The Perfumes of My Life

[Part 1 of a 2-part series.]

The ability to smell is our most important sense. This is proven by what happens to our senses in the starving to death process. Taste goes first. Then sight. Then sound. And lastly smell. It has to do with self-preservation, the location in the brain of the olfactory bulb in relation to memory, and evolution. (Earlier this year I blogged—in a 3-part series—about the importance of smell. I don’t like to repeat myself!)

Suffice to say, prehistoric humans interested in staying alive, needed the ability to smell enemies before seeing or hearing them.

Fast forward to more civilized times (the last few thousand years or so), I think the invention of perfume served a major function—making sure the species was propagated in light of the smelly conditions (no daily bubble baths and Right-Guard).

I think the role of perfume thousands of years later is still the same. We spruce up our smell factor to attract the opposite sex (which could possibly lead to the propagation of the species).

I have always liked perfume. It smells good! I remember my Mother’s Joy by Patou and Youth Dew by Estée Lauder. I remember my Granny’s Lily of the Valley fragrance. I remember my Aunt Lillian’s Tabu (possibly the WORST perfume ever—now there’s a weapon of mass destruction!). I remember my babysitter’s Spanish perfume, Maja. (Smelled like stale dusty soap.)

I remember the kid behind me in ninth grade English doused in English Leather (made me all agog!). My sister had a girlfriend who she said smelled like Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I remember a girl in school who smelled like Friskie’s Cat Food (the goopy kind in the can).

I remember Old Spice, 12 Flags, Canoe, Coty, Chanel, White Shoulders, Jungle Gardenia, Chantilly, Unforgettable, Evening in Paris, and Heaven Scent. I remember other smells from way back, like Johnson’s baby powder, Noxzema, Aqua Net, Coppertone and Sea-n-Ski, Neutrogena, Camay soap, Clearasil, Jergen’s Lotion, Breck Shampoo, Tame Creme Rinse, Flex Conditioner, and Dippity-Do.


You can chronicle your life by smells. I know I can.

The first perfume I ever purchased was Orange Blossom Cologne made by Knott’s Berry Farm and sold there in Virginia’s Gift Shop. I was in the fourth grade. I think this fragrance set the tone for my life—as when researching all the different fragrances I’ve worn over the years, most of them have a citrus or floral top note. I  grew up in Orange County, CA when there were acres of orange groves everywhere—and gardenia and jasmine bushes in our backyard.

Perfumes are divided into seven categories of smells:

*+* Floral – flower based notes

*+* Fougere – (French for fern) for fern or forest-like notes (I don’t know what a fern smells like.)

*+* Citrus – based on lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit, and bergamot essences.

*+* Chypré – (pronounced Shee-pray; French for Cyprus) – citrus/fruity/green (moss/oak) notes

*+* Leather – animal smokiness with floral and tobacco (huh?) aroma

*+* Woody – cedar, sandalwood, marine, patchouli scents

*+* Oriental or Amber – floral/spicy/woody/vanilla style

All of the categories have subcategories to further define the fragrance as well as attributes and associated personality types (drawn to the different scents).

Citrus scents are naturally uplifting and refreshing—an example being CK by Calvin Klein. Floral fruity fragrances are said to match an optimistic personality.

Over the years—in chronological order—I have worn:

* Oh! De London – fifth grade

* April Violets sixth grade

* Straw Hat [and sometimes Tigress and Woodhue] – junior high

* Wicked Wahine – early high school

* Intimate –later high school

* L’air du Temps – beginning college

* Rive Gauche – later college

* Miss Diorand Oscar – post-college

* Red Door – Grad School

* Poison, YSatis, Anais-Anais, Fracas, Escada, Giorgio – for work

* Fracas and Niki de Saint Phalle big date nights

* Foreverand One – the new millenium

* Orange Blossomby Sanborn and by Jo Malone – right now

Remember what these perfumes look like?

Oh! de London perfume by Tuvache, purchased at Sav-on Drug Store in garden Grove, CA.

April Violets by Yardley perfume, purchased from Woolworth's Five and Dime Store.

Straw Hat perfume by Faberge, cousin to Tigress and Woodhue.

Wicked Wahine perfume from Hawaii.

Intimate by Revlon. Really strong!

L'air du Temps by Nina Ricci, worn by every college girl in America.

Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent, so tres Francaise.

Miss Dior by Christian Dior, introduced in the 1940s and still popular. I liked the houndstooth box better than the scent.

Oscar by Oscar de la Renta, a fresh light floral scent.

Anais Anais perfume by Cacharel.

Poison perfume by Christian Dior. (Hated the name!)

Fracas perfume by Robert Piguet, launched in 1948 and still popular and still powerful!

Sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle's self-named perfume. Exquisite smell. Hate the snakes.

Escada perfume. Love the fragrance and Escada blazers, too!

YSatis perfume by Givenchy. (Pronounced "Yee-sa-teece" by "Gee-vohn-shee."

Giogio perfume by Giorgio Beverly Hills.

Red Door perfume by Elizabeth Arden.

Forever perfume by Alfred Sung.

The One perfume by Dolce and Gabanna

Orange Blossom perfume by Jo Malone.

Orange Blossom Cologne by Sanborn, available at any drugstore for under $10.

Are any of these familiar to you? What are the scents of your life?

In Part 2 (coming soon…) I’ll let you know my all-time two favorites from this list and some stories I recall about wearing these fragrances.

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