Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Indefinable Allure of a Signature Scent

“One of the most wonderful things for a man is to walk in a room and know that that woman was here because of that lingering smell.” Isn't that a most romantic thought?Who in their right mind wouldn't want to be thus ingrained into the mind of another? Thus, dreamingly, muses designer to the stars Oscar de la Renta. According to him perfume is integral to an overall look and a woman should be known for her signature scent, as he told StyleList apropos his upcoming fragrance launch, a feminine floral-oriental perfume for the "chic and sophisticated women of a new era" inspired by his own daughter Eliza Bolen. [source] .

In the 19th and early 20th century the mission of finding an appropriate signature scent was built into the minds of coquettes and ladies of the house alike, becoming a laborious occupation and a rite of passage. Women chose at an early age among tiny nuances within set parameters. Ladies of virtue went for violets or roses, but done in a variety of styles and with small details differentiating from maker to maker. The promiscuous or demi-mondaines went for jasmine and tuberose in unapologetic mixes, still treated to the slight variation of technique that produced an array of interpretations. But once they chose, they stayed the course, being identified by their choice. Sometimes they were more faithful to their perfumes than their husbands, preferring identification by intellectual and emotional choice than societal mores.

Finding one's signature scent is an all consuming occupation today as well, in those in whom it is an ardent desire and in those in whom the pang of the new or the newly-found drums its drum with the fervor of the newly converted. Lexa Doig, the Canadian actress best known for her role in the Tv series Andromeda, admits she can't curtail temptation when she says "I'm totally on a mission to find my signature scent, but I'm too mercurial". Fashion model and TV-presenter Lisa Snowdon finds the variety hard to resist: "I enjoy popping in to World Duty Free at the airport and trying out perfumes - I can never resist a new scent". So, I bet is the case with most perfume enthusiasts or fragrance writers such as myself. Even if we know our true tastes very well indeed, the lure of missing out on something unanticipated keeps us on our toes. After all the concept of changing fragrances according to mood and fashion trends is a clever device of marketing to get us to consume, otherwise where would the market be? On the antithetical pole, we have Oscar de la Renta's thoughts (who perhaps ironically enough has his own share of eponymous scents beneath his belt): “I say a fragrance should become part of your identity. [...] When I want to smell that fragrance, I want to recognise you by it”. He's not alone.

Perfume writer Susan Irvine, who tests fragrances for a living, recounted a story in which a young mother was telling her how a particular fragrance was encapsulating a particularly happy era in her life, getting her first job in New York City in her early 20s; but also how she purposefully extended its aura into how she wanted the rest of her life and her personality to project: crisp, energetic, with the dynamism of a young woman who is gripping metropolis by the horns and makes things go her own way. The definition of a signature scent, this magical amulet never missed to put a spring into her step. But it also stood for something more: "I like to think that when I die, this is what my children will remember me by" she finished. The fragrance of pure rapture and dedicated passion in question? It was none other than Aromatics Elixir, the Clinique classic which still goes strong since its introduction in the early 1970s. Irvine was inwardly ~and outwardly too, come to think of it, since she divulged the story, didn't she?~ questioning her own choices, her fickleness and pondering on the existence or not of children as historians of the scent trail that is left lingering in ether and memory long after someone passes. The fragrances we choose become our own memorable chronology, marking important events: our first job, a fling that slowly becomes something serious, the birth of children, a promotion, the passing of someone we cherish.

Signature scents can become our own geography as well; precious places that come back, without beckoning, upon uncorking a rich bouquet of complicated molecules. In the words of Diane Ackerman: "Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains". How many among us think lovingly of holidays spent on some beloved locale, peppered with precious memories and beauty that sustaining us in the months of daily commute?

But more deeply than either personal history or individual geography, signature scents can be signposts of the self: I remember my own mother, her bosom and her endless scarves aromatized by the mysterious vapors of her beloved fragrance, rising as if from within her very self: Was Cabochard by Madame Grès such a womanly mantle in its vintage form or was my association of it with her that tinged it with the exasperation of an unfulfilled longing? The thing which made it so magical in my heart? Continuous wear seemed to have effectuated not only a change of the person thanks to the perfume, but, mysteriously enough, a change of the perfume thanks to the person, even in its bottled form! Cabochard thus lost some of its aloofness, gaining instead a sui generis enigma that was beyond anything else a daydream; like she was.
She didn't always wear Cabochard, having the occasional fling with other fragrances that tickled her fancy, like women who are faithful in other ways, and she seemed to instinctually instill some of her primary goodness, her unbridled kindness and openness to the world in each and every one of them. I smell those fragrances now on my own skin and I find them lacking compared to how she manipulated them into something ghostly that evoked no other but her.

