Saturday, November 26th, 2011

By Aleta, Fragrance Contributor

Aleta is the associate editor of a national history magazine (World War II), and an unapologetic fragrance nerd. Growing up on a farm west of Portland, Oregon, she spent many summer nights attempting to make perfume by soaking flowers in cups of water (if only her mother had let her use the vodka). Her most prized possessions include a bottle of French cologne brought home by an American GI after World War II (L’Ardent Nuit by Cotay), a signed copy of Perfume: The Guide, and a handwritten “enjoy your purchase” note from perfumer Mandy Aftel. Other obsessions include lipstick, Pellegrino, Adirondack chairs, and yoga. You can find her at

Fragrance is a State of Mind

Fragrance is usually treated as a part of one’s wardrobe, but for me it is an extension of my state of mind. When I feel gross I still may put on trousers and a crisp button-down to go to work, but you can bet my perfume will be the equivalent of a cashmere hoodie and Uggs. I can live without some perfect wardrobe items, like an Hermés Kelly bag or a pile of silk blouses, but I (have and) will structure my whole week around obtaining a bottle of Something Or Other if the mood strikes hard enough. A few things I always have on hand after years of self-discovery and playing the field:

Something cozy. I am often is a state of exhaustion, and it doesn’t help that my office is freezing. When I cannot climb into a pile of down comforters, a veil of Chanel No. 5 Eau Premier ($88.00) is the next best thing. I truly cannot live without this one. Its warm candied citrus, creamy sandalwood, and a bouquet of dreamy roses and jasmine are cozy but tailored. For me it’s the equivalent of wearing pearls with jeans; no shapeless sweatpants here.

Something fierce. There are days when I do not have the patience. Or someone needs to realize that I am kind of a big deal. Or I am just more fabulous than usual. I usually keep a rollerball of Robert Piguet Fracas ($95.00) in my purse for these days. If you need to make yourself loud and clear, Fracas is your girl–the queen tuberose, brazen but with a buttery smooth purr. If Fracas had a soundtrack it would be Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” or “All That Jazz” from Chicago.

Something green. Spices and resins really shine in cold weather, but so do imperishably verdant notes. In winter, Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmin White Moss ($80.00) is like wearing an aura of greenhouse. No matter how bleak the weather, this one makes it impossible to forget the bliss of warm mossy earth and flowers. If it’s too green, Balenciaga Paris ($95.00) is also exceptional, as is Cartier Baiser Vole ($100.00)-the first is like a potted violet, the second a vase full of lilies.

Something refreshing. I love summer; I do not love Virginia humidity. Anything that takes the steaminess down a notch, especially before bed, is crucial. My favorite is Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia ($80.00), it’s like splashing on cool water with a bouquet of white flowers. Any body splash would do as well, though my pick would be the classic fresh-citrus-herbal 4711 ($38.25), which is a steal at fragrance discounters and on Amazon.

Something simple. Lately I have been prone to migraines, and when one strikes, most perfume becomes skeletal and synthetic in a way that I just cannot tolerate. Badger Headache Balm ($8.00) is my best friend during these times, a happy tin full of all-natural, icy, candy cane goodness that keeps the nausea at bay. And while I’m recovering, or when I need to relax, Lolablue Blackberry ($12.00) perfume oil takes me away to a lazy afternoon picking dusty sun-ripened berries. It’s the most effective aromatherapy I’ve found.

What are some of the scents you can’t live without? Other moods that strike often?

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25 thoughts on “Fragrance is a State of Mind

  1. Gina

    I love this! I do the exact same thing with my fragrances.

  2. Mary

    Wow your passion resonated through every part of the article!! You made me realize that I love a scent one day and can’t fathom the idea of wearing it the next because it is directly correlated with my mood. Thank you, its beautiful to see someone have passion in what they do!

  3. Hey thanks Aleta, your article is very interesting! I’m going to visit the US next year, can you tell me where to get this Badger Headache soother and Lolablue Blackberry? I have problems with headaches sometimes but this sounds very helpful :)

    • Samiha

      badger is available at wholefoods and ulta

      • aleta

        Yep, Badger is widely available. Check the health and beauty section in the “natural” department at large grocery stores; I also saw the headache balm at the Bed, Bath & Beyond checkout this weekend. As for the Lolablue, the best bet is to email the company and ask if they have retail locations near the places you’re visiting. Best of luck with your headaches, I sympathize!

  4. Wow this is a great post for me because I kind of want to learn everything about fragrances. Can you please post more types with fragrance names? Thank you.

  5. Aleta, as a fellow migraineur, I definitely sympathize with your Simple category! I really like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s scent “Bayou” for high-pain or migraine days…it’s aquatic, slightly green and hazy but also salty in a really relaxing way.

    My go-to scent this Fall has been BPAL’s “Sin,” a very resin-packed amber scent with a little hint of cinnamon. It kind of reminds me of old furniture and incense, but in the best way possible.

  6. Melissa

    Wonderful post!

    My go-to fragrances are Vera Wang’s Princess/Lovestruck and Juicy Couture’s Viva La Juicy. Princess is my everyday fragrance, but I like to use Viva La Juicy sometimes for the more energetic and refreshing feel.

  7. timothybcat

    I’ve always wanted to try Fracas! Well, another thing to try after my holiday spending spree is done, sigh. I’ve told everyone who will listen that I must have a bottle of Guerlain’s Champs-Elysees for Christmas. And I don’t care if EVERYONE winds up getting it for me. It’s a beautiful light floral with just a hint of warmth and depth that keep it from being too precious. I love it so much. I’ve been down to the last few spritzes for months and I miss it!

