In the grand scheme of fashion and beauty, I consider perfume to be one of my biggest indulgences.
For the average person, an up-to-date closet, good grooming practices and if you’re of the female variety, a basic makeup routine, are significant beyond simply looking and feeling pretty. In work and in life, you’re always striving to put your best foot forward, and that includes your outward appearance.
Perfume serves no such purpose. Perfume is there purely to make you feel pretty (NOT to make you smell presentable … just to be clear). It’s one of those things that nobody really needs, but wearing a lovely scent can be the cherry on top of a perfect ensemble.
Because it’s a treat, and not the $3 kind, the process of choosing a perfume is not to be taken lightly. I’ve combined two perspectives in this column: my own, that of a casual fragrance wearer who just recently had the experience of smelling a perfume she couldn’t live without, and that of a friend who seems to be evaluating perfumes for purchase every two months or so.
Here are our tips for finding your perfect scent.
Expect that it won’t be cheap. Perfume is an indulgence and a splurge. However, that’s just part of the deal — there’s no buying fragrances on sale or buying a designer imitation version at an inexpensive retailer. Cheap perfume is like pleather. There’s really no way to pass it off as the real thing. Typically, the scented oil that comes in a rollerball starts at a lower price. Since it’s more concentrated, there’s less of it. For these, I spend around $50, and for a bottle, $75 or more. There is a good selection of designer perfume at Amazon.com, but that’s for your tried-and-true scents that you’re just refilling. And if you really want one that’s pricey, it probably comes in a smaller 1- or 2-ounce bottle.
To some extent, your perfume should choose you. During her discovery of the last perfume she purchased, my friend basically accosted a stranger on the street to ask what she was wearing. It was a Jo Malone fragrance, and she had never smelled anything like it until this person passed her and she caught a whiff. I had a similar experience visiting a different friend in San Francisco. She had gotten a sample of one of her favorite perfumes and gave it to me, and for the rest of my vacation I was on a mission to obtain this amazing fragrance. As someone who formerly shopped for perfume simply by spritzing a few samples here and there and then eventually choosing the most agreeable, I can say that you will never wear those perfumes. This is the first bottle I’ve ever run out of in my life.
Never decide right away. Body chemistry makes a difference in the way a scent smells on you, so ask for samples and wear it for a few days before buying. Most recently, I tried Florabotanica, the new scent from Balenciaga, and Jo Malone’s English Pear and Freesia scent, both at Nordstrom, and preferred Florabotanica out of the bottle, but thought I actually smelled better wearing the Jo Malone.
Match your fashion sense. If your “look” had a smell, what would it be? For example, if you wear all black with dramatic fabrics like leather every day, your signature scent is probably spicy or musky, not floral. One reason for this is that a scent is very personal, and there’s really no barometer other than your personal style and your own judgment. The other is that smells evoke memories, and you want your smell to evoke an accurate one. I always feel sorry for the boys I had high school crushes on, because I think of them every time I smell Axe, and I’m sure that doesn’t fit their personalities. I’d like to think I had better taste in men than that.
Be mindful of the fragrance’s strength. Some people say it’s a hard and fast rule that you shouldn’t wear perfume to an occasion like a job interview. I think you can, as long as it’s your very light, daytime scent. Enlist friends to evaluate if you’re unsure.
(E-mail Kristyn Schiavone at Kristyn@simplestyleguide.com, follow her on Twitter at @KKSchiavone or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.)