In the Defense of Guilt-free Pleasure

I often receive letters from women explaining that they feel guilty about their interest in perfume, because it’s “too indulgent” or “unnecessary.” It’s a luxury and we can live without it. Or so the argument goes. Except that it doesn’t make sense. Perfume is not a fundamental need for human life, but you could say the same for music, art, fashion, sports, restaurants or millions of other things that are not strictly necessary for survival but essential for a happy life. There is no reason to deprive yourself of something that gives you pleasure, and giving in to it shouldn’t be associated with guilt.

great great grandmother-300museum-perfume

Scent is one of the simplest and most rewarding of enjoyments. By stimulating the sense of smell, you fantasize about another time and place, uncover a whole universe of new sensations and add splashes of color to the most ordinary day. Something as ubiquitous as a trip to the grocery store can become a fun experience as you smell the earthy tang of carrots or the pungent sharpness of onions piled in the vegetable section.  New research has revealed that the sense of smell is even more intricate than previously thought, and that smelling is one of the best exercises for the brain.

But like many other “feminine” pursuits, a perfume hobby can be harder to defend, because it’s viewed as frivolous and expendable. You rarely see indignant comments on the sports pages or the photography forums that the money spent on prime tickets or fancy lenses could be better spent if donated to charity. On the other hand, they crop up time and again in the beauty sections of newspapers and blogs. The same people who admire my husband’s collection of wine bottles look perplexed when entering my office with its rows of perfumes.

Unlike makeup or fashion, perfume is still a relatively niche hobby and many perfume lovers find themselves guilty and alone in their love for scented things. Guilty pleasure, however, is not much of a joy, and I refuse to let guilt taint my enjoyments. Carving out time for ourselves is essential for maintaining  balance in our busy, stressful lives, and I can’t count the number of times when a waft of my perfume brightened up my day and made me smile when nothing else did.

I also want to reinforce the argument I often make on these pages–perfume is not a hobby reserved for those with unlimited personal wealth. Mine started when I was living on a meager student stipend.  Unlike many other hobbies, perfume can be easily tailored to the individual budget, without compromising in quality (see many ideas in How to Make Perfume Hobby Affordable). It goes without saying that we’re our own finance managers and know how to build a reasonable budget that accommodates all of the necessary expenses, but the bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with spending money on our favorite pursuits.

On my last visit to Ukraine, I was browsing at the tiny village museum devoted to the Second World War and the local heroes. In a display case featuring the favorite things of a young resistance fighter, there were two objects that I couldn’t miss. One was a powder box and another was a perfume bottle. I immediately recognized the crimson-orange packaging of Krasnaya Moskva, the most widely available fragrance in the Soviet Union, because I also saw it on my great-grandmother’s dressing table, sharing space with her beloved White Lilac and Bulgarian rose oil.

She recalled that during the war a small bottle of perfume was always in her handbag, along with a tube of red lipstick. Her husband was fighting on the front lines, while she remained behind with two small children. In photographs from the period, she barely smiles, but her lips are enhanced carefully with color, and I imagine that her lace collar is redolent of the powdery lilacs. On the bleakest days, her lipstick and perfume were a reminder of beauty, happy days, and peace. Simple pleasures are not indulgences, they are necessities.

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255 Comments

  • SophieC: V – what a wonderful post. The right perfumes are aural poetry – and surely elevate the mind whether they are luxuries or not.

    I also find I have reached the stage on my perfume interest where I really do not wish to add much more to my already too large collection, but derive a different satisfaction from smelling wonderful new things, maybe getting samples, and then seeing if I am really that excited about in a a few weeks/months – in all likelihood I will find something I already have that satisfies that craving. That said, I recently discovered Cristalle edt and wow! June 6, 2014 at 7:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I completely agree! Scent and fragrance is very much about the experience, and I like that the enjoyment of perfume is something very intimate and personal, much more than of some other adornments.

      Having a small but carefully selected wardrobe is much much more satisfying than having dozens of perfumes that don’t feel absolutely right. But of course, everyone has different ways of developing their hobby, and this is no one way that suits everyone. Some people have diverse tastes, so they need a larger variety. Others like to collect, for instance, which is fun. I enjoy looking at the pictures of collections (any collection, for that matter!) very much. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 10:38am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Indignant comments? i never saw such a thing, will pay attention. And i never had such comments myself. (maybe behind my back). Anyway, you are absolutely right. We all smell, consciously or not, and smells have impact, even on those who don’t realize that. As for perfume, I could not live without it.
    Funny: the wine of your husband and your perfume! There was a time when perfume was for men (included stuff like tuberose), and forbidden for decent women. I wonder if perfume was condemned then as guilty luxury?

    Is the lady on the picture your great grandmother? She has a knowing, wise gaze. June 6, 2014 at 7:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Just go over to the beauty section at the Guardian, New York Times or some other newspapers and their associated blogs. I no longer read the comment section, because invariably there will be some people passing judgement and telling others what they should and should not do. And nothing makes me more ill-humored.

      The thing is that perfume as luxury for those with large income is very much a modern European concept. Take India, for example, where the daily worship (Hindu or Muslim) has traditionally included some sort of perfume. Or incense in Japan, which was used by absolutely everyone, from the very rich to the poor.

      Yes, that’s my great-grandmother. She was really an extraordinary person and quite a character! Once she retired from teacher, she developed a passion for flowers, and to supplement her pension (and fund her rose garden), she learned making beautiful bouquets and started selling them. By the time I was little, all of us were fed and clothed on the proceeds from her flower passion. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 10:46am Reply

      • Nikki: There will always be people who are miserable and who try to poo-poo beauty and dignity and ethics and everything that makes life wonderful and to which one should inspire to….it is the eternal fight between good and evil, between light and dark.

        One should except the most vitriolic comments under the most beautiful articles…

        Fragrance is an old and feminine art and it makes life fragrantly beautiful, dreaming a better life.

        One could conjure up lots of reasons why there is such hatred towards fragrant beauty in a bottle, from bare bones and simple Calvinism to the Madonna/Whore complex many men feel towards women.

        But I will leave it at raising my glass to the pioneers who are widening the path towards beauty in all spheres, so cheers and let’s have another spritz of that great perfume, Fate by Amouage anyone? June 6, 2014 at 12:58pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s a nice toast! I’m wearing Lancome Tresor today. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 3:59pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: What a coïncidence! I was wearing Trésor and Colonia Intense together.

            Yes, lets toast on our perfumes! nobody can take them away from us. June 6, 2014 at 4:59pm Reply

            • Victoria: Did you layer them, or just wore them on the same day? June 6, 2014 at 5:01pm Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Tresor on my wrists (no jewelry there, not even a watch), Colonia Intensa in the hollow of my elbows and in my neck. June 6, 2014 at 5:05pm Reply

                • Victoria: Sounds like a great contrasting combo–sweet and warm; fresh and mossy. June 7, 2014 at 9:23am Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: Exactly. And a modest touch of soft leather in both, they reinforce each other. Tresor Edp.
                    And of course both are great on their own. June 7, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

                    • Victoria: That’s my favorite Tresor too. I have the parfum too, but the EDP is what I’ve worn since I was a teen. June 7, 2014 at 3:56pm

            • MontrealGirl: A toast – to the elixir of life!! June 7, 2014 at 1:52pm Reply

        • Solanace: Cheers! Just spritzed Dior Homme at the mall, loving it! Now let me grab the wine. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 5:16pm Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: What a great, beautiful and strong woman your great-grandmother was! There’s so much to learn from her. June 6, 2014 at 3:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: I miss her very much, but I realize how much she influenced me, and I often feel that she’s around. June 6, 2014 at 4:07pm Reply

          • Illdone: There a saying, I don’t remember by who, that says you ‘re not dead or really gone as long as someone remembers you or thinks of you in a loving way.
            So it’s wonderfull to stay on someones mind long after you’re deceased.
            Family is so important and has such impact on people’s lives.
            Wonderfull post as always. June 7, 2014 at 3:30am Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you! My great-grandparents were both survivors of an incredibly hard era, and all of us own a lot to them, not least of which is the place where the family meets up every summer. June 7, 2014 at 10:09am Reply

  • rosarita: I love everything about this post, thank you, V! I have always been a perfume lover on a shoestring and have enjoyed this hobby like no other, it can be done – my collection is heavy on decants and there’s been some voracious swapping over the years, along with judicious purchasing. Perfume and music underscore my otherwise quiet life, bringing great pleasure that I’ve enjoyed sharing with others. There’s no guilt in life enhancing pleasures, everyone has their own version unless they are totally spartan, and where’s the pleasure in a life like that? June 6, 2014 at 7:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Exactly! Many people around the world fight against totalitarian regimes that prohibit the enjoyment of simple things (not to mention other greater ones), and the last thing we need to feel guilt is over wanting to experience some pleasure. June 6, 2014 at 10:50am Reply

  • Michaela: Oh, I would have said the same myself if I knew how to put it into words 🙂 Wonderful post, indeed! You are so right comparing sports and photography comments, vs. perfume comments. Totally agree. I am amused how a wine collection is broadly perceived as distinguished while a perfume collection as an obsession or snobbery.
    The hobby can be made affordable (thank you for your other posts as well, for example the one about the price of perfumes and how to recognize quality). And it’s not mandatory to be a hobby, it’s enough if you feel the pleasure of smelling beautiful scents all over, then why on earth not?!
    I see very well you never plead for excessive buying, but for discovering, understanding and enjoying scents.
    Beautiful pictures! The story behind them is touching. June 6, 2014 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: You put it so well, Michaela. You can certainly go for a walk in the park–in Europe, the lindens are in full bloom right now, so you don’t even need perfume–and it can be the greatest of pleasures and an exhilarating scented experience. I really enjoy simply smelling, which is why cooking and food are tied to perfume so much for me. A complete experience. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 10:58am Reply

  • Marsha Smith: I certainly wish I could have met your gr-grandmother! She seems to be a formidable lady! June 6, 2014 at 7:42am Reply

    • Victoria: She really was! I was lucky to have known her and spent a lot of time with her for the first 15 years of my life. June 6, 2014 at 10:59am Reply

  • The Blue Squid: I agree. My collection of perfumes gives me a great deal of pleasure. I find it wonderfully relaxing to wear them, and also to see them all sitting happily in neat rows on my wardrobe shelf. I don’t really feel bad about having them, because (obviously) they can’t really be appreciated without owning them physically. Thanks for the lovely post. June 6, 2014 at 7:46am Reply

    • rosemary: oh, I love your comment!
      I have the same feeling, the bottles and boxes sitting on the shelves is like a second family. in difficult times it gives me comfort
      to go upstairs and look in my wardrobeshelves, i ‘ll sit on my bed and open the boxes and look and smell…
      some of them give memories others I love for the history etc. June 6, 2014 at 8:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I feel this way about my lipsticks. I like a little row of different tubes on my dressing table. And books! I have so many books that I will probably never get to read, but having them, holding them and smelling them is a joy. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 11:01am Reply

  • rainboweyes: Isn’t there a statistically proven correlation of rising sales figures for lipstick in turbulent times?
    I’ve never felt guilty about my perfume hobby, why should I? The number of my perfume bottles probably makes about one tenth of our wine collection… And then there are numerous electronic gadgets my husband loves so much…
    Btw, I love lipstick too! You can never have enough… June 6, 2014 at 7:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember reading something like that, and it makes sense. It’s a small joy and a promise of beauty. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

      • N.: I believe it is called the “lipstick effect”. During the Great Depression for example people could not afford new cars or big ticket items, but could afford something small like lipstick which can cheer you up. The sales of lipstick during the Great Depression actually went up! June 8, 2014 at 4:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s fascinating, and yes, it makes sense. Reminds me that Jean Patou launched Joy during the Great Depression, enticing his clients who could not buy the couture but could still afford a bottle of perfume. June 8, 2014 at 5:54pm Reply

  • Kate: Such a thought-provoking and moving post. And you are right – life is grim enough without po-faced puritanism; we really are entitled to cut ourselves a little slack sometimes!