That signature scent remains poised on a scarf locked in a drawer. Whenever the mood strikes me, I gingerly open a tiny crack when nobody watches and, scared I'm letting out a little bit of a finite amount of an eidolon each time, I'm inhaling a miniscule whiff while my eyes get misty.

And you? Do you embrace the idea of a signature scent or not? And why?

pics via pinterest.com and sparkles & crumbs


  1. Anonymous14:49

    That's a lovely post, and a great tribute to your mother.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    Anna in Edinburgh, with something in her eye ...

  2. Somehow, I've always heard that if one has a signature scent, one tends to overapply because one gets used (=adapted) to it.

    But me, I work and sample from home, so no danger for me to get adapted to a point I won't be able to smell any one fragrance.

    For the public situation, I choose scents very carefully. Sometimes I choose based on mood. But sometimes, especially in more personal situations, I choose scent I wore last time and was complimented on, thus creating a series of signature scents.

    On the other hand, sad or not, but a fact, my signature scent in my mostly scentless community is wearing any scent at all. I am "that girl who wears perfume" as opposed to all other ones who don't.

    Thanks for the beautiful post and a thoughtful questions.

  3. Anonymous16:40

    For most of my child-rearing years I had a signature scent: White Linen. Occasionally I would try a bottle something new, Private Collection, Fidji, but always returned to my signature scent. My oldest daughter says she still thinks of me by White Linen, although now I am fickle and keep an entire collection.

  4. Anonymous17:29

    Dear E,

    Yes, I do believe in the "signature scent". Before I started my exploration of perfumes (largely inspired by you) I thought that I was just being close-minded by adhering to a signature scent. As I have been sampling a wide variety of both excellent and not excellent perfumes, I discovered that I definitely have a signature scent family. Once in that family, the choice of one scent is just a question of the scent and the story coming together with what I am, what I want to project and what I cherish from my past. The signature scent is never boring and, when not worn, elicits a longing to wear it again.


  5. I used to have signature scents (by time of year) but now that I live in another area, those do not smell the same on me. I've decided not to search for one, but just enjoy whatever I feel like on a particular day.

    I loved vintage Cabochard, the perfume,so your post resonated with me -- and the lovely tribute to your mother.

    OTOH, I knew a woman who drenched herself so loudly in an Estee Lauder perfume that it about gagged me long after she left a room. I didn't find it comforting. When I couldn't smell what I had on because of her leftover sillage, it was way too much for someone to wear.

    I always loved the way my mother smelled, especially when she applied perfume.

    She wore Intimate by Revlon and Desert Flower, both wonderfully.

  6. Sharyl18:55

    Elena, as always, thank you for your lovely blog, and before I comment on signature scents I just want to say that I am enjoying being back around in the yearly cycle that brings me back to your holy week scent series which was my introduction to your blog and to perfumista-land this time last year. Now regarding signature scents, I have a tendency towards a signature scent because I am very sentimental and melancholy in temperment, and yet this past year after discovering your blog I have very much enjoyed the sampling and exploration of the perfume world. It is like a magic wonderland and though most of what I have enjoyed sampling, I do not actually wear, I think I will now always be enticed into the exploration. And also I now have three "signature scents" instead of one because of this past year's perfume fun. Thank you again for all of the education and inspiration that you provide. Warm regards, Sharyl

  7. There are probably far more people who smell your signature scent and are turned off by it than those who are turned on.

    I do believe that 'signature scents' are what have made a lot of people hate perfume. It is as simple as this, if you wear the same perfume even a couple of days in a row you will lose your ability to smell it and you will then over apply it. And when you encounter other people they will be turned off not only to your scent but to scents in general.

    Just as you wouldn't wear the same clothes every day, why wouldn't you want a wardrobe of fragrances? Is your mood the same every day? The occasion?
    Your Chemistry? The weather?

    I can't imagine anything more misguided and boring than signature scents! Can you tell a sore spot has been touched? :)

  8. Eleonore20:11

    Thank you for that lovely post: the part about your mother's rings a melancholy bell in my memory...my mother was faithful to Calèche and Femme and like you I have kept her scarfs preciously locked: whenever I smell them I have the impression my mum is standing by me....
    As for me I believe in signature scents, according to the season though: Cristalle in summer and Chamade or Allure in winter...And occasionnally all those I want to try and get to know...

