Evolution of a Fragophile


As a little girl, I happily drained many bottles of Love’s Baby Soft. The original pink-capped wonder was my “little-girl” fragrance, and I spritzed my way through gift-set after gift-set. While I also had a few other sweet-concoctions targeted at my tiny coin-purse, it wasn’t until Coty’s L’Effleur that I had my next “signature” fragrance.

Coty L’Effleur. I was 12, and my best friend at the time was 13. It was her scent, and she was so mature, so much older, so sophisticated, that of course I made it mine too. When I think of L’Effleur compared to the fragrances 12-year-olds are wearing today, I’m nearly gagged by giggles. By today’s standards, L’Effleur’s soapy-floral bouquet would be considered grandmotherly. I wore that, and also stole spritzes from my mother’s small collection (Ysatis, Tresor, a Mueget oil, and a Vetiver oil), until my teens, when I found MY scent…

Opium parfum. I was 16, it was the mid-nineties—well past Opium’s heyday—but nobody was wearing that sort of thing in my social network, and it felt incredibly… daring. It had spice, and it had sparkle. I’ll never forget the fizzing sensation on my skin, like a champagne made with blood: it was darkness, but it was elegance, and it appealed to my teen-aged self. The bottle from which those memories sprang was an old one. A big, squat 70’s era bottle, which required just one dab, and you could party all night long wafting it’s seductive promises.
In my late teens and early twenties, I wore Ralph Lauren Polo Sport for a few years (and several bottles), because if I couldn’t have my Opium, then gosh-darn-it, I’d smell like a man!

When the Polo Sport romance ended, I must have gone through 10-bottles of Gap Grass. An EDT that lasts about 10 minutes on skin (but smells delightfully like it’s namesake), I’d carry a bottle around in my purse and constantly re-apply. When it was discontinued, I bought up an armload of stock, and within months was on the prowl for something new.

Later, I wore Banana Republic’s Woman, which I don’t think I ever actually liked, and then later still, Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, followed by Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean, which I actively hated. Yet still wore. I made it about 25% through that horrifying bottle before swapping it for something else on MUA.

I then turned to verbena, and wore Le Couvent des Minimes‘ Verbena & Lemon, which was pretty enough, but not satisfying as a perfume. That bottle spent the duration of it’s existence as linen spray.

Just when i felt like giving up, that there wasn’t a “note” for me, or a perfume I could make my own, I encountered the most wonderfully fragrant rose I’d ever smelled… which led to a search for rose perfumes, which led to the Mother Ship (Now Smell This), which led… Here.

 

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38 thoughts on “Evolution of a Fragophile

  1. I love this post! I was a huge devotee of Love’s Baby Soft too (who wasn’t?), then I moved on to Skin Musk. Here’s where it gets fuzzy- I think I wore Guess perfume (the bottle was twisty and ugly, but it smelled awfully good), then hippie oils like Nag Champa and good sandalwood (when it wasn’t so scarce and pretty cheap, too). I remember L’Heure Bleue in my teens (of course!), Shiseido Feminite du Bois in my early 20s, Gap Om… oh god, I’d love to have a photographic memory so I could sift through my past and remember them all. I often wore whatever my mother bought me until I started to get hooked on Guerlain and Shiseido. 🙂

    1. Thank you Carrie!

      Love’s was really quite the phenomenon, so many of us having it as a “first” perfume! I need to revisit it, I think, to see if i can still appreciate it.

      Your fragrant evolution doesn’t totally surprise me, although I am still awed by your early good taste! I think I remember that your mom was a Guerlie-girl– is this true? L’Heure Bleue is such a sophisticated choice for a teen, and then straight to Serge Lutens?! That is a really cool (and not at all embarrassing) fragrant heritage!
      🙂

  2. Lovely, lovely, lovely post! I loved reading about your evolution.

    I can’t remember my fragrant youth very well, probably because perfume never was of great importance, but I vividly remember my secret forages into my grandmother’s make up stash. 😀
    In my late teens and early twenties, I wore Coco Mademoiselle, Narciso Rodriguez For Her, Le Feu d’Issey, Benetton Tribú and Chloé Innocence – I chose my perfumes primarily because of the bottle, I am ashamed to admit… *ducks*
    One day I happened upon Serge Lutens and that was that…there is no turning back to innocence. 🙂

    1. It’s a little bit embarrassing to admit how long I wore perfume that i didn’t care for, basically because I didn’t really know what a perfume could be. I mean, I loved Opium and even the Polo Sport, but after that it was all disaster!