    I agree about the affordability of perfume as a hobby – ok it’s not always cheap, but samples are available for much less, and all hobbies involve a little investment. I feel that the pleasure I get from perfume is out of all proportion to the small (ish) amount I spend on it. And there is always swapping! I can think of many more expensive hobbies.

    Actually I think perfume often tends to attract more serious and thoughtful people, most of whom could not be described as frivolous 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 7:53am Reply

    • Michaela: I think… you are 1000% right 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 8:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I have met many perfume bloggers and some perfume lovers who read the blogs, and I have been impressed how smart, intelligent and multifaceted they were. Well, we’re geeks, what can I say? 🙂

      When you live in a small town, it’s, of course, harder to come by samples and sniff the latest perfumes, so you might have to invest more, but again, I was a student in a university town, with no car and not even a mall nearby. My monthly budget for perfumes was around $20, and I managed well on that, with judicious sample purchases and swapping. I, of course, dreamed of ending up in Paris with enough money to spend on a bell jar at Serge Lutens, but hey, there is nothing wrong with fantasizing? 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

  • BlinkyTheFish: It’s funny, just today I was reading a theatre review and there were people commenting on how stupid some people must be to pay to watch overrated actors on stage. I just thought how sad it was that anyone would make that judgement about someone else’s pleasure (both what an actor feels playing a role and the audience). It’s true that tickets, like perfumes, can be expensive, but if you are real lover of anything, you know you can to a library for free, a lot of museums for free or a nominal fee, standing tickets quite cheaply, and perfume samples at a reasonable price. Money just allows a person to buy a bottle, buy a first edition, buy a good seat. But you still get the same pleasure. It amazes me people would judge one thing better than another – I don’t ‘get’ football, but I understand there is a lot of passion for the supporters. Some people want to spend their hard earned money on super bowl tickets. Others want a bottle of JAR. One isn’t better or more worthy than the other, it’s only a matter of personal tastes. Personally, I just think if it’s your money, and you’re not going into debt to fund a hobby, have fun! The idea that we should somehow have to justify what we love or pacify others by telling them what charitable things we have done in other parts of our life is ridiculous. Those are the kinds of people who will never be happy. June 6, 2014 at 7:59am Reply

    • The Blue Squid: Yes; there are many hobbies and pursuits I am not personally interested in (sports, tattoos, vinyl records, tv, video games, four wheel drives etc etc) But that does not make them worthless, nor does it make those who enjoy them stupid or deluded. Each to their own. Grab your enjoyments where you can, because life is short! June 6, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Those arguments are simply judgmental and don’t make sense at all. Sure, you can even watch a play on TV at home for free. Or you can drink water from the tap for free instead of champagne. Saves money, right? But in the end, what’s the purpose of earning money if not to set some aside for enjoying life, and different people have different ways of doing so.

      And the idea of justifying myself to strangers runs against my stubborn and contrarian personality. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

      • allgirlmafia: ‘The idea of justifying myself to strangers runs against my stubborn and contrarian personality’

        Oh, I do hope you won’t mind me ‘borrowing’ this. June 6, 2014 at 6:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: Not at all! Go right ahead. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

  • Sandra: Great article!
    I am one of those people that looks at my small collection and feels guilty sometimes that I have several bottle of my guilty pleasure. I also get confused on what do do with bottles that I received as gifts and do not use them.
    I do believe that perfume is a pleasure and Madam Chanel did say “I woman who doesn’t wear perdume has no future” or something to that regard.
    On the other hand, I do try to live in the philosophy “you have enough”and apply that to all aspects of my life and that keeps me from going overboard on my perfume collection. June 6, 2014 at 8:07am Reply

    • Jillie: Sandra, I would put out all my unloved bottles on a table where I used to work and invite colleagues to give them a good home – it’s amazing how quickly they disappeared! Now I think it would be good to pass them on to more charitable causes, such as charities. There are bound to be people who would love your bottles. June 6, 2014 at 8:16am Reply

      • Zazie: Jillie, what a great tip: I would love to give my unwanted bottles to charities. My unloved ones are pristine and relatively new. It might not be that easy to find associations that take this kind of offer, where I live, but it is certainly worth trying! 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 8:42am Reply

      • Victoria: Charities are a good idea, except in the US, they won’t accepted opened products. Many charities have such strict rules on donating that it baffles me. June 6, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

        • MontrealGirl: A friend of mine helps out at a women’s shelter. Each year she collects everyday items for the women for Christmas. Many of these women have had to leave their homes with nothing but their children and the clothes on their backs. I made small gift packs with a bit of make-up and perfume samples and my friend told me that the women REALLY appreciated having a bit of luxury, something for themselves. Years ago I read how they were helping depressed women in Vietnamese refugee camps with a bit of makeup and nail polish. It helped the women and learning to give manicures created positive interactions and gave the women something to do, a job. Since then I’ve seen feminine luxuries as a gift rather than a frivolity. June 7, 2014 at 7:22am Reply

          • Victoria: I read an article a few years ago about a journalist who helped out at a leper’s colony in India. She gave oil massages to ladies, many of whom were abandoned by their families. She described how much they loved being pampered and treating their skin. Many were severely disfigured, and families would not want them back, but the oil treatment was something that really lifted their spirits. June 7, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

    • solanace: There are also the freebie meets at now smell this and the perfume posse. There, you are very likely to give your unloved bottles to a true perfumista who will actually wear and appreciate them. June 6, 2014 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Everyone figures out for themselves how much is enough. One might be happy with 2 perfume bottles, but another person needs 40, and that’s ok, as long the expense doesn’t cut into important payments (but that goes without saying; ruinous splurges are not about simple pleasures but about filling some void.) If you find it hard to avoid spontaneous purchases, here is my rule of thumb (I have a bit of a spontaneous streak myself): 3-4 samples and only then a full bottle. It might seem like you’re not saving this way (especially with niche samples, which can be pricey), but I can’t count the times when after 2 samples, I realized I can live without that perfume and don’t need it at all. June 6, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

      • Sandra: True! I always have enough – yet I just bought a bottle of Beige .. Hehe June 6, 2014 at 4:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: Well, if you can afford it and have space to store, then enjoy. No point in feeling guilty once the money is spent. 🙂 And Beige is gorgeous! June 6, 2014 at 4:25pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: I have probably more than 40…recently bought Ysatis (thank you, Elisa!)…haha June 7, 2014 at 3:48am Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Patricia, of course! Sorry June 7, 2014 at 5:09am Reply

              • Patricia: No worries :). June 8, 2014 at 12:47pm Reply

            • Victoria: I’ve never counted mine, but I also think that it’s more than that. Much of it is for work, but a lot is what I acquired over more than 10 years. These days I don’t buy much at all, and I try to rotate my wardrobe time to time. Right now, I have 4 perfume bottles on my dresser–Chanel No 19 Poudree, O de Lancome, Olfactive Studio Lumiere Blanche, and Diptyque Eau Rose. June 7, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: In my case: more than 20 years, I am older than you. My perfumes are safely in their own little room, and the perfumes on duty are on my sideboard. These days: Mille, Trésor, Colonia Intensa, Vitriol d’Oeillet , L’Air du Temps (I love it even in its ghostly appearance) and Eau de Rochas. June 7, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

                • Victoria: It’s so great that you can find beauty even in these reformulated perfumes, and I agree. While L’Air du Temps is not the same as it used to be, it’s still lovely, and I enjoy its blend of spicy flowers and green leaves. June 7, 2014 at 3:57pm Reply

      • annemariec: You are right about splurges filling a void. My spending is much more under control than it used to be but I am still prone to the odd splurge.

        I belong to a perfume group on Facebook and this topic came up for discussion earlier this year. A couple of people admitted that they struggle with serious shopping addiction and left the group, ultimately, to avoid the constant posts about shopping and discounts and enabling and so on.

        But of course shopping addiction can be based around any commodity – food, wine, gadgets, cars, boats … not just perfume. June 7, 2014 at 4:31am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, it’s true! I knew someone who bought clothes, which she hid from her husband and never even wore. Not much in the way of enjoyment or simple pleasures there. June 7, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

  • Jillie: What a great defence of perfume-loving, V. I do sometimes feel guilty, but I don’t really have any other “vices”, unless you count my tea habit, so my perfume obsession is not too awful. A perfumer once told me that I might have been possessed by gambling or love of shoes, but fragrance is (mostly) not so costly and gives other people pleasure too. Unlike smoking, it’s not unhealthy.

    They are commemorating D Day as I write, and your words about your grandma emphasise the sacrifices everybody at that time made – a dab from a little bottle of scent would have been such a wonderful, life-affirming thing in a world of uncertainty. June 6, 2014 at 8:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Jillie! Loving shoes is way way way more costly than loving perfume. As a shoe lover, I can tell this much. 🙂 And trying on a pair of shoes at a store really doesn’t hit the spot the same way as dashing into Sephora and spraying yourself with something wonderful for a day. June 6, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

      • Tara C: Unfortunately, I love both perfume and shoes. Very expensive hobbies, and they take up a lot of room. I would switch to jewelry but that is even more expensive. 🙂 And I love smelling fabulous. June 7, 2014 at 6:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: And you can actually grow out of your shoes, as I discovered recently. A few pairs I bought 10 years ago are just too small. I still like all of the perfumes I acquired 10 years ago, and with 3 exceptions, no bottle has turned. June 8, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

  • Zazie: Love this article! That picture with the tiny perfume bottle and powder box is so touching – it tells so many stories despite its deceptive simplicity.
    I agree with all your points, and yet I must confess that on the odd day, when I look at my 30+ bottles (or better say 40+?) I feel a spike of pain.
    It’s a lot of money, lined up there (a lot of pleasure too – but also quite a few mistakes), a lot of time spent reading and searching and testing… I do occasionally feel guilty for it all. I usually decide not to add any more bottles. To give away the mistakes.

