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Style with substance: finding the right perfume

I used to consider perfume to be a secondary accessory, if an accessory at all. However, I think I’ve made some progress. There are now three distinct perfumes that I stick to without much variance, because I’ve found such beauty and personal enjoyment in them.

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By Leanna Pankratz (Contributor) – Email

Date Posted: October 12, 2011
Print Edition: October 5, 2011

I used to consider perfume to be a secondary accessory, if an accessory at all. Scents were usually Christmas stocking staples, and were generally chosen for the colour and shape of the plastic spray bottle, or for their utilization of glitter, which was, to me, the ultimate selling point. Middle school mornings were often punctuated by a sugar coated spritz of whatever tween-oriented scent was popular at that moment. I had a dresser drawer full of girly sprays, most of them bearing lofty names such as “Fashion Flirt” or “Cotton Candy Fantasy.” These were fun perfumes. On the flip side, I had a brief phase of wearing scents that were entirely too mature for a middle schooler. These I wore simply for their promises of grown-up glamour. Department store samples of Givenchy’s Ysatis or YSL’s Rive Gauche were dabbed on frantically in an attempt to attain a respite from preteen monotony. “Take me seriously!” these scents shouted. However, there’s something disarmingly anachronistic about a volleyball eighth-grader swathed in No. 5 that was enough for my friends to turn up their nose. They just don’t understand what it means to be a classic, I thought to myself bitterly, my ego deflated from the failed attempt at glamour. Regardless, my view towards perfume in those formative years understandably had a lot to do with indifference and, at times, desperation – nothing to do with the expression and delight I find in it now.

They say that memories are triggered most vividly by the human sense of smell. Scents can define important moments, like a fragrant soundtrack to life’s vignettes. Consider a thorough midsummer kiss draped in the filmy veil of humidity and Viktor and Rolf’s Flower Bomb. A basketball victory laced with sweat and a spritz of Adidas’ Fresh Vibes. A job interview given just a bit more credence by the crisp professionalism of Chanel’s Coco.

The remaining bit of Cotton Candy Fantasy still in the bottle, however cloying and oversweet it is, will always bring a smile to my face as I recall 2 a.m. truth or dare sessions at sleepless preteen sleepovers. YSL’s Rive Gauche will always be a landmark scent of the frenzied rush to grow up. My maternal grandmother’s trademark powdery lavender will always instill a sense of content – the scent of a life well lived; the kind of scent that you eventually “graduate” into. Perfumes are incredibly personal in that each smell is so clearly defined by the person experiencing it. Humans are drawn towards self-definition – the yearning to possess something that’s 100 per cent your own, and that precise principle is what instilled in me the interest in finding a scent that I could be both inspired and defined by. Something that would reinforce the way I like to portray myself.

My search for the right, self-defining perfume consisted of a lot of department store samples, some better than others, and a lot of “constructive criticism.” However, I think I’ve made some progress. There are now three distinct perfumes that I stick to without much variance, because I’ve found such beauty and personal enjoyment in them.

The first and most notable is Givenchy’s Hot Couture. I wear this one year-round, and it is the one I most frequently find myself drawn to. It possesses a sort of lighthearted depth, with its stirring notes of raspberry nectar, magnolia blossoms, and amber-veviter. It’s soft and smart, yet fun and winkingly impulsive. This to me is an inspiring, successful scent. I’ve worn it to my graduation and prom, and various other moments of personal importance.
The second is Givenchy’s Very Irresistible – a winter scent, that I have in just a little sample bottle. A gift from my dad, and a melding of roses, smoky anise, and verbena leaf, it will always reinforce an understated, cinematic elegance.

The third is Dior’s Miss Dior Cherie – a lighthearted, girly scent that plays the Bardot-esque French coquette, skipping down a Parisian street. It’s very fruity-floral, and contains notes of Italian mandarin, Egyptian jasmine, and musky patchouli. This is a summer scent – perfect for beach tanning and decadent lunches out.

The beauty of it all, though, is that these three perfumes will mean something completely different to another wearer. Perfume can lock a memory into your mind, and define it for you, and that recollection can be delightful, fun, and intimate. Now, where did I put that Cotton Candy Fantasy?

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