      You may have chosen for the bottle, but you chose some really good scents! For a not-yet-born perfumista, that Miyake was a bold choice! 🙂

      It was a Serge that turned you? Oh, I do hope that you will that post!

  3. Gap Grass! The very name strikes me with a nostalgic ache. I, too, bought tons of those little aluminum sprayers when they were put on final clearance, and when they were all used up, I hung my head in grief. That stuff was SO GOOD….

    1. Haha, it’s good to meet another Grass fan! I swear, for at least a year straight, there was a bottle of that stuff on my person at all times! It was pretty much addictive, the way I was constantly spraying it. At least the silage and longevity weren’t much, or I’d probably have been banned from public spaces!

  4. I too word Love’s Baby Soft, particularly as a sleep scent. I was big into CK Obsession in the eighties (amber all the way, baby) then L’Occitane Amber which I believe is now discontinued. I wore my mother’s YSL Paris and Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps. I’m trying to remember which perfume pushed me over the edge to perfume mania, maybe Angel? That’s when I realized how magical perfume could be!

    1. Thank you for sharing Julie! Isn’t it amazing how many of us started on Love’s? I wonder if there is a direct correlation between seeing it as a child, and becoming a perfumista later… 😉

      I don’t at all remember what Obsession smells like, though I remember wearing it occasionally. I think I need to revisit it, since I love amber solo much!

  5. Great post dee..I keep running through my fragrance evolution in my head for just such a post but never end up posting..so I will here..:)

    I’ve heard so many people loving love’s baby soft as their first fragrance-now I am curious..
    The first perfume that I fell in love with and wore was probably hypnotic poison..I might have been in my early teens..my uncle bought us a set of Dior minis..till then I found most perfumes head ache inducing and generic and too perfumey..but with the Dior minis I realized I’d discovered perfumes I could love..I liked dune a lot too.. I’d wear a drop of hypnotic poison alongside a drop of dune and sigh happily.. After I had drained my bottles , I started on the j’adore mini in my late teens..then cashmere mist (which I no longer can wear)..then as Birgit said, I discovered Serge Lutens and the rest is history..lol

    1. Wow, Hypnotic Poison was your first scent love?! That’s intense Lavanya! You started on the trail to perfumista-dom early, it would seem 😉

      From Dior Mini’s to Serge Lutens… I wonder how many people were drawn in by Uncle Serge?

  6. I wonder what would have happened if I ever were exposed to Love’s Baby Soft…;) There were no such things here…The only perfume I can recall before puberty that was worn by me and not my mother was…Eau de Cheval! Horse, in other words…I had a sweater that was only used for stable and practice, and my grandmother insisted I leave it in the boot room – where outdoor clothes and shoes were removed before entering the house, because it, well, reeked of horse! At 13, I took to wearing a body spray by a company called 21, but when I went to Paris…that was it – the death of me..

    .I came home with Jicky extrait and Miss Dior in EdT and had both of them for years, since I didn’t wear perfume every day then. I can remember a perfume called Tosca by 4711 I loved, and at 16 – true confession! – it was Revlon’s Charlie! That one, I did kill…but I never bought it again.

    From there, I went to Fidji (my first boyfriend loved it and bought it for me) and soon, there was no turning back…Chanel no 19, Magie Noir, YSL Paris, Dioressence, YSL Rive Gauche, Cabochard, Paloma Picasso, Coco de Chanel, White Linen, the original Lauren, Piguet Bandit in extrait (!!!), Champs Elysées, Jardin des Bagatelles, Bulgari Thé Vert in both EdT and Extrème (LOTS of that one), Baby Doll Paris, Ralph Lauren’s Ralph (just kill me now!)…and then nothing for a very, very long time.Until no 19 snuck back in.

    About two years ago, I managed to get my hands on my first Serge Lutens – it was Chêne – and yes, the rest of my final descent into the maelstrom is…legend? 😉

    1. T., I remembered this tale of the trip to Paris, and the Jicky extrait… Wowzers! What an introduction to perfume! I cannot even imagine what it might have been like to enter the maison, and leave with a bottle of parfum!
      You were obviously destined for a life filled with fragrant love affairs!

