Monday, March 2, 2009

A Change of Heart

How have your tastes in perfume changed over the years? I promised a couple of weeks ago that there was a series coming up here on Fragrance Bouquet, focusing on a particular note. The series is starting this Wednesday and is to comprise of a number of reviews focusing on patchouli-themed perfumes and is to culminate to a list of favorites. As many of you long-time readers already know, patchouli has been a defining, revelatory note for me. Making a 180 degree turn from hatred to love after a lifetime of avoiding patchouli frags like witches would a roaring pyre, I’ve gone through feelings of surprise, dissonance and acceptance for what still seems like a newly-found love. The time has come to celebrate this multi-facetted, full of nuances plant so important to perfumery.

But this post is not only about introducing the patchouli series. It is about change of heart in our perfume choices in general. I opened this post by asking you, how your tastes in perfume have changed over the years. I want to expand on this question and further ask: How do you feel about these changes? For me, accepting certain changes has not been easy. I grew up with a very clear instinct to passionately love green perfumes. Chypres, whether warm and animalic or strict, cold and austere were my primary love at an age when I could never have been able to say what a chypre was. Paloma Picasso’s Mon Parfum, Jean-Louis Scherrer 1, the original Nina, Rose Cardin de Pierre Cardin, Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir might have been completely age inappropriate, but I didn’t know and didn’t care. Chypres were my primary love. Related to the family in more ways than one, I also adored green, bitter and herbal perfumes: Clinique’s Wrappings with its sour herbal character held inexplicable, instinctive attraction, Cerutti 1881 with its chokingly bitter taste made me feel poisonously adult and Estee’s Private Collection was to me the brightest, most shining example of what a good perfume should be like: worth its money to the last penny, even though I could only afford the smallest size with my pocket money.

And through it all, I realize now, that I felt a certain kind of superiority, a certain snobbery towards those that in my eyes didn’t know any better. Not only could I not understand why people would choose anything remotely sweet smelling, but to my shame, I also felt a kind of pity. Furthermore, anything heavy on vanilla or even worse, a vanilla-patchouli combo was instantly translated as trashy in my mind. The women and girls that wore these perfumes instantly earned a desperate label in my mind. Do I forgive myself for the snobbery? Well, yes in a way… I was a teenager and youth comes brandished with such entitled superiority, such sheer conviction that one knows all and what’s more, one knows best. There is a certain hilarity in that. That doesn’t mean I am not ashamed of the way I thought then. Unfortunately however, there’s more to this… I have changed a great deal in the last five to six or so years when it comes to perfume choices. Suddenly I started appraising perfumes not in terms of whether I like them or not for personal use, but in terms of whether the scent in question was a well constructed, good perfume. Was it perhaps a fantastic perfume, even though I wouldn’t consider wearing it? The journey can be described as a great hobby that started off as completely egocentric (please my senses, my instincts), to something far more academic: perfume for itself. Then came this blog. And as I started wearing a different perfume almost every day, so I slowly found myself actually buying things I never expected I would buy. Suddenly I found that there no longer was a difference between what I appreciated and what I would actually crave to wear. For the past few years I find myself craving different things depending on my mood, the weather, my style of dress, the season, you name it. Choice seems completely arbitrary, no longer connected to a favorite family. The only limiting factor now, is whether I love something, and to my surprise still, even after so many years, I can love things from every fragrance family. And yes, it still surprises me. There is still a cognitive dissonance sometimes when I crave vanilla, patchouli, sugar, comfort, softness. My erstwhile self comes back to mock me sometimes. “You used to be chicer. You used to be sophisticated!” she says with her stupidly superior 15 year old voice as I pick up a comforting gourmand. I’ve yet to find a good answer to retort to her, even though I know that truthfully, I am far more sophisticated now than I was at 15. I can’t completely dissociate the label chic from the term Chypre or the characterization “green”. I can however feel secure in my judgment on what is good and tasteful and liberate myself from any worry with the confidence that my choice does the image I want to project justice.

Images: Heart via www.sxc.hu, grass and dewdrop via Flickr (originally uploaded by Scott Robinson). Last is the artwork depicting a girl trying to resist Eros. Unfortunately I no longer remember the artist or the title of the painting. If you know, then please drop me a line in the comments so I can attribute it.


