Perfume in the City : Fragrances Around Us


What fragrances do you notice on other people?

I love noticing fragrances on people around me: strangers in the subway, friends, colleagues, dancers in my studio. It is exciting to recognize a familiar perfume, which always feels as if I’m encountering an old friend. If I cannot place a scent, but it feels familiar, the gnawing feeling will be there in the back of my mind until I finally figure it out. After all, I am scent obsessed, as you might gather from reading this blog! In NYC these days, I often smell Juicy Couture, J’Adore and Jennifer Aniston on other women.

Photo of Caroll Baker, Cannes, May 1965 by Claude Azoulay, from



  • Jasper: Here in Bangkok, DKNY Be Delicious, Chloe and Lancome’s Miracle are quite common in public. 🙂 August 9, 2011 at 9:51am Reply

  • Elizabeth: Angel still rules supreme in the outer boroughs of New York City. Even at the height of summer. Even my mother has taken to wearing it! August 9, 2011 at 10:05am Reply

  • Emma: I’m in New York too but I must be anosmic to mainstream fragrances because I rarely smell anything on anyone anymore. Now it always feels like I’m always the only one in the world who wears perfume. August 9, 2011 at 11:35am Reply

  • violetnoir: Recently I have smelled ladies wearing Coco Mlle., Angel, Romance Summer, and EL Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia.

    Summer smells good!

    Hugs! August 9, 2011 at 11:54am Reply

  • Marko: I teach at a college in Southern California, so I get a lot of Axe Body Products and Celebrity fragrances on the students. My colleagues wear everything from Mitsouko to Ineke to Byredo and Serge (yeah….I give a lot of perfume as gifts to my colleagues, and they are sweet to wear the fragrances to work fairly regularly).

    In all the time I’ve been reading your blog, I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned “dancers in my studio”….are you a dance teacher? I teach dance at the college I mentioned above – how very cool to know another dancer who collects/appreciates fragrance. Tell me about your studio and what you teach…. August 9, 2011 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Andy: I know someone who wears Philosophy falling in love. Though I can’t say I really like the vanilla-blackberry soap smell it has, I often smell it on others and I feel instantly comforted by the smell which I have come to associate with that person. I feel like I also smell so many of the same fragrances on people which I don’t recognize, that when I occaisionally smell something out of the ordinary, it can seem quite beautiful and refreshing. Just the other day, when everyone seemed to have reached for the same winey rose fragrance, I caught a whiff of a stunning and realistic sambac jasmine fragrance which seemed so beautiful and out of place at the same time. August 9, 2011 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Ari: What a great topic!

    I’m reporting from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. I do not ever smell perfume on my fellow students. I have developed a theory on why this is. Historically, Hopkins has not been a particularly welcoming place for female students. Hopkins did not begin accepting female students until 1970. Hopkins, along with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, was one of the very last bastions of privileged men (aka universities) to become coed. And let me tell you, those privileged men are not happy about it. The women of Hopkins range from brilliant researchers to Nobel Prize winners, and yet the lingering belief that we are somehow less competent than our male counterparts persists. In a (in my opinion, misguided) attempt to be taken seriously, many women at Hopkins shun anything traditionally considered to be feminine. Dresses are almost as rare as perfume.

    If you managed to get through all that, it will probably not surprise you that the high point of my creepily-sniffing-strangers career did not take place at Hopkins. It was in Bethesda, MD, where I detected L’Heure Bleue on a lovely young lady. August 9, 2011 at 12:37pm Reply

  • Ari: Coco Mademoiselle seems eternally popular! I used to smell a very similar fragrance, Miss Dior Cherie, pretty frequently, but since its reformulation I can no longer recognize it. August 9, 2011 at 12:38pm Reply

  • Mo: Sadly I smell perfume on no one (but me of course), and I have no one to talk to about it but those mysterious and faceless folks out there in the ether… I just got out of the academic world and like Ari I think women at my old school rejected anything remotely feminine. I have another theory too: buying things for pleasure (except booze and other ‘appropriately’ academic commodities) is frowned upon in some academic circles, as if one who does so is condoning the power/wealth imbalances inherent to the capitalist system. Critique is good but it can be too much. Needless to say, I left that world to revel in my perfume guilt-free! Just kidding. I hope to do other important things, of course. But wearing perfume and being myself has certainly become easier since leaving. I’ll keep sniffing for those summer fragrances! August 9, 2011 at 5:34pm Reply

  • Nick: Bang – everywhere Bang.