      Yet even after that star-studded list, it was Lutens who drew you in… Very interesting!

  7. Very sweet post! Agree about Mediterranean – a swapper on MUA nearly steamrollered me into swapping for a bottle in return for a L’Artisan or something. I will forever associate that scent with deep injustice. Dodged the deal in the end, I am happy to say.

    We don’t have Love’s Baby Soft over here, but I know a lot of Americans cut their scented teeth on them. Curious to try it some time.

    I didn’t wear any perfume till I was at least 23 and a BF gave me L’Air du Temps, and most of my acquisitions were unsolicited gifts like that or impulse buys at airports that I was fairly indifferent to, with the exception of Magie Noire in the 80s. Overall, though, I didn’t really get with the program till 2008!

    1. Ugh, Vanessa, that blue bottle is kryptonite! I swapped it for a decant of Gres Cabaret! Which is a nice room spray, at least. The worst part about that debacle was that I had had s sample of the perfume, and liked it, then requested the bottle for a birthday present, and what I found was drastically different from what I was expecting. Who knows, maybe an EDT/EDP difference?

      I am glad that you did not get saddled with a bottle! Especially in trade for a l’Artisan!

      I wonder how many of us were indifferent to perfumes were wore… It’s amazing, isn’t it, the difference between a perfume that really moves you, and one that does not?

  8. Wow, your perfume evolution was really interesting and varied, dee. I think it was daring for a 16 year old to wear Opium parfum. Like others from outside the States I’m fascinated by the starter perfume, Love’s Baby Soft. I imagine it smelling like baby powder.

    I first wore a perfume in my mid-teens by Gucci in an orange marbled box but sadly can’t remember what it was called. Then, like Julie, I wore Obsession in the late 80s. Can’t for the life of me remember what I wore during University, probably nothing I guess. Then at work I wore Aromatics Elixir for a number of years followed by Kenzo Parfum d’ete and Gucci Envy.

    Very interesting to read that researching rose perfumes led you to the Mothership. I got there doing the same regarding carnation perfumes after being bowled over by the essential oil.

    Great post, dee!

    1. Ok, that’s it. I’m going to have to rustle up a bottle of Baby Soft to share with the international perfume community, so that you can experience what we’re always jabbering about! I suspect the formula hasn’t changed much over the years, if I had to guess, since it’s such a cheaply made perfume. 🙂

      I’m curious what that Gucci was! I don’t recall a marbled orange bottle…
      That’s cool that you also wore Obsession– I definitely need to try it! I’ve heard it said that it smells similar to Anne Pliska (which I love).

      Is carnation essential oil divine? I’ve actually been shopping around for some, because I love that spicy smell so much… Did you find a carnation perfume to satisfy you, once landing at the Mother Ship???

      1. dee, I think Obsession will probably knock your socks off, it’s not exactly subtle but that’s the80s for you! I never did find the perfect carnation scent though I found so much more than that, such as gorgeous friends like you. Do try some carnation essential oil though, there’s like its floral spice.

        Happy New Year dear dee!

  9. I remember when Love’s Baby Soft came out (yeah, I’m old). My first perfume was a gift from Avon when I was a tween: something pink and girlie which I immediately mixed with cigarette ashes! After that the ones I remember are British Sterling, White Shoulders, Most Precious, Caswell Massey Musk Oil, Chanel 19, Toujour Mois, Bakir by Germaine Monteil, Este Lauder Private Collection, Lagerfeld (the original one for men), then started my multi-decade search for Vol de Nuit, spurred by a magazine ad that convinced me of it’s me-ness. Couldn’t find it until internet access was common, so I settled for Samsara – first bottle was so good, but by the second, it was pretty synthetic smelling. I’ve always sniffed/worn from both sides of the aisle – if it smells good to me, I’m wearing it. Which has me now at 54, a grey-haired lady who wears M7.

    1. 50 is the new 30, so you’re not so old!

      That’s pretty cool that you remember the launch of Baby Soft! History happening, right in front of you… Probably millions of girls over the following decades would love and wear that stuff!

      Did you ever get your bottle of Vol de Nuit???

