by Chelsea Woodhouse
Are you aware of your scent?
If so, how do you and your smell relate to one another?
A vast breadth of choice deters many from experimenting with perfume. Not to mention, the articulation and appropriation of “smell” seems to be a bit overwhelming. Have you not stood at the perfume counter bewildered after ten plus sample whiffs left wondering, “Do these smell the same? Can I even wear this, and be comfortable?”
To those readers growing bored with the way they smell, below are several must-knows concerning eau de parfum.
Firstly, the preferred approach to describing a perfume is by metaphor; at least, this is the course Wikipedia has chosen (why music has been used to represent scent in this instant is an entirely separate issue. Everyone is encouraged to offer his or her opinions as to why.)
As in music, perfumes contain notes. These notes determine the degree to which those who nose their way through various compilations of ingredients can sense the presence of a strife, an accord or an incompleteness present within particular odors.
Top notes are immediate; they are the scent’s first impression. As such, their comprehension by shoppers is paramount if sales are to be high. Who wants to smell like something unintelligible? For example, Pure White Linen by Estee Lauder contains top notes of: raspberry, apple, grapefruit, pear and mandarin orange creating a mysterious yet, familiar introduction to what “white linens” could smell like.
Middle notes are the main “body” of the scent serving to lessen the, possibly, awkward, introduction one has to the top notes.
Base notes are the “theme” the odor projects. These notes do not appear until at least thirty minutes prior to the dissipation of the initial traces of top and middle notes.
Secondly, combinations of various notes stem from the families of scents. In an effort to visually conceive taxonomy of smell, in 1983 Michael Edwards designed the Fragrance Wheel. It is pictured here.
But, what relevance does any of this have to shoppers?
How is a particular odor capable of being marketed as a product? Everyone already smells anyway…why buy a new smell?
Boredom, as discussed by Lars Svendsen in The Philosophy of Boredom, is considered a phenomenon of modernity, one that drives fashion. If shoppers were not bored, there would be no reason for them to acknowledge, through purchase, the existence of products like perfumes. In this instance boredom is equated with a lack of satisfaction. Boredom, here, is certainly not conceived as a negative either! It is an element of dissatisfaction that can lead one to self-discovery and reflection, rather than just superficial experimentations over-consumption. With boredom can come the desire to invent one’s self. Such a desire appears to be the publicized essence of one such classic fragrance, Chanel no. 5.
Chanel no. 5, a product of the 1920s has gone through a resurgence of popularity since the mid-2000s thanks to the patronage of short film advertisements depicting the fragrance as not just a source of, but also an olfactory incarnation of a femme fatale. Below are links to several of my favorites. What are your reactions to the way smell is presented here?
Personally, I prefer Coco Mademoiselle. A fragrance with base notes of Patchouli, Tahitian Vetiver, Bourbon Vanilla, White Musk.
Lastly, perfume has a shelf life ranging from months to years depending on its composition. Like wines, these scents change overtime. Keep your favorites away from heat, light and oxygen. Also, unless your perfume is vanilla-based, the darkening of its liquid may be a sign it has spoiled.
Smells, like clothes, can contain meaning for people. We create all sorts of memories and associations through scent. For example, “Don’t think I can’t see women because I can’t see…Ooh, but I smell her” says Lt. Col. Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman.
I apologize to any readers who were looking for a post on how to choose a perfect perfume. Perhaps it is a cop-out, but I doubt such a method could be devised, given smell’s capacity to attach itself to the wearer in ways not allowing it be removed or discarded. Smells are intimately personal in this way.
Remember, whether you choose to wear perfume or not, someone will, even if you have chosen not to, notice your smell. Perhaps it is time to try to articulate your own fragrance!