I’ve heard that your olfactory system, which is just fancy for your “sense of smell,” is the part of your sensory system most closely tied to vivid emotions and memories. And that is completely true for me! Enter perfume: A bottled essence so strong, I have a million and one memories, emotions, even sicknesses tied to MY past perfumes. But also, internal reactions and memories attached to the scents of friends, coworkers, family members, and even ex-boyfriends (anyone else’s high school fling wear Aqua Di Gio?)

My first (remembered) experience with perfume was when I was nine years old. My older sister had adopted the famed ’90s fragrance “Tommy Girl,” by Tommy Hilfiger, as her signature scent— and since she was the coolest person I knew (and still is) I thought it should be mine as well. I did this by sneaking into her drawer after she’d left for the day and spritzing WAY TOO MUCH Tommy Girl all over the “perfume spots” I’d seen people use in real life and in movies (neck, wrists, behind hair, chest, etc.) Then I’d do a second pass, making sure I REALLY got that aroma attached. And I’d casually leave to my elementary school smelling like one of those over-perfumed public nuisances, very likely giving everyone in my path a smell-induced migraine.

As what happens to most good things in life, it became too much of a good thing, and I got sick (the vomit kind) when wearing my sister’s perfume. One spell of nausea can ruin a scent forever, so I’ve never touched Tommy Girl again— Additionally, I can pick it out of a crowd blindfolded, because the scent still induces nausea. Bummer, Tommy.

My adolescence brought with it new smells borrowed from junior high and high school friends. These smells were usually excessively fruity, or sugary—or both sugary and fruity, at the same time. I remember a distinct period when I clung to any perfume that smelled (sickeningly) of cotton candy. There were a, surprising, lot of these cotton candy perfumes in my teenage perfume reserve— they usually had glitter in them or were packaged in a bottle with a faux fur topped lid. I’m now offering up a public apology to anyone who had to smell me at this time. I’m sorry for the headaches you got. I’m sorry if you never want to eat cotton candy again. She didn’t know any better— Bless her heart.

But I’d like to say that now, being well into my twenties, I do know better. Or at least a little better— because perfume choosing/wearing skills can always be finessed. Part of my perfume education came when I read the book How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits. It’s an enchanting and charismatic read (an EASY page turner), written by a foursome — some of the chicest women in Paris — Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. And it’s essentially a Cool Girl Guide for all of us who are still trying to nail down what makes Parisian women so darn captivating. This book maps out an explanation for the French “je ne sais quai.” Giving bits of advice on everything from what you will NOT find in a Parisian’s closet, “Three inch heels—why live life halfway. Blingy jeans with embroidery and holes in them. They belong to Bollywood. UGG boots. Enough said. Logos. You are not a billboard…” To advice on being trendy, “Don’t follow trends (they follow you).” And coaching on how to carry yourself throughout life, “Always look as if you are gazing at the sunset. Even during rush hour in the Metro. Even when picking up frozen pizza from the supermarket.” Genius, this book. Genius.

But as aforementioned, one of my favorite lessons contained in the book is on the art of perfume. Parisians believe in high quality perfumes. Always high quality. They trust the classics — because CLASSICS are classic for a reason (Chanel No. 5, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Guerlain Shalimar). But they also venture into more modern scent-muses (Kenzo Flower, Le Labo Ambrette 9 Eau de Parfum, Aerin Beauty Rose De Grasse).

They never leave the home without perfume—it’s akin to leaving the house stark naked. They put perfume “Wherever you want to be kissed,” which was famously said by Coco Chanel. The book suggests you put your scent behind your ear and at the nape of your neck. But wherever you put it, apply in a place that makes you feel confident—spritz in places that both you and those around you will notice. Perfume is a luxury for both you and those coming in contact with you!

My last favorite rule of perfume, is to “Find your perfume before you turn thirty. Wear it for the next thirty years.” Only cheating on your signature scent “on cold days.” Parisians have a signature scent, and they stay faithful to it for large spans of their lives — 30 years! This Parisian rule seems to encapsulate the enigma of the Cool French Girl. They know what works for them, and they stay faithful to it confidently— never doubting themselves.