    And gazillions of fruit-chouli-candy variations. Even our office toilet automatic airfreshener smells like D&G The One. August 9, 2011 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Emma: Maybe it is perfumistas like me who only wear classics like Mitsouko, Poivre etc. in vintage of course and other niche fragrances from Frederic Malle and Lutens think what smells like shampoo or lotion might as well be Jennifer Aniston, Juicy Couture or the new Versace, who knows? Personally, I haven’t had the slightest interest in mainstream perfumery for the last past ten years, so maybe that’s what it is… August 10, 2011 at 2:08am Reply

  • Audrey H: On a recent visit to see my Dad in his seniors home we were in the elevator a lady was wearing Aromatics Elixir. I had just skin tsted it after not smelling it in ages so I knew it instantly. She was maybe in her late 60’s, early 70’s and wore it well.

    I smell a lot of EL Pleasures around also. Other than that, it’s mostly hair products. August 10, 2011 at 3:52am Reply

  • Tracy: It is frustrating in my studios that we are discouraged fromwearing scents because some people may sneeze from them. This narrows down my wearability selection quite a bit. August 10, 2011 at 9:04am Reply

  • [email protected]: London seems almost scentless this Summer. At least where I work (the City). I distinctly remember smelling Diptyque’s Philosykos on someone walking down my street last Summer and it made me happy! At other times of the year it is almost wall to wall Coco Mlle and its spawn. I travelled through Paris last week on my way south and was struck by how much scent I could smell. Mostly Angel and JPG Dame but still – perfume! Nicola August 10, 2011 at 9:05am Reply

  • Isa: In my part of the world (Alicante, Spain) I notice Cacharel Amor Amor, D&G Light Blue, Angel, Angel Schlesser Femme, Yves Rocher Coco, Yves Rocher Vanille Bourbon, Aire de Loewe, Ralph, several Aqua Allegorias… August 10, 2011 at 10:36am Reply

  • maggiecat: I teach at a college in the Dallas Metroplex area. Sadly, Flowerbomb is still quite popular here, as well as the Juicy Couture’s (which aren’t all that bad really, but not for me). Pleasures is common among the older set, and a few of us enjoy both Jasmin Noirs. August 10, 2011 at 11:32am Reply

  • Victoria: I smell a lot of it in Paris too!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:50am Reply

  • Victoria: I smell lots of hair products, they are getting stronger and stronger scented.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:51am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, such nice things to notice! Your summer certainly smells good.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:51am Reply

  • Victoria: Cool indeed! 🙂 I am a classical baller dancer, but I don't teach (yet, although I wouldn't mind trying it in the future.) I only taught kids' classes so far. What kind of dance do you teach?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:54am Reply

  • Victoria: I hear you, as someone who went to one of those schools. Someone mentioned the guilt of enjoying these kinds of pleasures below. I agree with your comment too.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:57am Reply

  • Victoria: I am on the train right now, and someone is wearing a very nice jasmine blend. Makes the ride pleasant!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:57am Reply

  • Victoria: More and more functional products smell like fine fragrances… Or maybe, it is the other way around!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 7:58am Reply

  • Victoria: It is hard to take pleasure in these things when others scorn them. It is familiar to me too.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 8:00am Reply

  • Victoria: That just may be it. 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 8:00am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, I forgot Pleasures! Another perennial favorite around here.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 8:01am Reply

  • Sandy: A saleswoman was a walking cloud of Light Blue. I asked how she was able to keep it noticeable (since it disappears immediately on me) and she said she sprayed it and then walked into it so it would be all over her clothes.

