A dab of parfum as one dashes out of the house, is one of the great pleasures of life – and the most delightful finishing touch, by the strictest sartorial standards.

Will be getting myself a perfume, as reward for completing the fast fashion fast.

Annick Goutal is my current favourite. A traditional perfume house created in the grand tradition of  perfumerie. I rewarded myself with a bottle after the successful 28 day fast fashion fast.

 I tried on a selection of scents, in person, but only one at a time, on any given day.

Visited Annick Goutal and tried on a selection of scents. This is best done in person, and one at a time, on any given day.

I used to choose my perfume solely on the design of the bottle and the packaging, (I know right? But those unbelievably cute bottles are very seductive.) Not any more, now that I am older and wiser my methods have become a little more sophisticated.

Nowadays, I tend to buy only from actual perfume houses. I stay away from designer perfumes or celebrity endorsed products. (Celebrity endorsed tend to be the very worst in terms of quality and sometimes ethics. They are out for a quick buck, so to speak) Even good quality perfumes from respectable design houses, can be rejected. In my case, it is well known among my friends & colleagues, that I like Hermes as a brand and was given items from their fragrance range as gifts. Grateful as I am, for the kind thought, I am not keen on them and really would not suggest to anyone to give perfume as a gift. (unless you are familiar with the recipients taste.)

Nowadays, I tend to buy only from actual perfume houses and stay away from designer perfumes or celebrity endorsed products.

Nowadays, I tend to buy only from actual ‘perfume houses’, and stay away from fashion perfumes or celebrity endorsed products.

Avoiding expensive mistakes when buying fragrance.
#Choosing fragrance, takes time and patience. I try on a selection of scents, in person, but only one at a time, on any given day. Good perfume has top notes, (what we immediately perceive as smell) middle notes, (the actual scent that stays on the skin for several hours) and then a final note (towards the end). If you mix different fragrances, – the final result will not be representative of the actual fragrance we buy.

#The recommendation is to only apply perfume on clean bare skin, after bathing or showering. I love to spray my scarves and gloves too though. (Be warned as my method, may stain light silks or pale coloured cashmere)

#On my dressing table, I only keep one perfume at a time. Once the packaging is removed, perfume starts to deteriorate straight away. Keeping out of direct heat, sun, or strong light will help make it last longer. The lovely bottles are a delight for the eye, but ideally once opened, perfume should be used quickly. (Under 6 months)

#Less is more: Though some suggest we keep a portfolio of different fragrances, to suit our mood, I just keep the special one which is precious to me. Only make seasonal changes. For example I use different perfume in the winter and different in the summer. I enjoy the consistency and love it when the perfume becomes more me, so to speak. It becomes embedded, on my clothes and in wardrobe as a light fresh scent.

Penhaligons is a classic British fragrance house, another one of my favourites.

Penhaligons is a classic British fragrance house, another one of my favourites.

Penhaligons is a classic British perfume brand, the boutiques are beautifully decorated and the fragrance range comes in traditional glass bottles.

Penhaligons classic boutiques are beautifully decorated and the fragrance range comes in traditional glass bottles. The bath oils are complementary fragrance and an absolute treat.

The most delightful, cofrette of miniature perfumes for sampling. I often buy these for Christmas presents. I keep a note of what people like so I can buy them something personalised.

The most delightful, cofrette of miniature perfumes for sampling. I often buy these for Christmas presents. I keep a note of what people like so I can buy them something personalised.

Fragrances come in different strengths, which partly determines the price range.
Parfum, sometimes known as extrait de parfum is the most concentrated form and usually very expensive. Concentration is generally between 20% to 30% for most parfums and contain far less alcohol than other fragrance types making them less likely to dry out the skin.
Pure Parfum lasts the longest; usually six to eight hours, it’s great for evenings, but do beware, as the scent can be overwhelming on the tube during the day. I rarely buy this, as it’s so expensive, and when I do, it’s reserved for evenings.

