Stylish scents

Fashion is primarily a visual thing. We access the colours, shapes, and patterns of outfits with our eyes.

But one part of our individual style is appreciated through the nose. And there’s more to it than just perfume.

How we smell is a combination of body chemistry, personal hygiene, and the products we use.

While it is not considered PC these days to douse oneself in heavy colognes, we shouldn’t completely ignore the olfactory vibes we are giving off. Even the most couture frock is ruined by an offensive odour.

I’ll assume anyone reading a fashion column has a good grasp of personal hygiene. But here are some smelling-good tips worth repeating:

  • Think about the products you regularly use and if their scents complement or clash. For example, rose petal dryer sheets for your clothes, coconut mint body lotion on your body, a baby powder scented deodorant, layered with a woodsy perfume might not make for a great combination. I prefer to buy most lotions and detergents in unscented versions to avoid competing scents.
  • Shoes can cause a big stink. Treat your sneakers with baking soda to eliminate odour, or wash them if possible. Anti-microbial socks and shoe liners with activated charcoal work well in flats.
  • Carry mints or Listerine strips in your purse and use before talking to someone at close proximity. ‘Nuff said.
  • Certain foods do affect our body chemistry. If you are going to be in a social situation, you might want to avoid garlic, onions, cruciferous veggies, meat, and alcohol up to 36 hours prior.

With those preliminaries taken care of, it’s time to consider adding a scent. 

Women and men have been using perfumes for thousands of years. Like fashion, fragrances succumb to trends too.

If you were alive in the 1980s, you’ll remember the rise of the celebrity scents, like Elizabeth Taylor dripping in White Diamonds.

It seemed every woman had a bottle of Georgio Beverly Hills and every man wore either Polo or Drakar Noir, and everyone practically bathed in the stuff.

Today, there are more olfactory options than ever. Thinking of a new signature scent? Read on...

Fragrances are categorized into four basic profiles: floral, woodsy, oriental, and fresh. Each evokes a mood, a time, or place.

  • Florals, as the name suggests, use flowers as their base notes such as rose, lily of the valley, and gardenia. They are typically considered very feminine, and can run the gamut from seductive to matronly. Today’s popular florals are Dior J’adore and Marc Jacobs Daisy.
  • Woodsy scents use elements from trees, bushes and grasses such as patchouli and vetiver to create earthy, outdoorsy smells. Many popular unisex and men’s fragrances are woody. Check out Terre d’Hermes, Dior Sauvage, and Gucci Guilty pour Homme.
  • Also known by the more culturally-sensitive terms amber or warm, oriental scents use spices like vanilla, musk and sandalwood to evoke mystery and an exotic sensuality. Typical oriental fragrances are Dior Poison and YSL Black Opium.
  • Fresh fragrances smell upbeat, happy, and clean by using fruity notes. Popular fresh scents include Clinique Happy and Aqua de Gio.

Sephora has created an online fragrance finder; simply answer a few questions about your style and favourite smells, and it will suggest colognes for you to try.

However, there is no substitute for testing a perfume in real life. You can’t buy based on a quiz or a review.

What becomes your signature scent is a highly personal thing, a combination of what smells you are attracted to and what works with your body chemistry.

Here’s how you will know it’s the right one: when you put it on you will feel great and want to hug yourself. Then it will linger for a little while until it becomes unnoticeable.

It should blend in and just smell like “you.”

If someone hugs you and hangs on for a little extra moment, it’s a winner.

But if you are still smelling it hours afterwards, likely it is overpowering to those around you and not a good fit.

When you’ve found your favoured fragrance, use it sparingly! This exclamation point is specifically directed to young woman wearing too much Prada Candy. Please stop these olfactory attacks.

Here are some scents and scent-makers worth noting:

Tom Ford’s swoon-worthy fragrance line is wildly coveted for a reason. His scents are so delicious one is even simply named “F#@king Fabulous." 

Whenever I wore his Santal Blush I felt amazing and got a ton of compliments. However, this luxury doesn’t come cheap. If shelling out $250+ for a bottle is too much, you can find tester sizes on eBay.

Demeter has a massive fragrance library consisting of every imaginable smell, including bottled versions of Dirt, Kitten Fur, Paperback, and Sunshine. I love their Earl Grey Tea fragrance; it captures the exact scent of freshly-brewed black tea and bergamot. Available online at demeterfragrance.com.

Juliette Has A Gun was created by Romano Ricci, grandson of famous French designer Nina Ricci and creator of L’air du Temps. His signature “Not a Perfume” is a synthetic version of the single note ambergris and creates a different smell on each wearer.

It is also said to be non-allergic and OK to wear in scent-sensitive environments.

I recently purchased his Discovery Set of eight fragrances and can’t decide which is my favourite - they all smell wonderful. 

One of the best ways to experiment with new fragrances is to buy a mini size tester set. I highly recommend these great values: Juliette Has A Gun’s Discovery Set for $30, Atelier Cologne’s Perfume Stories for $25, and Nest’s Discovery Set for $52, all available at Sephora.


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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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