Choosing perfume to wear to work isn’t getting any easier. At my last office job, management sent regular emails warning staff to be sensitive about wearing perfume. Last I heard, they had to bring in a mediator for a woman in one department who couldn’t tolerate the perfumed body lotion of a woman in another department.
People may disagree, but I believe that if you choose the right scent and wear it carefully, you can pull off perfume at work. If a scent isn’t right for you, it will sit on your skin like a smear of frosting and never seem quite natural. If a perfume likes you, it absorbs into your body and reappears as a sort of natural breath from your skin. At work, it’s important not only to make sure that your perfume suits you, but that it communicates the right message. You already know better than to trot out Caron Parfum Sacré or Agent Provocateur for a board meeting. But it’s equally important to keep a lid on the Jessica McClintock or other “pretty” scents.
An effective perfume for work isn’t overly demanding, is easy to stand next to in the break room, and serves up a dose of competency with its beauty. Balmain Jolie Madame is perfect, in my mind. It starts out with an easy sparkle of green and violets, and just when you think, “Well, she’s nice but I can push her around,” boom! comes the leather. I’ve never smelled the old formula, which I hear is divine, but I think the new formula does the job pretty well. Guerlain Vetiver is another good choice for work. It is intriguing, strong, and clean, and you want to give it a raise right away. (Plus, it would be a smash at happy hour on the way home.) For winter, Guerlain Vol de Nuit is spectacular at the office, especially in the parfum in quiet amounts. It is velvety but takes charge — a real stealth power scent. For summer, a fresh, uncomplicated workhorse is Balmain de Balmain.
Related to work perfumes are perfumes to wear to weddings, graduations, and other ceremonial events. These scents also need to be sensitive to others, and should let the focus be on the event and not necessarily on you. Unlike business perfumes, these fragrances can be pretty as well as beautiful. This is a good time to wear florals, including Patou Joy and Divine Folie, lots of the Goutals, Balenciaga Le Dix, Yves Saint Laurent Paris, and Chanel no. 22. If you are a co-star in the event — say, the mother of the bride or the godmother of the baby being baptized — you can ramp it up and wear a bigger floral, such as Piguet Fracas, Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, or Guerlain Nahéma.
Working from home gives you the ultimate flexibility in perfume choice, of course. I change my scent as soon as old one wears off, and sometimes wear as many as four at a time. I haven’t had one complaint yet.
Note: image is via Images de Parfums.