How to Play with Perfume and Fashion

I confess to a perfume quirk:  I love to coordinate fragrance and clothes. I’ve been doing it since I was thirteen, when such a task was made much simpler by the smaller number of perfumes in my wardrobe. By the time I was in high school, the coordination was fairly routine and easy to follow.  Brown clothing (specifically, Levis brown cords) never matched up with a light blue tunic or with any fragrance that I deemed blue.  Whether a fragrance was blue (or green or red or any color at all) depended on a variety of factors, like the color of the bottle, the color of the juice, or the “feel.”

 capucine

“Feel” was and still is impossible for me to describe, but many perfumistas will know exactly what I mean.  Sometimes determining the color might be simple:  Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche was blue because of the bottle and the sky-high aldehydes, the fizzy, champagne-like notes that smell effervescent and blue to me.  Revlon Charlie was yellow because the juice is gold and fizzy (I daringly wore it with a yellow ribbed sweater and orange jeans.) Houbigant Chantilly was light brown and I wore it with beige and never with teal.

This all makes sense to me.  I have no idea how I choose.  It’s simply right or wrong.  Whole categories of fragrance, by type, could be broadly assigned color categories, and it’s an individual choice. To me, for instance, oriental fragrances like Guerlain Nahéma can be either black, brown, or maroon. White florals dazzle in silver, gold, pewter, bronze, or anything with gilt. The fougère family with its aromatic notes of lavender, geranium and cool moss is toned green. Many marine fragrances are not the color of the sea but of swimming pools, giving off a fluorescent glow. So, for your enjoyment, amusement, or both, here are some examples from my wardrobe.

Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Route du Vétiver

The muddy greenish brown of a water snake that slithered over my foot in a botanical garden. This goes with anything cherry hued.

Sisley Eau de Soir

The exact color of the flesh of a white grapefruit, nothing more, nothing less.  This I would wear with a crinkly gauze ensemble with headwrap, off-white.

Rochas Femme

Femme is both the color of a South Florida tan and also a brown-based medium pink, the specific shade of which was common in some mid-century home décor. To be worn with a brown tailored suit with nipped waist.

Guerlain Vol de Nuit

The pale lemon yellow of watery sunlight doused in a mist. Wants a heroic color, though, as accompaniment, so a brave navy silk shirt would do nicely.

Bond No. 9 Chinatown

Not the lurid fuchsia of the bottle but an equally lurid tangerine, and shiny, too.  Go for it—neon green jacket.  The contrast is punchy and fun.

L’Artisan Mûre et Musc

For some reason, this feels gray to me.  Not cheerful little bursts of deep purple, but gray.  And foggy. (Another gray fragrance from the same line is Passage d’Enfer.) Oh, dear, we need to warm this up, but gently.  A midtone bright pink lipstick and corresponding scarf will do the trick.

Caron Montaigne

A screaming yellow with green base. Must be paired with black to cool it off.

Eau d’Italie Sienne l’Hiver

Silver with strong bluish tinge, like ice that you might slip on and sprain an ankle.  This just about demands lilac, perhaps in the form of a pashmina.

Byredo Pulp

The fiery orange ball of a sunset I once observed over Mobile Bay in Alabama. To pair with a hand-knit raspberry wool sweater.

I’d love to hear your suggestions, or your own perfume wearing quirks!

Image:  Capucine, Café de la Paix, Paris 1952, photography by Georges Dambier, via wiki-images.

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115 Comments

  • 20s_Jazz_Baby: It’s funny, I almost do the opposite (because I’m contrary, I think). I’m a very big fan of contradictions; for example, I have a habit of wearing chanel n.5 at the gym (and I go to a very gritty Thai boxing gym). The apparent inappropriateness of it makes me very happy! March 19, 2013 at 7:24am Reply

    • Suzanna: Don’t you just love inappropriateness? March 19, 2013 at 7:56am Reply

      • Alexandra: I’m with you girls! Once I wore Petit Cherie with total Gothic clothes and I loved it! How cheeky ;-)! March 19, 2013 at 4:06pm Reply

      • Mer: Yes! Since I’m a metalhead, all my perfume (ok except perhaps the BPAL) is inappropriate. There ;D March 21, 2013 at 7:50am Reply

        • Suzanna: HA! Great comment! March 21, 2013 at 11:43am Reply

          • Mer: 😀 I love to giggle at Miss Dior reviews telling me how I should be such a lady and dress impeccably in order to pull it off. I think it is fantastic with combat boots! March 21, 2013 at 2:40pm Reply

            • Suzanna: I always wore it with Doc Martens! March 21, 2013 at 2:48pm Reply

              • Mer: Ha, great! 😉 March 23, 2013 at 7:15am Reply

    • Figuier: I’m in this club too. I love wearing something unspeakably raunchy (in small doses of course) when wearing a prim-and-proper outfit, or a masculine vetiver when clad in girly lace. Colour-wise too I go for contrasts – like wearing woods with bubblegum pink, or white florals with sober navy. March 19, 2013 at 9:03am Reply

