Sunday, August 31, 2008

When are you no longer a newbie? ( exploration)

It's not been so long when measured in time, this perfumed trail, this journey down the rabbit hole of scent.  It was early last winter that I decided I might like to try fragrance, after years of assiduously avoiding perfumes.  I used to get headaches from fragrances, an effect exacerbated during my pregnancies.  Plus, I work with kids whose sniffers can be HYPER sensitive, and I rehearse with fellow musicians I enjoy in close quarters.  No need to offend.

But I find myself today questioning a purchase I made not so long ago, when I realized I really was going to try to find a perfume to wear.  (I didn't PLAN on becoming a perfume nut.)  I am wearing Bulgari Omnia Amethyste, which seemed like such a reasonable, pleasant choice, back in the day, 9 months ago--but I think I've gone through a gestation period and emerged on the far end of newbie.  I don't like it today.  What happened?

Let's see.  I'll attempt to start from Newbie Gestation: Day 1.

I was at Target, and saw they had a mini of Red Door.  Hmmm.  I had kind of liked that back in the day.  Back in the day, mind you, was Anais Anais teendom, followed by KL in the "independent" late teens/early twenties.  There was a small bottle of Caroline Herrera I got for my wedding, because I didn't like the Jessica McClintock that came with my dress.  Then the Red Door, because I worked near a Red Door salon and had both opportunity and "personal connection," as well as liking it.  For some reason, I looked at that red cap, and I thought I would like to try wearing a perfume.  So, I picked up the Red Door, and a Sung "Shi" in the same display-- I liked the little water drop bottle, and figured that it would be fresh/clean/safe.

Tried the Red Door.  It was as I remembered, but didn't excite me.  The Shi...interesting.  Not exactly watery; noted something else, and kind of liked it.  So I explored.  Tried Issey Miyake, and liked it.  Threw caution to the wind, asked for a bottle, and was given it.  (My goodness, life was behaving oddly.)  Wore it, rather liked it, and still no horrible headache reaction.  (Notice, no testing or living with a small amount of fragrance at this point.)

Then came the infamous Norell moment.  I had tried to find Norell a few years before, when I read an article that discussed how it had fallen from grace and onto the shelves at K-Mart.  Norell was my grandmother's perfume, and somehow, the discovery that it was a "fine" fragrance gave me a fresh eye onto Grandma--that, and the Kodachrome image of her in a Peter Max print caftan.  Anyway, my search had not yielded a bottle, and what was a purely intellectual exercise was stymied.  Cut to a few years later:  I found myself wearing perfume (Miyake), staring a bottle of Norell on the shelves in a discount clothing store.  I picked it up, curious to finish the earlier investigation, and bought it, thinking I could give it to my mom, who would enjoy it for nostalgia.

I sniffed it, and was taken in.  I wondered if my mom might find it too painful, or too weird a gift.  I stored it on my own shelves.  I started researching Norell, to find out what others said about it, and found the universe of perfumista blogs.  I started learning about perfume.  I learned about decants.  I embarked on a training mission.  Many print-outs, a few sample collections from online decanters.  A purchase or two from online auction.  (I scored big time on a nearly full bottle of 24 Faubourg, but wouldn't realize just how much so until later.)

Time passed, and I was still intrigued by the Norell.  The Miyake had become...watery.  I had a wealth of sample vials, introducing me to vintage fragrances, families by note, different concentrations.  I ventured beyond the pre-set collections and ordered samples based on what I was reading and what captured my curiosity.  

Enter the second trimester.  I had been mostly testing samples, going slowly, but things started moving fast.  Lots of samples, and plenty of bargain bottles, began entering the house. Bulgari Rose Essentiale was available in a large tester for less than $20; purchased, and enjoyed.   That success led to me picking up Poeme, since the discount store had it for so cheap and I had to admit that I liked it. To be honest, there was an online auction and discount perfumer run there for a while.  The result was a fair number of full and partial bottles along with the many vials and decants.  A mini of Van Cleef and Arpels First was proving to be a pleaser; I went back and tried 24, Faubourg again, and found it growing on me; I explored other "modern classics."  AT the same time I stopped denying I liked Poeme, I discovered I like leather.  I explored other florals, other leathers.  Since a sample of Un Reverie au Jardin from the first trimester continued to haunt my thoughts, and I bought my first large decant.  I found a bottle of Bandit for a smidge more than a decant; I bought it.  And so on.