    Then I think at those moments in life when the reassuring smell of my SOTD was there to comfort me.
    I think at my three old self, fascinated with my great-aunt’s perfume, asking questions about fragrances. I recall my huge collection of minis, which I so lovingly put together in my teens. And every day the pleasure of choosing my perfume, of smelling flowers in the streets, of lifting my wrist to my nose at the office…
    So I really shouldn’t feel guilty, and I’ll keep this very post in mind the next time it happens… I should really part with those unwanted bottles, though – they give me bad vibes! 😉 June 6, 2014 at 8:36am Reply

    • solanace: Anything unwanted sitting at home gives bad vibes. Air must circulate. (Says the master hoarder, while making mental notes of finally calling that Salvation Army truck. 🙂 ) June 6, 2014 at 9:48am Reply

      • Liz K: You are going to prompt me to clean out a closet if I’m not careful. It won’t be my perfume closet, though. June 6, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

        • Zazie: @Solanace, @Liz K: LOL!!!!!!!
          😀 June 6, 2014 at 10:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s a lot of time spent researching, talking, discovering, but think of what you get back from it. And it’s not just an odd bottle of perfume here and there. It’s the interaction with interesting people, learning something new (perfume can encompass history, chemistry, fashion, art!) I really think that the best thing I’ve done so far is to sit down one day and start writing a perfume blog. Can’t even enumerate how much joy it has brought me. And how much I discover thanks to all of you every day. June 6, 2014 at 11:35am Reply

    • allgirlmafia: I’m with you, I own about forty bottles, mostly minis (four off these are Aromatics Elixir!)

      I justify this by the fact that since many of my beloved vintages have been snagged at a deal (usually under $10) it is a reasoable hobby, still when I think about forty bottles…

      At any rate, I won’t be retiring the hobby/habit/obsession, anything that makes me close my eyes in utter satisfaction is worth the expense. June 6, 2014 at 6:33pm Reply

  • Danaki: Yes. You should read the ‘hate’ that, for example, beauty coloumnists like Sali Hughes get on The Guardian (if you read it in the UK) website simply because the pursual of beauty is silly and frivolous and goes against feminist values, bla bla…Yet nobody questions as Victoria rightly noted men’s expensive (and frivolous) pleasures.

    Sali Hughes makes that point on her blog. If Victoria doesn’t mind, I can past the web address (not sure what the webiquette on BdJ is) of her blog entry. June 6, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, yes, please post it! Thank you, Danaki. June 6, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

        • Victoria: Spot on! Thank you so much for the link. June 6, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

        • Nikki: Thank you for this great link! Absolutely, it is all about power and sex and oppressing women, one way or the other. A beautiful (that means a woman who creates beauty in her most intimate environment, on herself) person is more threatening because she is more powerful for several reasons: she took time to commune with herself and she is aware of herself and therefore, more of a threat. Somebody has to tell women that they can’t have it all, either they are ditzy blondes or they have a brain, and so on…be a CEO and politician, but you better be size 2! And now we can’t even wear lipstick! We need female solidarity across the internet to start with. June 6, 2014 at 1:24pm Reply

          • Hannah: Maybe there isn’t solidarity because ugly women are always thrown under the bus. My huge nose and the gap in my teeth didn’t appear because I don’t take time to commune with myself or because I don’t take care of myself.

            I’ve never been judged for my perfume obsession but my friend is always judging that I buy macarons because they are just too extravagant. But it is tradition for us to share some before I leave for the US and he is always overjoyed when I bring out the box. June 6, 2014 at 4:18pm Reply

            • Victoria: Women are often judged on appearance no matter what they do. If you look like you care about your appearance, you’re judged as shallow. If you don’t make an effort, you’re judged too. Of course, men are too, but for women, there are still different expectations. June 6, 2014 at 4:38pm Reply

          • allgirlmafia: ‘She took time to commune with herself’ …I love this June 6, 2014 at 6:40pm Reply

        • az: Thanks for the link! I enjoyed the read! 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 4:38pm Reply

    • carole macleod: I love the Sali Hughes column! And you are totally right about the comments…some are so full of hate it’s hard to believe.
      She did a really touching story around Christmas two years ago-she was recently separated, and was trying to make things cheerfull for her family, and her self-the comments sections had to be closed.
      i often feel guilty about perfume. I consider it necessary but in NS, and the Maritimes in general, scent is really frowned upon. You can smell as bad as you want, or radiate laundry muscs, but Nuits Etoilee is verbotten 🙂 i think perfume gives joy to the wearer, and the people around them.
      Thank you for sharing the story about your great grandmother. She is a beautiful woman! June 6, 2014 at 8:52pm Reply

      • Victoria: Yes, that’s a different story. I also try to be moderate in my perfume application, especially if I’m going to be around other people (long train rides, airplane, theater, restaurant, etc.), just because perfume has a sillage, and not everyone wants to smell it. But the idea of banning perfume altogether (especially since the super strong scented laundry detergents and hair products leave a thick trail!) I was wearing Chanel Cristalle the other day, and the smell of fabric softener from my t-shirt nearly covered it up. We usually don’t use anything strongly scented, but my husband bought some new brand, and I was taken aback by its potency. June 7, 2014 at 9:56am Reply

  • The Perfumed Veil: I hope this article is published in more places than one. It is just perfect! I love the nostalgia and refusal to bend to popular opinion. I believe it was you who paraphrased a Persian poet earlier this year: “if you have nothing but two dollars, spend one on bread for the belly and the other on a flower for the soul.” If I could reblog this article, I would do so (if I knew how).

    I have been eyeing a particularly beautiful blue orchid at the supermarket. It was a bit too expensive and I did not buy it for months. Yesterday, I had made my purchases and was walking out when I saw that blue orchid again. I circled it and saw that there was only one left, and it was perfect. I picked it up and bought it. Now it is feeding my soul on my dining room table. June 6, 2014 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: I bought a bunch of sweet peas the other day, and while I know that they will wilt soon, smelling their rose-violet perfume as I walk into the kitchen makes me feel so happy. It’s so amazing how something so little can be such a tremendous boost. Sure, these 8 euros could have been spent in some other more practical way, but life is not a string of practical decisions. Occasionally, you need some pleasure just for the sake of it. June 6, 2014 at 11:38am Reply

    • Vishishta: Oh I bought the blue orchid as well. It matches the blue carpet and sits on my coffee table looking exotic! It’s amazing to read this. June 6, 2014 at 10:07pm Reply

    • Michaela: The last blue orchid waiting for you was certainly yours 🙂 June 10, 2014 at 5:11am Reply

  • Betsy: What a wonderful article! I belive the simplest of pleasures are really what make life worth living…smelling freshly mown grass can be the best part of my day! I appreciate your comparison to music too. I think of fragrance as being very similar to music in that it is intangible in a way which makes it so ethereal and unique and every performance or whiff of perfume can elicit so many emotions at that very moment. One time I bought a little used toy guitar for my daughter at a thrift shop and a woman at the counter gasped “oh without music there is nothing!”…I loved that exclamation that something “non essential” was a necessity of life! June 6, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

    • Victoria: I completely agree! Music, art and books are easier to defend than perfume or fashion. If you say that you’ve just spent $100 on books vs $100 on perfume, you get totally different responses. I’m against this kind of judgements. Who on earth decides which hobby is more worthwhile than another? June 6, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

      • az: Depends on the type of books though. I have had sneering of the ‘wasting money’ type directed at my trashy romances. Not that that has stopped me from reading them 🙂 And why should it? Just makes me get the ones with the trashiest covers and flaunt it. But I like being contrary. 😀 June 6, 2014 at 4:41pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 Reminds me of a conversation with a famous professor, who was asking his students what they liked to read before going to bed. Students named all sorts of high-brow titles, trying to impress him. He said, “Really? You guys are such a dull bunch. Nobody reads anything silly, just for fun?” June 6, 2014 at 4:59pm Reply

          • Az: Lol! I like that. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 2:52am Reply

  • Lucy: Al Paul Klee said something like — One day the War will be over, but coffee and cigarettes will go on forever. I feel that way about perfume and fashion and all the attendant so called feminine pursuits for personal beauty. June 6, 2014 at 9:34am Reply

    • solanace: Great quote! And we can say the same about perfume and lipstick. June 6, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I love that quote! June 6, 2014 at 11:52am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: As a coffee (espresso!) + cigarette lover I LOVE this quote!!! Nowadays it is almost impossible to smoke if not in your own house… June 6, 2014 at 1:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: I remember my dad starting his day with a cup of coffee and a cigarette and liking the smell when the cigarette was first lit. I guess, nobody was aware of the dangers of the secondhand smoke in those days, so dad smokes around us, kids. But I’ll admit that I very much like the non-smoking rules in the restaurants and bars, since I’m not a smoker myself. June 6, 2014 at 4:04pm Reply

  • allgirlmafia: Thank you so much V for this article. June 6, 2014 at 9:42am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very glad that you liked it! June 6, 2014 at 11:52am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Like the others, I loved this article! Can’t agree more about a waft of perfume getting me through a difficult day. In the place where I work, people rarely care about fashion, makeup or perfume so I feel rather out of place time to time. Once, I was criticized by a colleague for reading fashion magazines which she thinks are useless.

    I don’t feel guilty for my hobby as I have a strictly set budget for it and also, I don’t limit the olfactory pleasure to perfumes. But there are times I question myself if I want a bottle of perfume for the sake of possesing it or if I really want to and will regularly wear it myself. I want to feel free and don’t want to be obssesed with ‘owning’ perfumes.

    I actually feel guilty for something else. Sometimes, I feel guilty for not being true to myself. I feel compelled to like more unusual or challenging perfumes and when I fall for something pretty, easy and conventional, I feel bad about myself. I know that this sounds really stupid but I feel guilty for being ashamed of what I like. June 6, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

    • Danaki: Hahaha me too. The way I think of it, though, is like this. I do most of all enjoy the Chopin preludes and in terms of music nothing else, to me, would do. But sometimes, and to be honest, often time, I need a soft popsy dansy tune. And I really really enjoy listening to that…
      I need both…but I share your guilt though. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 10:05am Reply

      • Michaela: Good point! 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Glad to know I’m not the only one. 🙂 I guess the same applies to music (as you said), books, films etc. Yes, you definitely need both! June 6, 2014 at 11:19am Reply

        • Victoria: Give a fun Bollywood romp, and I will pick it over some serious, important film any day. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 12:01pm Reply

    • Marcela Hanford: I’m going to start with you shouldn’t but that is too easy. I am an artist, a painter, and my professional world is full of complex and supposedly deep discussions of artistic expression. What I have found to be most profound and rewarding are the honest reactions that people have to my work. Comments like “the colors are great”, “it’s pretty”, and “that pink is awesome” make my day because I managed to convey beauty. When you enjoy the simple, pretty, easy perfumes you are experiencing beauty at its core. Cherish and embrace it! Uncomplicated beauty is good for our modern soul. June 6, 2014 at 10:18am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for your wonderful comment, Marcela. It was really thought-provoking. June 6, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Who does she think she is to pass judgement on what is or is not useful? I’m normally a very calm and laidback person, but really, comments like this totally set me off. If she’s not interested in fashion, well, it’s her right not to read the magazines, but telling you what *you* should be doing is totally not her business. Ok, getting off the soap box and going to take a deep breath. 🙂

      Now, onto liking simple things. I can’t emphasize enough how much I disagree with the whole idea that what kind of scents you like reflect your taste level. I see these comments time to time here, and I always say the same thing. Our scent preferences are very subjective and are formed through such a complex prism of memories and individual traits that it’s impossible to generalize. If one person likes Chanel Cuir de Russie and another Aquolina Pink Sugar, it simply means that one likes leathery smells and another sweet ones. It doesn’t mean anything else besides that.

