these bases either don't exist anymore, contain banned aromachemicals or were just plain forgotten. It's a pity.

New Fracas has this knifing-your-brain accord that kills me, reminds me of the way cleaning chemicals smell sharp and dangerous, bleachy. The whole scent starts off with this BUTTERY, heavy cream Gardenia and Orange Blossom, and then knife-knife! The dry down gets a little woody, but it doesn't develop much past the knifing and the woodiness.

Vintage Fracas starts out with that same buttery white florals accord and just keeps GOING. Like the thick, soft thighs of a girl parting, it just keeps getting creamier and richer and muskier and deeper and sweeter. After a while, it's like eating too much of a good, rich dessert, though it's not a gourmand in any way. Finally, there IS a steel-blade of an accord that cuts through the richness. It's like the sea salt on a buttery caramel, just enough of something to make the sweetness bearable. In vintage Fracas, the note is a clean, bright lily-of-the-valley. Sharp and sleek like being cut by a thin metal wire, it saves the whole scent from turning into a creamy, oversweet melt-down.

It's gorgeous and sultry and voluptuous and I'm already looking at my little parfum and mourning the fact that it can't last forever. SAD.

I'll be back with vintage Emeraude and others later.