Monday, December 28, 2009

In Which I Revisit the Loud Perfume Issue

This has got to be the single weirdest perfume neurosis I have: if it's got monstah sillage, I'm going to hate it.  Period. 


Every so often, I'll run across comments from other perfume aficionados saying that they love scents that leave a trail, or that their very favorite perfumes enter the room before they do, or that they simply adore being surrounded by a cloud of good-smelling stuff.  Someone on fragrantica just posted this query last week: "I must confess I adore tail-y fragrances. I love to leave a lingering hint of my presence in the room or when I walk by. Which perfumes in your opinion have the best sillage? Merci!"

That's when I start feeling like an alien, because I have the opposite perspective.  (Interestingly, I just came across a post by Abigail at I Smell Therefore I Am, visiting this same issue, where she talks about not understanding perfumistas who don't like sillage.  Maybe we notice the view that's not our own first.  Maybe I'm not as alone as I thought.)

It's not that I adore the quiet, "please ignore me i'm not wearing perfume" e.e. cummings-type scents.  I don't.  (My sister, who typically wears gentle applications of Coco Mlle.* and smells lovely in it, was gifted with Alfred Sung Shi for Christmas.  She encouraged me to smell it and asked what I thought.  Aquatic Calone-y synthetic mess was what I thought, but what I said was, "It smells like water to me."  She smiled with triumph, saying, "Yes, exactly!  It's so nice and light.  And look, the bottle looks like a drop of water."  I was wearing two three-hours-old spritzes of Bois des Iles, the Les Exclusifs version, which smells a bit thin to me compared to the old stuff, and which at that stage was little more than a faint spicy woodiness; she found it "heavy."  Good grief, woman, I was thinking, it's twenty degrees Fahrenheit outside.  Why would you want "light"?)

*Side note re Coco Mad: I'm not fond of it in a bottle; I don't like it on my skin; it's fairly ubiquitous; even if it weren't my sister's favorite, I wouldn't wear it if a bottle fell from the sky.  But she smells great in it; it's very floral on her with none of the gender-bending harshness it usually offers.  Actually, on her it smells like a day-old application of one of the vintage classic tailored florals: Eau de Arpege, maybe, or an old version of Jolie Madame: sternly beautiful. 

And I do have wonderful experiences in "loud" tuberose scents -- that's probably the one note I really want to luxuriate in -- like Balenciaga Michelle, but I like to wear them when I'm going to be alone all day.  A light application of Giorgio Beverly Hills, I find, is really pretty.  Tatiana parfum is beautiful. Fracas does not eat my head if I dab it.  Carnal Flower is ethereal, not carnal, and I might love it best of all the tuberose scents I've tried.

I think I'll just have to admit I'm a freak.  All the classic big-sillage perfumes, to be honest, sort of terrify me.  Opium-Cinnabar-Obsession, known to me as the Axis of Evil, head the list.  YSL Paris I can take, but only if it's applied lightly.  Youth Dew? KILL ME NOW. Insolence edp almost did kill me (see below).  Amarige, LouLou, Paloma Picasso, Narciso Rodriguez for her, Samsara, Angel, Alien...

I absolutely hate walking around trailing fumes like some noxious walking toxic waste dump. Hate it hate it - it's as if I've got toilet paper stuck to my shoe: embarrassing and socially inept.  Worse, for me big sillage is like those I'm-naked-in-public dreams -- way too personal for words. People across the room do not need to know what sort of mood I'm in.

I like to be smellable within a three-foot radius, as a wisp of "Mmm, something smells good," if I move.  I like for my husband to tuck his nose into my neck in order to smell me.  I like to be, well, polite, having had way too movies/concerts/journeys ruined by someone else's perfume mugging me via my nostrils.  Probably, too, my years 'n years of choral singing has inhibited me with regard to putting on large doses of scent.

Perfumes: The Guide called Insolence edp "monumentally skillful" and reminiscent of L'Heure Bleue, which I like very much, so I had to try it.  Can I just say, MISTAKE?  I spritzed one measly little spritz, my usual practice when sampling, and immediately wanted to cut my hand off at the wrist.  Immediately.  It was Loud.  It was Extremely Loud.  I kept walking about the house turning lights and electronics off, just to get some peace.  I mean, I actually experienced it as being auditory hell.  I put earplugs in.  I suffered for about half an hour before deciding to be kind to myself by getting out the unscented deodorant and the Tide.  In the meantime, more and more analogies came to mind:
  • When I was in college, I had a friend who shared an apartment with four other guys.  Cisco the Architecture Student was a workaholic who frequently slept at the A-School while working on a project.  Unfortunately, his door would be locked when his alarm clock went off at six a.m. -- loud and nonstop.  BEEP  BEEP  BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP, into infinity, or until Cisco came home at four p.m. and turned it off.  You could not be in the apartment and not hear that cursed alarm.  Insolence!
  • I have a nightmare of being lost in a huge parking lot, unable to find my own car.  Then suddenly, every single car alarm in the entire parking lot begins to shriek, over and over and over.  Insolence!
  • If you ever read one of those companion books to the Harry Potter series -- Bookworm is a fan -- called Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, purportedly one of Harry's textbooks, you will come across the description of a magical tropical bird called a Fwooper, which has brightly colored feathers and which is not recommended as a pet, as its incessant singing causes insanity.  Insolence!
On the other hand, one of the loveliest scented experiences I've ever had was when I put on two healthy dabs of what I thought was No. 5 cologne.  It was actually vintage parfum, with much of its aldehydic oomph muted, probably by age (which is what fooled me into thinking it must be cologne) -- and when the florals came out to play, I felt as if I were trailing a gorgeously-scented cloud.

