I'll Never Have A Signature Scent. And I'm Ok With That
As we age and gain a stronger sense of self (one of many upsides to being 40+), we're often encouraged to select a signature scent, a fragrance that promises to project to the world our best traits: confidence, complexity, spontaneity, wit, warmth, elegance, [or whatever describes you].
My mother has one (Chanel No. 5), as did my grandmother (Fracas). Whenever I smell Dior Patchouli Imperial, I think of my close friend Didi; when I catch a whiff of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, another friend, Jenny, comes to mind. And I admire the ability of these women to have found fragrances so perfectly suited to their personas that they wear them nearly 365 days of the year. But today I turn 45 (yep, official middle age), and I'm not even close to choosing a signature scent. In fact, at last count, I owned 52 fragrances.
That’s not a typo. I adore fragrance. In high school, I toggled between Liz Claiborne and Anais Anais. In college, I wore Prescriptives Calyx, Victoria’s Secret’s Pear Glace and this scent called Caesar’s Woman (I swear, this was really a thing. A sorority sister discovered it on a trip to Vegas and I had to have it too.). When I met my husband, I was wearing Dior Hypnotic Poison, and when Heath was a baby, I doused myself daily with Stella McCartney's Stella.
But I didn’t evolve into the full-fledged scent obsessive I am now until my early 40s. After almost two decades covering the beauty industry and seeing hundreds of fragrances presented to the press, I'd grown madly in love with the idea of a scent’s ability to set a mood, to say something about who you are in any given moment. And of course it's not that I'm more complex than anyone else or need dozens of scents to say who I am. Rather, my exposure to all these amazing blends just gave me too many good options to ever choose just one.
Thus, as I enjoy my medium years, I've decided that rather than marrying a signature scent, I'll continue to be a fragrance bigamist. For me, there are just too many scents in the sea.
Here are a few of my current favorites
As I mentioned here, Balenciaga Eau De Parfum, a spicy floral that oozes understated elegance, is what I wear when I want to/need to feel my most pulled together. But a newer acquisition, Le Labo Santal 33, a unisex woodsy/leather scent, has been coming in a close second lately.
Chanel Beige Parfum, a honey-laced floral, is a buttoned-up, ladies-who-lunch scent—but I typically defy its Upper East Side vibe and pair it with my Stan Smiths.
My newest addition, Annik Goutal Tenue De Soiree, is officially a “chypre,” which means it's a woody/mossy mix with a dash of powder and musk. To me, however, it just smells like sweater weather.
I discovered tangy-floral Coqui Coqui Flor de Naranja (a.k.a. Orange Blossom at most US retailers) in Tulum, Mexico last March, and wearing it whisks me back to quiet, early morning runs on the beach. I also spray it around my office to de-stress.
Other scents in my sandals-and-sunglasses-weather stash: Bobbi Brown’s Beach, a sunshine-spiked-with-sunscreen concoction; Kai Eau De Parfum, which smells like blooming gardenias in a bottle; Bond No. 9 Little Italy, a zingy blend of clementine, mandarin and grapefruit; and Atelier Vanille Insensee Cologne layered with Orange Sanguine to create a grownup creamsicle-like combo.
As the temperature drops below 50 (which is now like every other day in Michigan), my red-wine-and-winter collection is coming back into heavy rotation. It includes: Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum, a spicy-sweet blend, and Chloe Eau de Parfum Intense, a sultry rose peppered with amber.
And, finally, I have a few year-round notables I could not not mention: Dior Diorissimo Eau De Toilette is the fragrance Princess Diana wore on her wedding day (and what I often wear when I’m dressing up); Fresh Brown Sugar Eau De Parfum reminds me of lemonade and cookies and it’s the perfect scent to keep in the car and spritz around when the interior reeks of wet dog, hockey bag, or the tikka masala you forgot was in a to-go bag in the backseat. Guerlain Champs-Elysees Eau De Toilette is a girly floral that pairs well with a daytime dress, and Armani Prive Figeur Eden does indeed smell figgy—but it mostly reminds me of clean, warm skin.