It seems like every fashion magazine these days has an annual age issue or a monthly section on "looks for every age". In them, women in their 20s must be trendy, women in their 40s are supposed to shell out for Kelly bags and Piaget watches, and women over 50 are doomed to wear only black, white, and jewel tones. Once a woman reaches her mid-30s, she’s supposed to keep skirts below the knees and — even more horrifying — cut her hair. All these "shoulds" have made me think about age and perfume. Are certain fragrances more appropriate for women of certain ages?
Someone who loves scent will almost certainly change her perfume choices as she grows older. I don’t know if this holds up scientifically, but a woman’s sense of smell seems to grow keener as she ages, and women need a canny nose to suss out spoiled food and to detect the first hours of a child’s sickness. A fresh college grad might drink Red Bull and Coke while her mother appreciates a glass of Meursault. Similarly, the daughter might wear Guerlain Insolence while her mother nurses her last bottle of Après L’Ondée. Experience with fragrance moves most people past the fruity floral stage after a few years.
So, women may well wear more complex, less obvious fragrances as they age. But are there rules of thumb for what perfumes a woman should wear depending on her age?Let’s try these on for size. Please feel free to add your two cents:
First, for the most part, perfume advertising will give you an idea of whether the scent works for someone your age. Is the ad a combo of Marie Antoinette and Hello Kitty, like the new Juicy Couture ads? If you’re old enough to vote, give it a pass.
Second, have you been wearing the same scent for a long, long time? You may be stuck in a rut, wearing what suited you in your heyday. Witness the woman in your office who just received her Cross pen for thirty years of service and who is still a Charlie girl. We don’t want that to be you. Keep your nose fresh.
Next, think of a woman you admire who is about your age, or think of her when she was your age. What perfumes do you think might suit her? For instance, say you are in your mid-30s and you adore Katherine Hepburn. If she were 35 today, I bet she’d be wearing Costes or Serge Lutens Daim Blond. She wouldn’t age herself with Habanita, and anything too pure and orange flower or loaded with mango would be laughably innocent on her. (On the other hand, a 35-year old Brigitte Bardot might be perfect washed over with passion fruit and jasmine, and Tallulah Bankhead at the same age would do well with Habanita.)
All of these "rules" aside, I love stories of 14-year olds wearing Tabu as they figure out their womanhood, and I think an 80-year old woman smelling gently of Love’s Baby Soft (can you even get that anymore?) would be fabulous. Sure beats the more common combo of cigarette smoke and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds.
In the end, a woman should wear the scent that reflects her own complexity, and which she can enjoy, given her level of appreciation for perfume. Let the woman who hasn’t changed bring her bottle of Vera Wang Princess to the retirement home. Me, I’ll be wearing Vol de Nuit.
Note: image via the forums at Images de Parfums.