Eau de Parfum
Eau de parfum has the next highest concentration of fragrance (between 15% and 20%.) On average, eau de parfum will last for four to five hours. It is more affordable than parfums and more widely available. This is my regular choice, for every day wear.
Eau de Toilette
Eau de toilette is next down with concentration of between 5% and 15%. It is cheaper than eau de parfum and is one of the most popular types of fragrance available. fragrance will normally last for two to three hours. Some prefer Eau de toilette for day wear, while eau de parfum is considered nightwear. I just found out that it’s derived from the French term “faire sa toilette” which means getting ready.
Eau de Cologne
Eau de cologne, still lower concentration – about 2% to 4% percent of fragrance and more alcohol. It is cheaper than other types of fragrance however the scent generally only lasts for up to two hours. I sometimes use this in the summer, when eau de Parfums can be overwhelming. It generally comes in huge bottles, it’s inexpensive and great for splashing around. (Did you know: Originally eau de cologne referred to a traditional recipe that used herb and citrus notes with little anchoring with base notes.)
Eau Fraiche
Eau fraiche is a newer product and will generally last less than two hours. Concentration is very low only 1% to 3%. of fragrance – the rest being alcohol and water. Though it’s probably an OK choice for hot, summer days, I prefer simply washing with a good French soap!

The story of perfume creation
Perfumes are synthesised  in laboratories, by gifted, perfume creators. The base ingredients can be chemical compounds, or essential oils. Usually a mix. The cost of the base ingredient, will determine to some degree the cost of the product. For example anything  made with pure essential oils, will always cost more.

Back in the glory days of couture fashion, the house designer would meet with the perfume creator for lunch. They would have a chat, eat something delicious, have a few glasses of wine and jot some perfume ideas on a napkin or two. The perfume creator would then go back to the lab, and create the perfume to suit the fashion designer’s clothes collection & style. It was mostly, a civilised affair and everyone would meet for champagne, celebrate and admire. The perfume was very much, a side line to the actual, fashion range.

Those were the good old days! The creation of today’s fashion perfumes will involve a huge marketing team, focus groups and other hangers on. Fragrance (as well as handbags and small accessories) are major sources of income for most fashion houses. The clothes are just the side line. So basically when buying a fragrance from a ‘fashion’ line, we will pay rather a lot, for marketing, advertising and brand value.

good deed of the day: please share with us, your favourite perfume and fragrance philosophy. Are you loyal to the same perfume or do you prefer change?

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21 thoughts on “Accessorising: how to choose perfume

  1. Virginia

    Such an interesting history, Lady Sarah, thank you. Fragrance is such a personal item, very much to one individual style. I love that you sampled each fragrance separately, you really do need to try each one individually. Due to my allergies with scents, floral especially, I gave up on perfume for several years. I am now slowly wearing some woodsy scents from Diptyque Paris. Cruelty free and uses some natural oils, so far I am headache free. And I like the bottle also!

  2. CG

    In my twenties I loved Balmain’s Jolie Madame: it somehow represented the grown-up woman I wanted to be. When they stopped making it, I simply stopped wearing any scent, as no other ‘spoke to me’ as that had. I’ve read that the new version differs considerably from the original, so I haven’t tried it. The original is sometimes available in miniscule quantities as a collector’s item on eBay.but both the prices being asked and my doubts about how well it would have survived the decades have combined to keep me away from being tempted to try it again. In the absence of any ‘perfume house’ such as you recommend in my city, I shall very likely continue unscented – except for the briefly lingering scent of the Nuxe oil which you mentioned a while ago and I really like for all its properties.

