To me, perfume has a texture. Some fragrances wear like silk velvet, others like a practical gabardine, and still others — unfortunately — like double knit polyester. In summer, I want to wear perfume that feels like chiffon, linen, the fabric of a well-worn tee shirt, or even nothing at all. Here are the 10 fragrances I'll be probably be wearing most this summer:
When it's sizzling out, when lifting the bedroom window feels like opening the door of a convection oven, I want perfume that is crisp, cooling, and effortless. In short, I want perfume that wears like linen.
Christian Dior Eau Fraiche is a perfect linen-like fragrance. I have a bottle more than 40 years old that still sparkles and still has the warm chic of real oakmoss. I can wear it to work, after a bath, or while enjoying a gin and tonic at the neighborhood bar and feel fresh and even elegant, if I have to be.
Annick Goutal Folavril is another good linen substitute. It doesn't wear long on me, but it goes on clean, cool, and herbal, and — yes — I can smell its tomato leaves, another reminder of summer. Whenever I wear it, it's usually for parts of several days straight. It grows on me.
Parfums d'Empire Eau Suave is crisp, green, and full of rosy goodness without feeling weighed down with flowers. It's the linen scent I turn to when I'm tired of citrus.
In the Pacific Northwest where I live, days may scorch, but most nights are cool. Round about 8 o'clock I'm often looking for a light sweater. Summer evenings here can bear heavier, more complex perfume, and with any luck they demand a fragrance with mood and even romance. Perfume that wears like silk charmeuse is perfect for these nights.
Annick Goutal Songes feels just like silk charmeuse on a summer night — cool and slippery at first, but heavy and sensuous on the skin. Songes is loaded with indolic jasmine and frangipani then thickened with vanilla and wood. Elizabeth Taylor might have been wearing it (along with the lace-trimmed slip) in the bedroom scene in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Penhaligon's Amaranthine, on the other hand, is silk charmeuse in tropical colors. It carries both the funk and the dreamy florals of Songes, but the vanilla is stripped away and replaced with fruit and cream. It has a little more humor than Songes and all of the beauty.
L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubéreuse is definitely part of my summer charmeuse line up. Smelling it is like looking at a Braque painting of a tuberose — you see the composition and at a distance, squinting, it does look like a tuberose, but at the same time it's a crazy assemblage of pieces that seem like they shouldn't go together. I tried to resist, but I'm addicted, especially to its truffled dry down.
Often in the summer I skip makeup, snap a barrette in my hair, and pull on something loose of worn cotton jersey. It's a day to work in the garden, take the dog for a walk before it gets too hot, or chat with the neighbors. This "old tee shirt" type of perfume gets lots of wear.
I always have a jug of Revlon Jean Naté in the refrigerator for cotton jersey days. Sure, it smells a little of the plastic bottle it comes in at first, but it dries down vanillic and lemony. Plus, it's so cheap I can glug it on my skin until it soaks my clothes and I don't care. The next best thing to central air.
Rochas Eau de Rochas is another one of my favorite cotton jersey scents. It's classy enough to cross over into the linen scents, too. I love its mix of citrus, patchouli, and moss.
Finally, sometimes in summer — and in winter — I want a scent that wears like chiffon. Have you ever worn a silk chiffon dress? It feels like air. Or like wearing laundered spider webs. Or, really, like wearing nothing at all.
For chiffon days, I choose Parfums DelRae Mythique. I adore this perfume and have loved it more every day from the instant I tried it. I had a leaky decant of it in my purse, and its scent impregnated the rubbery coating of a Nars lipstick case. I ended up putting the lipstick on my desk so I could huff it from time to time. Its iris and suede are so butter-soft they remind me of clean, salty skin. On my "to do" list is to write to DelRae Roth and beg her to put out a parfum version.
Another chiffon scent, but a heavier chiffon, maybe black and faced with silk, is Chanel Cuir de Russie. You wouldn't expect it to wear well in heat, but think of how good your leather handbag smells when it's been in the hot car. Now imagine that handbag with a smear of iris butter inside. Maybe I'm just hooked on iris and leather these days, but I can't get enough.
What are your summer favorites?