I love fragrance. I adore it. I am perhaps obsessed with it second only to colour and maybe this is why I loved gardening so much. In my garden you found fragrance and colour in abundance. These days it's a bit socially unacceptable to wear fragrance and so many places, offices, schools, health care facilities, are fragrance free zones because people have allergies and fragrances can be very irritating.
What makes a nice fragrance is quite subjective too. There are plenty which I don't like, some which give me a headache and there is that smell I call department store cosmetics counter which I don't really care for. Not only will the same fragrance smell differently on different people, but not everyone the wearer encounters will like the fragrance. I am more sensitive to non-perfume scents, like the chemical smells in off gassing furniture, carpets or paint, than I am to perfumes. Disliking a smell is not the same as feeling ill or getting a headache when you smell it, though I would venture to guess that feeling ill causes a dislike. I have no idea what particular fragrance ingredients set off my headache other than that a very strong oriental blend does. It might be a particular ingredient or two or it might be strength.
I wear fragrance for my own pleasure and can do that since I am mostly at home. Although I really like many orientals, I find that they can be too overpowering and give me a headache. I also like florientals in general, some florals and have a guilty pleasure in the scent of vanilla and musk, two scents which seem a bit cliché.
I am a frequent reader of the website http://www.fragrantica.com/ where people even more in love with fragrance than I am list, discuss and analyse every fragrance you've ever heard of and many you haven't, just like wine or scotch connoisseurs do. There are base notes and top notes and middle notes and people talk of plum or chocolate or peppery notes. The vanilla scented fragrances belong to a category called the gourmands, which is fancy talk for food smell. The drawback, I have found, to wearing a vanilla scent, is that it conflicts a bit with the food you are eating. Vanilla and pizza are not a good match, for example.
The current trend is for very sweet fragrances, candy-like, generally this is considered appealing to the youth market and thus to many people such a fragrant smells young, or in a negative connotation smells juvenile. It's all subjective though and we put fragrances into contexts that we have experienced, so whatever your grandmother or mother smelled like will seem like an old lady smell to you. It may be comforting but you may not be able to wear the same fragrance. To a new generation of fragrance wearers the orientals have an old lady connotation whereas to me florals do. I have also seen the same fragrance negatively reviewed as both 'a young girl's scent' and an old lady fragrance. Interestingly that is the same phenomenon that happens with pastel colours and how they are stereotyped and this rouses the feminist in me.
My own mother only wore fragrance on special occasions and she wore Chanel No 5. She couldn't afford it, or would not normally spend so much on herself, but her parents bought her some every couple of years for as long as they lived. To me it smells like elegance because it means my mother dressed up, earrings and lipstick and a lovely carmine pink maxi-dress, going out to dinner with my Dad and another couple. I would not wear it, not because I don't like it, but because it is her and would feel like copying.
Most of my favourites over the years have had a definite degree of sweetness to them, though more in a floral and powdery way, not like candy. I have noticed that while I like some degree of citrus, I am not attracted to the green fragrances, which feature mainly citrus and woodsy scents. I like white flowers, roses peonies, musk, vanilla, amber, patchouli and something just a little bit leathery, but just how those scents might be combined seems to be highly varied. Not that there aren't fragrances that are very similar or nearly duplicates.
I've noticed, when studying the list of top, middle and base notes in various fragrances, that there is some degree of formula that is typical. Most often there is a citrus top note, followed by florals and then the amber, musky, or woodsy scents. My understanding is limited but I think it has something to do with how long these particular categories of scent last and the base notes, or the scent that you get to after half an hour to an hour and that lingers longest is called the dry down. Sometimes you don't like a scent when you initially apply it and then a bit later you do. For me that is actually rather typical and liking the top notes seems to be rare. I am always seeking that fragrance where I just like it more and more as time goes on.
I definitely don't want to leave a scent trail or kill people in the elevator. I prefer a fragrance that you have to get close to me to detect. This is something called a skin scent, which sounds delightfully intimate. The trail you leave is called sillage and some people rate a fragrance poorly if there isn't much sillage. Then there's the fact that our own nose gets accustomed to our favourite scent and we don't detect it as readily. It becomes easy to overdose then and wear too much of it.
Some scents are complex and change as they are worn, others smell mainly the same from the moment they go on. My current vanilla scent is like that. It is supposedly a floral and vanilla combination but I mostly smell the vanilla. It was a blind buy from a sale bin, packaged so I didn't get to smell it in advance. It has been described as everything from sublime to baby wipes, creamy and like cold cream or soap. It's not a sophisticated scent but it's very feminine and I don't need to be sophisticated 24/7. Sometimes I love it and other times I find it too strongly sweet. I will probably not buy it again but it would not surprise me if I make a spontaneous purchase of something similar in the future. I like vanilla and that won't change. It smells quite similar to Lush Vanillary, which I bought once before as well and had the same mixed feelings about. Essentially it makes me smell like a waffle cone but I do swoon at the smell of waffle cones and I can't eat them (gluten) so may as well smell like one.
This is not my photo but it is the very same vanilla perfume and this blogger I borrowed the picture from happens to love it.
Some people are fragrance snobs, just as with wine or scotch and fragrances come at all levels of quality, complexity and price and just as with other things price is not always a reflection of quality. In the end, fragrance is a personal choice and if you don't reveal what you wear, nobody can judge you for your drugstore staple, but people do tend to ask what it is if they like it.
My current favourite is Rose The One, which I bought because I love The One and it cannot be found anywhere in my town. One of the discount stores gets Rose The One every Christmas and I grab a bottle. I'd still like to get a bottle of original The One and apparently will have to leave town or buy it online. When I asked for it at the drugstore the cosmetic counter woman said, "Oh that one. Everyone was wearing that one a few years ago. Here try this.." and she offered me something I did not want. So apparently my taste is pedestrian and outdated. I don't care and I get compliments every time I wear Rose The One. Some would classify it as a summer fragrance, and being lighter it is certainly a bit stronger in warm weather. In winter you probably have to hug me to smell it. That's fine with me. I like hugs!
Note: I have to admit that waffle cone and wet wool (I just washed a sweater) are not a good combination. You already knew that, didn't you? But in case you didn't, I'm just letting you know. Don't eat waffle cones in the rain while hanging out with the sheep.