  9. Anna,

    aw, thanks for saying so. :-)
    So, do you or do you nopt subscribe to the signature scent conviction? Inquiring minds want to know.

  10. W,

    I'm glad it spraked interesting commentary with differing views. I find that enriching.

    Interesting that perfume as an entity becomes a defining characteristic: any "artifial" smell becoming the marker of someone different than the rest. That's pretty cool, in its own way.

    I bet you don't overapply ever.

  11. Anon,

    oh, how touching, White Linen is a classic and it's very much a lady of the house scent, classy and with an air of proprietry that signifies a certain figure of both authority and love.

    I would want my folks to think of me that way too. I wonder how they could possibly do though, as although I love a handful with a passion, I also tend to mix and test things all the time.
    Maybe when my fragrance writing days are over...

  12. Natalia,

    what a beautiful compliment to pay me, thank you!

    It's true that our fragrance preferences tend to be (for the better part) poised on one or two categories above the rest, even if enjoying scents from all categories. Is yours orientals? Do I surmiss correctly?

  13. Karin,

    I feel the pain of having something loved not smelling the same due to different conditions. Weather and microclimate does play a role on this, I'm afraid. Some scents become stifling under some circustances; others lose their luster and radiance.

    I know Intimate out of the two and it's a very lovely scent indeed. Your mum must have worn it beautifully for it to have adhered to your memory so powerfully.

    Pity about the oversprayer; they ruin other people's associations with scent inadvertedly.

  14. Sharyl,

    thank you so much for your most kind words and your touching compliment (awww) and I have to say I'm very happy the holy week posts resonate with you enough to revisit them.
    I guess it is with a certain degree of remorse that we leave behind a former signature scent when plonging into a wider exploration, as if deserting a lover we once felt madly about and foresake all other company for their sake. *sigh*

  15. Kat,

    I can see I stepped on a sore nerve. But that's fine, I welcome the discussion and you're offering the antilogue: what happens if someone becomes immune to their own fumes?
    I think this might happen sometimes, but I attribute it to advancing age (some of the women in question have been wearing the same thing for decades, not just years), not overfamiliarisation with a scent necessarily.
    I personally believe the latter argument is another marketing ploy to get us to spend more money: "change your perfumes from day to day so your nose doesn't become too accustomed to it and you can't smell it on yourself any more". The implied innuendo is "think how horrible that will be on those around you!" *mental shudder emoticon on the part of the innocent listener* (Notice how sly they are into leaving it be hinted, without actually blurting it out. They could have said, you're not going to enjoy the scent as much after you put it on day in day out, but they don't, they say "you won't be able to smell it on yourself". Smell, not enjoy. As in "you smell!">aka negative connotation)
    Tried the practice myself as an experiment several times and the amount used and enjoyment derived never fluctuated. Then again, I'm still rather young, comparatively.

    But on principle your point is very wise indeed: moderation is the key to everything and with fragrances? The key to successful wearing. For ones' self and for others as well.

    Come to think of it, I think you inspired a new post out of me so double thanks! ;-)

  16. Eleonore,

    so I'm not alone...that's more of a consolation than you'd imagine. So thank you very much indeed for stopping by to comment.

    It's precious how we connect their memories with their scent. I miss her bodily scent as well; she was a very tender person and hugging her was the best thing. I guess we only get that from really close circle of beloved ones.

  17. And Eleonore,

    forgot to add: there is a succinct point in choosing one scent for the summer, one for the winter. With most temperate climates' change of temps, one would be bound to need to.

  18. Eva S21:19

    Thank you for a lovely post! I don't have any such scentmemories of my mother, since she never uses perfumes. However my brother once told me that he found it slighly irritating and disturbing when he noticed a fellow female student wearing Mitsouko since he felt that scent was me!
    Eva S Swden

  19. annemariec22:06

    I do think that continuous use of a perfume can lead you to stop noticing its features and nuances. Whether that leads to over-application, I don't know.

    What intrigues me is that fragrance houses continue to release perfume in 100 ml bottles, or even bigger in some cases. They must believe that there are plenty of signature scent-wearers out there. I once tried to explain to a bumptious young male perfume SA that if you already own many, many bottles of perfume, you are not going to get through a 100 ml bottle of something new, and buying one would be a waste of money. He simply did not get it. He seemed to have had it drummed into him that, as with corn flakes, it is more economical to buy in a larger quantity. Well, no. Not with perfume.