      So, please go with what you like and really enjoy and don’t try to like something that doesn’t feel right. Exposing yourself to challenging scents is fun in itself, but if you don’t really like Bandit or Fracas or Mitsouko, it is perfectly fine. I personally can live without Jean Patou Joy or many other classics, but I wouldn’t give up my bottle of sugary and fun Lolita Lempicka. June 6, 2014 at 12:00pm Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: This colleague and I were at the airport coming back from our business trip. I bought a copy of In Style and she bought Scientific American and that’s when she went on about how ridiculously expensive things featured on these magazines are and she really seemed to think they were for bimbos. Oh well, not everything has to be about being useful! 🙂

        In my head, I know that there’s nothing wrong with liking easy, uncomplicated perfumes but I can’t help feeling uneasy about it. My scholarly approach to perfumes has really helped me to learn about perfumery but I found that it can hinder me from simply enjoying it. I really should loosen up! I should stop analysing note by note and just close my eyes and indulge. June 6, 2014 at 4:29pm Reply

        • Victoria: One thing I feel guilty about is taking time off to read for pleasure and do something that doesn’t involve writing, research or work. When you don’t have a 9 to 5 job and actually love what you do, it’s easy for work to fill in every gap. “Oh, but I could be doing something productive now!” is that feeling. On the other hand, I remember that some of my most productive and inspired periods happen when I take breaks, and I’m working to getting rid of that guilt too. Balance is key in everything. This is barely related, but your usefulness comment really made me think of it.

          Sounds like a scientist speaking! But learning just to indulge is also a skill, so I’m sure you can master it too. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 4:47pm Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: Please don’t be so hard on yourself but I know what you mean. For academics, they have more flexible working times but work can easily spill over their personal lives. Yes, balance is definitely the key in everything but it’s easier said than done! June 10, 2014 at 9:33am Reply

        • rainboweyes: Why should reading Scientific American exclude reading less serious magazines? I enjoy reading both – scientific and lifestyle – depending on the situation. I could never read anything too serious when travelling. Of course most of the things featured in fashion magazines are expensive but nobody is forced to buy them. June 6, 2014 at 5:05pm Reply

          • Anne of Green Gables: I totally agree! They’re not mutually exclusive and I don’t want to read something too serious when I’m travelling, especially on long distance flights, which are tiring anyway. Since I work in science, I want to read something different for a change. June 10, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

  • Elisa: Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own: “Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial.’” You are so right that people (wrongly) lump perfume in with the trivial. Thank you for this post, V! June 6, 2014 at 10:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for this quote, Elisa! How true and how sad. June 6, 2014 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Julie S: I agree wholeheartedly with the article and refuse to feel guilty about pampering myself.
    I also agree with the statement that scent is one of the simplest and most rewarding of enjoyments, in fact certain scents can invoke pleasant memories from the past. June 6, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Sometimes it’s essential to pamper oneself just to stay sane. All of us face many different pressures and stresses every day, so it’s important to find time to relax. June 6, 2014 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Liz K: Any time I start to feel guilty about my collection, some of which are very rarely used, I think of my mother who has been mostly anosmic since her 30’s and the joy she feels when she has a good day and gets a whiff of food or can smell a flower. There is no knowing if I may someday be exposed to a chemical, as she was, or have an illness that will dull, change, or eradicate my sense of smell so I will continue to enjoy perfume while I can.

    PS. My mom does wear and enjoy perfume and does have some sense of smell. It just is much reduced and comes and goes. Don’t feel too sorry for her; she could never tell if the milk had turned and never had to sniff out the rotting thing in the fridge. June 6, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

    • Victoria: You can take those moments to use them to revisit some old favorites. 🙂 If you have a large collection, it’s inevitable that some perfumes are used more than others, and you go out of a mood for certain perfumes. For instance, I had a bottle of Diptyque Eau Rose, which I haven’t sprayed once for a few months in a row, but lately, I’ve inspired to wear it again, and it’s been such a source of pleasure. June 6, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

    • iodine: My psychoanalyst was anosmic after nose surgery, but he kept putting heavily scented flowers-lilies!- in his office, for his patients’ joy..
      When I told him about my love for perfumes he began to ask me advices on places where he could find the scent that he could maybe be able to smell! He wore Dior Fahrenheit, because he loved it before 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 12:51pm Reply

  • solanace: Thank you for saying this so eloquently, Victoria!

    Art is useless, but without it we would be facing the abyss alone. These little things unite us, and make life not only bearable, but even wonderful. These little things make ground for peace. It is nothing short of beautiful to see a bunch of people from all over the world talking about the smell of bread dough, or the latest Lutens. Of course, we might be considered frivolous in our work places, by puritan women who dress up as feminists or by self obsessed men who think everything a woman does is meant to seduce them. But from our vantage point, we know there is no people as witty, interesting, generous and overall amazing as perfume people. Which is not surprising, given the feminine and abstract nature of the subject.

    Have a great weekend, everybody! June 6, 2014 at 10:48am Reply

    • Victoria: You put it so well! If we have means to enjoy these pleasures, we should and not feel guilty about it. I honestly don’t care what those people who judge my perfumes or my perfumery profession in some negative light think, but I really want to write this post, because I encounter letters and comments about the guilt from women who really shouldn’t experience it. Simple pleasures can do so much to improve the quality of life. They’re not unnecessary. They are essential. June 6, 2014 at 12:12pm Reply

      • solanace: I loved reading the article, and the comments. June 6, 2014 at 2:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you to you and everyone else for the comments. It’s been a terrific afternoon of reading everything you wrote. June 6, 2014 at 4:09pm Reply

          • Solanace: I keep coming here to read more comments, because this discussion passionates me so much! Having studied physics, I faced a lot of prejudice for being a girly gal, my entire life. And when you see what ‘serious’ men have done to the world… June 9, 2014 at 5:37am Reply

            • Victoria: I suppose that was the point when I stopped caring what others thought, because invariably there will be someone to criticize something, if only to make themselves feel better or justify their own behavior. I need it all–the fun and the serious. But scents can neatly encompass both categories. 🙂 June 9, 2014 at 5:59am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Solanace! I know what you mean. In my time, some people did not believe that I was a student; make up, red lipstick, perfume were most unusual at the time, and certainly in the greek/latin department. I must say, i didn’t care about that. I think nowadays it has changed, there are some beautiful feminine classicists around. Mostly Italian, i have to admit.
                Take a good spritz of Chergui! June 9, 2014 at 6:52am Reply

                • Solanace: I sure will, SOTD chosen, Chergui will fit perfectly with the cool, rainy weather today. Thank you for sharing your experience, Cornelia! I came back here to get the ‘Fall of Cartage’ reference. 🙂 June 11, 2014 at 7:19am Reply

            • Anne of Green Gables: Hi Solanace, I studied chemistry and I’m still working in science. It’s strange but I get more harshly judged by other women in science for being interested in beauty, fashion etc. I don’t understand this and it’s rather sad. You don’t need to look nerdy to be a scientist, do you? 🙂 June 10, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Please don’t care about that, Anne. They are jealous. June 10, 2014 at 10:56am Reply

                • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks, Cornelia. I’m not sure if they’re jealous (there’s nothing to be jealous of) but I don’t care anymore. Life’s too short anyway! 🙂 I just find it annoying that I have to defend myself for something this. June 11, 2014 at 7:12am Reply

                  • Victoria: I also think that it has more to do with what they think is a beneficial way to spend time, rather than jealousy. It is true that in many spheres that have traditionally dominated by men, women adopt the same behavior (and even dress elements; there are many studies on this). So, the “feminine” pursuits are automatically considered less worthy. But your attitude is right. Life is too short to worry what someone might think. June 11, 2014 at 7:25am Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: Oh, I am sure they are jealous. Women want to be pretty, scientist or not. Maybe some deny that (too lazy? low selfestime? fear of comments?) but seeing a woman who cares about her beauty, their womanly instincts awake. And then there are sour comments.

                    Please don’t defend yourself. Just smile at their faces. June 11, 2014 at 7:33am Reply

                    • Cornelia Blimber: I read Victoria’s comment after submitting my own. Well, she may be right. In that case: poor women, they don’t know what they are missing.
                      But I keep thinking there is a kind of jealousy involved. Why sould they make comments when they simply think you are wasting your time?
                      Anyway, you have the right spirit, Anne! June 11, 2014 at 7:40am

                    • Solanace: Yes, I think there is an element of jealousy too. Something primitive and dark, lurking behind the rationalizations. June 11, 2014 at 8:06am

                  • Solanace: And I’m sure there is plenty to be jealous about!! June 11, 2014 at 8:07am Reply

              • Solanace: Hi, Anne,

                I agree! While many men are getting more open minded, even the wittiest women often fail to recognize the beauty of the feminine side of things, and that masculine values and tastes are not exactly worthy of being emulated! June 11, 2014 at 8:02am Reply

  • Dana: Thank you for making me feel better about my hobby and collection. You’re right–it’s ridiculous to waste time feeling guilty about it. Now I just find that it takes a really unique fragrance to turn my head and I have a much harder time trying to decide what to wear on a daily basis. Sometimes too much choice can be paralyzing. Thanks for the moving story about your great grandmother. June 6, 2014 at 10:55am Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy to do so anytime! 🙂 It’s a wonderful and satisfying hobby. And I like how Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez call perfume a portable form of intelligence. And of beauty, I’d add. June 6, 2014 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Patricia: What a beautiful article! Like Anne of Green Gables I budget for my perfume purchases and don’t feel guilty about them, but also like her I often feel guilty for liking something simple or conventional. I’m working on that one.

    I do like to share my perfume collection when possible and love the whole process of decanting and labeling the little bottles and readying them for a new home. To see the levels of perfume in my bottles drop is a happy sight, whether it is from personal use or sharing. June 6, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

    • Victoria: As I replied to Anne, I don’t believe in feeling guilty about things like that either. Or in feeling guilty about disliking classics that everyone loves. Simple things are also the hardest to get right. June 6, 2014 at 12:16pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely, lovely post and so true! Few of my friends appreciate the art of perfume. And regard my collection with surprise and dismay. They don’t know what they are missing!
    Have a great and sunny weekend. June 6, 2014 at 11:08am Reply

    • Victoria: They really don’t! And when you like scents, you start enjoying other things more–food or drink, for instance. It’s a fantastic pursuit all around.

      Any sunny weekend plans? June 6, 2014 at 12:19pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Buying tea, and sniffing perfume! June 6, 2014 at 3:01pm Reply

        • Victoria: Sounds like a terrific way to spend the weekend! I’ll, of course, want to know what you’ll find. You remind me that I need to visit Nong Cha to restock on teas. Also, I’ve been drinking the terrific Grand Wu Long from Le Palais des Thes, and its woody-leathery aroma has been making crave leathery perfumes. June 6, 2014 at 4:06pm Reply

          • Austenfan: I went to Nong Cha on a whim several weeks ago. Spent way too much of course, but it will all be enjoyed, in the end.
            I got one of those stunning green teas with those huge pressed leaves ( Tai Ping Hou Kui). Haven’t even started drinking it yet as I want to get a gai wan to properly make this tea. It is in the fridge still in it’s bag.
            I’m also thoroughly enjoying a lot of the teas that I ordered from Damman Frères. A rose scented green tea, the lovely orange blossom flavoured white tea and a nice every day Wu Long. June 6, 2014 at 4:48pm Reply

            • Victoria: I got that tea too, and you’re right to store it in the fridge. I didn’t it, and it lost its flavor within a couple of weeks. It’s really quite delicate.