17 comments:

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Darling Divina-

Loved reading yet another thoughtful post from you... I have had a change of heart re: Tresor... I used to wear it in high school because it was the scent that my older sister wore (and I wanted to have everything she had)... now (although I know it is a lovely scent) I can't stand it! Perhaps because I reminds me of all those years with teenage angst :)

Ines said...

Hey Divina
the waiting was worthwile. :) A great post. I for one realized my ideas od perfume were changing when I was suddenly in a situation where Coco mademoiselle was a perfect fit for what I was wearing and how I was feeling (couldn't stand it or wear it before) and after discovering Bond 9 Chinatown - me, who never ever liked anything sweet smelling anywhere near me. :) Now it's a journey without end.

Anonymous said...

My change is more related to a change from normal perfumes to more difficult to find, niche perfumes. Before becoming a reader of your blog I didn't really know about them, although I see lately the magazines I read are cathcing up. My favorite family hasn't changed, its still florals. Although I like more things, I am still a floral girl at heart. It seems better quality florals can be found in niche brands. This family seems affected more than any other.

Glad to cu back.

Christine

Michelyn said...

Divina- A timely and very relevant article. For me, I went through a number of 'stages'- first many years ago, fragrances my mother or my friends wore, second niche perfumery of the time such as L'artisan, Annick Goutal and Beth Terry. Third, the hard to find and the rare-perfume snobbery. I had a fling with people of the Labryinth, Serge la palais Royalen/a in USA , and anything Aoud because they were edgy. i would buy fragrances that luca turin and Chandler Burr gave accolades to, becuase they were the 'experts'. Then experimentation, fragrances that are beautifully constructed from Tresor to natural fragrances by Ajne to the brand new such as Memo. Today, as a writer, i try everything on myself and on 8 other men and women to find the fragrance's core. But for me, I understand my skin chemistry and mood play a big part in my fragrance choices and limit my purchases to not only masterpieces of chemistry and art, but what smells heavenly on my skin. Reverie au Jardin, Feminitie de Bois, Vintage Femme, Clive Christian X, Serge Lutens Silver iris Mist and my go to fragrances of kelly caleche extrait and molinard for Aedes Histoire de Chypre.


through these stages we find ourselves

Love and Light-Michelyn

Divina said...

Hello dearest Daily! That has never happened to me with a perfume I used to wear for a long time, but it has unfortunately happened a couple of times with a new perfume I buy: I sample, sample, sample.. Finish a couple of samples or a decant... Run out and buy it and then the moment I have the bottle realize I can't stand the fragrance at all! This is an awful thing to happen and I can't understand why!

Divina said...

Oh my dearest Ines, it is so good to see you too :) And I loved your comment.. you know what it made me think of? What you wrote about Coco Mademoiselle... Well, it made me think of how similar this is to falling in love with someone you've known for ages, but never really looked at them that way. Then suddenly, one day, you open your eyes and... You're in love! :)

Divina said...

Christine, I agree with you, although there definitely are some floral gems in the department stores too! However yes, totally agree. I think it partly has to do with freedom to use more costly ingredients, although it doesn't mean that niche is always better quality...

Divina said...

Hi Michelyn! I've missed you! Thank you so much for sharing with me and the rest of the readers your personal journey. Fascinating to read! I do also crave the rare and hard to find, mostly because I have such a collector's bug and I love to collect samples of anything I can get my hands on for reference. However, if it smells good on my skin, I will never hesitate to wear anything, be it celebrity, drugstore or unknown locally brewed cheapy! LOL! Hugs to you my dear Michelyn!!!

PinstripedZebra said...

When I first started using perfume in my teenage years, going with the flow was the motto. Wearing Davidoff Cool Water and other 'fresh' perfumes. Now I have grown older, wiser I sometimes think.. I have learned to appreciate notes like Iris, Lime and orange blossom and developed my own way of experiencing and enjoying perfume like I never would have thought I would.

Thank you for another lovely article and I can't wait for the series!

Linda said...

Dearest Divina,
It's so good to have you back again! I looked every day but it's only now (having read you this morning) that I find myself having time to add my feeble comment! When I was really young I wanted to be elegant, elegant, elegant, and L'Heure Bleue was the only fragrance I wore. I still have some but now I crave simplicity: Rose de Cardin is a delight (!!) Diorissimo so pretty in spring, White Musk from the Body Shop, Chanel Cristalle: and my biggest mistake - Tiempe Passate by Antonia's Flowers. O dear what a waste of money that was!
I'm itching for your next posts.
Hugs to you,
Linda

Divina said...

