Q&A: How to Find a Signature Scent

March 13th, 2008

Q:  I will be turning 30 in April and have decided to celebrate by finding a signature scent to wear for the next decade. I do think perfume can add something special, but… a lot of places are becoming scent free, and I don’t want something that’s either overpowering or girly. How do I choose a scent, and is it considered rude to wear perfume these days?

Annick Goutal\'s Petite Cherie Perfumeby Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: At thirty, you should be looking for a complex and sophisticated perfume that reflects your personality and life experience.  Select a perfume that speaks to your own unique personality—and one that doesn’t overwhelm you. 

When selecting a perfume, consider your climate.  Some scents are too heavy for the summer, and others are too light for the winter.    Beyond that, we can’t tell you which perfume to choose—choosing a scent is very personal as each perfume has a different chemical reaction (and thus, a different scent) on each individual.  Like we said in our article on cologne last week, we recommend experimenting by (1) finding scents that appeal to your senses, and then (2) seeing how the scent smells on your skin.  One trick for clearing your nose from all the different scents (cleansing the palate, so to speak) is to carry coffee beans with you.  Sniffing coffee beans will clear your nose from the scent of the previous perfume.

Coco by Chanel PerfumeGreat classics are usually a good place to begin, so try Robert Piquet’s Fracas, Chanel No. 5 or Coco by Chanel.  For a non-overpowering, non-girly scent, you may also want to try the lush tuberose scent of Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle.  A couple of my personal favorites are Annick Goutal’s Petite Cherie (which has pear and peach notes) and Jil Sander #4 (which is a little spicy). 

As for your last question, it’s not rude to wear perfume–it’s rude to wear too much of it.  Rule of thumb?  If you’re riding in an elevator, your fellow passengers should only smell a trace of the perfume.  Try a dab here and a dab there–or spray the scent into the air and walk through it.

Have a great tip about how to pick a perfume  Or would you like to share your favorite scents? Share it with us in the comments!

Petite Cherie by Annick Goutal (left) and Coco by Chanel (right).

Entry Filed under: How To,Q&A,Shopping Guide,Women,Women's,Women's

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Devil Wears Marc Jacobs  |  March 13th, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I love perfumes, and have a growing collection of them it seems like. I am 25 and can’t get over the floral scents- I especially love Chanel’s Chance EAU FRAÎCHE (green) its is so refreshing and smells even better than the original Chance if that is even possible. One of my fav flower scents is the Gardenia, and Michael by Michael Kors bottles this scent impeccably with different notes of gardenia, tuberose, and lush, tropical white florals. Michael can be used by all ages; it’s a timeless scent, and smells good on everyone. You can always get free samples of the scents you want to try at a nearby Sephora, or department store.

  • 2. sma  |  March 13th, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I’m a fan of trying, admittedly more expensive, but less common scents – such as Annick Goutal, Jo Malone and Penhaligon. I love Penhaligon’s Artemsia, personally – very subtle.

  • 3. Caitlin  |  March 13th, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I am a fan of Hugo by Hugo Boss Women – not too fruity or flowery but not musky either. But I love LOVE LOVE Origins Ginger Essence. The rollerball version is cheap, won’t leak during travel and is easy to pop in your bag (plus men seem to love it!)

  • 4. kamo  |  March 15th, 2008 at 1:24 am

    i would recommend reading up on perfume blogs, such as nowsmellthis, boisdejasmin, etc. most perfumistas will tell you that there is no such thing as a signature scent… you may find certain notes that you like, or “moods” of fragrance, but finding a signature is less important that exploring different scents. it’s a lot like food.. you know what you enjoy but don’t need the same thing everyday!

  • 5. Trisha  |  March 17th, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks so much for the perfume tips, all!

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