    1. Ha! Jen, you made me laugh out loud when I read this. I’m glad that you found what you were looking for!! They really are a nice line, and I liked the scent very well; that hand cream must be something special!

      xxo

  10. Ugh, Love’s Baby Soft. Ugh, Opium. Ugh, EA Green Tea. (I heart you anyway, Dee, you schmoopsie-poo!)

    My first fragrance was probably this solid thing that didn’t smell like much of anything and came in a plastic worm-in-an-apple pin from Avon. It was a gift from the grandmother that lived with us, who was enamored of Avon, and I think she gave me my roll-on bottle of Sweet Honesty, too.

    Next fragrance was Chloe, the original edt from Karl Lagerfeld, in a dabber bottle. I wore that from the time I was about 11 until halfway through college. I also had Prince Matchabelli Cachet, a soft floral chypre. And my mother MADE ME RETURN that bottle of Sand & Sable, saying it was “too mature” for 18-year-old me.

    In college, I owned Revlon Xia Xi’ang, a rose-amber scent, and a mini-bottle of Noxell Navy. I lusted over Victoria at Victoria’s Secret (another lovely soft floral chypre) but couldn’t afford it.

    And then I was married and broke and having babies, and didn’t spend money on frivolous things like fragrance. My husband gave me a small bottle of Eliz Arden True Love for an anniversary once, and I didn’t care for it, but wore it anyway. For my tenth anniversary, I picked out a bottle of Victoria’s Secret Pink (green-peony-rose) and used it up.

    AFter it was gone, I discovered Velvet Tuberose at B&BW and wore that for a year. That and my sister’s request for Coco Mlle for Christmas made me start thinking, “I wonder what’s out there now?” And when I searched for “perfume review,” I wound up at, yes, The Mother Ship that is NST.

    The rest is, you know, a delightful journey.

    1. LOL, Mals– I”m glad you can still love me, even with my bad taste 😉

      I think that first Chloe speaks volumes! You were destined to be a floral-gal!

      I don’t remember what Sand & Sable smells like, though I know I’ve encountered it– I can’t believe it was found objectionable, for an 18-year-old! If only your mother could smell you now in Amaranthine or Citizen Queen… scandalous!

      Oh, oh, I wore Navy too! Somewhere either before or after L’Effleur… I think Navy was more my style, and L’Effleur was my “aspirational” self.

      Thank you for sharing your fragrant evolution! The rest really has been a wonderful journey. Your weekly scent journals are probably my favorite part of the fragrant week 🙂

  11. Of the fragophile evolutions I’ve read, yours strikes me as a little bit unique, Dee. I mean, Opium! In the mid-nineties! It’s so subversive. 🙂 I’m curious, though, whether you see any connection between any of these early “likes” and what you wear now? Or has your taste evolved completely?

    1. “Unique” made me laugh when I read it; today a customer told me that I was “one in a hundred.” LOL. Gotta love retail.

      Opium felt subversive! And I had never even seen the marketing campaign, and knew nothing about it other than that it was *right*. I do see some connection– I still LOVE spicy orientals, and even though Green Tea wasn’t really my thing (I bought it without smelling it), I appreciate it still.

      The thing that makes me tilt my head in wonder is why I wore perfumes that I didn’t love because they were symbolic in some other way: an older friend’s signature that I wanted to emulate, or a persona I wanted to embrace (peacefulness with Green Tea), or a brand that appealed to me (BR in college). Such an impersonal way to wear something so personal!

  12. Girl, you were such a BAMF in your Opium!
    The one fragrance milestone I can remember clearly is wearing the original Prada for men. I was in a relationship with someone very controlling at the time, and I think that wearing a men’s fragrance was my attempt to be tough and stand up for myself.

    1. I don’t know what a BAMF is, but thank you Ari!! ❤

      I can completely relate to the idea of using perfume to be tough and stand up for myself: my years in Polo Sport accomplished something similar.

      But look at us now! You with your rugged L'Heure Bleue appreciating man, and me back in women's frags too 🙂

      1. I don’t know what a BAMF is either, but it reminds me of Maria Bamford, a comedian I adore. Anyway, you’ve reminded me that I used to wear Kouros in early high school. WHY???

  13. I’m a bit late to this thread… but, here goes. My first perfume was Cover Girl Navy. Someone gave me (re-gifted, really, I think) a mini in middle school. I wore the hell out of that stuff. My mom doesn’t like perfume at all, so I think I kind of tortured her with it. I need to go find a bottle of it cheap and try it again. (Someone on NST also recommended Boucheron because it’s evidently similar).