      • Victoria: I often wear Mitsouko when I do my Saturday apartment cleaning. It makes this boring task seem more pleasant. 🙂

        Also, No5 with a casual outfit is one of my favorite perfume-clothing pairings. March 19, 2013 at 9:20am Reply

        • Suzanna: As far as I am concerned, Eau Premiere version is made for the casual. March 19, 2013 at 9:58am Reply

        • behemot: YES! March 19, 2013 at 1:45pm Reply

        • Thai: Me too! I always wear Mitsouko when I vacuum the house. And Coco with shorts. And Madame Rochas with bohemian dress. March 19, 2013 at 5:59pm Reply

      • Suzanna: Wonderful! Glad to hear your experience with this topic. March 19, 2013 at 9:57am Reply

    • solanace: If you see someone wearing Amouage Gold with flip flops and a hippie dress, that’s me! March 19, 2013 at 10:41am Reply

      • Austenfan: Or me.
        Well not the hippie dress exactly but muddy trousers and hiking boots match the fragrance to a tee! March 19, 2013 at 10:52am Reply

        • mough: YES!! That’s me, too! I wear Bal a Versailles when around horses, or Absolue Pour le Soir. But that kind of makes sense. But the more casual, the bigger and louder I get. March 19, 2013 at 11:55am Reply

    • ula: count me in! just like pairing a red lip with a grey sweatshirt and jeans, I like contradictions. March 19, 2013 at 12:17pm Reply

      • jujube: I like to wear red lips when I do grocery shopping. March 19, 2013 at 1:15pm Reply

        • Suzanna: As you should! I do it myself! March 21, 2013 at 11:43am Reply

      • Suzanna: I like that look so much, ula, that I wear it often myself! March 21, 2013 at 11:34am Reply

  • Melissa: I don’t do this as a rule, particularly with more modern fragrances. But I do tend to match my vintage scents with clothing styles. Vintage No 19 is worn with tailored styles and Apres L’Ondee, with softer, gauzier looks. Color doesn’t consciously play into my choices, but it would be fun to make that a factor. I’ll see what I can come up with this morning! March 19, 2013 at 7:59am Reply

    • Suzanna: That’s a good observation about modern versus vintage and I can see how that would work–modern (I refer to modern mall scents) all seem the same pastel to me, with no greater feature. March 19, 2013 at 9:59am Reply

  • The Blue Squid: I’m glad to hear other people do this kind of a thing too. I have a pastel-ish grey and orange dress that I think is good for Coromandel, for some reason.

    Also, leather perfumes for leather jackets, of course!

    There is a little book called “The Book of Perfumes”, by John Oakes, that was published in Australia in the mid-nineties, that features some hilariously detailed, proscriptive advice about
    what a lady should wear to complement each perfume described within it. Good for a laugh if
    you can get your mitts on a copy….

    Please keep up your excellent work!

    Kind regards from the Blue Squid. March 19, 2013 at 8:30am Reply

    • Suzanna: Bue Squid, I can “see” your pairing and love it.

      I remember hearing something about that book and I hope someone will come forward with some information from it. March 19, 2013 at 10:00am Reply

    • annemariec: Oh I think I’ve seen that book. I’m in Australia and I think my local library has it. I was so embarrassed I shoved it back on the shelf pretty fast! It’s one of those perfume books that sing the praises of every perfume discussed. That was why, when the Turin-Sanchez book came out about a decade later, it was such a relief. Finally someone was coming out – in print – and saying ‘actually, perfume x is absolute crap’. Of course the rise of perfume forums on the internet, where everyone can express an opinion and you don’t have to rely on the nonsense dished out to you by perfume SAs, has been a wonderful parallel development. March 19, 2013 at 6:55pm Reply

      • The Blue Squid: Ok, Suzanna… (and hi annemariec!) have combed my copy of the John Oakes book to find the most purple-prosy fashion and perfume combo description I could.  

        This one’s for Oscar de la Renta “Volupte”.  Please excuse the lack of an acute accent on the “e”.  There is only so much I can do while typing with one finger on an iPad….
        “Purple and violet come to mind at the first whiff…,and to find the wearer in anything less dramatic is to know she hasn’t understood its seriousness.  It’s a perfume that thrives on rich, vibrant colours-marigold, rose, amethyst, sapphire, cerulean, copper, jade- in fabrics such as silk, brocade, taffeta, satin, tulle and organza.  It needs big dressing, like a huge hat or a startling turban over a sharp amethyst suit.  As to age, nobody under twenty should touch it, while the over- fifties have probably run their voluptuous race and so don’t need it’s sensuous flamboyance.  (It is) best in spring and summer, and if you’re going to the tropics, take it along.  It will really get those tom-toms throbbing!”

        Lol at the throbbing tom-toms.  Also, lol at the suggestion that for women over fifty, the throb of the tom-toms is silenced…..FOREVER!

        Have a successfully scented day or evening, everyone! March 20, 2013 at 7:42am Reply

        • Suzanna: Thank you, thank you for this outlandish commentary from John Oakes! (And for your retort to it..LOL!!)

