Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Allure of Scent: An Introduction Into My Perfumed Past, Present, and Future

I feel as if every review I do starts off with a story that’s a little more appropriate for my therapist than for you, but I am the Queen of Overshare. You’ll just have to deal.
Long before I loved makeup, I loved fragrance. I can blame this (and a litany of other problems) on my mother. Bless her soul, but my mom has worn the same makeup look for as long as I’ve been alive, if not longer. I have spent hundreds of dollars buying her products to try. Does she try them? Never. This is a woman who refuses to stop using Maybelline Great Lash! Another time, I’ll explain how (despite this) she is entirely to blame for my makeup addiction.
Depite this, my mother’s big beauty passion is fragrance, or at least it was when I was a child. I’ll never forget it - she had this curio that sat on her vanity that had these gorgeous little drawers. On top of the curio she kept a carefully organized (in order by size and brand) selection of perfumes. In the drawers she kept her jewelry, and different perfume samples and decants. Every Sunday, it was my job to carefully dust and polish each bottle and piece of jewelry. I would spend hours doing this, sampling each fragrance and trying on each piece of jewelry. It was here that I formed my earliest preferences (bracelets over rings, orientals over florals, rose over gardenia, etc.), and developed an addiction that even my mother would scratch her head at years later.
My mother bought me my first perfume when I was 3 years old. It was from Avon - Pavi Elle. I need to review it, if only for nostalgia’s sake; I have a bottle of it stashed somewhere in my room, from a time when Avon re-released it. I later was given a bottle of Avon’s Sweet Honesty (and I still own a bottle!), and of course, Love’s Baby Soft.
As I became older, my mother loved to take me to Macy’s to drag me along through the perfume counters. Salesladies pinched my cheeks and gave me scented strips. I developed a strong love of Guerlain’s Shalimar, and hid from White Diamonds. My mother bought me Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, when all I wanted was to bathe in YSL Paris. My dresser overflowed with bottles of the typical pre-teen schlock: Candies for Her, Liz Arden Curve, Clinique Happy, various Avon scents - all chosen by my mom. However, I mostly wore the samples I begged off of salesladies my mother frequented. Eleven-year old Joey wanted to smell like a big girl. I hoarded and studied these little vials. By the time I hit high school, I was a goner. My mother had effectively created a monster, in the form of a cute and pretty-smelling bunny, of course.
Oh, and once I started dating and realized how inconceivably powerful scent and romance are when mixed together? Forget it! My mother’s Macy’s Credit Card melted. 
Years later, my mother wears Viva La Juicy (and lord, does that hurt my soul) and scolds me for being financially irresponsible when I tell her I don’t even blink when forking over a couple of hundred for a Malle or Serge. Still, whenever she’s in town, she does not hesitate to take me to Macy’s in search of my next great olfactory love. Despite  our strained relationship, fragrance (well, shopping in general!) always brings us together.
It is around my mother’s legacy, then, that I have built my knowledge of fragrance. My vocabulary was first molded by the deep emotional connections I have with scent. Now, in my early 20s, I have been lucky to supplement that with proper analysis of scent: notes, layers, history. I owe so much to the perfume bloggers with whom I have built friendships: their patience and generosity have driven my passion to a full-blown obsession. Their generous gifts of decants and samples and their written recommendations have led to periods of starvation (perfume is expensive!), to days of jubilant shopping, and hours of fragrant study. I can only hope to one day be as great as they.
With this all out of the way, I do hope that you enjoy the fragrance reviews I’ll be posting! A little background never hurt anyone; besides, I enjoy writing and I wanted you all to understand where I’m coming from. A simple “Oh I love this because it smells good!” is never sufficient to me. When I love something, or when I hate something, I have to say exactly why.  If I can specify any given goals for the series of reviews I’m planning, they would be: to share what I love with you, to learn more about fragrance, and to find new and unexpected loves (if I could find a floral I love, it’ll be the end of the world!). 
Perfume: the only thing (possibly) more complex than me!

10 love notes:

Musing on Beauty said...

I love you for writing this, Joey, as I'm so picky with perfumes and really can't be happy with a "that smell good" either.
I'm not as addicted as you are, though, because a lot of perfumes give me migraines and I stick with what I know I'm safe with (and Serge is, thanks heaven, safe for me with a lot of his frangrances!) but I do envy those who can use a lot and describe them verbosely! (is that even a word?)

Joey said...

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed my little peek into my past.

Which Serge is your favorite? I'm so fond of Chergui and I love Serge Noir even though most hate it. I'm dying to try Datura Noir and Muscs Kublai Khan.

Carrie Meredith said...

I loved reading this, Joey. You're off to an excellent start. It's clear you are coming from a place of incredible enthusiasm and desire to learn and explore, and for writers, that can only lead to great things! xoxo

Joey said...

Thank you Carrie! I'm excited to go down the rabbit hole, especially since you promised cake.

Started "Essence & Alchemy" - fantastic writing!

lexi920 said...

I am so excited to read more. Fragrance is such a personal thing that continues to intrigue me to this day. I go through phases where I want to smell sweet and then I'll move to something more green and then the next day I will want to smell like a rich bitch - usually something from the Killian line.

I will say that if I smell Calvin Klein's Eternity anywhere I feel like I'm 15 and in high school. Drakkar Noir is my first boyfriend in the 8th grade. Chanel Pour Homme is my first love when I was 17. YSL Paris and Lancome's Tresor (original version) reminds me of my mother. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, my sister Kim and Gucci Envy, my baby sister.

I hate to admit this but the first Juicy Couture reminds me of my daughter because that's the only thing I wanted to wear when I was pregnant with her. Why, I don't know. I can't wear ever again but I could never throw away the bottle because my husband also used it to propose to me.

Joey said...

Lexi, I wonder if our mothers are the same age because she used to wear YSL Paris religiously!

HAHA @ your first BF wearing Drakkar Noir! =)

Anonymous said...

Well done! That was a very sweet and sentimental blog post. I wasn't expecting that. It's like I got to know you a little more through your fragrance obsession. Ok, I'll give you a list of my past favorites on here and you can tell me what I should try next. My goal was to try something light for summer, so here goes:

Dior Farenheit
Chanel Platinum Egoiste (repurchased 2x!)
Prada (the first men's fragrance they had)
Kiehl's musk

Those are my only major purchases. I've had flirtations with Bond no.9 through samples. I think I liked Chez Bond.


Joey said...


I love you! I know, sweet and sentimental from me?! Who knew!

Hm...I need to think about this. I'm not a "seasonal" person so I'm going to just think about something based off the four you named. Have you tried Kiehl's Pour Homme fragrance oil?


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. I like what I like regardless of season. Wearing my Kiehl's musk today. I'll take a look at the Pour Homme one. I haven't seen it before. xoxoxox

Joey said...

Nicky, try it out and tell me what you think ok? =)