I don’t ever remember either of my grandmothers wearing any kind of perfume at all. My dad’s mum was a farmer’s wife and had no opportunity for anything more fragrant than scented soap to get rid of the everyday smells of the farm from her person. And my mum’s mum was born with no sense of smell at all so the whole point of perfume was entirely lost on her.
My mum always kept her sparing use of scent strictly for special occasions, so for mum the rarity of wearing perfume went hand in glove with the rarity of wearing make-up and jewellery and fancy clothes. Her favourite perfume was L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci, a rich, strong childhood smell I associate even today with lipstick and powder and fur coats and heels – because I grew up in a time where women still wore fur to dress up.
L’Air du Temps is a ‘modern’ perfume, first introduced in 1948, with a traditional spicy/ woody/ floral scent, and although it suited mum well enough it smells awful on my skin so I never felt the desire to steal a sneaky spray or follow in her fragrance footsteps. If anything, it put me off – too over-bearing and cloying, but it was the one-and-only example I had. So I find it strange that someone who grew up with truly minimal interaction with perfume should have developed such an intense personal relationship with it in adulthood.
Fragrance fascinates me, the way the initial heady top-notes in that first sharp haze give way to the softer mid-range heart-notes that in turn surrender to the deeper base-notes, and then the final dry-down. It amazes me how fragrances can smell so different on different people – and how even the same fragrance can smell so different on first application than when it finally fully settles on the skin’s surface, blending with body temperature and body oils. And how some scents seem to cling close for hours while others evidently evaporate into thin air after only the briefest of bonding.
I just love the way perfume makes me feel good in myself, for me it’s intoxicating, a perfect mood-enhancer. Sometimes I prefer something a bit sweeter, at other times something a bit fresher. Sometimes something fun and feminine, at other times something more sensual and sexy. I find I don’t stick to one recognisable signature scent, but own several similar perfumes that I love to mix and match depending on my mood and the time of year and how formal or informal my day ahead may be. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t spritz on a little scent on my pulse points, whatever I’m doing.
Over many years’ experimentation I’ve found that as a general rule lighter florals work best for me, usually blended with cool citrus or warm fruity notes, whereas most heavier oriental woody notes just smell somehow ‘wrong’ on my skin. However it seems hitting menopause has caused a slight alteration in the way perfume reacts chemically with my skin. Some things that smelled really good on me before now smell a little… off. So I’m back to experimenting with a few new smells again in the hope that maybe I can find myself some new favourites for the future.
One thing’s for sure, the right perfume will always have the ability to soothe my senses… Ooh, it feels so good to smell good 🙂