              I really need the orange blossom flavored tea, I think. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 5:01pm Reply

              • Austenfan: You do! If you happen not to like it, I can always finish it up for you, my guess is though that you will like it. It’s very perfumey mind, but in a good way. June 7, 2014 at 6:03am Reply

                • Victoria: Sounds like a deal! 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 10:19am Reply

                  • Austenfan: Well I tried quite a few perfumes that I had been wanting to give a sniff for a long time:
                    Malle’s:
                    Dries van Noten, liked it, unusual but not an instant hit.
                    L’Eau de Magnolia: What a great spring or summer scent, airy, weightless, but somehow not without substance.
                    Lys Méditerranée: Loved it, and I am not a huge lily fan.
                    Géranium Pour Monsieur: Interesting, not on myself but would love to smell it on someone else.
                    Une Fleur de Cassie: this was a retry. Wow. My favourite of the ones I tried.
                    Dans tes Bras: Don’t know, it is interesting in an odd way.

                    Tried two MPG’s:
                    Ambre Précieux, which I know and love and their new Ambre Doré. It seemed more of a leather than an amber.

                    Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily: Very, very pretty, but I don’t “need” it.

                    And I got a white Ceylon tea which I couldn’t smell properly as my nose had decided to block up. I must be allergic to some of the tree pollen that is around right now.

                    All in all a wonderful afternoon of fragrant pleasure! June 8, 2014 at 8:22am Reply

                    • Victoria: Fun! I also revisited Une Fleur de Cassie the other day, because I heard the reports that it was reformulated beyond recognition. I didn’t find it so, and in fact, I loved the new version even more than the older one. It smells warmer and brighter, and the wet cardboard note is less obvious. I suppose if someone loved that facet, they might miss it. June 8, 2014 at 10:14am

                    • Austenfan: I don’t remember the older version that well. I remember when I first tried it I hadn’t yet sniffed a lot so a leather note was quite alien to me. I was intrigued but didn’t really like it. This version on the other hand I love. It may actually be my next purchase. June 8, 2014 at 12:42pm

                    • Victoria: I have a decant of the older Une Fleur de Cassie, and in comparing the old and new, I definitely prefer the new one. I still feel that I should use up what I have before considering a bottle, but it’s tempting. June 8, 2014 at 3:18pm

  • iodine: Quoting Luca Turin: perfume is about beauty and intelligence- and how we need them both in our daily life!
    Smelling- not only bottled perfumes but, as you say, everything that comes to my nostrils, from linden blossoms in a park to sweaty bodies in an underground carriage- thinking about what I’ve smelt, making comparisons, talking about it… are among my greatest pleasures in life.
    Thank you for providing us with space to practice with our (olfactory? intelligence! June 6, 2014 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: When you think about it, talk about, you also develop a new vocabulary, and it does so much to improve the day-to-day life. Today, I’ve smelled lots of lindens and also the wet clay from the construction site nearby. Ordinarily, I would have moved past trying to avoid the mess, but the scent was so evocative, spring-like really, and the combination of clay and lindens really was amazing.

      And thank all of you for coming here and for brightening up my days. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: Such a wonderful post, Victoria. It obviously spoke deeply to a lot of people, myself included. I’ve only started really indulging my love of fragrance recently, mainly because I now feel I have the extra money it takes to do that. But – like you – in my younger days I was still able to find what I loved and buy some form of it to have it near. And since I’m terribly sentimental, I’ve kept most of those small indulgences and so just the mere sight of them still gives me enormous pleasure – even after 40 some years.
    I also keep my mother’s and grandmother’s fragrances (and their whimsies) very close by.
    Your great-grandmother’s photo took me by surprise mainly because she reminds me so much of my grandmother (who was Russian). What a strong, lovely woman she appears to have been! And my grandmother, like your great-grandmother, loved her garden – especially her roses.
    So, let’s all keep doing what makes us happy, because in this world there’s just so much uncertainty and sorrow that we all need some little private indulgence to make us smile. June 6, 2014 at 12:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: How lucky you’re to have your mother’s and grandmother’s fragrances! I really wish I still had a little bottle of my great-grandmother’s White Lilac perfume, because I can recall the scent perfectly, more so than the look of the bottle. But I have her photographs, letters, and some shirts and towels she embroidered.

      Must be the Eastern European cheekbones! At times people have started speaking to me in Polish or Russian, even before I opened my mouth, simply because they assumed that I must be from Eastern Europe based on my looks. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 12:25pm Reply

      • Annette Reynolds: We’re both lucky to have something to remind us of our family’s past. I have a few of my grandmother’s things, including her wedding dress – which is nothing like a wedding dress today. It’s an amazing robe-like garment made of purple and ecru striped silk. It’s tiny, of course. (Unfortunately, I didn’t take after my mother’s side of the family – they are all beautiful and petite. I, on the other hand, look just like my father. Believe me when I say those were NOT the genes I would have chosen…)
        If it’s okay with you, Victoria, I may send you some photos of the perfume bottles I have. You might enjoy seeing them. June 6, 2014 at 12:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you so much, Annette. I’d love them. If you don’t mind, I can even post them here, by embedding the images in the comment. Others might enjoy seeing the bottles too. June 6, 2014 at 3:55pm Reply

        • MontrealGirl: Annette, Would you consider including a photo of your mother and/or grandmother? I think it is lovely to have the image of the women next to the perfumes they wore because it makes it personal. (Victoria – your Grandmother looks simply elegant and it is a lovely photo with lovely memories to match it) I always thought it would be a great project to take photos of women (and men) with their favourite perfume bottle(s). It’s a way that each and every one gets to express a bit of our personality.

          My Grandmother wore Arpege, L’air du Temps and Chanel 5 and the last time I visited her she gave me he empty Arpege bottle which I cherish. It sits with all the other bottles in my collection just as a sweet reminder every day of her. June 7, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

          • Annette Reynolds: Aren’t these the sweetest memories, MontrealGirl? I can still picture some of the bottles sitting on my grandmother’s vanity table. If only we could time-travel in order to give our loved ones one more hug and kiss. But since we can’t (at least, I don’t think we can!), the memory of scent and the visual remembrance of the actual bottles will have to do.

            I’d love to include the photos, but haven’t got a clue how.

            Victoria has been kind enough to ask me to write a short piece about my grandmother, and I think she plans on including my photos with that. June 7, 2014 at 5:43pm Reply

  • Ann: First, your great grandmother’s photo is just beautiful. I know when I look at old photos I superimpose a story that may be miles from the truth… but she looks lovely and smart, and somewhere in her eyes I think I see a percolating flower business…

    Second, I just wanted to point folks to the early women’s labor movement in the US. One of its most enduring slogans was “bread and roses” inspired by the poem ‘Bread and Roses’ by James Oppenheim, published in December 1911. One line in the poem goes:

    Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew. Yes, it is bread we fight for — but we fight for roses, too!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_Roses

    It seems like it is the human condition to strive to live beyond basic sustenance to pursue pleasure… which in turn gives us an important sense of who we are–whether it is a wager on Chrome at the Belmont Stakes, or the heady scent of roses! June 6, 2014 at 12:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Imagine, she was born under the tsarist rule, was a child when the civil war happened, survived the big famine of the 1930s in Ukraine, lived through the WWII (her town was occupied and re-occupied several times by different armies), and then even outlived the Soviet Union. She certainly had hard life, but I always remember her as full of laughter and ready to crack a joke. One of the things we adored was watching the pop concerts on TV with her and hearing her criticize the outfits. She really had quite a sharp tongue. 🙂

      Thank you so much for the link. I was thinking of Oppenheim, because I remember you sending this poem to me. June 6, 2014 at 3:50pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Her life must have been more than hard. I read Timothy Snyder ”Bloodlands”, the horrors under the Stalin regime are beyond imagination. Your grandgreat parents (I remember also the picture of you and your grandgreatfather) were admirable. June 7, 2014 at 2:19pm Reply

        • Victoria: She lived through those times Snyder describes, and she told us how the brigades would come to the village and confiscate all of the harvest, sometimes taking even food from people’s pantries. She was a young teacher at the time, and she and her class were sent by the brigades to collect grain that remains on the ground after the harvest and deliver it to the officials. I can’t imagine the hardship she went through, and yet, it’s remarkable how full of joy and high spirits she was when I knew her. She just knew how to enjoy whatever came her way.

          Snyder was my professor at the university, and he is quite remarkable. His scholarship is impressive, because he uses many archival materials, which until recently haven’t been made available. I also like his book called The Red Prince. Here is an excerpt from The Guardian review:

          “There are few historians who possess Timothy Snyder’s winning combination of languages, stylish story-telling and analytic insight; in The Red Prince, he has produced a gem. Today no one remembers the Archduke Wilhelm, except perhaps the dwindling band of elderly Ukrainian émigrés who knew him better as “Vasily the Embroidered” – from the national costume he wore under his cloak. When he died in Soviet hands in the summer of 1948, the Habsburg dynasty was a footnote in history, and Wilhelm – the third son of a cadet branch of the family – was a footnote to the footnote. Snyder turns his unhappy, unfulfilled life into a story of suspense, a political romance teetering on the edge of tragicomedy.” June 7, 2014 at 5:00pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: People like your great grandparents are the real heroes. to survive such times without hatred and bitterness is a truly great achievement.

            Lucky you to have had such a professor! I read The Red Prince as well (both in the Dutch translation, i confess), thank you for the review. He writes better than many a highbrow novelist, and his learning is impressive (which you can’t say of every professor, haha). June 8, 2014 at 4:51am Reply

            • Victoria: I think so! When I sometimes feel discouraged or stressed over things, I think of what my great-grandparents went through and their attitude. Not to say that our day-to-day pressures aren’t significant (even if the magnitude is different from what the older generation has experienced), but some perspective and hope are always good.

              Yes, Snyder is an excellent writer, which is not something you can say about many historians. June 8, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Adrian Goldsworthy is another one. June 8, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

                • Victoria: What would you recommend by him? I haven’t read anything by him, but I’m always open to learning something new, especially about the ancient Rome. According to Google, that’s his specialty. June 8, 2014 at 10:27am Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, it is. His biography of Caesar (“Caesar”) is brilliant. The part in which he retells ”De Bello Gallico” is acute and a pleasure to read (of course even better: Caesar himself). But the whole book is marvellous.
                    Another one: ”The Fall of Carthage. The Punic wars 265-146 BC” . This book is rather technical here and there on military matters, not everybody is interested in these details. For me it was a revelation, when I had exams on that matter I did not understand very much about these damned Punic wars.

                    And there is ”The Fall of the West. The Slow Death of the Roman Superpower’.’ Stirring.
                    You can read about the inner weakness of the Roman Empire, the uncertain position of the nervous emperors: so much energy there at the cost of the defending of the frontiers.
                    Another one; “Anthony and Cleopatra”.