I have a few good years of perfume exploration before I pick my 30th birthday scent—that is, if I strive to be a wannabe Parisian, which I do. Because I love the idea of owning a scent— of people recognizing my perfume and associating it with me. I love the idea of my (very future) children knowing my smell and remembering me after I’m dead and gone, by my specific smell— Because, you know, we already talked about smells being so closely attached to memories. You get it.

So how do you pick your signature smell? I think for the most part, a scent will pick YOU. Different notes and undertones in perfumes will speak to you. You know which scents you absolutely adore, once you smell them. So take the time to explore perfumes. Try a wide range—and I mean TRY. Try them on. Because what smells amazing on your coworker won’t smell quite the same on you. Perfumes mix with you own body’s chemistry, which can alter the scent. So instead of buying large bottles of perfumes you’re still undecided on— opt for going to high end stores and getting a small sample bottles. Wear it for as long as it takes for you to make up your mind. How to you feel wearing the smell? Confident and pretty? Sick and stifled? How do others around you treat you when wearing the perfume. I often know I’ve found a winner perfume, when I love it AND everyone around me loves it and asks me about it, as well.

So what do you think of this Parisian rule? Do you believe in one signature scent? Or do you have a large perfume arsenal atop your bathroom vanity? If you do have a signature scent, as always, I’d love to hear what yours is! If you love to change up your scent, tell me why!

As for now, I alternate between Trish McEvoy’s No.9 Blackberry & Vanilla Musk and Chloé Eau de Parfum.

Until next time, XOXO

Amy

 

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  1. Hi Amber! My name is Regina and I’m 20 years old. I agree that one should have a scent and I’m so happy that I’ve found mine. I use La Panthère de Cartier. It is just so me. I feel sexy and confident wearing it. I definitely recommend that you check it out, it is heavenly. xoxo

  2. Great Article Amy! You have my hooked on not only wanting to read that book now but also learning French and raising myself up to a higher (classier) level! I’m 21 and in the stage of my life where I’m really trying to figure out all the things that make me me (style, smell, etc.). When I was 16 I went to Spain and while in Barcelona visiting the Apartments designed by Gaudi I found this perfume in the gift shop called (well I’m not sure this is the name but this is what the bottle says) Eau de Toilette Vanille and boy of boy does it smell like Vanilla! I loved it instantly, but felt guilty for cheating on the scent I wore before that which was Dior Bronze Sweet Sun, sweet yes, but does it smell like summer? Yes! The main reason I felt drawn to those smells is because neither of them smelt “powdery” as I feel many perfumes do. As I have gotten older although I still enjoy these smells I have been feeling as though the sweetness of the smells may need to be toned down, but I find it very difficult finding perfumes without the powder smell. Do you know what I mean about the powdery smell? Do you have any advice or tips on that? It that something all high quality perfumes have and my tastes will adjust or is it something all low quality perfumes have and I should avoid or is it simply that it is a personal preference? Thank you so much Amy! I lobe your blog 🙂 xoxo

  3. I am french 😉 and wharf narciso Rodriguez for her. I smelt it fisrt during my pregnancy if m’y Twins 8 years agi and never stopped wearing since,,,

  4. Hi amber, You should really check this post from covetour, it about a guy that does exclusive perfums for celebrities, really specific for every person… it takes abour 4 hours, and you choose all the smells that you like and he get all thoses bases and transforms into a perfum that fit you PH with perfection….
    http://coveteur.com/2017/10/03/custom-fragrance-gwyneth-paltrows-perfumer-douglas-little/
    I bet it can be a awesome way to find your sent and it will be unique

  5. I heard similar advice from the French many years ago, probably in one of Mireille Guliano’s books. I have been wearing Narciso Rodriguez for Her eau de parfum for more than a decade. I remember walking into Nordstrom back then, on a mission to find my signature scent. It was the first one I tried, and it was exactly what I was looking for – a warm, non-fruity floral. None of the others I tried ever compared. It makes me feel gorgeous and feminine, and it’s a scent people identify with me and love.

