Why Choosing The Right Perfume is So Important
You know when there is a “something” that hovers just out of reach and you can’t quite put your finger on it? While I was watching The Joy of the Single (a documentary about 45rpm records, not marital status), there was a snippet, a mere 10 seconds, of a young and svelte Roy Wood, shimmering in blue sequins, warbling Blackberry Way, and something stirred. I had a vivid recollection of my beloved sequinned Biba tank top, but that wasn’t it. It was something more … sensory. A smell. It took me a whole 24 hours to finally nail it: the scent of the Biba tank top when I put it on.
I was remembering the scent of Aquamanda. You must remember Aquamanda? We used to marinade ourselves in it during the early 70s. Everything I owned was saturated with the scent of orange blossom. How odd that I should remember a smell without actually smelling it. Then again, is there anything more evocative of time and place than a perfume? I bet Daisy Buchanan wasn’t so much moved to tears by the sight of Gatsby’s “beautiful shirts” as by the memories stirred by the scent of them – and him.
Since the 70s I’ve worked my way from Revlon’s Charlie to YSL Rive Gauche by way of Chanel Allure and a brief infatuation with Armani Acqua di Gioia – and thence to Chanel No 5 – which my daughters still call “Mummy Smell”. I can’t honestly recall it, but I know my own mum favoured Worth’s Je Reviens. My nan sprayed everything (and everybody) with lavender water or 4711 eau de cologne. I’ve learned that although I adore the scent of roses I cannot abide tuberose and that, for some reason, Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps brings me out in spots. I’m not fickle with my perfumes – it turns out that I am one of those people who remains loyal to a handful of favourites and in my case those are currently Chanel No 5, Acqua di Parma and Escentric Molecule 01. The first is a classic, the sharp bergamot tang of the second reminds me of a lost love and the third is a welcome confidence boost, which I should explain: Escentric Molecule 01 contains pheromones and, as my own pheromones are retiring due to middle age, some additional and more lively ones are very welcome. Pheromones are supposed to make people like you more and therefore be nicer to you. It’s probably all nonsense and any effect may be entirely imagined, but I don’t care – it’s the one I’m always asked about when I wear it and I love it.
Scent is a very personal thing and I think we don’t always give enough attention to the business of choosing and buying one. The selling of designer fragrances is a massively profitable business, worth an estimated £10.5bn worldwide and with an equally hefty advertising budget to go with it. We may aspire to dress from head to toe in Balenciaga but the bit of Balenciaga we can actually afford is Florabotanica Eau de Parfum, as advertised by Kristen Stewart. Every time we run the gauntlet of a perfume hall – strategically positioned so there’s no way round it – we emerge from the other side liberally paintballed in a multiplicity of confusing whiffs, unless we are very firm about saying no. This is not the way to buy a new fragrance. Everything smells subtly different on each individual and it takes time to develop as it sits on your skin and warms up. Very occasionally it warms up and smells like the ginger tom next door, so getting a little spritz on your wrist and walking around with it for an hour or so will tell you whether it’s really for you.
I wish I could say that my mum taught me this but she died as I grew out of my teens so I missed out on a good deal of what mothers and daughters do together. As time passes and memories fade, I find I can remember the rustle of her skirts and the tap tap of her high heels on linoleum but I cannot, for the life of me, remember the scent of her.
By The Invisible Woman / Twitter @TheVintageYear