Thursday, September 13, 2007

By Woman by Dolce & Gabbana : Perfume Review

I wore By Woman religiously in 1998; I remember its strong scent permeating everything at the time: my hair, my clothes, the hallway I’d rush through to get to the door, habitually late for any appointment. It has this way of leaving an air of longing behind it, hanging like a little cloud, long after the wearer has disappeared. I didn’t notice when it got discontinued, somehow I took it for granted, like something that would always be there for me when I needed it. Years later, the olfactory memory haunted me, at times as strong as though my perfumed wrist was stuck under my nose. Other times it would become elusive; leaving behind just this tortured feeling, the nagging certainty that I’d lost one of the sexiest scents I’d ever come across. This summer, while visiting Thessaloniki, I was lucky enough to find it again. Tucked away in what is now known as the old French quarter, three of the city’s oldest perfume shops still exist. The oldest one, the one I was craving to photograph for Fragrance Bouquet was closed, but the one next door was thankfully open. The shop sold mostly essences imported from France, but there was also a section, a few shelves really, of discontinued perfumes. I didn’t even need to scan them: By Woman caught my eye immediately with its extravagant leopard print box. Still wrapped and sealed, protected from the sun in its shady spot, it was as well as mine. My excitement was obvious and the owner of the shop engaged me in a conversation about his own lost loves of perfumery, confessing that he keeps the remnants of several in a drawer, taking them out for a sniff-induced trip back in time every now and again. I paid and left with a spring in my step, not only because I had found one of my own lost loves again, but because I had the chance to speak to someone who is obviously passionate about perfume too.

By Woman requires patience: It is one of those perfumes you have to wait for until they bloom to perfection on the skin. The opening is fresh, very citrusy and slightly green. It has a rather masculine quality to it, in an expensive cologne sort of way. Fruity tangerine and bitter bergamot dance around something unidentifiable – something almost plastic, which is not altogether unpleasant, but is very misleading indeed. It gives away nothing of the true character of the fragrance, the feverish sensuality that is to inevitably follow. It still seems tame, while it is anything but. And so it begins, testing the patience of the wearer with its indifferent masculine freshness. Persistently sniffing the skin is of no use at the moment: like playing with a cat, looking at it straight in the eye will not bring it closer. Ignore it though, avert your eyes, and soon the silky fur will undoubtedly surprise you by creeping up against you, in the same manner that By will surprise the senses by suddenly wafting towards the nose in a completely different manifestation than the one detected close to the skin. This gentle, wafting cloud is a prelude of how the scent will evolve on the skin. Soon perhaps, but not yet. For now the heady, exotic smell of the Lilly is blooming, trying to outdo the pungent, ever so slightly soapy ginger. The inebriating scent of pittosporum, the gorgeous flowering shrub that drives humans and bees alike crazy come spring, is embracing both. It caresses the skin with its white, delicate fingers, bestowing upon it the promise of nectar, the same promise that makes swarms of bees gather to gorge on its flowers. Then suddenly, yes, realization finally dawns: By Woman fully arrives, strong and thirsty, like luscious, engorged lips seeking the gloss of water. It positively surrounds the body, like an inescapable, delirious presence. Lashings of bittersweet coffee-syrup are poured all over the delicate white flowers, infused with vanilla and musk. The result is sweet, but not overly so: just perfect. The coffee combines perfectly with the smooth creaminess of sandalwood and the cedar eagerly brings the wearer's own skin-scent to the fore, enhancing it, underscoring all of its seductive qualities.

Deconstructing By seems almost like a mistake to me – the notes by themselves do not reveal the full extent of the end result. By is more than the sum of its parts: the beautiful blend is mysterious – I feel unable to decode how something can have so much sensuality just by looking at the notes. By is voluptuous, a pair of breasts drawn by an artist crazy with desire. It is sexuality worn as a weapon, which is of course, now that I think of it, the quintessential D&G woman. I don’t understand why this is no longer in production when thinking how much it fits their collections. It is the most gorgeous creature, leaving men half-conscious at the wake of her curves as she passes by, flaunting her cat o’ nine tails. By is empowering, one of the most empowering fragrances I have ever worn in fact. It acts like a confidence booster, like only a killer pair of heels possibly could. (for completely inimitable effects, try both at the same time) There are more powerhouse fragrances that can make a woman feel as strong as fortress, as powerful as a canon. Paloma Picasso would be a good example. But whereas Paloma warns intruders by penalty of castration, By raises an eyebrow and grins, hinting that she might be penetrable after all.