  6. My signature scent is La vie èst Belle by Lancôme. I found it a couple of years ago when walking through Macy’s and instantly fell in love with it! I’ve bought two bottles since and I wear it EVERY time I go out, and I get compliments on it daily! I think that it’s safe to say it is my signature scent!

    I loved your post and I want to buy that book so badly now! (I guess a trip to Barnes & Noble’s is in order🙃) Anyways, I love you blog + your posts!
    Best wishes and blessings,
    Rebekah

  7. I LOVE perfume, somewhat obsessively haha. But when I smelled flower bomb for the first time I knew that was it for me. I think you have to find a perfume that works with your natural smell, so just because you like a perfume doesn’t mean it will mesh well with your natural scent. Flower bomb is perfection, but the reality is that all of these perfumes are loaded with horrible chemicals and it’s just not worth it. Switching my perfume was the last thing I did when I started using only safe products, I was just so attached. But after a lot of searching I’ve finally found a natural scent that’s very similar and it’s amazing to have a signature scent again.

    1. My signature is flower bomb too and I too am getting rid of all the chemicals in my life!!! I hardly use flower bomb anymore but sometimes I just can’t help myself…. it really is the last thing I haven’t been able to get rid of. If you read this, PLEASE let me know what alternative you found!! I will be forever greatful, haha! 🙂

      1. Hi! Ok so this is what I found
        https://www.etsy.com/listing/468708124/cashmere-moon-roll-on-moisturizing
        It is more subtle than flower bomb but it hit the spot for me. It was the first natural scent I found that came even close and it’s a comforting warm smell just like flower bomb. I wish they would just cut out the nasty chemicals it’s so insane. But in the meantime cashmere moon is a really nice balanced scent and I’ve really enjoyed it. Plus you can’t beat the price so it’s worth a shot 🙂

  8. I found my signature scent after hearing that Fracas (A famous French perfume of the 60s) had a strong note of Tuberose, my favorite scent. I’ve been hooked for over 4 years, now. I’ll carry it with me, forever. Eddie Sedgwick wore this quite a bit, she was often noted as having a loud personality, which the Times said matched her even louder perfume 🙂

  9. I love Mademoiselle Chanel… but I hardly ever wear it because the world is so scent cautious now!! still, will probably always be my signature!

  10. Now I desperately want to read that book, sounds like there are so many gems of wisdom in there! For the past few years I have loved to switch up my perfume by season because I find that what smells nice in the Summer isn’t the same in the cold days of Winter. However, now that I live in Dallas where the weather is relatively warm all year long I’ve been pretty loyal to one year-round (even though it’s probably technically more of a Winter scent): YSL Black Opium. If you haven’t you MUST try it – it is so intoxicating and delicious, I get questions about it all the time!

    And it is so funny how you are right that people remember us by our scents. In high school I was 100% loyal to the Ralph Lauren one that came in the bottle with the turquoise stripe and topper and still to this day my friends from high school will text me if they smell someone wearing it! I don’t wear it any more but still keep a bottle on my dresser and it makes me smile every morning.

    xo Mary-Katherine
    http://www.goldhattedlover.com

  11. I’m already on amazon checking for this book, you have me intrigued!! ..for perfume, I’ve been using Victoria’s Secret very sexy (red bottle) for what feels like tens years, but I don’t think they have been making it for that long. But as soon as VS Bombshell came out, I fell hard for it. Now I wear both….”depending on occasion” if that’s even possible, bc I find myself so torn between the two. And yes, I agree with perfume everyday! On bareskin, before getting dressed. A VS box once said perfume is the sexiest thing you can wear, and bc of its memories attached, it lingers the longest. The box describes Very Sexy as: vanilla orchid, sun drenched clementine, midnight blackberry. I’ve recently received philisophy’s Amazing Grace perfume sample..have you smelled it?? What do you think ?
    My parents still wear the same perfume and getting a bottle every year for a gift still makes them just as happy as ever! Good things never get old 🙂

  12. Had never thought of wearing perfume that way but I love this idea! Now I’ll be on the search for my signature scent … I have a few years before hitting 30 😉

  13. I love vanilla-y perfumes, but the one I wanted to be my signature scent forever and ever (So hooked on Carmella, anyone?!) was DISCONTINUED. So if anyone has any suggestions for vanilla-y but not too sickeningly sweet perfumes, let me know!!

    ameliagwen.com

  14. Wondering what people think of changing scents according to the seasons… I never do, because I just want to smell like “me”!