  8. Nik

    Yes, few times can I walk by Sephora and enjoy it! When I have migraines, it smells different and painful!!! I have to stay away from fragrances most of the time, but the one that doesn’t hurt me is the discontinued “Sugar Blossom” by Fresh, (which I bought 4 more of!) I used to like spicy and complex fragrance, but for the last 7 migraine filled years, I turn to light and simple scents! “Brown Sugar” by Fresh, smells like true citrus and stawberries! It is my next light fragrance alternative, I like to spray it on my clothes not my skin so I can change if my head starts to get tension. I am intrigued by aromatherapy, usually I avoid scents altogether when I’m hurting, but Headache Balm sounds amazing, I really wanna give it a try!

    • I don’t know what products it comes in but Fresh Sugar has a hint of lemon that is just AWESOME (and lemon can be a good scent when dealing with nausea). I have the deodorant and the smell never bothers me during a headache.

  9. BethM

    The only fragrances that don’t give me nausea and a migraine are ones from Lush, plus a two from Fresh. Everything else has something in it that I just can’t tolerate.

    People get so offended, but perfumes LITERALLY make me sick. I’ve spent hours in the bathroom vomiting because someone wore too much perfume to work. I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter if I actually like the scent or not, it still makes me ill. If I’m trapped in an enclosed space with someone wearing perfume, it’s likely to put me in a bad state for at least the rest of the day. I have nearly thrown up on someone before, because I couldn’t get away from their perfume.

    Please, be considerate of those around you when putting on your perfume. If others can smell it wafting behind you when you walk, or from farther than a foot or two away, you’re wearing too much. :/

    • (((Beth)))) I am right there with you. This is why I love the newer trend of rollerball scents–I can put on just a tiny dab so that I can smell it, but no one else.

      I can go zero to sick for 3 straight days if I’m bathed in someone else’s scent :( I’m sorry it’s that way for you too.

      And if I’m going to the theatre, or someplace in close quarters, I might put on a dab of scented lotion, but nothing more. I don’t understand why people can’t be more considerate.

    • Eri

      It’s not offensive. I know a few co-workers who have sever reactions to components in scents. As someone who can feel perked up or have an otherwise crappy day brought to a more tolerable level with scents, I find strict “scent-free” policies at work very, very constraining. My current workplace does a great job of balancing this: we don’t have a scent-free policy, but there are reminders in the staff lunchroom/intranet portal that scents can cause health problems for some co-workers and we are encouraged to be aware of how much we put on on (i.e. keep it personal: not a walking, talking scent sample).

      As for the scents I love? I love a lot of scents, but the ones that I really feel I need are those that counter my moods. BPAL’s Ozymandias and aged Engine No. 93 are wonderful for making me feel comforted and “everything will be OK”. Phobos keeps me alert but in a “you have to be sharp or else” kind of way. I shouldn’t have worn it to an interview: like its namesake it made me more nervous!

  10. aurora

    I like the article. I do agree that a perfume can make you happier. For example, I love Lancome’s Tresor. Anyone notices when I put it on. You know that certain perfumes react differently on you. So, when someone else puts it on it is a whole different reaction.
    The, I love Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris, Rive Gauche.

  11. much as I like to smell fragrance from bottle, I like the smell of just normal soap…no fragrant smell……the smell of clean as if they just shower…..especially when I have to work in such a close proximity with people, I do not want to smell any Michael….I just want clean fresh soap smell especially from a guy….some people smell bad and dont shower….whatever body odor there is.

  12. nitnot

    I get very bad headaches and blocked nose to very strong scents. I would get nearly insensible! I am also very sensitive to the smell of my lotion, my deo, etc etc.

    That said, my absolute favourite perfumes are the watery/airy ones. My all time fave is Gucci Rush 2 & Issei Miyake’s L’eau D’issei. But the one I wear most times is Body Shop’s Moonflower, because it’s fresh and cheap(er) 😉 And if a man walks past me and I smell Aqua Di Gio by Armani, I am half in love.

  13. I *cannot* live without:
    MOR Cosmetics Marshmallow fragrance
    Aqualina Pink Sugar
    Thierry Mugler Angel
    Victoria’s Secret Rapture
    Philosophy Baby Grace
    and I really really really want the new Prada Candy set.

    I love fragrances but with my daily headaches & migraines I have to be careful and choose wisely. So far my top two usually don’t cause a problem if I develop a headache after applying.

  14. antonia

    love this article. this sounds silly, but i’m searching for one that is similar to avon appleblossom. i had it when i was a kid in the 70’s & i loved it so much. you can find lily of the valley or gardenia, but it’s hard to find a light sparkly sweet one like apple blossom. i thought kate spade’s twirl came a little bit close, but i’m still searching. :)

  15. Amy Em

    Loved this ! Good information and beautifully written.

  16. Rebecca

    Reading this article made me so thankful for my sense of smell! I am currently taking a break from buying any new fragrances since I have about 25 bottles in my medicine cabinet.

  17. jono

    I love jo malone fragrances. lately I have been into 154 and orange blossom scent as an anytime scent. I also like to wear Opium and Pleasures when i am feeling like i need a “pretty” boost. I also wear verbena for freshness. I recently discover E.L. Tuberose gardenia and i love it. that will be my next purchase. A good one that reminds me of summer is Michael Kors hawaii and Jo malones English pear and Freesia. its light and refreshing without being too sweet.

  18. M.

    Gucci Rush, L de Lolita Lempicka, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Manila, and…*hides* Victoria’s Secret Love Spell.