  20. Wow. I am really blown away by this article, it's so beautiful, eloquent and written with emotional honesty. Thank you for sharing it.

    I do believe in signature scents, but I think that shifts occur at certain points in our lives that call for a change of fragrance. It seems every 10 years or so, I fall in love with a perfume so deeply, that it stays my #1 for awhile. This past year, that's become Ormonde Jayne Woman for me. I will always experiment with scent and love doing so, it's my thing. But every night, I need to put on Woman, it's my safe place. It smells like me.

  21. Anonymous01:33

    cabochard is a lovely keepsake!

    it's funny, but when i told my mother that i associated her with ma griffe (which she wore when i was little), she was surprised. she'd pretty much forgotten about it! i've turned her on to several others in recent years, so it's probably as well.

    sometimes the romance is only in our heads. but that can be enough.


  22. Elena, the ladies at the Perfume Posse aren't what one might call 'older' and they issued a challenge last year for people to wear the same fragrance for several days and they found that they did indeed find their ability to smell their favorite scents was diminished.

    One of them wore Luten's Fleur d'Oranger and after three days couldn't smell it at all! Now if you can't smell that one you are indeed impaired! LOL

    I just find that if I rotate my fragrances I have the thrill of discovering them all over again. Can't wait to see the post I've inspired ;)

  23. Anonymous08:28

    A lovely lovely post, Elena. I hae been away for some time , unable ot comment due ot lack of time. I awlays do read though. Your blog is one of the very best.
    Such memories and thank you for hsaring them.
    My signature scent - the one that meant the most to me , one I wore for so many years exlusively, is Mitsouko -vintage of course ! I do love new Mitsouko too - so not all is lost.
    Now I have a feeling Narcisse Noir is in the same league as Mitsouko.
    Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of 'innocence' - before I knew how many extraodinary perfumes were there , for the taking. There is no going back now though !
    Many hugs to you .:)

  24. Anonymous08:29

    Sorry for the spelling mistakes ! *yikes*

  25. that's a beautiful story about your Mother's scarf and I couldn't agree more- I don't really like Chanel No 5 for myself or even on others but sometimes I catch it on someone, obviously with similar chemistry and I can smell my Grandmother and it brings a flood of memory into my head- it starts in my nose and then around my ears and brain, it's hard to explain but it's a scent memory and it's so powerful.

    For all that I flirt with so many scents i suppose a part of that flirtation is a life long quest for a heavenly smell that would make me stop looking

  26. Hey. it is a really great article, it's so beautiful, and written with emotional honesty. Thank you for sharing this nice moment.

  27. I enjoyed this as well. Curious-both my mother and I wore Clinique Aromatics Elixir exclusively, in the '80s; I strayed, but my mother wore until she died in 1998. I recently (on this blog!) read Elena's glowing review of Aromatics Elixir, and stopped by the Saks counter to check it out again. Now I wear it all the time again; it reminds me both of my younger self, and of sharing it with my mother.

  28. You know, I think I did overapply once. I wore Tolu in Spring, while it is usually my cold weather perfume, and I found out that in Spring I need less.

    But usually, no, I apply enough for me to be able to enjoy the fragrance I am wearing and for those who stand close to me to know that I am wearing it. I avoid a big presence of scent -- it suits my personality better. Much, much better. In fact, my close friends tell me all those lovely things about me, and they always add, "if you let people close enough to know you." Same with perfume. You need to be close enough for me to know.

  29. Eva,

    thank you for stopping by!
    Ah, it's exasperating when someone borrows your "own" scent. Trust me, I know.
    Mitsouko is quite lovely though, so at least we can shed a happy tear that the world is more beautiful for people actually wearing it.

  30. Annemarie,

    hhm, I suppose one tends to view the fragrance in question as more pedestrian thanks to familiarity. True enough.

    As to size, it's got to do with a sense of luxury as well, I suppose: forking out for a big vat of perfume means you don't count your pennies and buy with no care in the world. It's absolutely true that perfume isn't behaving like corn-flakes though, unless someone knows darn well they're going to finish up everything they buy.
    Thanks for sharing that hilarious (and exasperating) incident.

  31. Carrie,

    thank you, your words are much appreciated.

    It's absolutely great that you have found a safe place in scent and what a beautiful, strange and beguiling choice it is! You made me crave it again right now. *goes off to search for her own bottle*

  32. J,

    it is a wonderful keepsake indeed. But that's also why it makes me mad to see it so radically changed. It's as if they're tarring my memory.

