Continued from Part 5 of a series where I talk about perfume and smells. This is the last post of this series.
Sampling different concentrations of Guerlain Mitsouko
This series started out as an exercise in overcoming the fear of being judged as frivolous for enjoying perfume. I had gone a good long two years of geeking out about fragrances without breathing a word to another soul. Why? Because perfume was such a frivolous and traditionally feminine thing (in Southeast Asian culture) that it seemed like such a strange thing to be excited about. But hey, traditional preconceptions are there to be challenged, so here’s your resident software engineer talking about perfume.
Looking back, this ended up being a brief timeline of my perfume journey, which was an interesting retrospective. But what do I do with perfume nowadays?
My obsession for it is more of aesthetic interest than practical, so I’m sometimes more content smelling than wearing perfume. Perfume is still very much a luxury item to me. You never need perfume, so it’s hard to justify purchases. I still struggle with the guilt of buying things I don’t need or can’t finish. Most perfume bottles come in 50ml or 100ml sizes, which is more perfume than I would ever need. To put it into perspective, it took me 1 year to finish a 15ml bottle of perfume with semi-regular usage (Hermessence Cuir d’Ange, another favorite with a backstory for another time 1).
Instead of going for full bottles, I opt for decants and samples. Decants are small amounts of perfume (usually 1ml to 5ml) extracted from the full bottles, usually sold by other perfume enthusiasts. They’re ideal for testing perfume before committing to a full bottle. Some sites that I like for decants are Surrender for Chance and The Perfumed Court because they ship internationally. If you live in Singapore, they can also be found at much cheaper prices on Carousell (search for ‘perfume decant’). Perfume as a hobby can also come in the more mundane forms of scent in everyday life. Paying attention to the scents around you is a fascinating way to further build your scent vocabulary2 and to make perfume affordable 3.
I rarely obtain full bottles. I own five full-sized bottles, four of them vintage and one contemporary. Some perfume collectors boast hundreds of bottles – you should look their amazing collections up on Youtube. Although they are lovely to look at, it gives me anxiety to own so much because they will surely sit unused and unloved. In the spirit of Marie Kondo’s method of tidying up, only keep things that spark joy in you 4. Having once moved four times in a span of two years has also made me not want to own stuff anymore. Accommodation is often temporary, and owning material things adds a lot of inertia to change that might be necessary. Though now that I have settled in Singapore and have some disposable income, it has become tempting to start a collection. But I shall resist that sweet, sweet temptation for now.
My current interest and indulgence is vintage Guerlain perfume. I have a small flacon of Guerlain Mitsouko Parfum from 1992 that I have been wearing for weeks now and can’t seem to get enough of. Mitsouko is a juxtaposition of sparkling golden bergamot, ripe peach skin, inky oakmoss and bitter suede and leather. She’s weird and thought-provoking and always a delightful surprise. I mentioned her as an example of a ‘love it or hate it’ perfume in my previous post. For the interested, Mitsouko was composed in 1919 and has a long history that has been well covered by the fragrance blogosphere 5.
Other recently acquired vintages are a 1970s Guerlain Shalimar EDT which smells like a yummy lemon vanilla meringue with a heavy dose of musk, a half-full bottle of Chamade EDT I am struggling with, and a 1990s Vol de Nuit that smells like an old library (in a good way). Because smells are so closely linked to memories and periods, it is inevitable when a perfume has passed its time and I will no longer wear it 6. When that happens, the bottle will go to a new home where it will be loved. This has happened for my previous favorites, and I am sure will happen to my current ones.
Perfume has become a daily ritual before leaving my home. A little nice something to look forward to in the mornings. I still don’t have a signature scent; I wear whatever suits my mood for the day. Some people match their perfumes to their outfits or the occasion. Big perfumes for nights out at the club. Something flirty for a dinner date. Fresh colognes for a hot day out. Some people pair perfume with code7. Most of my time is spent at work in an air-conditioned office with no dress code (read very casual), so there isn’t much of an occasion to dress up. Then again, you don’t have to be dressed up to smell amazing. You will find me here wearing t-shirts and flip-flops smelling of Mitsouko.
End of Part 6 and of this series.
I didn’t intend for these series of posts to run for so long, but here we are! I didn’t even have a name for this series. If you’ve been following the series, thank you! I initially wrote this without expecting anyone to read it, but some of you have reached out to say that you have enjoyed this. Thank you so much for your kind words, they really do make my day. I hope this has inspired you in some way to either explore scent, or even to think a little bit more about it in your everyday lives.
Do email or tweet at me if you’d like to offer your thoughts or just to say hello, especially if you also enjoy smells and perfume!
I wore this through a few interesting partnerships. Let’s just say it was very well received across the board. ↩
Marie Kondo wrote a book titled ‘The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up’, which to date is one of my most favorite books that has changed the way I own things. For a brief introduction to her very effective method of tidying up, read this NYT article. ↩