    The only other woman I am even aware of wearing perfume is the same woman I pass day in and day out when she’s leaving the gym an I’m walking in. She bathes in Coco Mlle. August 10, 2011 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, some places are strict about this!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Victoria: Nicola, I just returned from Paris, and I agree with you, Angel, Ma Dame, Lolita Lempicka were everywhere!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 1:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: And I was just in Spain too (Barcelona and then all the way North,) and I noticed Amor Amor often.

    I completely and utterly fell in love with Spain and now have plans to return there soon.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 1:58pm Reply

  • Victoria: Flowerbomb in small quantities is ok, but it is a fragrance that is hard to apply lightly. Too sweet for my tastes.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 1:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: My mom is always nicely scented, and her secret is to apply perfume over her clothes. It makes even the lightest fragrances last really well.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile August 10, 2011 at 2:33pm Reply

  • Kym: My smeller must be broken because the only time I smell perfume on someone else, it’s a BIG one – like Angel. I feel a little sad that everyone else is experiencing all these delights! On the other hand, I always notice the “dirty hair” smell… August 10, 2011 at 6:48pm Reply

  • Jessemy Neiger Jungman: I just smelled Coco Mademoiselle on one of my colleagues at Trader Joe’s…it’s perfect b/c she had a very Coco-inspired ensemble: nude/pink heels, burly white/black nipped jacket, flowing eggshell pink blouse. She was shocked that I could identify it! Have also smelled Maybe Baby, Amazing Grace, and Light Blue in public here in MN. August 10, 2011 at 3:10pm Reply

  • minette: i seem to be eternally disappointed by the fragrances i catch whiffs of out in public – ao many bland fruity floral musks. blech! and the men’s colognes are especially awful. people usually look much more interesting than they smell! so sad.

    in the workplace, it’s a bit better. one coworker uses obsession a lot (it works on her), another likes angel (i like angel!), and some of the salespeople wear pleasant florals. the only one i hate sniffing here is sensuous, which still makes me gag.

    i’m wearing muscs koublai khan today, btw. it’s such a kitten to me. no claws or teeth at all.

    oh, and as someone above mentioned – i also smell the unwashed hair smell on people, along with unwashed body smell (that stale smell, not full-on, sharp b.o.). it’s amazing to me how many people don’t bathe before going out or to work. why would you deny yourself the pleasure of a shower? ha. August 10, 2011 at 8:36pm Reply

  • Isabeau: Here in Holland I often smell Happy by Clinique, be Delicious and also Coco Mademoiselle.

    I like it when I am on my bike (I go everywhere with my bike) and someone is passing and I can smell their perfume in the wind..makes me happy August 11, 2011 at 9:01am Reply

  • Nikki: what a lovely thread…here in Tucson people are afraid of wearing perfume outside due to the bees, i.e. killer bees, we have down here. They attack and kill anything coming close to their hives which can be everywhere so for the last years there have been no scented people one can pass by on the streets (too hot) or even inside the malls. Scent attracts the bees, alas…I long for cooler climate without these bees! August 11, 2011 at 11:17am Reply

  • Jenn: Ari,

    I couldn’t agree with you more! As a woman in the sciences, I get a lot of strange looks for making the effort to appear polished, including wearing perfume everyday. I believe that wearing dresses and “anything traditionally considered to be feminine,” makes me feel that much more powerful in my field. I especially love when a male colleague fails to take me seriously and then I point out all the errors in their experiments. They never see me coming!

    Related to the topic, I can always identify Chanel and Calvin Klein fragrances. I adore the former and despise the latter. I have yet to smell the Chanel fragrances, or any fragrances other than my own, at work.

    Love this blog! August 11, 2011 at 12:24pm Reply

  • kimberly: I’m in the Phoenix AZ metro area.. and never worry about killer bees in this neck of the woods. Our soaring dry temeratures warm the skin and brews perfumes into something more intense.. altering a scent completely, I can get into my air conditioned car and next my perfume lifts up into a whimsical dance! Angel, Flower Baum and Armani Code are popular.. I pesonally am LOVING SL Chergui and Une Boise Vanille. August 15, 2011 at 1:46pm Reply

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