Oh how I love Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower. There’s nothing quite like its succulent gardenia and tuberose riding a magic carpet of crisp, leafy green. When I spray from my travel vial, I vow I’ll buy a real bottle soon — the big one, too.
But after an hour or so, I start to feel uncomfortable. I smell languid and romantic, bigger than life, like Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun. The thing is, I’m more like someone from a slapstick comedy. Carnal Flower just doesn’t fit me.
Thinking about it, it’s easy to match a fragrance to a persona. For instance, take aldehydic florals. Who do you see? I see someone elegant, with a profile that could be carved on a cameo. How about a mainstream fruity floral? I picture someone young with blond highlights (maybe that’s too easy). Old school green chypre? Rose oud? Classic cologne? “Concept” fragrances? They all have their types.
Perfume lovers seem to know instinctively that different fragrances go with different styles and moods. For that reason, some people gravitate toward fragrance styles that reflect the kind of person they are, and some choose perfume that matches the person they want to be. You want to be sultry, so you decide orientals are where it’s at and invest in Serge Lutens. Of course, you should wear whatever pleases you, but if you’re a Doris Day type, something fresher and prettier, like Christian Dior Diorissimo or L’Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse aux Papillons might suit you better.
Then there’s the mismatch of fragrance and occasion. I’ve been in a crowded elevator in the morning when above the scent of rain-soaked wool and coffee was Calvin Klein Obsession. The woman wearing it probably wanted to be perceived as sexy, but it just didn’t fit with her office job and casual Friday attire. More than once I’ve scrubbed my wrists of whatever perfume I put on that morning because it just didn’t feel right for the day (I keep an emergency decant of my go-anywhere favorite, DelRae Mythique, in my desk drawer for times like this.)
All that said, it would be a pretty boring life if everyone wore perfume that dovetailed with their appearance or situation. It’s wit and surprise that make life interesting. Sometimes it’s good to be a little uncomfortable, to feel slightly out of character. I may never buy that large bottle of Carnal Flower, but you can bet I'll always have some on hand.
What about you? Are there perfumes that you love but don’t quite seem “you”? Do you wear them anyway?