    After that, for years I wore the original Oscar de la Renta. This was despite several guys telling me their grandmothers wore it. This is kind of funny actually, I had tested a weird fruity-floral summer flanker of Oscar once at a perfume counter, and then when I got some birthday money I strode proudly into Belk and bought Oscar, not realizing it wasn’t the crazy fruity floral summer thing. I got home and was surprised but I decided to wear it anyway and I grew to love the stuff. I wore only that for years. I was glad no one else my age was wearing. i think I must have gotten it around age 16 which would’ve been 1998 or so.

    In college I got more interested in the concept of fragrance… I ended up with bottles of Calvin Klein Euphoria and YSL Cinema right after they came out. I think Euphoria was more based on the ads, honestly, but Cinema was more for the scent… I also wore a shit-ton of Bath and Body Works Brown Sugar and Fig, which is a nice comfort scent still. I still have that bottle of Euphoria too, I should try it again, but I just have a “blech” impression about it from my time in fragrance retail… Cinema I’m still wearing although my bottle has lost some of the top notes.

    Then circa 2004 I met a bunch of girls on LiveJournal who were sampling BPALs and I started to go down the rabbit hole… One of those friends now runs this:

    http://sweetanthem.com/

    ..so I tried some of her perfumes and somehow after that point found NST. The rest is history!

    1. It’s never too late! Although, I do apologize that your comment got buried for a few days! The day job occasionally interferes with my blogging 😉

      Navy! I would really like to revisit Navy, because I remember really liking it, but cannot remember what it smells like. Such an icon for that time!

      I’m impressed by your taste: I only just discovered Cinems in the past year or so, and I find it to be one of the best mainstream offerings out there. It’s slightly unusual, sophisticated, and gosh darn it, smells great!

      1. I checked yesterday and you can get a 50mL splash of Navy for $8! I’m sure I don’t even need that much, but that’s basically free!

        Cinema is definitely a match made in heaven for me, and I sought it out based on a scent strip. But yeah, I did pretty well somehow. Funny!

  14. Another late replier, as I’ve started strolling around your blog. My story is a bit different than most perfumistas, but also shows the power that perfume can have.

    I was a full-on brainy geek growing up – still am, but now I LIKE that about myself – with bad acne, braces, glasses, the works. Got picked on a lot, too. Even more importantly, though, I *felt* ugly. It didn’t make it any easier that my mom was drop-dead gorgeous, since I don’t really look like her. For my mom, a nice evening out included perfume, and she always smelled fantastic. Except her perfumes didn’t smell like that on me. In fact, none of the popular perfumes smelled right on me. So my adolescent brain took it as more proof that I would never be one of the beautiful people. (It was a hard time, but the sad story really does get better. Straight teeth, Accutane, contacts and a fresh start at university worked wonders.)

    Fast forward 20 years, and I’m in an Mexican airport watching my mother, sisters and sister-in-laws kill time in the perfume-duty shop showing their favorite perfumes to each other. That old familiar pang came back of being on the outside looking in, watching a mysterious feminine ritual take place that I wasn’t a part of. I went home determined to find SOMETHING for myself. Surely out of all the perfumes, there must be one out there that smells good on me. And then I went online……

    This may sound unusual, but there was something incredibly healing about feeling beautiful and sexy because I smelled fabulous, that soothed an ache I didn’t realize I still had. Perfume eventually led to making more of an effort fashion-wise, which led to slowly losing weight, which led to a great new haircut…. I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own skin.

    I smell fantastic these days. Elegant in Ormonde Woman and 31 Rue Cambon, cerebral in 28 La Pausa and Infusion d’Iris, cuddly in Tibetan Mountain Temple and Coromandel, fresh in Silences, Pulp and l’Ombre dans l’eau, and just plain pretty in Heure Exquise and Le Temps d’une Fete. And damn sexy in Black Cashmere.

    1. Dionne, firstly let me skip to the end and applaud your good taste! There are several in your line-up that are groans-of-pleasure inducing scents for me, especially Woman. And Black Cashmere. … and Silences 😉

      Your story is a beautiful illustration of how powerfully beauty impacts our lives, and how experiencing beauty can transform us, even if it’s only the perception we have of ourselves. I say it constantly, but since I whole-heartedly believe it I’ll say it some more: I came for the perfume, I stay for the community. 🙂

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