    You have an excellent point on having romance in our minds. Sensitive souls, grabbing at straws in the turmoil of modern life. Or are we? Anyway, I'm sure you mother has been coaxed into superb fragrances, how else could it be with a daughter like you?
    Ma Griffe is a veryelegant signature, btw.

  33. Kat,

    interesting challenge and even more interesting results! Surely one can't miss FdO by SL!!??!! I find that so incredibly odd.
    There is however indeed a degree of thrill in revisiting one's wardrobe; I think there's another post in there ;-P

    (and you will be credited in the post I'm preparing!)

    Personally, I wore Opium for years (the EDT) with minor flings with the rest of my collection and each time I savoured it like the last one.
    Besides I really believe that you only come to really, thoroughly know a scent after you've finished a bottle of it; it takes time...

  34. MG,

    darling, welcome back, I've missed you! What a wonderful comment, you brighten my day.

    Ah, two most wonderful fragrances. It's a shame that they had to be messed with, but...c'est la vie. We can't cry for spilled milk forever.
    It's fortunate that at least you can like the new version as well.
    It's an especially haunting, rich and "golden" perfume.

  35. Oh and no matter on the spelling/typos. I do many myself, writting so quickly. It happens to all.

  36. K,

    glad it resonated with you! See, it's sometimes so vivid and at the same time, inexplicable. We feel as if they're there and that's precious. :-)

    I suppose that the never ending quest is after a Platonic ideal rather than a mere good smell. Don't you agree?

  37. Maria,

    thanks I guess.

  38. Jennifer,

    oh I'm so flattered you revisited AE because of this blog! It's the best feeling for a writer to know they've inspired people into something.
    It's a wonderful, memorable fragrance, one which I admire without reservations and one which I always, always compliment on others.
    What a fabulous choice and memory!

  39. W,

    that is such a wonderful thought!! Getting only close enough to get to know...very romantic, very inviting.
    I suppose this is the best route to wear fragrance: inviting others to discover a part of you.
    Toly is among my absolute favourites!! Don't really wear it in warmer weather, think I might try?

  40. BARBARA O19:02

    My Mom wore Gloria Vanderbilt, she died in 1995 I bought a bottle of it and I spray a little in the house and it makes me happy to remember the smell.

  41. B,

    it does help a bit doesn't it? They say a person never really becomes a full on adult till they lose their mother and it's absolutely true.
    At least we have small tidibits to remind us of them, like your ingenious idea of spraying the house with her scent.

  42. it would be nice to have a signature scent I think but I am just too fickle and curious to try new things. Yet I adore and admire the loyalty of those women who have one. a wonderful post.:)

  43. Thank you! I guess I never thought about it being romantic, but it ends up being a part of who I am.

    I did wear Tolu in Spring, but it was not too warm. It is still quite rainy here and chilly sometimes.

  44. Anonymous15:14

    Hello again, Elena:-)

    I don't have a signature scent because I choose on impulse on the day from the ever-expanding stash of scents in the wardrobe (and outlying safe hidey-holes!). Some things are seasonal, however, so I have to rummage!

    I was interested to see so many posts. I don't wear the scents I associate with my mother because they are hers in my head. Didn't stop her cheerfully purloining my scents when the time came that I had some worth pinching. Only fair, that, since I'd started by pinching spritzes of scent from her (but never the ones she wore most).

    So my mother is 70s and 80s Oscar de la Renta, White Linen, Youth Dew, and Pagan by Lentheric. They are hers exclusively to my nose, powerhouses on a mini-mum of only 5 feet tall. They never wore her - they wouldn't have dared!

    Thanks again for such a great and touching post.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

  45. Life has become busy, so my comments keep coming late ..

    I love the idea of a signature scent, but I am also too fickle to really be able to have one ... plus as long as I have more than one bottle of perfume, I will always feel that I have a 'duty' to my perfumes to actually wear them. (I have always been like this - as a child I used to rotate stuffed animals into and out of my bed so that none of them could feel left out. ... However, as a child I also had a favorite toy, and I wonder if I could come to be the same with perfume - many loves, but one favorite? It's possible.)

    Since I can't have a signature fragrance, I have tried to find smaller ways to identify perfumes with times, places, or people. For example, there is one perfume that my best friend associates with me, because I wore it constantly when we lived together at university. So I often wear this when I'm going to see her. I wear the perfume I was wearing when I got married on dates with my husband, or a selection of his favorites when I know we're going to be together ... or pick something off the "sexy" list of things we both love. I'm looking for a kinky fragrance favorite too, just to associate with those special times, LOL! Though I must say, the smell of natural hemp ropes is intoxicating all on its own.

