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· Perfume Notes: Creation of a Fan

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Perfume Notes: Creation of a Fan
by Dorothy

When I was in junior high, I rode a crowded, overheated city bus to school every morning. I was barely five feet tall, and being crammed into a series of business people's armpits at the beginning of every day gave me a lingering hatred for two things: solid deodorant and complex perfumes.

More specifically, it made me hate Amarige. This was 1993, and Amarige was near the height of its popularity, so some of the women on the bus were probably wearing it, but to me it became a catch-all designation for department-store perfumes, the kind with multiple "notes". I would say that no matter what the notes were supposed to be, they all just smelled "like perfume" to me: a stinging blast of alcohol followed by an obnoxious spicy sweetness that resembled nothing found in nature, and nothing you would want to find in nature.

I've never been an actual perfume-hater; I wore The Body Shop's Vanilla in high school (wow, that stuff was sweet) and Demeter colognes in undergrad, but I had no interest in anything but single-note and/or soapy fragrances until I started reading The Lipstick Page. I love reading about fashion history; the idea of smelling the fragrances women wore eighty or a hundred years ago was incredibly appealing. I ordered a couple of decants from The Perfumed Court: Worth's Dans La Nuit, which I liked wearing, and Guerlain's Après L'Ondée, which I did not. (I can appreciate it in the vial, and I believe it's beautiful on other women, but on me it smells of urinal cake.) Then, knowing that Dain loves Mitsouko, and Luca Turin had described it as "infinitely chic", I bought another tiny decant of the EDP, expecting to encounter another historical curiosity, or something a bit harsh and forbidding. Instead, I fell in love with it. (How boring, yet inevitable -- another Mitsouko lover!) It's been compared to a Tiffany lamp, and that's what it feels like: warm, glowing, multi-coloured, floral, fruity, spicy, but somehow more than the sum of its parts. It is amazing. It does something on me that makes me like it better -- it makes me think of that directive about pearls, to wear them frequently because they shine more brilliantly after exposure to skin oils.

I have turned into one of those people I used to roll my eyes at, people who will describe perfumes in terms of colour, emotions, references to music. (I was half inclined to mock this post until I realized my immediate reaction to it had been not "what a silly idea" but "what? Elizabeth Bennet would not wear Après L'Ondée!" Got me.) I fear I am on my way to perfumista status, which is ridiculous, as almost nobody around me wears or likes perfume and I spend a lot of time in buildings where it is actually forbidden (and having seen a classmate having an actual perfume-triggered asthma attack, I am not inclined to question this). Ah well. It wouldn't be the first time I've been ridiculous.

It's a weird pastime, trying to educate yourself about perfumes; you spend a lot of time skulking in department stores, spraying yourself with this and that, and then taking transit home in a cloud of scent that you rather hope no one else can smell. If your nose isn't well trained, as mine isn't, you may not be able to pick out more than a couple of notes. It's the emotional reactions I look for. I may not be able to explain exactly what Mitsouko smells like (or vintage Bandit, another scent I've fallen hard for), but I can describe the feelings it evokes, and send other people into fits of eye-rolling.

This is the context for anything I write about perfume on this blog. I don't have expertise, just personal experience, preferences and enthusiasms. But I suppose that's what a lot of bloggers would say about ourselves, isn't it.

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