Do I Have a Signature Scent? (No really, I’m asking)

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men I wasn’t able to post for the past few days (and by wasn’t able I mean I spent too much of my time reading blogs/cutting my own hair/studying for my upcoming tests for which I need to identify over 200 raw materials and some equally outrageous number of fine fragrances by scent). But I’m in France and I can recognize aldehyde chains of 7, 8, 9, and 10 carbons (by smelling, not counting) so really who’s not to say that I’m living my best life?

Maybe the fact that it’s a rainy week and I have no adequately waterproof shoes. But pretty close to my best life.

Switching gears now away from flawed footwear and toward the actual meat of this post which, I apologize, is not in a list form.  More just something i’ve been thinking about.

I remember reading an article sometime between 1 and 7 years ago about the desire for a signature fragrance.  One that really signifies you, reminds you and reassures you of your stable identity in distressing situations and, perhaps most importantly, that other people (significant others, friends, children) will associate with you.

I’m trying to find the article online but am being deluged with all of these guides on how to find your signature scent (I feel like the answer is pretty obvious: smell stuff).
But the article was more than about just desiring a signature fragrance. It was also about the conflict between wanting that one personal element and wanting to appreciate and express yourself with different/multiple fragrances.
Which is why I have kind of thought of signature fragrances for a long time as a perfumista pipe dream/something for the uninitiated and not very into fragrance.  It’s like the person who has one pair of earrings.  Maybe they have reached accessory nirvana but it’s more likely they’re just not that into earrings.

The last time I had a signature scent was early high school and it was some variation of Chanel Chance. I think Eau Tendre, but I also believe I wore the original before after a long and obsessive internal debate over the pros and cons of the original and the Eau Fraiche. Some things (and by some things I mean me) never change.
And then I realized how wide and amazing the world of perfume is, how varied and multifaceted and worth exploring.  The idea of a fragrance kind of went out the window, which I felt a bit regretful about, but also very excited given the way my horizons were expanding. Discovering a new world and removing limitations I had placed on myself.  Deciding to discover more facets of my ‘fragrance personality’- all of the things I loved, appreciated, was fascinated by, and with which I resonated- made more sense than hunting for The One Fragrance that would encapsulate everything that I wanted in a perfume (which would obviously be futile, especially as I became more exposed to all of the things perfume could be and all of the feelings it could give me).

Jump cut to now, maybe seven years later.  I don’t have a signature scent and I don’t have a very well-defined numbers of perfumes that I own (given a low number of full bottles but a pretty impressive number of small decants and samples that I would like to stay in possession of and wear semi-regularly).  The closest I have to a signature scent is Miller Harris’ L’Air de Rien (which I’ve mentioned before, ad infinitum), one of my rare full bottles and the first scent I bought as a perfume enthusiast, following reading reviews and the usage of a sample (the perfumista way (or at least my perfumista way)).  It smells like dust and horses and sweat and leather and cuddle musk and hay and vanilla and patchouli and soft spice.

But I still figured a signature scent was lost to me.  It’s true that in my years of testing literally thousands of fragrances I had reached a hazy understanding of what generally appealed to me and what would not, what I was excited to try and what I could pass on without a second thought.  My buying practices, sampling practices, and ‘wishlist’ practices have reached a kind of contented plateau.  There are a few things I want to own (most of which have been chilling on a want list for years) and want to test, but I feel pretty well sated.  There’s not much new under the sun, as they say.

And I had the feeling until quite recently that my preferences were all over the map.  And I tried not to read that as a sign of mental breakdown/multiple personalities/a not fully integrated personhood.

That’s one of the (relatively minor) things that being in this program has made me reevaluate.  Wannabe-perfumer conversation is obviously a bit different than the conversation of any other group of people. You could say that about any group with a shared and strong passion.  We play games where we pick a raw material to encompass a classmate’s personality.  We talk about our favorite scents. Things that we would like to mix.  We analyze one another’s personal scents.  Victor smells like frankincense and weed (which would have made for a really different but potentially more interesting nativity scene, when you think about it).  We read into each other in some kind of eerie but often quite eye-opening ways.

And so basically when I was told that I’m a vanilla-amber-patchouli-animalic girl it was kind of self-revelatory.  I’ve joked before about the disproportionate real estate amber perfumes hold in my fragrance library.  And I’ve personally avowed before that all I really want is to smell like small furry animals.