          I am all for women over 50 (and over 60 and so forth) having “sensuous flamboyance.” Go for it! Let the tom-toms resound with it! March 20, 2013 at 11:39am Reply

      • Suzanna: I agree, even if the SAs do not. They still have their agenda to know more and know better.

        I had a person who looks down her nose at fragrance writing ask me yesterday that if I were so good at picking perfumes, what would I pick for her? I thought, is there a scent of a petty tyrant? A cheap leather, perhaps, doused in spilled wine? Oh, the fun I had imagining all kinds of unattractive combinations. March 21, 2013 at 11:36am Reply

  • Irene: Oh, I absolutely love this post, since what I´m wearing always plays a role when choosing my daily perfume, or the perfume that I´d like to wear on a certain day influences the choice of my clothing. I´m a fashion designer and there fore a very “visual” person and I perfumes also have that “colour feel” for me. I don´t have a fix rule, but I tend to play opposites as well. For me grey, cold blues and greens call up for some Fleurs d’Oranger or Ambra de Nepal, and I wear my orange, fuchsia or flower dresses with Margiela´s Untitled or Prada Infusion d’Iris. The exception would be if I go for head to toe black, since I´m into Avangarde fashion designers I tend to choose something edgy and different from Comme des Garcons , Bvlgari Black…
    I´m looking forward for the rest of the comments!! March 19, 2013 at 9:08am Reply

    • Suzanna: The minute I read orange fucshia, or flower dresses, I thought, GREEN! And look at your two choices-each with green qualities to them, or green/woody, and also apparent or nearly hidden touch of orange. March 19, 2013 at 10:01am Reply

  • Frances: Such a great post Suzanna! I’m looking at my wardrobe in a different light. I know exactly what you mean about colours and their ability to visually represent a persona, feeling or scent. I apply the same theory to people… all friends and family are a colour with a very specific hue in my mind! (Maybe that’s why some people’s company just doesn’t feel right some days – they don’t match your scent or outfit!!) March 19, 2013 at 9:23am Reply

    • Suzanna: Isn’t that a fascinating observation, Frances, about company? Perfume aside, I definitely want to think that one through. March 19, 2013 at 10:02am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: ”the feel”: I know exactly what you mean. Perfume for me is strongly connected with colour. Altough sometimes it can be fun, I don’t play with contrasts. I mostly wear black, as it goes with many perfumes. But there are brown perfumes, such as Coco, Bornéo 1834, Etro Patchouly, Theorema..With red, I wear strong perfumes, like Carnal Flower. With dark, earthy yellow goes Arabie, Birmane, Mitsouko, with soft lila Après L’Ondée or Lys Soleya. Green is of course Scherrer (I own the Edt., love it, but according to Victoria , Nikki and other parfumistas, I should go for the Edp), another favorite with green is Magie Noire.
    I have many perfumes and could go on endlessly! Absolute favorite: black clothing, faux perles, and Fracas. Or a brown colbert and Aromatics Elixir. March 19, 2013 at 9:30am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: perles fausses I mean! March 19, 2013 at 9:35am Reply

    • Suzanna: Fracas is ideal with black as you suggest (and perles fausses). One day I think I will compile a list of perfumes by color; your brown list inspires me and the spin-off into earthy yellow is endlessly fascinating. March 19, 2013 at 10:04am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: p.s. The alligator is now on the front page of my computer. Every time when I open my MacBook, I see that marvelous picture of a beautiful animal! March 19, 2013 at 9:33am Reply

    • Suzanna: I’m thrilled!!! That’s your gator! March 19, 2013 at 10:05am Reply

  • Leah: Suzanna, I love this post! I just went through a big internal debate on this as I was getting ready this morning. I have synesthesia to a certain degree (my senses get mixed up) so I experience colored letters, numbers and of course PERFUMES!! I decided to wear De Profundis this morning and while I simply adore the magnificent violet tinge Uncle Serge selected for this one, to me it smells green, with some charcoal grey (and maybe a silver grey) thrown in for the incense. I decided to go with an olive green sweater and black pants, though I confess I wish I perceived it in violet. The other fragrance that really threw me for a loop when it first came out was Thierry Mugler’s Angel – while I loved the blue (so shocking at the time), to me the smell should have resulted in a color somewhere beyween cognac and molasses!

    I love your Vol de Nuit outfit – there is something so regal about this scent that navy is absolutely appropriate! March 19, 2013 at 9:41am Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, I am with you about Angel. It is very confusing. It smells as if dark brown (but I also see pink in it for some weird reason, prob. the candy quality) but there it is, all blue!

