A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet…
Scent – The Down and Dirty!
Those of you who have done your Personal Style Class (and if not, why not? Bookings for September are available), will remember that, when it comes to perfumes, I said, “Don’t“!
So why am I talking about scent here then?
Because in the Personal Style Class I was talking about professional dressing and how not to cause offence in the workplace – and believe you me, a strong perfume, like Jimmy Choo’s Exotic, can be just as offensive to some people as the aroma of stale sweat and sports socks!
But after 6pm and at weekends, the rules change. And it’s time for you to make your mark. Or to mark your scent, if we’re going to get all animalistic and Springwatch about it.
In his 1951 book The Psychological Basis of Perfumery Top Perfumer and Scientist Paul Jellinek identified “attraction of the opposite sex to be the single overriding reason for perfume use by women”.
Hmmm. I’d just like to point out here that, in my experience, the only man who has ever commented positively on my use of perfume is my brother. While I would acknowledge, intellectually, that my brother is certainly an attractive man – ew – I mean – brother!
No! I wear perfume for my own pleasure. You probably do too.
But if you have absolutely no idea of how to choose a perfume for yourself and tend to rely on what your other half picked up on his last mad dash through the duty free, then here is a little pocket guide for you.
For a start – relax. We humans have about 350 olfactory receptors (for comparison we have just three visual receptors, okay?). Although many of these are not functional, now we are no longer dependent upon tracking herds of wildebeest over vast plains to ensure food for the tribe (Sainsbury does a much better job of that than we do), that still leaves a heck of a lot of sensory input.
So scent is tricky, alright?
But of course, we humans like organising the tricky and over the years, various scientists have delighted in organising and categorising scent.
Michael Edwards is an acknowledged expert in this field. He has categorised scents into four major types and within those types, fourteen sub-types.
The main scents are Floral, Oriental, Woody and Fresh. But treat these very much like you would the seasons of colours – within these you are going to have lots of different tones. For instance, within Fresh there is Aromatic, Citrus, Water and Green. Aromatic borders onto the Woody fragrances and Green borders onto the Floral notes…..
Look, why don’t you just have a look yourself at his Fragrance wheel.
Yes – but this doesn’t much help me! I hear you say.
Well, it does – sort of…
You see – if you know you prefer a lighter scent then it makes sense (ha ha – geddit?) to avoid the orientals. Start with the citrus and green scents – maybe foray into the lighter side of the florals. If you know you want to pack a romantic punch then you know you are heading straight to the oriental florals or maybe to the sandalwood and patchouli.
Hmmm, Okay, but I don’t see musk there. And what about this Chypre I’ve heard about? And just how do you pronounce that anyway?
Well, musk is used as a base for many scents (but more on the oriental and woody side), so it fits into more than one category. Chypre (Sheep-rah) is definitely in the Woody side, but in all of ’em; the oriental woods, the woody woods and the mossy woods.
I hope you’re keeping up because it’s about to get even more complicated.
Now, all perfumes have base notes, heart notes and top notes. When you initially spray on the perfume it is the top notes you smell first, followed by the heart notes. The base notes are what gives the scent its longevity and also its basic direction and anchor. The base notes also tend to give us our most visceral emotional response to a scent.
It is the oriental and woody side of the fragrance wheel which provide the majority of base notes, and the floral and fresh side which provide the heart and head notes, so it’s worth getting to know which notes appeal to you and which you find you cannot bear at any price. Then it’s a case of finding the right scent recipe. Like most recipes, it’s all in the mix and proportions.
But don’t forget there’s the chemistry of your skin. You will find that some scents smell lovely for the first five minutes, but after half an hour the heart and base notes have combined with the oils of your skin and it smells like a rancid compost heap. The same scent smells wonderful on your friend, but on you – well…
Again – it’s worth finding out what it is that doesn’t react well with you. With me it’s musk. Musk smells positively unpleasant on me after ten minutes – I guess I just wasn’t cut out to wear those deep, sexy fragrances….
I’ve going to leave you by turning full circle back to the personal style day. It should be fairly obvious to you that if your personal style is Romantic, then you are likely to prefer one of the more opulent and feminine fragrances. Maybe with a gustatory base note (ah – I didn’t mention the chocolate, vanilla and burnt caramel, did I? Probably just as well!). If your style is the delicate and elegantly feminine Ingènue, you may go for a lighter floral scent. Dramatics need something to match their power and Classics need something with elegance. If Naturals ever bother with scent then it’s logical they will choose something either fresh or woodsy. I know that, for myself, with my strands of Natural, ingènue and Gamine, then it’s always Chypre mixed with either floral notes or spice.
Although, try on as many scents as I like, I still haven’t found a classic that’s perfect for me! I live in hope though: a friend with a nose like a truffle-hound has promised to take me perfume shopping when we next meet up. I’m looking forward to it!
And one final thought (and you can blame my son for this): he says, “Don’t wear your perfume anywhere you’d like to be kissed: perfume smells nice but tastes foul!”
You have been told!
So – noses at the ready, girls!