I want to continue the little tradition I started when reviewing Miyako, so from now on whenever I am reviewing a hard-to-find fragrance I will also be offering a sample of it. Please comment if you would like to be entered in the drawing.

PS: I hope the last image can be taken with the humor with which it is intended. I probably should not worry, but finding out that it was banned in the UK made a couple of alarm bells ring in my head!

Images: Author’s Own, and


Linda said...

Dear Divina,
Thank you for this amazing post! I remember this fragrance in the shops about ten years ao, but didn't sniff it, and of course now I've read your description I'm longing to. It really sounds a grown-up's perfume, and although I couldn't so much as walk downstairs in killer heels, I would love to feel so empowered and voluptuous.
Also, three perfume shops in Thessaloniki? Marvellous!
All good wishes,

Jenavira13 said...

I think my perfumania might still have bottles of this. I will have to check. This sounds incredible and really interesting. Please add me to the drawing.

Divina said...

Hi Linda :) You pinpointed it right, it is a grown-up's perfume. I do not often think in terms of age when wearing perfume, but with this one it is inevitable. The three perfume shops are remnants of the past, before the second world war ravaged the french and jewish communities of the city. Nowdays of course everyone shops downtown at Sephora and big beauty and department stores...but these three little shops remain, like dusty jewels. I hope I can photograph the oldest one on my next weekend trip (somewhere in November perhaps or late October) and present it here.

Divina said...

I have seen bottles of it online as well.. I don't often go that route because I am always suspicious, but it is worth doing for something you really want! My next d/cd online buy will surely be the old Nina.. I think I am ready to give up looking for it IRL... And I am *craving* it!

veronica said...

Dear Divina,
I've been reading your blog since it's first day and I really like how passionate your perfume writing is. It enspired me to try many of your favorites which have become my faves, too!( Annayake Miako is the one that comes to mind)
By sounds really amazing! It peaked my curiosity because you mentioned a pittosporum not in it. I love it's smell, it always reminds me of spring. I would love to try it if I'm lucky enough to win the drawing!
Thanks for your lovely writing, I'm looking for more to come!

veronica said...

Oh, sorry about all the spelling and grammar mistakes:)

Flora said...

Oh, I would love to have a sample of this! I never knew about it before when it first came out - it sounds right up my alley -I adore big, lush,unapologetic perfumes. You have made it sound like the sexiest fragrance on Earth, and that is definitely a good thing!! :-)

Divina said...

Hi Veronica, thank you for the kind words :) It makes me feel connected, reading that you have found some new perfume-loves because of Fragrance Bouquet :) I love pittosporum - it reminds me of childhood weekends away ... My parents would always warn me to stay away from these marvelous bushes, guarded as they were by swarms of drunken bees, but I just couldn't help but always go a little closer, mystified by the beautiful scent!

Divina said...

Flora, it really is that sexy! Well, to my nose at least :)

Divina said...

I forgot to mention in the original post that I am gonna announce the results of the drawing this Thursday, meaning, a week after the review. Dbf is gonna do the honors of picking a paper with a name on it, just like last time.

hugs to you all :)

Bella said...

I got a sample of this fragrance when I was in Europe in 2001. I wasn't sure how I felt about it, but I kept wearing it. Soon, I had to have a bottle of it... I had run out of the sample and by then I NEEDED the fragrance! I wasn't completely dressed until I had my fragrance "on"... It took some searching, No one, not even in the exclusive shops seemed to know of it or carry it. Finally I found it in some small shop... it was a little more expensive than I expected, but certainly not what it costs now! I had no idea it was discontinued. I still have 1/3 of the large bottle left.... but I fear it may be loosing some of it's vitality. Thanks for the heads up! I'll be on the look out for a fresh bottle before they're all gone! Isn't it strange how things are discussed and desired only after they have become unavailable?! Thanks again for this wonderful post. It wonderfully illustrates the complexity of the fragrance... so nuanced, so seductive, so indescribable.

Divina said...

Hi Bella, so nice to read your comment which shows once again how much passion this fragrance ignites! I absolutely love it and even though I have so many perfumes I still get pangs of pain when I think how difficult it is to find it now. It results to me not wearing By as often as I would like, to save it. But when I do..! I enjoy it so, so very much :)