      I just smelled the new version of it–that brown quality is missing for me, the aged patch that gave it that oak-barrel quality responsible for the brown. March 19, 2013 at 10:54am Reply

      • Elisa: Oh no, did Angel change its grade of patchouli??? That was the best part! March 19, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

        • Suzanna: There is something different. Perhaps someone else who has both versions can comment. I still have a bit of the old left and therefore didn’t try both side by side. It seems thinner to me. March 21, 2013 at 11:41am Reply

  • Squirrely: Love this post! Suzanna, have you ever heard of synesthesia? It’s “a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway” (as per the Wikipedia article). I have it in a few way, including a version of scent to color synesthesia. I also have strong gender & personality associations with the #s 1 through 9, and I have sound to visual synesthesia (meaning I sense movement/agitation when listening to music, so I actually don’t really like most music unless there are good lyrics to distract me!). I used to think I was slightly nuts, but it’s not a totally uncommon condition. There’s a fun book on synesthesia called ¬¬_ Wednesday Is Indigo Blue_.

    Specially in the scent vein, on my perfume spreadsheet I keep a column just to know the “color.” And while juice color, bottle, mood, etc. can play a role, it’s not the whole story. For example: Hermes Hiris is for white button up shirts, Coco is black (as is Safran Troublant and Lush’s Breath of God), Magnolia Nobile in blue, Juicy Couture, the original, is ivory or chartreuse, Parfums de Nicolaï’s Patchouli Intense is navy or dark green.

    My most exciting scent/color “find” was buying a magenta cardigan (a new color for my wardrobe) and finally being able to wear J’Adore! I never “got” the scent before, but apparently, it was because I had nothing to wear it with!

    Hmm, maybe I am a little nuts… March 19, 2013 at 9:42am Reply

    • Suzanna: Your comment has made my day :–)

      I especially enjoy the bit about J’Adore. I have Nuit de Cellophane, which I find to be in the same category, and I wonder why I have it, but then there is some “aha!” moment when it is required and nothing else will do. I will have to see if this has to do with a color choice.

      I’m trying to buy an orange sweater and I can sort of “smell” what might go with it and what might not. No blue, so therefore no orange and blue Gator football colors and oh, the shame of that since I live in Gainesville. March 19, 2013 at 11:02am Reply

      • Nicole: Being a Gator girl, I often pair Keiko Mecheri Mulholland with my orange. Or something like L’Artisan L’eau de L’Artisan. Both bright citrus fragrances just seem right for Gator orange and blue to me, especially since football season is sweltering in Gainesville. March 19, 2013 at 12:19pm Reply

        • Suzanna: It sure is, and imagine clouds of suffocating American Eagle frags in the Swamp! Like you, I wear citruses quite often.

          Have not tried Mullholland and will have to look at it. Others I enjoy are Malle Bigarade Concentree, Monegal Entre Naranjos, and the Cartier Essence d’Orange.

          I love that we live in the same city. Probably cross paths! I do the photos at Free Fridays (when not working on another gig), so stop by and say hi one of these times! March 21, 2013 at 11:40am Reply

  • Mj: Hi Suzanna,
    Interesting post. I loved learning your personal taste in perfumes. Interesting how scent memories color our experience of certain perfumes. The patchouli in 24 Faubourg calls up my memories of ’70’s incense. I love to wear 24 Faubourg with jeans, my colorful Tory Burch tunic and Frye boots. (Yes, am proud to admit this is the second time I am enjoying the “boho” fashion trend.)
    MJ March 19, 2013 at 10:21am Reply

    • Suzanna: I have never not enjoyed boho fashion! Tunics are my favorite and Tory Burch makes wonderful ones. And guess what? I wear my boho looks with Coromandel (for the patch). March 19, 2013 at 11:05am Reply

  • Lynley: I also associate my perfumes with colours, and with ‘feel’. I wear the same uniform to work everyday, so then I just wear whatever fragrance I’m in the mood for, or what the weather is like, but outside of work I wear what suits what I’m wearing. I still go by feel, but I tend to be a fashion chameleon, I haven’t ‘a look’, I have many, so this helps (and helps justify!) a large fragrance collection. If I wear something tailored to a professional appointment, I’ll wear a fitting perfume, say 31 Rue Cambon, but if I wear the same fitted black dress to a social occasion, I might wear Fracas instead, and louder accessories. I hate it when I dress then spritz, then change my mind about my outfit, as chances are my chosen fragrance will no longer match :-/ I feel very out of sorts wearing a fragrance that doesn’t match my outfit! March 19, 2013 at 10:21am Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, snap! I hate that also, and I just recently did it while going to work wearing Un Bois Vanille. Wrong, all wrong! It bothered me the whole day, too sharp, too sweet. March 19, 2013 at 11:10am Reply

  • Annikky: Lovely article, Suzanna! And very timely, too, as I have just matched my red trousers and lips with Rubj.

    I love fashion and coordinating (or clashing) my clothes and scent is a big part of the perfume-wearing pleasure for me. It can be about the colour, as you say – I was at a very high profile event recently and paired my floor-length pale lilac dress with Aleksandr by Arquiste, I thought it was a perfect match. It can also be more thematic like waring equestrian-influenced clothes (I never met a riding jacket I didn’t like) with leather perfumes or my “Modern Geisha” dress with Aftelier Shiso or something bright and citrussy with sharp, modish black-and-white.
    I have also the habit of dressing things up or down with perfume – Chanel can glam up anything and I hope to try Shalimar parfum with a white t-shirt and jeans soon, while Blackberry & Bay or Champaca lend a delightfully unpretentious air to everything. As otheres have pointed out, clashing or choosing unexpected perfumes can be so enjoyable.

