Fragrance is a State of Mind

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?