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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.