Dear Z, I like Cool Water actually.. or at least I did... Is it a little different nowadays? You'll have to resniff and tell me, since you used to wear it! But wearing something because everybody else is wearing it is definitely not the right reason to choose something. (As if *I* am one to speak!! Let me tell you, I never thought I would fall so hard for skinny jeans when they first came out. Nor Uggs. I guess the fact that everybody else is wearing them somehow made them attractive in my head!!! It didn't happen consciously, but here we have it. I am doing it...)

So good you have discovered the notes that excite you! Yes, I noticed too you fall for iris scents.. And Lime? Mmm, I can think of one you love with lots of limes but you'll have to tell me about the rest! *hug!*

Divina said...

*Crazy hug and twirl* LINDAAAA! :)
So happy to see you!!! Was thinking of you all day today actually, wanting to mail you but being completely square eyed by the time I got done with writing papers for the uni... It will come..this week hopefully! LOL! I am hopeless, aren't I?

Oh my god, now I am gonna embarass you by saying this, but I HAVE to say it. Darling, if only you knew JUST how elegant you are.... You don't need a perfume for that! :)
I adore every single one of the perfumes you have mentioned, aside from Tiempe Passate which I don't remeber how it smells like. I know I've tested it on a paper strip cause we have talked about it before, but I still can't remember. I will have to re-test. Cristalle is one of the chicest, most elegant perfumes I know, by the way. She is *cold* and keeps her distance, but boy do I want to be her sometimes. Lady Cristalle, yes. I adore her. A friend of mine wears it regularly, and I have to tell her how gorgeous she smells every time. Yes, definitely one of the greens I have always been in love with :) (and one the 15 year old little miss know-it-all definitely APPROVES of! Hahahahahah) Oh look, I wrote a book. So sorry :P I'VE MISSED YOU!

chayaruchama said...

Hello, dear friends !

We all go through phases.
I personally feel that no one should have to apologize for 'taking his pleasure', wherever it is to be found.

In many ways, I'm less of a snob than I was at 12.
Or 20.
Life humbles you- 'If you do it right, LOL.

Enjoy !!!!!

chayaruchama said...

Hello, dear friends !

We all go through phases.
I personally feel that no one should have to apologize for 'taking his pleasure', wherever it is to be found.

In many ways, I'm less of a snob than I was at 12.
Or 20.
Life humbles you- 'If you do it right, LOL.

Enjoy !!!!!

Flora said...

I used to be all florals, all the time - now I crave incense, woods & spices just as much, and if it's kind of weird all the better. I will always be a floral girl, like Christine above, but my horizons have broadened enormously. I am not ashamed to say I like some really cheap stuff just as much as the finest niche scents either. I just want to try everything!

Anonymous said...

dear divina,

I think as I mature the choices of my perfumes evolve as well, when I was younger and first starting out on this obsession I was a vanilla fanatic, so most of my perfumes were orientals. Now i hardly wear orientals, I find that it does not suit me anymore. I still love them, but as they said it brings too much memories of the past. Scents do that, they capture feelings of the past, that magically transports you to a point in time. Sometimes you want to come back to, sometimes you don't. Now I am loving green, aquatic scents. Very light floral-fruity. More on scents suited to my humid country. I am making new memories.

Prettywitty504 said...

I love reading the comments here; I learn so much about fragrance. I have no basic knowledge of the subject; I only know what I like and what I don't, some of which has changed through the years and some of which hasn't at all. My signature, #1 go-to fragrance has been Aromatics Elixir and probably always will be. My "variation" fragrances have changed alot. In high school I liked Chanel #19 and Rive Gauche. Ivoire, Opium and my ex-husband's Habit Rouge took turns in my late 20's, then when I divorced, I couldn't stand any of them! I moved on to Magie Noire, which I might like to try again if they still make it. A friend brought me a small bottle of Shalimar from France, which I loved, but when I used it all and bought more, I didn't like it much at all; it just sort of sat on top of my skin and never blended to become part of my total smell, if that makes sense. Turns out it was not perfume, but eau de toilette; I never knew that could make such a difference.

I absolutely love Kiss My Face Peaceful Patchouli bath gel and hand soap, but have never found a patchouli perfume that wasn't flat, linear or bossy!