    Since I do like to sleep in fragrance sometimes, I have often considered trying to find a sleepy signature scent - something to wear every night, and associate with sleep, and bedtime. Maybe that could be a good way to have a signature while still wearing all sorts of different things in the daytime. Something with low to moderate lasting power would be idea for this use!

  46. Λειντι,

    σ'ευχαριστώ για το σχόλιο!

    It's indeed admirable to have a signature scent: but then what would perfume companies do? Go rob banks? :-P

    Thanks for stopping by, hope you like it.

  47. W,

    "part of who you are" is just about the most romantic (in the romansque frame of things) thing that one can think of! IMHO at least.

    A rainy and chilly spring. You're north, eh?

  48. Anna,

    lovely follow-up, thank you!

    Sounds like your mama was a force of nature to reckon with! Good for her (and you)! Quite the selection and lucky you, imbuing your memory with a Lentheric; apart from our close perfume-obsessed circle this is the first time I've heard anyone else outside wearing one. Very interesting!

  49. A,

    LOL, cunning ideas all and notes taking as we speak. A scent to associate with bedtime (as in sleep) sounds like a most calming, soporific idea. Wish I had one, but now that you're suggesting it, I think I will do that and find a ritual to stick to. It might help dozing off easily and sweetly (sometimes the day's stress has me all strung up).
    Maybe something soothing and simplistic, like a simple musk? Thinking of NR Musk (the oil), it's such a clean sweetness.

    You must be a very compassionate and care-taking soul: Your habit of not wanting to leave any of the toys left out is endearing :-)

  50. Anonymous01:44

    I think we need both...your steadfast and true signature scent and 3 or 4 other ones to mix in when the mood suits you.

    The problem is, with the major release of scents these days, finding "the one" gets harder and harder. So you end up sampling your way through life, never wanting to commit, just in case that perfect scent is out there.

    I guess the best we can hope for is to find scents that you love and enjoy them.

    I'm sure the kids will understand.

  51. I think the idea of a signature scent, that one perfume which we wear regularly which others associate with us, to be very seductive. The fact that there are simply too many scents out there to decide on one which we think encapsulates our 'self' is indicative not only of the popularity of scent, but the number of people and companies who wish to capitalise on and manipulate us through this idea.

    The fact of the matter is this, there is no one thing which can encapsulate our true self. We are a collection of things. We are body soul and spirit. We are a combination of memories, personality, likes, dislikes, choices, history, character and genetics. Not one of these items defines us, just as we are not defined by our fingerprints, or our thoughts, or our choice of fashion. We are not only a collection of choices, but our choices change. We are what we are over time, hence, as an older woman your 'signature scent' is going to be different to what it was as a younger woman.

    I also think we need to be very wary that we are not sacrificing our integrity on the altar of the advertising and marketing idols. How quickly and easily we are swayed when the next most beautiful scent comes along. Evidence of this is the level of hostility we feel when somebody bags our favourite perfume. It has emotional and psychological meaning for us, for myriad reasons, and as much as we like to think it does, it doesn't actually define us. We give too much importance to our 'scent' to the point that we hate it when somebody else is wearing it. We own the scent, it is 'us' therefore nobody else can wear it because that is a violation of our sense of self.

    Nora and Delia Ephron (my favourite film makers) had their hero in 'You've Got Mail' make a rather scathing statement about this very modern phenomenon. Joe Fox is talking about coffee, but it translates to perfume.

    "The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino"

    I think he is right. Most of us don't even know 'who the hell we are'. So the 'signature scent' is more wishful thinking than a symbol of self. Define yourself first, and you will find that your signature becomes part of you rather than the other way around.

  52. Anon,

    there's something to what you're saying, can't deny it!

  53. Bella,

    apart from agreeing that we're the sum of our choices (not just one in one field) I am astounded by the insightfulness of that piece of script which I had forgotten about: yes, not only coffee, not only perfume, but really the whole western capitalism system too!
    We're given the illusion of choice, when in fact we have none. :-)

    Very wise commentary, heartfelt thanks!

  54. Kathleen04:10

    I wear perfume depending on my mood, and of course my economic status at any given time :) But I do remember our Mom wearing White Shoulders which my father always bought bottles for her. And Grandma wore Norell. Funny how you remember things like that.


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