perfume wardrobe: 16 posts

Glamorous State of Mind and Perfume

When most fashion magazines have spreads of Easter egg colored couture, my most glamorous look features faded black jeans and a Zara puffy jacket, a dreadful thing that sheds copious amount of feathers. Then there are my layered outfits, and I don’t mean tastefully put together layers of chiffon and cashmere suggested by Vogue. In the Ukrainian countryside, where spring is still tentative and the heating costs astronomical, we layer by putting on as many pieces of clothing as possible while still retaining the ability to lower our arms. I even sleep in a layered ensemble that includes tights, pajamas and a red sweater made by Miu Miu many years ago, but I betcha Miuccia Prada wouldn’t recognize it as one of her own now. Occasionally, I even do vintage by combining my grandfather’s track suit bottoms with my great-grandmother’s boucle jacket, a hideous look but perfect for whitewashing the cherry trees.


While I love dressing up (and indeed overdressing; I wouldn’t think twice about wearing a turquoise Betsey Johnson dress to the most staid of occasions), I relish the chance to dress purely for comfort. I enjoy dispensing with concerns of well-selected outfits or worrying about my state of elegance according to some current fashion standard. In my grandmother’s village, my standard is the garden, or rather my ability to work in it without getting cold, wet or overheated. If the roses can be pruned and the apple trees whitewashed in comfort, the rest doesn’t much matter.

What I don’t set aside is a glamorous perfume. Fashion designer Jean Patou called his fragrances “invisible couture”, and as the most intimate of adornments, scent is the most powerful. A few drops can create the ambiance you seek, make you travel in time, or even in my case, give an instant dose of glamour.  Why on earth should I care about not looking exactly like a cover girl when I’m trailing Mitsouko behind me? Plus, nothing is more perfect for collecting last year’s leaves than this autumnal golden peach chypre.

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A Perfume for Every Occasion

Please welcome a contribution from Courtney Humphries, who will join us at Bois de Jasmin. Courtney is a freelance journalist and author living in Boston, and she writes about science, health, and culture for a variety of publications. I especially recommend her article for Wired, Engineering Replacements for Essential Perfume Ingredients. Courtney became enamored with perfume after wandering into a Diptyque shop several years ago and smelling Philosykos, which immediately captured her attention. As she describes, “A quick web search on it led me to perfume blogs and reviews, and my journey went from there.”  

Before I became a perfume lover, I regarded fragrance much the same way most of the people I know do: as an afterthought. Perfume was a functional product to help me smell good in social situations. I usually owned just one bottle of perfume, and if I remembered I’d spritz a tiny bit on before going out to a party or on a date. Just as often, I’d forget to put it on before leaving the house, so the bottle would languish on my dresser for months or years, until I tossed it in the trash (in those days I believed perfume “went bad” after a year or two).

candle-blue dress

When you own only one bottle of fragrance, your choices are minimal—you’re either perfumed or you’re not. For me, that decision depended on whether the occasion met a certain threshold of “specialness” that justified going scented.

But when I became interested in perfume, I began to see fragrance as a source of personal pleasure. I had to make a leap from what had been my “normal” way of thinking about perfume—that everyone needs just a single fragrance—to the quite radical notion that one can collect an entire wardrobe of fragrances.

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Spring Fragrance Wardrobe and Red Magazine Article

What are your favorite spring scents? Though we may not yet be done with the snow, our cherry trees are in bloom, and I’m already thinking about spring perfumes. Spices, sandalwood, and amber are slowly giving way to everything crisp and gauzy–citrus, orange blossom, violets, and roses. I’m reaching for Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, Ann Gérard Perle de Mousse, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche (it’s the last of my vintage stock, so I ration it carefully), and Chanel No 19 Poudré. L’Occitane Rose 4 Reines was a recent discovery–an inexpensive rose that smells plush and velvety. I will save Hermès 24 Faubourg for those days when I need a warm  cashmere wrap.

Speaking of perfume wardrobes, I promised to post a link to my article, The Fragrance Wardrobe, which appeared in the November issue of Red Magazine.  It was one of my favorite writing projects last year, and it is a pleasure to share it with you. I hope that you will enjoy it. Please click on the link below to read it, or you can now find it at my Publications page.

The Fragrance Wardrobe


Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Building Perfume Wardrobe Guide Part 7 : All About Woods

Part 1: Florals ~ Rose
Part 2: Florals ~ Jasmine and White Florals
Part 3: Florals ~ Lily of the Valley and Violet
Part 4: Florals ~ Blends
Part 5: Essentials
Part 6 : Orientals

Autumn is the time of year when I reach for woods fragrances from my collection, hoping to recall memories of crisp leaves, curls of wood smoke, and the bracing green of pine. Woods fragrances may include sandalwood, cedar, oak, pine, and cypress (plus more), and also include for classification’s sake patchouli and vetiver.  Some woods fragrances smell like the outdoors, while others smell like an antique treasure chest and still more use wood as a basenote, skipping the ambient quality and using wood as a background support.


Wood notes are used in both male and female fragrances and may be interpreted differently.  In male fragrances, woods can suggest rugged masculinity (Coty Wild Woods) or they can be smoothed over with elegance (Chanel Égoïste).  A large amount of sandalwood in Samsara enhances the seductive nature of this Guerlain classic.  I enjoy the dryness and sharpness that wood notes can bring to fragrances, and their combination of elegance and sensuality.

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How to Make Perfume Hobby Affordable and More Fun

I sometimes receive comments from people who want to learn more about scents, but are afraid that this hobby is too expensive for them. How could you try all of the fragrances you read about without ending up broke? As with most interests, a perfume hobby can be as expensive or as budget conscious as you want. When I was a student living on a meager stipend, spending even $20 on something non-essential required  major planning. Today, given my family responsibilities, I need to think twice before every perfume purchase, so I’m still very budget conscious.

But the truth is that the joy of discovering perfume is not in amassing dozens of bottles on your dressing table; it’s in smelling and experiencing the pleasure of scents. For this you need not spend a cent.  If you are trying to manage your perfume hobby, let me share a few tips that have helped me learn about scents, understand my perfume tastes and keep within budget.

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