  15. So true. My father wore a cologne called Zizanie, which I associated so much with him that when a guy I dated wore it, I asked him not to.

  16. Love this. I love having a signature scent; it was passed down to me from my mom, grandma and even great grandma. I have worn the same perfume since 24 I don’t ever plan on changing. It’s a little spicy/musky CANEL Chance Eau Tendre. It’s the Pink one!!! 🙂

  17. I love this post! So funny to think back to middle school when we would drown in cheap perfume (mine was usually a Victoria”s Secret Pink scent, but then I “upgraded” to Juicy Couture). I have been wearing the same perfume since high school and I love having a signature scent, but I have been thinking of changing it up! I think I need to read that book 🙂

    Lauren Lindmark | https://www.dailydoseofcharm.com

  18. I have been wearing Hypnose (by Lancome) since 2007, when I was still in college. I went to college in Lebanon, where my family is from, and perfume there is also something people get into at a young age, never leaving the home without a scent. I have not gone a day since then without wearing Hypnose. People recognize my scent, and years later will hug me and say, “Oh my gosh, you still smell the same. Thank God!” A dear friend of mine from college moved to Australia a while back, and he said a woman walked by him in a bookstore wearing Hypnose, and he just started crying because the memory was so powerful. I have been wondering whether to change my scent or experiment with something new, but I just can’t bring myself to! I turned 30 in September, so I guess I’m locked in 😉

    1. Scent memory is so real! When I was 15 my mom left for a week and I was all alone, I missed her so much I sprayed her perfume on my pillow and carried it around lol.

  19. You are so right — so many of my fondest memories are associated with smell, and smelling that scent reminds me of those times like nothing else! I’m only 22, so still have some exploration to do in the perfume world, but I have been using Jo Malone’s Red Rose perfume since my mom gave me a bottle on my 18th birthday. It’s perfectly floral and romantic, and who doesn’t love the smell of roses?

  20. I think I have found my perfume for the next 30 years…La Vie Est Belle by Lancome. I was never into wearing perfume daily until this one. I just love it so much, and enjoy wearing it every day.

    –Elise
    http://www.caturdaystyle.com

  21. I definitely believe in a signature scent and love the idea of a scent reminding someone of you. This was veryyyy well written and a lovely read <3 x

    chevrons & éclairs – http://bit.ly/2hHqdpy

  22. I suppose this is not Ambet as I presume having lived in France she would have spelt Je ne sais quoi correctly.

    1. At the end of the post where she signs off as “Amy” means it was written by our contributor, Amy 🙂 xo

  23. Reading this makes me want to get some perfume ASAP! I used to wear my signature scent, Love Spell by Victoria Secret, all the time but I ran out. I will have to try out the Chloé Eau de Parfum! Thanks for sharing Amy!
    xx
    Courtney || https://courtneylivin.com/

  24. A couple of things:

    1. I could tell this wasn’t amber! Ive been reading her for a while so i guess i could tell the difference in style.
    2. Hi! 🙂
    3. Ive read that book! I try to live by that cook!
    4. It alerted me to buy a new perfume because I was still wearing scents of my past, so 2 years ago i invested in chanel no.5
    5. I also have mostly french skin care products….Amber. Loved that post!

    1. When she first started writing posts I was like wait a minute this doesn’t sound like amber… lol I also think they have totally different styles. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  25. Beautifully written. I also have a few years before I find my signature scent but I really do love miss Dior. My boyfriend bought it for me one Christmas and it was the most amazing perfume smell and suited me so well. I have since ran out of it and need to buy it again =o)

    https://dreamofadventures.com/