    And then there are of course places and books and movies and other things to match… March 19, 2013 at 10:43am Reply

    • Suzanna: I want (and I am sure others will agree) pictures of you in the pale lilac dress, and also this “Modern Geisha” dress. I can picture you so stylish, elegant…worthy of a fashion magazine. Thanks for the great visual! March 19, 2013 at 11:13am Reply

  • Natalia: Thank you for this interesting and thought provoking post, Suzanna!

    Well, given that my perfume wardrobe exceeds my clothes wardrobe by far, I usually never bother with the scent/fashion correlations. As far as my fashon sensibilities are concerned,
    Chanel 5 goes perfectly with jeans and a hoodie
    Caron Narcisse Noir does perfectly with jeans and a hoodie
    Amouage Gold goes perfectly with jeans and a hoodie
    Mitsouko goes perfectly with jeans and a hoodie
    and the list continuous…

    I do hear you when you speak about the perfume/color relationships. I, too, think of my perfumes in terms of color, often regardless of the actual color of the “juice” or the bottle. Chanel 5, for example, I would rather wear with black, Eau du Soir with dark/navy blue, L’Eau d’Hiver with some pastel tones, light green or beige.
    You perception of Nahema is interesting and different from mine. To me, this sweet honeyed rose smells perfectly white. I would wear it with the classic no heels shoes, classic blus jeans, while turtleneck (or white hoodie, for that matter) and very small diamond stud earrings. Actually… I think I will wear such an outfit tonight )

    Once again, thanks for the article! March 19, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

    • Suzanna: Your wardrobe sounds much like mine. Today is too hot to wear a hoodie, but I was trying to buy (yet) another one yesterday on a sale rack.

      I am finding that Christopher Street, the debut from Charenton Macerations, is FAB with jeans a hoodie, as well as my work uniform of black tunic, black slacks or leggings, and wedge heels. March 19, 2013 at 12:46pm Reply

      • Douglas Bender: I love that you pair Christopher Street with jeans and a hoodie. A go-to for me for comfortable casual, and perfect for hanging out in the West Village. May 11, 2013 at 4:53pm Reply

  • Jeff B: I really love this article, particularly the idea of wearing contrasts/opposites. I am far too streamlined in my thinking….that brown requires a vanilla scent, that Guerlain’s Equipage requires a blue blazer, that a yellow shirt needs a citrus fragrance, that to wear PE’s 360 Red I must have on something…..red! How silly is that? I am going to have to explore Chinatown with that aforementioned blue blazer. I completely relate to Lynley’s comment of feeling out of sorts when a fragrance does not match the outfit, I think it is time I risked a day of discombobulation. March 19, 2013 at 11:29am Reply

    • Suzanna: Not silly at all! And I do think Chinatown will work with the blue blazer. Please come back to give a report! (I see the blue as coordinating with the peach in C’town.) March 19, 2013 at 12:44pm Reply

  • irem: Love this! I can usually tell when a perfume and dress color feels wrong, but have more trouble finding the right pairings. Part of it is that I absolutely do not like anything brown, earthy in color and entire families of perfume radiate brownish. I used to wear all black, and kind of everything went with black. Nowadays I am incorporating more bright color into my wardrobe: bright red, bright fuchsia, bright blue (like the in the old L’Heure Bleue ad), bright navy or indigo, white etc. And I have such difficulty pairing these bright colors with perfume. Would you have any suggestions for me? Maybe I should post at the “recommend me a perfume”.
    I know that anything patchouli does not work! Chypre is no good either. Love Mitsouko but it feels so wrong with these cheery bright colors. Used to love Dune, but it feels even worse than Mitsouko. I recently got a bottle of Santal Majuscule, loved the scent, but too brown of course, sold on eBay. Got a bottle of Bois de Violette – wanted it for soo long, and I am turning a blind eye/nose to the fact that it does not go with my colors either.
    I will try Vol de Nuit (have the pure perfume) with bright navy as per your suggestion. I too was thinking Carnal Flower with red as mentioned in one comment. Don’t have CF, have Beyond Love which has more of a watercolor feeling and did not work with bright red.
    Most days I go for Cristalle EdT because it is equally bright as my colors and works well despite the mossy drydown (I think I keep spritzing and spritzing, so it never really makes it to the mossy drydown 🙂 ).

    I’d be so happy to try your perfume suggestions for bright colors! March 19, 2013 at 11:58am Reply

    • Suzanna: It is just about Cristalle season here! I was just looking at the newest Gucci collection of clothing and thinking how well Cristalle would work with some of the looks, particularly a dahlia-print, one-shoulder dress in a zippy raspberry shade (Cristalle–green; dress–raspberry).

      Let us know about the Vol de Nuit and navy pairing, please! March 19, 2013 at 12:37pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I understand your conundrum. I really do! The brown family does seem wrong.