                    I think the best to begin with is Caesar- he was such a fascinating person.

                    Another book on Roman history, well written, lovely to read, is ”Rubicon” by Tom Holland. But as far as i can see it,Goldsworthy is the better scholar.

                    On my desk now: Peter Heather: ‘Empires and Barbarians”; another view on the end of the Roman Empire. Strong accent on the migrations, I understood. well, I am curious to read it! June 8, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

                    • Victoria: Thank you so much! So much to explore, especially since that’s the area of history I know very little about. But even more reason to try to learn more. June 8, 2014 at 3:21pm

      • Michaela: Wonderful woman! You were lucky to know her. June 10, 2014 at 5:21am Reply

  • David: I have to admit that I kind of like when people DON’T approve of my perfume habit and pass judgement on me. It makes this interest feel all the more special and against the grain. The rebel in me loves that. I also have to admit I got into perfume for maybe a bit illicit reasons– I wanted to experiment with leather perfumes to wear when I went out, for when I was/still am a bit of a bad boy. I remember hearing about how Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather cologne was supposed to smell like cocaine….I just had to try it. I just love trying all the leather perfumes for their dirty levels( so far
    Dior’s Leather Oud wins hands down). I also like wearing perfumes that are meant for women and I love the disapproving comments or glances I so sometimes receive. It just makes life all the more interesting….. June 6, 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: I personally don’t really care what others think of my interests. Worrying what others think is really too tiring, because there will always be people who disagree, don’t approve, judge, etc. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to write this post, because I receive letters and comments about feeling guilty to enjoy perfume, and that’s not right. We shouldn’t care what others think, but we really should create time for pleasures and feel no guilt about it.

      Totally agree on the fun of crossing the conventional gender boundaries. One of my favorite perfumes is Guerlain Habit Rouge, and I wouldn’t have discovered it, if I hadn’t perused the masculine side of the perfume bar. June 6, 2014 at 3:54pm Reply

  • Marianna: Thank you so much for this beautiful article! I don’t know anyone who loves perfume as much as I do and it’s been great to discover this online community. I feel guilty enough as it is that I may not be doing my job right as a mother, I’m a newish mom. I try to remember to leave time to myself to enjoy simple pleasures. Thank you for reminding me that it’s important. June 6, 2014 at 12:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Here (and on other blogs too; the perfume community overall is very helpful) you can always support and help. I’m not a mom, but I can only imagine how much pressure you might be experiencing, but also how much joy with your little one. Soon your baby will be old enough to share in things that you love, and maybe, you will have a new perfumista on your hands. 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 3:57pm Reply

    • Elena: What could be a better example to your baby than a mama who loves and appreciates the small things in life, and looks for pleasure and joy daily? June 6, 2014 at 10:43pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: I have two kids and I remember how exhausted I was as they were babies. Sleepless nights, babies crying with no apparent reason, not being able to communicate with them and, most of all, the need to be available all the time, all this was very frustrating. Pampering myself was very important to me back then, although I was very careful with perfume as babies are much more sensitive to scent than we. My younger son, now 8, is a scent Junkie too! He loves sniffing at things and I have to be careful what I wear, otherwise he won’t give me a hug! June 7, 2014 at 5:03am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: I love this wonderful post…it is beautifully written and depicts exactly the way I have felt about perfume ever since I was a young teenage girl. Most of us put our sense of smell on the lower point of importance, way behind our other senses. However, a smell can put you back in time and bring back memories long forgotten. I have collected perfumes from when I was about 17 years old and still do although perhaps not as vicariously as I once did. I will never live long enough to use up all my full bottles.
    Thanks again for this thought-provoking post. June 6, 2014 at 1:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Phyllis. I love how each perfume bottle holds a different fantasy or experience. And I definitely agree that nothing takes you back as readily as scent! June 6, 2014 at 4:01pm Reply

  • Sarah: Brilliant post! I don’t know why people get so sniffy (sorry) about perfume. Like you say, everyone has their thing, and scent is a very special thing.

    Even when I’ve not had 2 cents to my name, I’ve made it a priority to have at least two lovely perfumes on the go. When I was the poorest I’ve ever been (19 and living in another country) I managed to scrape together the funds to buy First by Van Cleef and Arpels. I still budgeted to pay my rent etc, – I just felt that eating cereal for dinner for a while was an acceptable sacrifice for smelling like I’d already made it 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: I remember doing that too as a college student. I don’t remember what I bought, but I recall having to eat white bread and jam for dinner for a week, because I couldn’t afford anything else. 🙂 Oh well, I doubt I can make these kind of sacrifices for perfume or clothes now, but I totally imagine doing it if it meant travel (my other huge passion). June 6, 2014 at 4:41pm Reply

  • az: Thank you for sharing the beautiful story of your great-grandmother.

    I agree with your sentiments – personally I don’t like to be ‘guilted’ to be good or generous. I believe I can give to charity (and whether I do or not is no one else’s business but my own) and indulge myself.

    That said, I do feel guilty when I go to work, for example, wearing a niche perfume and someone likes it and asks me what it is and how much it costs when I know that someone won’t be able to afford it. Wearing the equivalent of someone else’s monthly rent makes me feel bad. That’s my moral dilemma, I guess. :S June 6, 2014 at 4:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can completely understand, and I relate to it when I travel to India or Ukraine. For instance, when I go to Ukraine in the early summer, I always make a point of buying the wild strawberries. There they cost around 5 euros for a half-liter jar, and this amount can buy about half a kilo of meat. My grandmother sees it as profligate spending. 🙂 But in Brussels, a tiny basket goes for 6 euros. There are other things too, but in the end, we all work hard for our money, and it’s our choice to decide what to do with it. June 6, 2014 at 4:56pm Reply

  • henry: Very insightful! Thank you, Victoria! 🙂 June 6, 2014 at 6:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! Glad to share my thoughts. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 9:27am Reply

  • annemariec: Well, a stab of guilt every now and again does us no harm, I think. It means we are questioning ourselves and our motives and actions, Discovering where the boundaries are. Guilt is one of the things that make us human. But I do agree, it is pointless to flay ourselves over the enjoyment of small sensual pleasures. Life it too short!

    I also think that people who criticise us for our enjoyment of perfume, beauty and fashion are essentially criticising our enjoyment of things of the body, rather than of the mind. Scientific American is fine but In Style is somehow – not. That captures what I mean exactly. The message seems to be that cultivating the mind is more important than enjoyment of the body.

    But wiser heads know that mind and body are interrelated and in caring for one you care for the other. June 6, 2014 at 6:32pm Reply

    • Az: That’s a sensible way of looking at it. I think I shall adopt that the next time I feel (self-induced) guilt. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 2:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I completely agree with you. Guilt by itself is not bad, it’s an emotional sign that we’ve done something wrong and it prompts us to re-examine our actions. But guilt in excess becomes an incapacitating emotion. And there are so many ways in which our societies puts women on guilt trips (men too, of course, but most surveys real a huge gender gap when it comes to feeling guilty.) There is always someone out there thinking that their way is the only way of doing things, and which is why they’re ready to moralize on the useless of reading In Style or some such thing.

      One of my favorite books, Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, was written by the 11th century Japanese court lady during the period when her empress’s power was in decline and Sei Shonagon’s career was in peril. In many ways, it was such a bleak time, but in her writings, she talks about the beauty of nature, poetry and other delightful things (delightful is one of the most recurring words in the book.) She was definitely aware of what struggles were taking place, but she found the escape in beautiful things. She certainly didn’t seem to feel any guilt over it, and reading her book today is one of my own simple pleasures. I sometimes start my day just by reading a page over my morning tea, and it’s such a boost. June 7, 2014 at 9:49am Reply

    • rainboweyes: Mens sana in corpore sano, as the Romans said. To me, the pleasure of scent definitely contributes to my wellbeing. Actually, my deeper interest in perfume started after my mother had been diagnosed with dementia. Somehow I seem to derive a lot of comfort from enjoying my beloved scents. But I think that’s how aromatherapy works, isn’t it? June 7, 2014 at 11:38am Reply

  • Malmaison: Ah, what a lovely article – and what lovely comments as well! Snuggled up on a cold winter morning with my coffee by my side and a spray of lovingly hoarded Black Cashmere on my wrists, reading this has been a wonderful way to start my weekend. Thanks to all of you for reminding me of the beauty and necessity of small pleasures. June 6, 2014 at 6:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: This is such a comforting, cozy vision. Black Cashmere is made to be paired with coffee–dark, smoky woods and toasted coffee note, what can be better! 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

  • Star Girl: Wearing perfume is an absolute necessity for me. I have a heightened sense of smell and I travel by bus daily. Often a crowded bus. In my first world country, there seem to be a lot of people who think it’s only optional to bathe and launder their clothes on a regular basis. To me, that’s just anti-social and there’s no reason for it. We have a high standard of living in Australia. My perfume doesn’t always neutralise their odour but I create a cocoon of beautiful scent around me that fortifies me and also gives me a lot of pleasure. June 6, 2014 at 7:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: When I had a long morning commute, I also felt that my perfume was a comforting cocoon, a scented talisman. It really improve many a morning. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

  • Andy: Reading the comments, I am not surprised by the profundity that has been shared, as the fragrance community boasts some of the smartest people I have ever come in contact with. 🙂

    I can’t help but think of cookbook author Nigella Lawson when I read this article, who has been incredibly influential in shaping my feelings on the concept of pleasure. She openly denounces the concept of “guilty pleasure,” which I’ve never understood either, but still reveres pleasure as something deeply special, sacred, and temporal. Something we should embrace tightly while it lasts, rather than hold out at arm’s length, as we never know when it might be gone. I can’t help but agree wholeheartedly. June 6, 2014 at 9:48pm Reply

    • annemariec: Well put. I admire Nigella’s enjoyment of her sensuality. Until recently I did not own any of her books but during her recent troubles I went out and bought one, as it seemed the only way I could show my support. I cook from it regularly. June 6, 2014 at 10:05pm Reply

      • Andy: I find myself cooking from and returning to her recipes often, as so many lend themselves to easy, weeknight dinners and come with her blessing to adapt and change them as you please. I too hadn’t cooked much from her recipes until her trials this past year, when I felt so sorry for her that I couldn’t help but stand up for her, one recipe at a time! June 7, 2014 at 12:21am Reply

        • Jillie: Oh my goodness, Andy and Annemariec! I was doing exactly the same thing and cooking Nigella’s recipes in support of her – I think her troubles ended in my husband and me putting quite a bot of weight on! June 7, 2014 at 3:43am Reply

          • Victoria: Anne-Marie, Andy, Jillie, which are your favorite books by Nigella? June 7, 2014 at 10:09am Reply

            • Andy: I don’t own any of the books right now, but I’ve taken the ones I can get my hands on out of my local library, and frequent her website for recipe inspiration. Just most recently I was cooking from Forever Summer, but I really like Express. It’s so easy to see a recipe in there in the morning, and be able to cook it later that very day, which is so gratifying. June 7, 2014 at 1:05pm Reply

              • Victoria: I’ll look for Express. Thank you, Andy. I have her How to Eat, and I love just to flip through it and get inspired. Her way of sharing the recipe is always very non-intimidating.