When Luis smells Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle (amber, musk, patchouli, clovey-spice) and tells me it reminds him of me, I smile and say “Yeah, I love that and I wear Meharees by L’Erbolario, which is pretty similar”.

So I guess that takeaway here is that having a signature fragrance doesn’t necessarily have to mean one scent from one brand that you stick to for all the years of your life. Maybe it can be something a bit more fluid- shared patterns, shared notes, shared architecture in the fragrance construction. Maybe some brands do better for you than others.  Maybe some perfumers are your go to guys/girls.
Maybe your perfume collection can be more like a tapestry woven by the shared threads of your favorites.

That said.

The animal-musky-vanillic-amber family is really best suited to the colder months and climes.  I may need a reevaluation come summer.

 

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Doings in Milan

I’m not going to go into the details of why I’ve been referring to my long weekend in Milan as a #SeriesofUnfortunateEvents, but instead focus on the positive.

Because it was a beautiful city and traveling is hard and once my phone is working again (the bad luck has followed me!) I’ll only (mostly) remember the good and happy parts.

So I set up a Google Map before I went (bluntly titled ‘Milan 2017’) and divided my places into ‘cultural’, ‘walking’, and ‘shopping’ designations/destinations.

Let’s have share time!

Cultural: I was mostly going for a cultural/high-brow/pretentious weekend to myself. The things I loved most are In CoLoR

  • The Duomo and the Museum: It’s the one big church that everyone is supposed to go to but honestly (as you can see from my colors) I found some of the smaller ones more worthwhile. It’s a big cathedral, not colorful, not particularly unique. But grand.
  • La Scala: The 6,50 euros I spent on la Scala cheap seats (for a philharmonic performance) were some of the best moneys I’ve spent in my life. It’s awe-inspiring. The people watching is as amazing as the performance, which sounds silly but you can very much see that people-watching is what the space was designed for. The boxes are each like a tableau of attendees, all spread out in front of you across the way. like so many paintings or television screens, so many snapshots. Also red velvet.
  • La Scala Museum: My phone wasn’t working when I was at La Scala for the performance, so it was very worthwhile for me to go back and take photos. (And check out a box).  They also had some Maria Callas costumes on display, which was cool. Reminded me of how much I like ‘Addio del passato’. Which just autocorrected to Addio del pasta. Oh boy.
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie: Not the church itself, but The Last Supper in the building adjoining. It’s set up so well, though you do have to reserve your place for entry. They let you in with the painting with a small group of people for a carefully timed fifteen to twenty minutes. It’s actually a pretty excellent way to view it- very few people, lots of space, uninterrupted views. Mind blowing and so striking.
  • Pinacoteca di Brera: All of the Madonnas and Childrens to put my own struggles in perspective. Gorgeous Titians, Veroneses, Botticellis, Bellinis, all that good stuff. The area around it is lovely of a nighttime walk.
  • Museo Poldi Pezzoli: Another art museum with an immense and majestic staircase with a fountain and goldfish and a room full of watches.
  • Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore
  • Sant’Eustorgio
  • San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore: I’m pretty sure the first thing you’re supposed to say when you walk into a church isn’t “Oh fucking fuck”, and yet. This church is so beautiful. It filled my soul. 100% worth seeing.
  • Santa Maria Presso San Celso: this was my other big church favorite. Beautiful ceiling moldings and all that. Honestly pick this and the one above over the Duomo. Go to the Duomo piazza to see the church from the outside and feed the pigeons. And to check out Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, not for the shopping but for the architecture.

If I could add anything that i didn’t get the chance to see, it would be Bagetti Valsecchi, an ornate ducal residence with difficult hours.

Walks:

  • Sforzescu castle: I lived super close to Sforzescu, and while I didn’t go into the museums, walking through the court and the gardens outside it was lovely.
  • Navigli: The Navigli are a set of channels in the South of the city, and something I almost ended up skipping. I was lucky to roll in when there was a huge street market of antiques and vintage clothes happening. Beautiful and lots of fun.
  • Piazza Mercanti: A cute little corner that’s seen better days. It’s pretty central, but still a bit hidden. By all means roll through.
  • Casa degli Omenoni: This is not a walk so much as a neat building facade that one can walk by. But what a cool facade.