      Lately, I’ve been “feeling” sprightly citrus scents as accessories to my admittedly dull color palette, for a touch of color. These scents are: Ramon Monegal Entre Naranjos, which is in a similar family to the Margiela Untitled mentioned earlier but crisper and tangier; Aria di Capri; Fraiche Passiflore (a vibrant mango-type note); Ginestet Sauvignonne…and more to come in an upcoming post about spring perfumes! See if any of these will work for you. March 19, 2013 at 12:43pm Reply

      • irem: Thank you so much for your suggestions. I’ll make sure to sample them all. I am familiar with Aria di Capri only, so I will broaden my perfume horizon in the process. Yay! March 19, 2013 at 1:08pm Reply

        • Annikky: I know you didn’t ask me, but the brightest scent I have ever tried is Bombay Bling! Warm, happy bright (a bit like Pulp, actually), not cold bright. March 19, 2013 at 3:45pm Reply

          • Suzanna: Consider yourself asked–great suggestion! March 19, 2013 at 8:05pm Reply

          • Irem: Thank you for your suggestion. Never heard of Bombay Bling, but be sure that I will find out soon. Love the sound of its name, trashy in a good, humorous way – if that makes any sense! March 20, 2013 at 2:18pm Reply

            • Suzanna: Bombay Bling is fantastic! All of the NV scents are–GORGEOUS stuff. March 20, 2013 at 5:46pm Reply

  • maggiecat: I often go for the contradictions – or maybe it’s more of a balancing act to wear Chanel with jeans and t-shirt, a unisex scent with a very feminine outfit, etc. I usually choose scents based on my mood and the temperature, but yes, I guess I do consider my chosen outfit as well (and sometime I match my outfit to the scent i want to wear that day!) March 19, 2013 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Good point–temperature is also important. I have trouble with Guerlain scents in the heat. That would be another factor in decision-making! March 19, 2013 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Deborah Pelton: Doesn’t everyone who loves fragrance do this?

    When I first fell down the perfume rabbit hole I started with the fragrance and built the outfit from there. After a few years of that mania I’ve finally returned to slightly saner times and have gone back to starting with the shoes and adding the fragrance as a final joyful accessory. This makes much more sense as I have more perfume than clothes or shoes.
    Wonderful post! March 19, 2013 at 12:05pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Thank you! (I also have more perfume than clothes or shoes, although I have really slowed down the acquisition.)

      As you do, frag is the last thing I add. March 19, 2013 at 12:33pm Reply

  • Debbie: I too have certain images in mind for certain perfumes. Bandit needs something with a strong silhouette, a lot of black and leather boots and usually foggy or rainy weather. And since taking a break from work, I find no real occasion to wear Kelly Caleche as it doesn’t really gel with my non-office persona. Amber Absolute really requires some black cashmere and Lolita Lempika some eccentricity. There are numerous others and although not immutable, something always feels a little off-kilter if I deviate from my little fragrance/image world but sometimes it’s good to shake things up with a contrary pairing. March 19, 2013 at 12:19pm Reply

    • Suzanna: There’s a difference between constrast-y and wrong that I am sure we all can see.

      Love that Bandit needs foggy or rainy weather. Gave me a real mental picture of fog over London and black umbrellas and a real silence in which Bandit is the only voice. March 19, 2013 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Suzanna: I want to add something fun to this discussion, so see what you can come up with!

    I recently attended an event where the featured speaker was a female sports coach, quite well known and admired. She is well over six feet tall, very big in the sense of big-boned (what is called “raw-boned”), and she heightened this by wearing six-inch pumps of a vinyl whitish-beige color. She was very, very tan and had on a neon coral-pink (VERY BRIGHT!) pinafore mini (she is in her early forties).

    Whew! The minute I saw her, I was stumped! Let’s try to find a perfume to match! March 19, 2013 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Suzanna: And I have been thinking about this since and do have something in mind, more or less. Let’s see if anyone dreams up the same idea.

      Also, what “color” perfume do you see with the ensemble? (I have a definite color in my mind.) March 19, 2013 at 12:52pm Reply

      • Rina: OMG, the first thing I thought was JUICY! Was it even attractive or the hot mess I visualized in my head? March 19, 2013 at 1:08pm Reply

        • Suzanna: Hot mess! Juicy is a GREAT suggestion! March 19, 2013 at 8:06pm Reply

    • jujube: Wow, that’s some outfit, it sounds fun! She sounds like a character too. Unlike some other people here, I don’t know that many different perfumes, but the moment you say coral-pink, I think Nina Ricci Nina. March 19, 2013 at 1:07pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Ha, this is fun. I think: Paris YstL Or Trésor. March 19, 2013 at 4:37pm Reply

        • Suzanna: Oh, Tresor! Excellent! And I like that suggestions thus far are all very commercial. The outfit has that type of implication. March 20, 2013 at 10:01am Reply

      • Suzanna: Thanks! I am only somewhat familiar with that one, but it seems to have a slightly incongruous air that would be ideal with the incongruous fashion. March 19, 2013 at 8:06pm Reply