And for that vintage Magie Noire edt, one drop is plenty.  Two drops is Gloriously Too Much, and I'd never wear that in company.  Magie Noire is best outside in chilly fall weather, anyway, in my opinion.

31 Rue Cambon can put out some lovely, refined sillage; the one time anyone ever complimented my perfume at work I was wearing it.  It might have been because usually people can't smell me.  (The compliment?  "That's nice perfume. Sort of flowery, isn't it?")

So, okay, I like some sillage.  But I think my optimum sillage level is probably lower than that of many perfume fans.  Please weigh in with your opinion: am I totally off my nut?  Just a little too sensitive?  The soul of sensible? 

The image is Incandescent Fumes by Debmalya Mukherjee at flickr.

6 comments:

Rappleyea said...

I vote 'C' - the soul of sensible. Probably of course, because I totally agree with you. I'm so bad that I don't even want to smell my OWN perfume unless I raise my wrist to my nose. It might be fine on some days to smell my perfume all day, but there are some days where it just might get on my nerves enough that I'd have to chop my arm off. lol! Sort of...

I think that's why I'm such a fan of vintage Guerlain extraits - they're most certainly not boring, quiet, 'non-scents', but they stay very close to the body.

ChickenFreak said...

I like the three-foot rule, though I tend to be too cowardly even for that. If I can clearly smell myself, rather than just catching the occasional whiff when I move, I worry that I'm wearing too much. If Himself can smell me from the other seat in a closed car, I really worry.

I'm trying to be a bit less timid - I want to be one of those people that smell clearly good when you're very close to them, like in a hug. But I fear that I'll ramp up to being one of those people that annoy you from seven feet away and asphyxiate you in a hug.

flittersniffer said...

Ironically, it was my friend's monster sillage that sparked off this hobby, for it prompted me to explore what notes were in the perfumes she wore - Gwen Stefani L.A.M.B and Paris. Then I started googling the few perfumes I had ever worn - to see what notes I was drawn to (broadly oriental florals and random airport impulse buys), and I never stopped googling, and started sampling too... I am both averse to the "Axis of Evil" scents you evoke(!) and a very light user generally, and long for the day when someone tells me they like what I am wearing. But hitherto no one gets close enough to smell me. But I am (bizarrely) grateful to Gwen Stefani for setting me off along this road...

Mals86 said...

Rapple - I typically do the "Only I can smell my perfume" application when I'm trying something new. Early on in my sniffage, I tried some Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale before leaving the house for work. In my minivan, driving the kids to school, I felt as if I were a sophisticated Parisienne, with a virtual New Look suit... just before I parked, I was stunned to note that the Parisienne had just HUNG HER DIRTY PANTIES ON THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. I was horrified. I didn't know then what jasmine was going to do to my skin - and I was RADIATING. I had to go scrub my wrists as soon as I walked in the door. So now I make sure first tests are very light!

Mals86 said...

Chick, you made me laugh with the "asphyxiate with a hug" comment! My grandmother used to wear Avon Cotillion (ugh - I think it was a Youth Dew clone), and she could TAKE YOU OUT with her sillage. Worse, she was huggy, and got offended if you ducked her. Worse than that, she lived with us, so we couldn't leave.

However, she only wore perfume when she dressed up: church, lunch with her friends, and doctor appointments. (Her poor doctor.)

I know what you mean about the closed car - I try to apply perfume about half an hour before leaving home, so that there's time for the scent to calm down a little. But I admit I love having The CEO's nose in my clavicle.

Mals86 said...

Hi, Flitter! I need to come visit your blog again, it's a fun place.

That is *fascinating* about your friend's perfume. How lovely that it prompted your scent exploration. "Random airport impulse buys" - too funny! Before I got started with this stuff, I never bought anything other than drugstore stuff, and a bottle of Victoria's Secret Pink, about which I actually felt guilty spending money on. How saaaaad.

Funny about Paris - I lived through a 1980's high school experience, yet I never smelled it until last year, and what I smelled was the allegedly quieter reformulation. I like it very much, but then I wasn't subjected to clouds of it in the locker room.