I ended up not sticking to my shopping destinations at all, but ended up doing these:

  • L’Erbolario: Where I finally succeeded in getting myself a bottle of Meharees, a spicy musk perfume (reminiscent of Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle) that I’ve been wanting forever (and regretted not buying when I was in Milan two years ago).
  • Kiko Milano: Turns out Kiko Milano is cheaper in Milano. Especially when they have a buy three get three Black Friday sale. Eyeshadow sticks.

Food:

  • Granaio: Gelato.
  • Farini: A lovely pizza place just by San Lorenzo Maggiore, where they sell different types by the slice. Delicious. I ate three, Two probably would have been better.
  • Juice Bar: A cheap eatery in my train station (Milano Cadorna) that had a yummy Vegano sandwich with what was perhaps the most delicious roast pepper I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
  • Centro Botanico: My nearest health food store, because it’s me. I bought hummus and bread and peanut butter and lived on it when I wasn’t going out to eat. And Fuji apples.

Soap Fiend

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Get it? It’s funny because it rhymes with ‘dope fiend’ but it’s about soap?… mkay, I’ll stop now.

For years I’ve had a clear and definite preference for unscented soap, the reasoning being that I don’t want my bath products to conflict with my chosen perfume. But there’s something so pleasing about a nicely scented bath time experience (or three-minute shower, depending on the days schedule)- and I was tired of missing out on it. Besides, I often enough just end up smelling of conditioner anyway.

The pivotal soap that changed the game for me was LUSH’s Rose Jam, which I’ve already blogged about as being on last year’s Christmas stocking stuffer wish list. Well, after Christmas Eve came around and my parents realized that they had completely forgotten my stocking (Ooops 😛 ) I did get a lovely little jar of Rose Jam as compensation.  It’s so lovely I’m feeling motivated to seek out (and eventually test) other scented bath products- be they soaps, body oils, or what have you (really just soaps or body oils, what else would one use during a tubby? (just imagined a scented rubber ducky, patenting that.)) Continue reading “Soap Fiend”

Stocking Stuffers for a Girl like Me

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Pictured: My stocking and Dad’s stocking with Mom’s substitute stocking in the middle (her traditional one is getting a tad delicate).

My stocking is the best stocking ever because my Mom sewed it around the time I was born.  It’s also kind of obnoxiously large compared to my parents’.  Dad has a small pharaoh-themed one because he spent a lot of time in Egypt in his twenties. Mom’s is old and scraggly and red with peeling glitter glue that spells her name.  It’s quite lovely, really.

I decorated the whole tree today to surprise them when they get back from work, and also as some much-needed post fans therapy.  It’s the worst thing about college finals.  I don’t like Christmas nearly so much as I love the lead up and anticipation and carols and crowds and whole season.  So now I’m going for full on immersion.
And don’t worry, I’m not neglecting my pleasure reading! I’ve already finished With Borges by Alberto Manguel today (recommended) and was inspired to add many similar books to my To Read list (currently an overstuffed 436).

But back to stockings! I remember when I was little there was always the wonderfulness of unearthing from my stocking handfuls of gelt, fruit, and delicious Hershey Kisses.  One of the worst things about growing up, or at least the particular way in which I grew up, and my struggles with anorexia, was the loss of this happiness.  We have to let go of a lot of things as we get older, because things change and sometimes because we change.

But thankfully there are still little treats that can make you smile. For someone like me, I think the following little odds and ends are nice ideas. Continue reading “Stocking Stuffers for a Girl like Me”

A Fragrant Wishlist

It’s a quiet evening and the school week is winding down for me (bless no-class Fridays)- I’m here in my room with the heat on and a cat, listening to ASMR and playing on Pinterest.  I’m wearing pajama bottoms, a giant T shirt some guy in Boston gave me when I got caught in the rain a few summers ago, and a leather jacket (because the heat is not enough).
Perfume: Botrytis by Ginestet, a delicious sweet autumn apple wine.

And then I started thinking about perfume and decided to do a list of the fragrances I have tried and sampled and want more of, whether that’s another sample or a healthy-sized decant.  And then I went on Facebook Fragrance Friends and discovered (GASP) that my fragrance wish list document is missing.  Let me just say that this document was the pinnacle of my perfume evolution. It’s been mutating since I first got interested in collecting- as I bought and loved or tried and discarded.  Horror of horrors, it had disappeared without a trace.
Thankfully, I had backed up perfumes that had captured my interest on Fragrantica. Whew. Crisis averted. Continue reading “A Fragrant Wishlist”