Monday, March 4, 2013

A lady's guide to choosing a perfume.

Perfume, ultimately, is the most significant calling card of a lady.  More than expensive clothes, more than diamonds, more than the parties we attend or people we know, the odor we announce ourselves with reveals so much about us and inspires such responses in others that it behooves any lady worth her salt to choose wisely in the way she scents herself.  As such, here's a small guide on how to find the best scent for you as well as a list of the perfume houses and makers I find to be the best in the business.
My perfume collection
1.  The first, biggest thing you must consider when picking a scent is, simply, what kind of scents do you like in the first place?  Are you fond of certain flowers or spices?  Do you like smells just for themselves or do they conjure up specific images for you?  To explore your nose if you haven't previously, find your way to a shop like Sephora and just work your way through the perfumes, sniffing and sampling.  Note which ones you like most and try to identify what similar elements, if any, exist between them. 

2.  The second thing that comes into play with picking a perfume is body chemistry.  This tends to be more applicable for essential oils, which are more volatile and capricious in how they manifest, but it crops up in perfume with an alcohol base as well:  certain scents may react badly on your skin.  It may smell delicious in the bottle, but, for whatever reason, it doesn't smell good at ALL on you.  If this is the case and you still really love the perfume and just must have it, you can always apply it to handkerchiefs or other odor neutral things for your own pleasure, just don't wear the perfume in public.

3.  Scent is not a place to skimp as far as expense goes, ladies, and cheap perfume is easily the greatest sin a we can commit.  Plastic, artificial smelling perfumes you buy at your drugstore are not going to give you the scent that you want.  Neither is a dime a dozen eau de toilette from Victoria's Secret.  You are trying to pick a scent or scents that will define you, and if that scent is so unremarkable as to be available virtually everywhere then it begs the question of why, exactly, you consider yourself a lady if you're so willing to blend in with the masses.

4.  Feel free to create quite a collection of perfumes, with different functions applied to each.  I have certain scents I wear to exude a businesslike attitude, some to turn up the sensuous and seductive side of myself, some just for when I feel happy, and even a few worn specifically to indicate anger or combativeness.  Having a wide, ever growing range of perfumes means never feeling at a loss for a scent to suit your mood.

5.  At the same time, however, have a deffinitive 'YOU' scent.  This is your Chanel no. 5, your iconic odor, the one that describes you best.  Wear it often and build up the association between you and the perfume.  Let this be the ribbon of scent that allows people to know that you have just walked past them.  This is particularly useful in a romantic setting, as building a strong scent association between you and the perfume in the mind of your lover will cause them to become weak in the knees at the very hint of the scent.  (My own iconic scent is Lubin's Gin Fizz perfume.)

6.  Speaking of Chanel no. 5, however, beware of using perfumes that have become too classic or generally well known, regardless of price.  Chanel no. 5 is a perfect example of this, as while it is a beautiful scent, it is so iconic and, to a degree, dated that it will be associated more with a certain era than with you.  In simpler terms, you may love your grandmother, but you don't want to smell like her. 

7.  Respect other people's sense of smell.  If you are going to be on a plane or in some other tightly enclosed area for a long period of time, don't wear your strongest perfume.  Do not douse yourself in scent; one spritz on the neck and one of the wrists is sufficient.  Do not wear overpowering or overly sensuous perfumes to work.  Avoid having your scent rub off on those around you (this can be avoided by not dousing yourself in it). 

8.  Always wear perfume.  Even if you have no other makeup on, even if you aren't sporting fancy attire, perfume gives a touch of class that brightens everything about a lady.

And now, some of my favorite perfume houses:

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab:  This is a good place to start your perfume collection, as the small bottles of essential oil are not in the least pricey while still being masterfully blended.  I recommend ordering imps (scent samples) first, however, so you can decide whether the scent is to your liking and works on your skin.  (See point #2).  Also go to the BPAL Madness forum for added information and reviews of the different scents.  Victoria's personal favorites:  Manhattan, The Last Unicorn, Ozymandias, and Peacock Queen.

Jo Malone:  These scents are wonderful to play with and layer, while also being classy and excellent on an individual basis.  Some perfumes are blends of scents, such as their signature '154' or the popular 'Lime Basil Mandarin', while other are single note in nature, as are their rose and grapefruit colognes.  Victoria's personal favorites:  154, Rose, and Grapefruit layered over Orange Blossom.

Lubin:  The most expensive of my favorite brands, Lubin is a French perfume house with one hell of a pedigree, having started in 1798.  Their perfumes are wonderful, multi-faceted olfactory experiences, with hosts of notes interplaying with each other to create a scent that is so much more than the sum of its parts.  Victoria's personal favorites:  Gin Fizz (my iconic scent, see point # 5) and Black Jade.

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