        • E. Lime: Narcisco Rodriguez for her, maybe? Or “Oh, Lola!” just to be a bit too spot-on? March 20, 2013 at 2:11pm Reply

          • Suzanna: Oh, Lola–oh, yes! Pure perfection. Thanks for that! March 20, 2013 at 5:30pm Reply

  • Rina: “Strong gender & personality associations with the #s 1 through 9” OMG! I have this and thought I was nuts! So glad to see 1) I’m NOT and 2) that I share it with awesome others!
    For me, TF Jasmine Rouge is indeed rouge, Coco is black (NOT Noir!), Christalle is pistachio green (like a macaron)..This is so fun. Thanks for the post! March 19, 2013 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Right! Coco is black (or to me, streaky orange/black) and Noir is, of course, purple.

      I am in the mood for a pistachio macaroon. Thanks for that! March 19, 2013 at 8:09pm Reply

      • Cassandra: Coco has always been black for me as well, but with some out-there embellishments. One day for work, I paired it with the simplest of black long-sleeved shirts, black cropped pants, black flats, but capped off with some very ornate gold and blue toned jewelry that one of my Mom’s friends brought back from India. The compliments were endless, not just for Coco but the ensemble altogether.

        If there’s only one thing I’ll miss about winter (and I won’t miss it otherwise), it’s that I won’t be at liberty to wear that particular outfit with Coco as the weather heats up. ;; March 20, 2013 at 12:24pm Reply

        • Suzanna: LOVE the sound of that outfit and the pairing with Coco. What a fashionable lot we are! March 20, 2013 at 1:23pm Reply

  • jujube: What a fun post! Phew, good to know I’m not the only one. My BF always makes fun of me for picking perfume to match my outifts… like *Lolita Lempicka with jeans and a lipstick red top
    *Cristalle Eau Verte with my yellow print dress
    *Marc Jacobs Lola with a black sweater dress March 19, 2013 at 1:12pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Those are lovely pairings.

      I always find Lolita Lempicka a bit hard to match. I think white is good with it, but I don’t wear white! March 19, 2013 at 8:10pm Reply

  • Desirae: Vintage Rose by Sonoma Scent Studio is purple to me, always. Strangely enough, so Is modern Arpege – even though those scents have very little in common, aside from a kind of classical feel. Habanita is brown (the tobacco, maybe?). Shalimar is bronze, and Joy the bright yellow of early morning sunshine. March 19, 2013 at 2:45pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I agree with Arpege being purple. So is Guerlain Liu (in same family). Joy to me is that color of green roses, both bright and yellowish. March 19, 2013 at 8:12pm Reply

  • Austenfan: What a fun post. I link my fragrances to mood, occasion, an atmosphere but not at all to colour.
    It is instructive and fun to read about all these colour associations some people have with their fragrances. Food for thought! March 19, 2013 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I am sure there is a huge discussion to be had about linking frags the way you link them. Indeed there would be! March 19, 2013 at 8:12pm Reply

  • Tomate Farcie: Sooo…Оlfactoria pairs with food; you’re pairing with fashion and I’m pairing with weather! I guess there aren’t any limits! March 19, 2013 at 6:39pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, I pair with weather also, bec. of the awful climate here! March 19, 2013 at 8:13pm Reply

  • annemariec: I completely agree about Femme! It’s such an extraordinary colour isn’t it? I’d wear it with a brown tailored suit with a nipped waist if I possessed such a garment. As it is, I always match it with subdued but rich colours. Perhaps your idea about the waist comes from the reputed reference to Mae West in the bottle design? That notion has never worked for me. Femme is too French.

    God I love Femme, but I’d better stop … March 19, 2013 at 7:01pm Reply

    • Suzanna: No, I find Mae West vulgar, so the idea of this inspiration is something I avoid. I see more a Lauren Bacall, film noir type! March 19, 2013 at 8:14pm Reply

      • annemariec: Oh yes indeed, Lauren Bacall! Very good. March 20, 2013 at 4:22am Reply

  • Gila: I choose by weather first, the clothes suit the day, then scent. I like orientals/woodsy/spice in cooler weather and darker, richly toned clothes. Also seems to suit knits & texture. In fall green/woody/incense and golden autumn colors. White florals are warm weather to me, mostly for night, Citrus/green/aquatic/sheer floral & fruity are daytime & go with pale floaty clothes or clear and bright ones. Pretty predictable, but fun. March 19, 2013 at 7:33pm Reply

    • Suzanna: That’s more or less how I will choose scents in general, and secondarily with color matching. March 19, 2013 at 8:15pm Reply