By the way, those recommendations to stick with samples and decants for a while when you start exploring perfume are a GOOD IDEA.  I wish I had listened more.  My Issey Miyake, while a welcome visual component to the collection, is still largely full.  The Norell is largely full, too, since warm weather came alongside the start of the intense exploring.  There are others there...not so necessary, probably not so needed.  The regrets of the collection can be catalogued later.

To be fair, other bottles were acquired and I have no regrets.  For example, there's a full bottle of Magie Noire, because the sample I "wristed" my spouse with had such a positive visceral effect that he went out to purchase some THAT DAY.  Goodness, my habit encouraged, my discovery that I might like something a little "dirty" in my perfume tricks for both my nascent perfumista and my marriage.  ;)

The third trimester was marked by big epiphanies and big purchases; overall, a sense of what I was going to eventually like started emerging.  I stopped fighting my love of two big guns that haunted the second trimester:  Tauer's Un Reverie, and PG Bois Blond.  Having already invested in a large decant of Un Reverie, I purchased a bottle of Bois Blond.  This was/is a big deal.  My flufferies budget is not large, and not half a year before, perfume wasn't even on radar, let alone being accomodated on the expense sheet.  But oh, my, the thought of not having enough of that to wear for a variety of occasions, to let it be a "simply me" scent...didn't make sense.  I hadn't smelled, read about, and test driven all of those scents to hold back from taking a plunge when I thought I was ready.

Meanwhile, dear Nancy was closing up shop, and there were SOOOOO many others yet to try.  So, I started my own little Osmotheque/School of Sniffery, a few ml's at a time...became a champion troller at the online auction...participated in my first two swaps, one through the mail, one in person...started feeling comfortable commenting on the blogs...spent my summer vacation with various vials and mini collections sitting at my little writing station.  Summer vacation: start the day with a few test dabs, let them develop while watering plants/tending to housework/checking e-mail/getting WiiFit time in.  Take notes.  Scrub.  Start over.

Which lead to where I found myself today.  A slew of samples, a fair amount of decants, more bottles than I'll end up keeping, and a Numbers spreadsheet that while full of data, is already woefully behind what it could be.  And Omnia Amethyste lotion 
+ perfume on my arms that is...dare I say?...nice, but meh.  Inoffensive.  But no hint of the "iris blossom" I had read of (I grow a LOT of iris types, and would love to have the smell of any one of many choices in a scent, but it's not here).  Just a pleasant, rather girly smell.  Actually, I'm not sure that I even find it pleasant.  It simply brings me the sense that I'll generally smell clean and scented without offending anyone.

So, I think third trimester is over.  I feel I should do today's exercise, scrub off, and change channels to Bandit.  Or YSL Nu.  Or perhaps the third of my current hallowed three, Fleur de Narcisse.  Something with more there there.  Or, at the very least, a nice inoffensive but interesting smell, like Mandragore or Au The Vert.  (Fleur de Narcisse, btw, is my third and final gift of perfume, one purchased for our anniversary, and a kind of bookend to perfume gestation.)

There's still so much to learn.  I'll probably never be handy with rattling off notes through the drydown as part of my assessment, and much as I want to, I may never come to love vetiver.

Yet, I think I might be a newbie no more.  Still, however, very much a freshman.

Anyone want to swap for the Omnia Am?


Nancy said...

I'm so happy to have played an enabler role in your scent education. Thank you for the opportunity. The best part has been getting to know you. You are a Renaissance woman, hedgehog and all.

I've been sniffing, testing, learning for years and still feel like a newbie. There's so much I have yet to learn, thank goodness.

Jenavira13 said...

I admit I am finally at the stage where mass amounts is not what I want but what I want is something I undeniabley love. Took close to 4 years to get to the blase attitude (I still love fragrances). Yours only took a year, lucky.

ScentScelf said...


You have been a most wonderful enabler...helpful, informative, and all around nice.

I do love things which present so much opportunity for learning and exploring. I'm sure I'll never be done with this. Or, that if I should tire of it (perish the thought!), there will still be learning left undone.

ScentScelf said...


True, I am lucky that I've calmed down the acquisition urge. But I've got all these darn bottles, and more to explore...

...I sense swappery in my future.

pearlbailey said...

Swapping is the 4th trimester ;)

Just found your blog. This post was so true! I started just like you, but my internet research was sparked by reading The Emperor of Scent and purchases of YSL Nu and Animale.


ScentScelf said...


I'm giggling and agreeing with the 4th trimester concept. This is going to be one long gestation period... ;)

Ah, I do want to read The Emperor of Scent. I really like Nu, and online auctioned myself to a full bottle. Look over to yesterday's post on Perfume Posse for a number of comments on the design of that particular bottle.

Glad you found me!