                By the way, have you ever read anything by Elizabeth David? She’s my top favorite food writer, and I read her books for the sheer pleasure of her voice. June 7, 2014 at 4:00pm Reply

                • Jillie: Victoria, I have all her books, but How to Eat is my favourite. Funnily enough, it reminded me of reading an Elizabeth David book because of the conversational tone! June 8, 2014 at 3:53am Reply

                  • Victoria: Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking is a book I love to reread when the weather turns warmer. She inspires me to make gnocchi and chilled soups and read D.H.Lawrence. June 8, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

                • Andy: I haven’t read any Elizabeth David, but getting a preliminary idea of her work from a quick online search, I’m fascinated! June 8, 2014 at 8:26am Reply

                  • Victoria: If I can recommend one book to start with, it must be her A Book of Mediterranean Food. And I also love Is There Nutmeg in the House? for her essays (and recipes). June 8, 2014 at 10:12am Reply

            • annemarie: Nigellissima , the Italian one, is the one I bought. It’s a hit with my kids. Lots of easy weeknight recipes, as Andy says. And I’ve remembered I also bought the her Italian DVD. This the one where you see her raiding her licorice box late at night, dressed in a shiny black dressing gown. Delicious! June 7, 2014 at 5:51pm Reply

              • Victoria: This is my favorite episode! I’m not even such a fan of licorice, and the dessert is not something I’d make, but I love watching her do it. June 8, 2014 at 9:58am Reply

            • Carla: I think How to Eat is by far Nigella’s best “cookery” book. She wrote it in about a week (ok, perhaps more). l read it in bed like a novel. I gave away all my other Nigella books. Every sentence of How to Eat is a morsel to savor (forgive the purple prose) and the recipes have become basics for me. Actually, I should qualify. She uses a lot of butter; I usually use less and I am not a person who is afraid of fat. I mostly use her recipes from the Low Fat chapter and the Cooking for Children chapter. Also some ideas from the Lunch chapter, though rarely the dessert recipes (I use French dessert recipes, they have less sugar). In fact, I don’t use that many recipes so much as the ideas she writes about. You’ll understand if you get the book. in the end that book is the foundation of my cooking even as it has expanded over the years. When I use a recipe these days it’s either from How to Eat or Elle a Table (French version). Nigella mentions Elizabeth David quite a lot. How to Eat is very highly recommended! June 10, 2014 at 8:03am Reply

              • Victoria: That’s the book I have, and that’s the only one I’ve really cooked from, so I was curious if people liked others. And I completely agree with you. I don’t so much cook from it as get ideas, and I love the way she talks about food. June 10, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

    • Austenfan: Thanks for sharing this Andy! June 7, 2014 at 6:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Me too! I’ve met some really great people. 🙂

      Nigella’s cookbooks helped out a lot when I was a college student, and while I don’t always follow her recipes exactly, I love how she embraces the concept of pleasure. We liked watching her show on the BBC called Nigelissima as much for Nigella as for her recipes. June 7, 2014 at 9:59am Reply

      • Andy: Oh, I love to watch Nigella! I don’t really like to watch TV, so when I need a little comforting, I’ll often go onto Youtube and watch her cook. At this point, I could recite some of the videos by heart! June 7, 2014 at 1:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 I can’t use a word luscious without thinking of Nigella! A friend of mine met her at a launch, and when I asked him what she was like, he said that she was very nice, charming, down-to-earth, and stunningly beautiful. June 7, 2014 at 4:01pm Reply

          • Jillie: That’s so right – my husband too met her at a book signing when he was buying her latest work for me. He said she was lovely, even though her asked her to write “For Jillie, who doesn’t need this”. What a good sport she was! June 8, 2014 at 3:56am Reply

            • Victoria: Your husband has a great sense of humor! 🙂 June 8, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

  • Ann: I see this often in the shop. Customers come in and sigh with relief seeing that they are finally in similar company. They thank me for being here.

    Visitors who obviously cannot afford a high end perfume still come in to lift their spirits and simply enjoy. We deserve it! June 6, 2014 at 9:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can imagine that! A nice space to smell something good is like a little oasis. June 7, 2014 at 10:00am Reply

  • Elena: What a wonderful post, and so many very thoughtful and thought provoking comments! I am glad to have found Sali Hughes today.

    My mother-in-law (who is staying with us for a month…) is one who is quite proud of only using Vaseline on her face, having the same haircut for 40 years, and not caring about her clothes at all. She can be a bit judgmental about my very moderate enjoyment of beauty products and perfume, but it doesn’t bother me, it just makes me sad that she’s denying herself pleasure for no real reason. Life can be hard, why not wring every bit of enjoyment out of it that we can? Carpe Dior! 😉 June 6, 2014 at 10:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: My aunt sent me a book called the Art of Simplicity, which is about simplifying your life, decluttering, not spending, etc. My aunt found it very helpful, and I was reading it on the train. At some point, the book started making me feel bad, like I’m deficient, for instance, for not being able to narrow down my pantry to the absolute necessities. I love cooking, and I cook many different cuisines, all of which require different ingredients and condiments. So, having just a bottle of olive oil and vinegar doesn’t cut it for me. But in the end, as much as I admire someone who can make ten outfits out of 1 dress or live in a simple, spartan lifestyle, some of my biggest enjoyments come from my clutter–cooking things, books, scents, and music CDs. June 7, 2014 at 10:07am Reply

      • Annette Reynolds: You’ve put into words something that’s been bothering me about all those “Let’s Pare It Down To Nothing” books. Thank you! June 7, 2014 at 5:52pm Reply

        • Victoria: Learning some ways to keep clutter at bay and organize my space better is one thing, but no one way is right for everyone, and those books tend to be a tad preachy. At least, the one I read was. June 8, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

    • MontrealGirl: Elena, just LOVE your “Carpe Dior”! Brilliant. Thanks for the giggle. June 7, 2014 at 1:03pm Reply

      • Malmaison: I am so stealing ‘Carpe Dior’ – brilliant! June 7, 2014 at 5:59pm Reply

    • Anka: Wonderful, have a nice Dior, Elena! June 9, 2014 at 6:51pm Reply

  • rose: I also wholeheartedly agree!
    I regularly blog on my arts practice and recently wrote about this. Also the story of my friend who temporarily lost his sense of smell after cancer treatment, and his new- found appreciation of smell and perfume when he regained it. Here it is if you’d like a read! – http://rosestrangartworks.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/50-paintings-of-eigg-no-49-2/ June 7, 2014 at 2:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Rose! I’m going to read it right away. June 7, 2014 at 10:07am Reply

  • carry: Perfume as a “guilty pleasure”? Not at all. Whenever someone makes a snarky remark about my beloved and ever growing perfume collection, I just mention that it’s not only a psychologically necessary pleasure, enhancing mood and soothing discomforts, but simply a physically effective aromatherapy, scientifically proven:
    http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2010/pm00222.html

    I. e. in the example in above link jasmine has the same effect as valium, but without the unpleasant side effects.

    Essential oils or their chemical equivalents have antimicrobial effects, as to read here: http://jac.oxfordjournals.org/content/47/5/565.long

    So using perfume is not a luxury, it’s essential for wellbeing. And a better and healthier choice than pills or booze 🙂

    *rummaging for jasmine-rich perfume* June 7, 2014 at 7:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I love jasmine perfumes, so what an interesting article. Thank you for sharing it, Carry! June 7, 2014 at 10:20am Reply

      • carry: I know you do 😉

        I found that article today.
        A pot of green tea with real jasmine makes me feel incredibly relaxed. Now I know why!

        My little terrace is overshadowed by a jasmine tree, though not yet blossoming.
        On a sunny afternoon I’m going to sit under the jasmine tree with a pot of jasmine tea and smothered in, for example, Songes.

        I’ll be the most relaxed and easy-going person the world has ever seen! June 7, 2014 at 11:06am Reply

        • Victoria: You’ve really inspired me to start my day with jasmine tea and Serge Lutens A La Nuit (my favorite jasmine perfume) tomorrow. Mulling on other ways to add more jasmine to my life, but so far, this sounds ideal. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Poodle: The comparison to sports is perfect. Men will gladly spend money on tickets to games, overpriced concession food, team hats, jerseys, anything with a logo on it and sit in front of the tv or listen to the radio for hours on end to the endless chatter on sports and then scoff at the price of a bottle of perfume. My hubband does all of that except the scoffing part. He knows better. He’s got his indulgences, I’ve got mine. June 7, 2014 at 8:33am Reply

    • Victoria: Exactly! And I have never heard my male friends express guilt over it, in contrast to my girlfriends and their attitudes to their indulgences.

      My husband enjoys some things about which I don’t really care that much (I could live without hockey, for instance), but he also would never say anything about things I like. On the contrary, over the years he has picked up a fair bit of perfume knowledge, and at parties, he can even entertain others describing different scents and making fragrance recommendations. 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 10:29am Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Victoria, Thank you for addressing an important topic. I’m sure many of us feel a bit guilty about our ‘indulgence’ because it appears frivolous. As you said, we don’t think the same about books, CDs or DVDs yet if anyone ever adds up how much money over the years they’ve spent on books they would be shocked (I did it once when inventorying my library for insurance purposes and was shocked to realize it was the equivalent of a small car!!).

    I love the memories of your Grandmother and her precious perfume and lipstick during the war. That, and the D-Day celebrations yesterday, reminds me of the photo of the American GIs lined up in Paris to buy Chanel 5 for their wives/girlfriends back home. Perfume has a special place in our soul. Even in the darkest days it helps us think of better times. That is the lesson I think we can all learn from our Grandmothers; even in the toughest times a bit of civility and culture make us human. Mine also taught me to see and appreciate the beauty in nature, art and food – a rose in the garden, a wild flower along the walkway, an intriguing snail’s shell, a beautifully painted pillbox, a tasty apple, …

    So, thanks for making me think about it. I’ve decided I will not feel guilty about my perfumes as long as I use and appreciate them thoughtfully and gratefully. It’s kind of like really good chocolate or macaroons 🙂 June 7, 2014 at 1:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I completely agree! Savoring is how I think about it. Perfume is really more like a book than a pair of shoes, in that by smelling it, wearing it, you uncover new facets every single time. It changes, it never smells quite the same. So, it’s a pleasure just to savor it. June 7, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

  • MontrealGirl: One more thought. I’ve been reading a book by the palaeontologist Daniel Lieberman about the history of humans and the human body. One of the most interesting points he brought up is that what distinguishes us (Homo Sapiens) from the previous archaic humans is our capacity for culture and cultural change. Culture includes everything from cooking, dress, expression, etc. He had a marvellous quote from Fizroy Somerset that said “culture is roughly anything we do and the monkeys don’t.” So saying that culture, including perfume, is what makes us human really is true. June 7, 2014 at 1:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing this! Makes me think of a quote from Edward Said, in which he talks about culture as anything, the aim of which is primarily pleasure. June 7, 2014 at 4:50pm Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Ooops! Sorry Victoria, I meant your great-grandmother, not your grandmother. Mia culpa. June 7, 2014 at 3:34pm Reply

