My day-to-day perfumery work requires an extensive library of fragrances, but for pleasure, I can make do with a small wardrobe. When I had to pack in preparation for my move to Belgium, I faced a Sophie’s choice many perfume lovers dread–which perfumes to take with me. We didn’t know if we’d be moving for a couple of months or a couple of years, and the limited luggage allowance left me with few options–three or four full bottles maximum.
I relied on this small fragrance wardrobe for several months as most of my collection made its way the ocean, but I’ve never felt deprived. Perfumers often say that a single perfume can be worn in such ways that it can smell like a completely different blend, but this was the first time I had experimented enough to discover this for myself. Depending on how I applied a fragrance, I enjoyed different facets of my favorite perfumes. It was both fun and liberating, proving once again that one need not spend a fortune to be beautifully scented.
Wrapped in Sheer Veil
If you smell jasmine oil in its pure state, it smells thick, jammy and opaque. But dilute it in a neutral base, and the aroma of white flowers rises forth. Dilute even further, and you will smell a wistful, green note reminiscent of young leaves and sticky buds. A similar exercise can be done with your favorite perfume, and a sheer application might even reveal new facets that are not as obvious when you apply a fragrance full strength.
It doesn’t matter if your favorite perfume is the ethereal Hermès Hiris or opulent Thierry Mugler Angel, any fragrance can be made more transparent through application techniques. Instead of spraying, consider dabbing your perfume or spray in tiny, targeted bursts. It’s a subtle difference, but the result can be dramatically different. Angel dabbed on neck and wrists will smell like hazelnuts and milk chocolate, while a generous spray will give you a rich caramel and candy apple effect.
My sense of smell is particularly acute in the morning, so I opt for a delicate veil of scent for an uplifting, but not overwhelming effect. Later in the day I might refresh my fragrance to make more of a statement.
Making a Statement
I’ve always wondered why my mother receives an extraordinary number of perfume compliments, and I realized that her secret is in the perfume application. The best way to create a statement with your perfume is to amplify its sillage by applying the fragrance to your hair and clothes. The warmth of the skin makes the fragrance evaporate faster, while the hair and fabrics trap it for much longer.
Even a delicate blend like Annick Goutal Néroli can be a statement perfume if I apply an additional spray when I’m fully dressed. Spraying my scarf is another great way to ensure that a perfume lingers. But a word of caution–be careful when applying perfume to delicate fabrics, such as organza, silk or satin, since they may stain or discolor.
Skin Care: Scented Lotion
You can make your perfume go a long way by scenting your favorite lotion with it. I’m rarely tempted by the expensive shower gels and body creams. For the most part, you don’t receive a good return on your investment–the perfume component is much less expensive than it would be in the Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette equivalent, while the product base is standard. You end up paying for the brand name and the luxurious packaging.
To indulge in my luxurious Serge Lutens La Myrrhe body cream, I follow a trick that I use in the perfumery lab whenever I test several batches of lotions–I take my favorite cream and add a couple of sprays of perfume, mix thoroughly and apply to my skin. Some body products have ingredients that might interact with perfume, so I don’t advise making such blends in large batches; only make as much as you want to use that day.
Pampering: Fragrant Bath
I’ve already written about my favorite pampering ritual, a cologne bath, but it’s possible to use any of your favorite perfumes to scent a bath. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to pour a rare, expensive fragrance into your bath, but usually you don’t need to use much perfume. Even the inexpensive 4711 cologne makes for a refreshing and exhilarating treat.
Fill the bathtub with water and just as you’re ready to get in, add your perfume of choice. If I feel like indulging in a Guerlain Shalimar scented bath, I use 2 drops of perfume or 3-4 sprays of Eau de Toilette. The warmth of the bath will make the scent blossom.
Do you have your favorite ways of using perfume?
Photography © Bois de Jasmin.