  3. dottoressa

    Perfect and detailed expertise,dear LS. Perfumes are very important detail for me, from my childhood. My grandmother used floral scents or original Eau de Cologne 4711 ( from Cologne,Germany) and I was in seventh heaven playing with old fashioned bottles.
    I am faithfull to one perfum at the time and have winter (edP) and summer (edP or edT,it depends) favourites. I prefer smaller bottles (best 50ml) to 100ml,despite the price advantage. Even on the beach,I wear a dash of perfume at the back of my ear ( perfumes may make dark spots in sun,as you know). I have fair hair and blue eyes and don’t like ” heavy” perfumes on me. When changing the perfume I spend days trying my “targets” (yes,one at the time :-)) to be sure. Little samples are very good for this purpose,the final decision is better after living with the scent for a couple of days ( and I keep it in my bag as the first aid after decision,too). The good scent stays with you and changes for better on your skin,not the worst!
    My summer favourites are Parisienne YSL or Burberrys Rose essential, for spring Anick Goutal Les muguets and for winter La vie est belle, first version (I know,with a billions of other women,but it spoke to me and it is perfect on my skin). And never,ever overdo,it is catastrophe!
    Have a nice Sunday LS!

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Thank you for all the wonderful details and all your imput, I always learn from your posts. I did not know that the sun creates dark spots where we wear perfume. I never wore perfume on the beach or anywhere really hot, as been told the scent often goes rancid, changes for the worst, plus it could attract mosquitoes! And if you travel in malaria zones you really don’t want that.

  4. Barbara

    Great post! I’m going to treat myself to an Annick Goutal fragrance for my upcoming birthday. I love rose scented perfumes and see that’s the one you got. Do you like it? Good recommendation about trying out one scent per day, I will keep that in mind!

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Hi Barbara- yes I love the one I got. There are two distinctly different rose perfumes in the annick goutal range- ( rose absolue and rose splendide) I tried both, but is a very personal thing, you may prefer the other one. Would love to know what you finally decide on and why.

  5. happyface313

    🙂 Great post – so many details!
    I don’t buy many perfumes. I stick to mine for ages and change only occasionally – heavier ones in winter, lighter fragrances in summer. Personally, I like the Hermessences, because all of them can be mixed and one can create a very special personal fragrance.
    Have a very HAPPY Sunday 🙂

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Thank you for the imput dear Happyface- I used every last drop of my Kelly caleche. Very expensive though, so did not buy it again. It’s very true what you say- Hermes essences do work well together, the bath products the soaps and everything.

  6. Archana Paladugu

    Great post. For years, I hated on perfumes because of how people wore it. They would walk in, overpower the room and give me a headache. And these ones are usually those celebrity/brand perfumes that are sickly floral.

    Gone are those days. I love perfume now. I like dark and woody/musky scents. I wear Jo Malone Pom Noir for the day. And mix some rose oil and musk for the night.

  7. Antonia

    Right now I’m wearing Bottega Veneta-which has a leathery scent-very nice-since BV is known for their fabulous leather bags! Before that it was Chanel Noir (in the black bottle). I am not faithful to any brand-I switch it up all the time. Maybe because I haven’t found ‘my scent’. I always love the smell at first and then I can’t smell it on myself after the morning is over. I might have to invest in Parfum. Thanks for the post LS!

  8. Nicola

    I tend to wear Fleur by Floris – it’s floral but not too sickly or heavy so ideal for work. I used to be a Penhaligon’s girl but there’s something magical about buying one’s perfume from a family-owned shop that once served Mary Shelley and Florence Nightingale…

    1. lady sarah in london Post author

      Floris! Of course- thank you for the tip Nicola. They have a lovely shop in jermyn street near fortnums. I see a prechristmas visit coming up. Would love to try their candles and home fragrance range. Have you tried them?

  9. pgshore

    Like you, I adore Annick Goutal fragrances. Currently I’m wearing La Violette during the day, and the new L’ile au Thé at bedtime. I find that if I apply La Violette after my morning shower, at about 9AM, the scent is completely gone by mid-afternoon, which leaves me free to treat myself (and The Hubster) to a wee splash of refreshing “Tea Island” just before lights-out!


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