  • Johanob: Hi Victoria!And fellow BdJ lovers and readers!
    Just a quick comment!I loved this article,and all the comments are spot on.1 reader commented on feeling bad about loving “lesser” perfumes…Well…The other day I bought Ubar.AND Pink Sugar!Lol!I love them both,they are meant for different occasions and moods,but nothing(and NObody)will stop me from wearing Pink Sugar to Church,and Ubar when I’m washing my car!And let me just say this:Let NO man ever make you feel guilty over the little pleasures in life.They are so few and far between these days,grab on,hold on…enjoy!!NO GUILT!Happy Sunday People!Johano June 8, 2014 at 5:17am Reply

    • Johanob: Not so short comment,after all…just to add:wearing pyjamas still(it’s 11:19 am),AND Portrait of a Lady.Cup of Jasmine Yswara tea.Pleasures,yes.Guilty?NoWay!!:-)) June 8, 2014 at 5:20am Reply

      • Victoria: Sounds like a perfect way to spend the morning! June 8, 2014 at 10:11am Reply

    • Victoria: Seriously, all of those so-called “lesser” perfumes are made by the same perfumers as the “greater” perfumes. Just because something bears a fancy label and is expensive, it doesn’t mean that it’s good. My favorite examples are Yves Rocher perfumes, many of which are made on a bigger budget than the prestige brands. June 8, 2014 at 10:10am Reply

  • Claire: Hear, hear! Victoria, what a beautifully-written piece. Just the other day, I shelled out $4 for two beautiful, fragrant stems of Peony (ones I could never grow myself in my own backyard if I want to), and a friend of mine thought it was a waste. I just shrugged her comments and found this post. It is quite a necessity for ALL of us, to have surrounded ourselves with beauty. Perhaps many don’t realize that it is not necessary but human beings are designed to appreciate beauty. Glad to have communed with like-minded people out there. June 8, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: The Perfumed Veil shared a poem by Sa’adi above, and it’s perfect:
      If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
      And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
      Sell one, and with the dole
      Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

      Peonies right now are so beautiful. I was walking past a florist shop, and I could smell them even before I could see them. 🙂 June 8, 2014 at 3:17pm Reply

  • G: Lovely article, Victoria, I enjoyed reading it a lot. Your great-grandmother is so beautiful!

    My father grew up underneath a Communist regime (my grandfather was a Communist official, even) that is really not comparable to the “Communist” party that is in place in China today; and at the time, it was impossible to get a higher education in China. My father toiled for many years in a steel factory before making his way to the U.S. for his education with the equivalent of $20 in his pocket. Twenty-some years later, he’s the assistant director of a university’s mathematics department. I do feel guilty sometimes (as is typical of immigrant children, I think) when I think about all the hard work and sacrifices my parents made for me, and how relatively frivolous my spending habits are. But in the end, we all have our guilty pleasures. When my father made his way over he also brought a pile of wuxia novels (which are generally considered very trashy) and he said those helped keep him sane. 😉 June 9, 2014 at 5:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story! I always get emotional thinking about people who leave their countries in search of better life for themselves and their families. And yes, I also feel a pang of guilt at how relatively easy our lives are in comparison to what my grandparents experienced, but then I try to use this emotion to remind me to give back others.

      And it is true, small pleasures can really help. Reading trashy detective novels is one thing I do to escape and distract myself when I feel especially stressed out. June 9, 2014 at 5:46am Reply

  • Anka: Thank you very much for this great post and all the commentators for their intelligent comments!!

    I think in our times of decaffeinated coffee, alcohol-free beer, no-smoking rule etc. more and more people feel called to take over the role of anti-enjoyment-police force… June 9, 2014 at 6:50pm Reply

  • Carla: Very good piece. Perfume and tuning into smells has enriched my life so much. I am a practicing (perhaps devout?) Catholic and so I try to stay tuned into my conscience regarding my perfumes. It actually works better than a budget, and my purchases have tapered off a lot in recent years. I have about 25 perfumes that I consider to be parts of my soul, bottled, to paraphrase a comment from the NonBlonde blog. In everything I am trying to keep from becoming too materialistic. Moving from a large cosmopolitan city to a much smaller place has helped stave the materialism a lot. I believe too much of an interest or obsession in material things is not the path to true happiness. Just as Iyengar wrote in Light on Yoga that yoga is freedom from the yoke of want, Jesus said that to have everlasting life we must give up our possessions and follow Him. So I think everyone should be aware of when they cross the line from their perfumes giving them pleasure and helping them appreciate beauty to an obsession with their “collection” in all its details…new releases, notes, categories, brands, trends.
    Thanks again. June 10, 2014 at 7:54am Reply

    • Victoria: I think you’re absolutely right, balance is the key. In pretty much anything one does. It’s always a good idea to think through each purchase, which is why I recommend sampling and savoring before splurging on a full sized product. But what’s enough is up to the individual.

      But as someone who loves learning and enjoys the part of obsessing over notes, materials, how different scents come together, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Everyone is different, and everyone derives pleasure in different ways. June 10, 2014 at 6:44pm Reply

      • Carla: I didn’t mean any critique of what you are doing. This is clearly your talent and your calling. I think what I meant was two things. First and foremost, as with all material things, we must be conscious of when we are acquiring and buying just for the sake of acquiring and buying, rather than for a real love of the “juice”. That’s what you were saying anyway.

        Also, I have a tendency to over analyze and too much of that takes away the enjoyment that was meant in the first place. (I do this when I plan my meals, forgetting to just go to the market and see what’s there, or forgetting to just cook what I like.) It’s silly, but sometimes I will lose the big picture and say things to myself like, oh I shouldn’t buy a FB of Fracas, I have Jolie Madame and I don’t need two Cellier perfumes. Or, I don’t have anything by L’Artisan Parfumeur, must buy Al Oudh! Or, my only floral oriental is Chinatown, let’s see, I must need Apres l’Ondee in my collection. (Nothing in common but both floral orientals, and I think I may still really want it, categories or no!) I try to keep from going there and just enjoy. Yes, I can group my perfumes by season, occasion, etc, but in the end, I try to just wear what I feel like wearing that day. Then I have real enjoyment and happiness in my possessions! June 11, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

        • Carla: oh, oops, except possessions don’t bring happiness especially if they “own you”…ah, but a sniff of peaches and white flowers in Chinatown sure does! June 11, 2014 at 11:25am Reply

        • Victoria: Oh, please don’t worry! I didn’t take it that way at all. And anyway, it is a good reminder to slow down and savor, rather than focus on buying the next bottle. It extends the pleasure tremendously! 🙂 June 11, 2014 at 7:49pm Reply

  • Gentiana: Thank you for the great article!
    You just have hit the nail on his head… I felt this guilt in the last few weeks or even months…I feel being extremely frivolous, as financial situation in our country is going worse, In neighbor Ukraine is… what you know, we have been told that we can be prepared for military conscription… My business is doing no well… And I keep smelling, sampling , reading about and even stapling perfumes…. Perfume is THE joy of my life at this time. Is the window to another world, where I escape. You brought me some relief, it seems I am not doing something that bad…thank you ! June 10, 2014 at 9:37am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll tell you honestly, if I didn’t have perfume and this place where we can all meet to chat about perfume and other things, the past few months would have been even tougher for me, as the situation in Ukraine was developing. So, I’ve experienced firsthand how much a little escape can do to improve one’s mood. We all need some ways to get through our days, whatever our daily stresses. So, enjoy your scent and its little joys and don’t be so hard on yourself. June 10, 2014 at 6:23pm Reply

  • Jordi: Sorry for adding into this older post but I felt your words were important and very true. I have spent a good while reading all the comments and one thing struck me is that most comments are cultured, smart, matured and far from the frivolous or mindless the judgemental people try to label perfume lovers. From my point of view perfume is the art in smell, like music is the art in hearing, paint and drawing the art in seeing and gastronomy a shared art in smelling and tasting. Would anyone close their eyes to a Picasso or their ears to Mozart? True that perfume is new compared to music or painting but so is cinema and I hear it tagged as art quite often.

    However the key in this and most things in life is respect. We can all have varied tastes and pleasures ( Thank god ) but as long as we respect each others all is debatable and talkable. I for instance being a man love both wine and sports as well as perfumes. I had a few SA in perfume stores shocked about my “knowledge” of perfumes. But I can talk about soccer basketball or any sport, music or visual arts. I embrace art and pleasure because I am a human being capable of understanding the subtleties and talents behind them.

    On a side note, there is something of your gr-grandmother in you Victoria, her picture reminded me one I saw of you. Besides I think you mentioned she was a teacher and so are you, this blog is the evidence of that with all the knowledge you shared with us. October 23, 2014 at 1:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your thoughts, Jordi, and no, it is never too late to add a comment to a discussion. On the contrary, I like it, because it keeps these interesting conversations going and it’s fun to see how our opinions on different perfumes evolve over time.

      Your comment about cinema also made me think of photography. It started being treated as an artistic form only recently, especially relative to other arts. Ironically, out of all arts, perfumery is the least accessible to non-professionals. You can easily take a painting course or learn how to take interesting photos, but if you wanted to learn perfumery, the options are so few.

      I think that having diverse interests is what makes people unique. 🙂

      Thank you for your nice words! I have another picture of my great-grandmother on my desk, and it’s interesting to see some similarities. Interestingly enough, all of my grandmothers, maternal and paternal, were teachers. October 24, 2014 at 11:16am Reply

  • Steve L.: My goodness, two years after the fact and this lovely essay still packs a wallop. I’m one of your newer readers, wandering around the blog almost at random — certainly glad I found this entry. August 18, 2016 at 10:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so glad to hear it! Scent is one of the most interesting and accessible pleasures–and it doesn’t entail buying anything! This pleasure need not be tainted with guilt. August 18, 2016 at 1:17pm Reply

  • Yanet: Victoria! Thank you for all the knowledge and passion you share in your amazing blog, and this entry was just so inspiring that I just had to comment even though it is 2 years old! I am sure your great-grandmother is watching over you!. I am a new reader from Cuba. My beloved grandma had a beautiful garden too and there was a rose bush that she planted and dedicated to her late mother. They both went through tough times in the 40s and on in Cuba. She would tell me stories next to the rose bush, and I loved to sniff the flowers. Now the roses are gone and so is my grandmother, I don’t remember what perfume she used, but the scent of gardens and specially rose remind me of her. In the near future I see myself planting a rose bush in my backyard for her..
    I don’t feel guilty at all for my fragrance hobby, and nobody should. People will always judge, and it is too sad, they are missing a profound and spiritual enjoyment, they miss the art and beauty. I am a jazz and vintage Cuban music singer and songwriter. Perfume is a constant source of inspiration for me, and even a tool for work!, it is as image and emotion evoking as music is. I am fortunate enough that my husband, who is a pianist-composer loves scents too, so, I am not alone in my hobby, he wears Eau Sauvage and Lalique Encre Noire (which I adore). October 17, 2016 at 2:13am Reply

  • Becky: What a lovely post. I focus so much on getting things done I forget the importance of small pleasures. Thank you. I have started putting a small organza bag of jasmine flowers on my bed to help with the chronic insomnia. Still trying to find a good jasmine perfume locally. June 19, 2017 at 12:32am Reply

    • Victoria: What a beautiful ritual, Becky! June 19, 2017 at 3:05am Reply

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