  • Judith MarianneTaufan: Hi Suzanna, what an intriguing article. While I’ve not conciously associate perfumes with colours I do associate them with type of clothes.
    For example I associate orientals with figure hugging clothes in jewel colours, gold, & black made from luxurious materials. I often pair them with my little black dress for that dash of va va voom.
    I’d never wear my Ambre Sultan or Musc Nomade with anything bright red. It makes me feel ‘too obvious’. If I do wear bright red I’d usually reach for classic florals : Arpege & Grand Amour are my favourites.
    My L’Heure Bleue calls for feminine shapes in smoky silvery colours. My favourite outfit for it is a midnight blue cocktail dress with silver thread woven through it. Another favourite way to wear it is with a pair of jeans and a beautiful blazer or a soft leather jacket ( with a pair of killer pumps, of course ).
    I also feel that Mure & Musc isn’t exactly a cheery odour. I have a beautiful silver grey cashmere dress that I only wear with Mure & Musc. Now I know why 🙂 I see it worn with anything grey based but I wouldn’t mind wearing it with jewel colours too, especially in burgundy & emerald.
    By the way, what is your take on Dyptique’s L’Ombre dans L’Eau ? I have not been able to crack that one. Bisous March 20, 2013 at 3:20am Reply

    • Suzanna: L’Ombre dans L’Eau is a light mossy color for me, coded to spring. It’s in the same family as YSL In Love Again, but ILA is brighter and more golden. L’Ombre is green but not the deep green of shadows–it is Spanish moss. March 20, 2013 at 9:57am Reply

      • Judith MarianneTaufan: Interesting. I know that L’Ombre dans L’Eau is the bestseller in Dyptique but I don’t think it works well on me. I couldn’t unveil its freshness, on me it’s just sharp & jarring almost metallic. I like the image of it and bought it on impulse…and regretted it. Oh well, such things happened 🙂 March 20, 2013 at 11:40am Reply

  • Judith MarianneTaufan: Just an aftertought : I was doing my nails when I read your article. I tought that my choice of colour corresponds well to the ‘feel’ of Mure et Musc. It’s OPI ” You Don’t Know Jacques”, a sort of lilac-y taupe. March 20, 2013 at 3:44am Reply

    • Suzanna: I know that color! I have it, actually. Yes, perfect with Mure et Musc! March 20, 2013 at 9:55am Reply

  • jasmin et violette: what an inetresting article!! personnally i associate a perfume to my mood more than the color of my clothes. for example, if i want to play the femme fatale i go for tom ford black orchid with my very high heels(for a night date 😉 )..in my everyday life, i’m usually the lady in black, the Ann Demeuleumeester and Rick Owens brands are a reference in my wardrob, and i usually associate it with Narciso Rodriguez for her and Thierrey Mugler Alien. as for more happy sunny days i stick to balenciaga paris and more recently l’eau de chloé that i find a perfect fit to my light pastel dresses. finally i stay faithful to my AG l’eau d’hadrien during holidays, with my bikinis 🙂 March 20, 2013 at 4:32am Reply

    • Suzanna: You describe a perfect fragrance wardrobe, and I love each choice and mood pairing.

      I wish NR would make a comeback. It is utter perfection and I associate, as do you, with black, and also with urban settings. I believe it captured a perfect moment in time. March 20, 2013 at 9:54am Reply

  • Claire: What an intriguing concept, Suzanna! I’ve never thought of perfume that way, lacking the imagination to do so. But now that I’ve read the article + the replies, I think I associate Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon with red clothing & Chinese New Year. Obviously, it is boxed in red, and the dragon just reminds me of Chinese New Year. And perhaps the obvious pairing of CK One with crisp white shirt or a white tank top. That’s as far as I’m able to go. Glad to hear other suggestions here. March 20, 2013 at 10:44am Reply

    • Suzanna: There are a lot of other suggestions here, Claire!

      Baiser is a favorite of mine, and I am glad to see it is brought back. I still have my original bottle March 20, 2013 at 11:32am Reply

  • Cassandra: … well, I’m just going to be walking around today with the goofiest smile on my face because I’m SO glad I’m not the only person who does this! 😀

    Paired a striped top, blue cardigan, jeans, and my favorite canary yellow scarf with Chant du Bois from Le Labo’s collab with Anthropologie and it feels soooooo goooood. March 20, 2013 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I don’t know Chant de Bois, but the name! I have to try it. Thanks for stopping by with your description! March 20, 2013 at 12:52pm Reply

  • george: I’ve just read a comment on Champs Elysees on a later post, and come the the conclusion (as one who does not like this fragrance) that this might be a perfume that once can use to tell the synaesthetes from those who are not. So, Susanna,

    a, do you like this fragrance?

    b, what would you wear with it?

    c, what do you think of my hypothesis? March 20, 2013 at 4:01pm Reply

  • Lila: I occasionally choose a scent in a similar way. I have this ivy green cashmere sweater that I like to wear with red lipstick and Sa Majeste La Rose is what I’ll pair with it. Usually my mood dictates what I wear and what I wear will dictate which scent I’ll choose. Or I’ll be in the mood for a specific scent and I’ll base my outfit around that. It’s fun to have that extra extension of my wardrobe to play with. March 21, 2013 at 3:01pm Reply

    • Suzanna: How sublime! Ivy cashmere with Sa Majeste La Rose (I am tempted to buy).

      I agree about mood. March 21, 2013 at 11:44pm Reply

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