Following the scent trail

I was standing on an escalator in a department store a little while ago, thinking of nothing special, when I noticed the most beautiful scent coming from somewhere.

It was transporting me to a land of caramel cake, baroque interiors, crackling fires, and overblown roses shedding their petals from a vase on to a polished wooden table. I recognised the perfume completely, but could not name it. I glanced around sharply and peered back down to the floor below, which was the fragrance floor, to see where this lovely, sensuous aroma was coming from. I couldn’t figure it out.

Disappointed, I stepped off the escalator and wandered on, unthinking, until I realised that the scent was still there, ahead of me! A middle aged woman walking in front – was it. She was wearing Youth Dew.

She had on a well cut woolen coat, and her grey curly hair was styled into short, jaunty curls. That, and that lovely perfume, were the only impressions I got of her as she walked off briskly through the women’s wear department. I wish now that I had looped around to see her from the front, but I am much too polite and well-behaved to go stalking people for a whiff of their perfume. I mean, it’s just not something you do, is it?

Chandler Burr did once. In one of his most memorable pieces, he tells of following a woman across a park in New York to ask her what perfume she was wearing: Aromatics Elixir. That too is another show-stopper from an age when stylish women could recognise sublime perfumes, and were not afraid to wear them.

Have you ever followed someone in public, lured by their perfume?

Have you ever been followed?

14 thoughts on “Following the scent trail

  1. Ah, if it wasn’t 90F, I think I’d spritz myself in Youth Dew today…

    I have followed people, but I don’t believe I’ve ever been followed—by any perfumista’s, at least! LOL. If I smell something wonderful, I track down the source, awkward though it may be. I once sniffed down some herbal essences shampoo (yes, to someone’s head), which was a little awkward for the both of us.

    It smelled good!!

    1. So the herbal essences person was a stranger? God lord. Still if anyone can pul that off, you can dee!

      Youth Dew in the heat would be a bad idea.

  2. I was kind of followed by a puzzled lady who kept sniffing the air. We were in the washroom so I was wondering !! Anyhow she homed in and asked what I was wearing . I told her it was “Une Rose” and she smile and left. Maybe she had heard of it , maybe she thought I was crazy and thought wearing a single rose was that good ?

    1. Hmmm … if she hadn’t heard of it, she must have wondered why you named ‘a rose’ in French. Funny that she should gather the courage to ask, but than make no further comment. Anyway, a nice moment. Une Rose sounds wonderful.

  3. I am like you, Anne Marie. I always want to find the person and even ask what they are wearing if I don’t recognize it, but I never have the guts. Which is why I give props to Dee for tracking the Herbal Essences! I was followed a long time ago by a woman who then asked what I was wearing. Narcisso Rodriguez. It had just come out, and she asked me to repeat the name several times so she could remember it. That probably wouldn’t be necessary now. 🙂

    1. No, probably not!

      There may be differences across communities and cultures operating here. I don’t think Australians consume as much perfume as maybe people in other countries do, and as well as that, a sort of polite diffidence in people’s attitude to one another remains as a legacy of the British influence in Australia. So it would be slightly unusual to be accosted be a complete stranger and asked what perfume you are wearing. I do ask people at work, even if I don’t know them well or at all, because we do have something in common.

      I was an a queue at the post office once and the woman behind the counter asked the woman in front of me what perfume she was wearing. A moment together in a queue or in a washroom, as was angie’s experience, brings people together in a moment of companionship. Anyway, the perfume was Be Delicious. I have to say, it smelled pretty good, but one ought not be fooled. The opening of BD is fine, but it flops after that, as far as I can recall.

  4. I can’t say that I ever followed or tracked down someone to find out their scent, but if we’re sharing the same space, I quite often ask people what fragrance they’re wearing — and most seem completely surprised that I noticed and am interested in it. I think that here in the US, most people are used to getting compliments on their appearance (i.e., clothing or shoes or hair styles), but not so much on perfume.

    The only time anyone ever tracked me down was when I was walking down the hallway of a university building that housed all the very serious administrative departments for a certain college (the dean’s office, the financial assistance office, etc). I was there on a visit and had on Carnal Flower, and when I passed by one woman’s office, she got up from her desk and called out to me, asking what perfume I had on. It did really stand out in that building, like a sillage of utter joyousness in a place that wasn’t used to such things. 🙂

    1. Thanks Suzanne, that’s a great story. What I really like is that that woman did not let the moment pass, but got up and did something about it. I know those sort of university enviroments, tho’ not from having had to work one myself, thankfully. You might have made a real difference to her life!

      This is making me want to try Carnal Flower. I see it praised often enough, I should do something about it too.

  5. I do this ALL the time! Never have I approached the person though. That’d be weird, right? 😉

    But in all truthfulness, if you are walking down the street say, earphones in, minding your own business, and someone in front of you is wearing something that gets your attention, sometimes I linger behind just a bit longer to appreciate it. I feel like Grenouille sometimes, but that’s the thing about smell, the other person has no idea what you’re doing!

  6. I have no problem asking people what they are wearing (after complementing on the scent). I remember asking a woman at Nordstrom (I met her at men’s department) what she was wearing – it smelled very nice on her. She happen to be an SA from Chanel counter, so not only she told me it was Coco Mademoiselle but took me to the counter and made me a sample of it.

    1. Ha! That was a lucky moment. Goes to show that how a kind thought can be returned. I mean, I’m sure she hoped you’d buy something, but still, it was nice of her.

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