I kept catching faint whiffs of my grandfather’s cologne all throughout the day. His cologne somehow smelled like the perfect representation of him, and I would know it anywhere. It occurred to me that I hugged him earlier that morning; it had rubbed off onto my hair & sweater… and my heart subconsciously smiled whenever I was reminded of him. I thought, what a masculine and gentlemanly feature: to have a pleasant, recognizable scent about you.
Years later, I lived with an older friend for a time. For as long as I lived at Nanette’s house, an amber bottle of Clinique “Happy” sat regally upon the bathroom counter. This was her signature scent. It really was her essence; like a mirror which not only reflected, but enhanced her likeness. And being one of the classiest women I know, Nanette is the reason I decided I’d like to have my own.
Arraying yourself in a “signature scent” may mean different things for every girl – whether it’s wearing your boyfriend’s hoodie just long enough so that by the time you return it… it smells like you, or misted on a love letter addressed to someone who misses your embrace, or simply to trademark every hug you give! Adopting a signature perfume is one way a girl can leave her subtle mark on a room or a memory, like a kiss blown at the end of a fashion runway, or as if to say: Stephanie was here.
But what are the secrets of finding “your” perfume?
It helps to understand there is a whole art and science behind the fragrance industry. A little research and education can nudge you toward some good starting points:
- TYPES. Did you know there are four main scent-types? The most popular is FLORAL, of course. Then you have the more ORIENTAL aromas, involving deep spices like cinnamon and vanilla. FRESH scents largely bring your brighter notes, like citrus and herbs. The last one is MUSK, which is more earthy or woody (most men’s colognes rely heavily upon this type of scent).
- INTENSITY. Not only can these four types be mixed and matched into an endless spectrum of aromas, but there are more dimensions to consider: INTENSITY and NOTES. French words I once thought were synonyms for “perfume” and “cologne” are actually a scientific way to categorize concentration levels. They include “Perfum,” “Eau de Parfum,” “Eau de Toilette,” etc.
- NOTES. Now imagine if the perfume inside the bottle you’re holding separated out into three layers: top, middle, and base. To the fashion industry, these metaphorical layers are the perfume’s notes. The top note gives us our initial impression of the scent; this is where the brightest notes are most perceptible. The middle note involves the most rounded-out, longest lasting, main elements of the scent. This is the body of the smell. And finally, the base notes include the bolder smells appearing at the end of the scent’s ability to last on the skin – such as leathers, woods, and smokes.
As to how this can help find a perfume you’ll be as comfortable wearing as your own skin?
You have to LOVE it
Common sense says you won’t be happy wearing something 24/7 if you don’t classify it as absolutely fabulous. That’s where our starting points above come in handy! For example, do you already know whether you have a preference for florals over musks? Do you prefer more concentrated aromas or would you tend to go for the subtler ones?
You should IDENTIFY with it
My personal opinion is that a person’s daily fragrance ought to be an extension of their overall personality. For example, I associate musk with the regal, elegant, formal, sexy, and hoity-toity. Is this how I would generally describe myself at any given moment? Probably not, which is why my signature fragrance only includes notes of musk. But each woman will associate different scent types with different attitudes, and as long as she feels like it’s in sync with her personality, she’s golden.
Then comes the challenge of FINDING it
Think huntress vibes in the urban jungle. When I was tracking down the scent of the perfect perfume, I am confident I smelled EVERY designer fragrance at the mall and still couldn’t see myself making any of them my own. Honestly, I thought I would never find it… maybe it didn’t exist. That’s when I extended my search beyond big designer brands into low-key retailers, like Victoria’s Secret. Turns out it wasn’t there, either. But I just didn’t want to settle for anything less than “it.”
Then one day after I had all but given up – believing I must just be entirely too picky, I struck gold: a catalog fell into my hands. I applied my nails to every scratch ‘n sniff sticker in that thing, and at long last, discovered my Stephanie-In-A-Bottle: “Ultra Sexy Pink” by Avon. Its notes include: raspberry essence at the top, blushing peony essence as the body, and chiffon musk accord at its base; it’s classified as an eau de toilette; and the given mood is described as “sexy & sensual.” I wouldn’t necessarily say my mood at any given moment involves feeling sexy and sensual.
Mostly, I chose this scent because it’s completely feminine with a bit of fun AND elegance. I enjoyed the smell and felt it emulated the kind of woman I am and want to further become.
If you’ve exhausted all sources and still can’t seem to find your signature perfume, take heart. Before you lies an unbeaten path, so you’re free to pioneer your way through the endless possibilities and even create your own! Who knows, perhaps you could become the next hot designer in the fashion and fragrance industry. Certainly an interesting new hobby, at least. And your best initial resource might be Karen Gilbert’s guide “Perfume: The Art & Craft of Fragrance.”
Whether it’s the hoity-toitiest designer brand, a body mist from your local department store, or the faintest traces of your shampoo,
make it yours.
What is your signature scent and how did you discover it? Let me know in the comments below, and stay tuned for the next post where I’ll be writing about special occasion fragrances!
[Photo courtesy of Jessica Lapp]