Despite my chemical sensitivities, I love perfume and perfumed products.
I should clarify. SOME perfume. I can't walk into Bed Bath and Beyond or a Yankee Candle Store for love or money (at least, not without getting a massive migraine if I forget to breathe exclusively through my mouth), and I tend to steer clear of the candle aisle at my local craft and home stores.
(It's the candles, it must be; I don't know what they put in them, but it's nasty.)
(Day-old split pea soup cooking smell is redolent of a room full of small dogs with digestive issues, at least to me. Cooking fish still smells worse, though. One is the sulfur, the other is... fish. No matter how yummy the fish - and crackly-skinned broiled fish is teh YUM - it smells like ass in short order.)
I have, through mad experimentation, found a number of perfumes I can actually wear without wanting to die, and most of them are by Caswell-Massey. Their pure flower essences (especially honeysuckle) are gorgeous, and as long as I am extremely sparing with the spray (spray barest burst of perfume into air; allow to settle a little, then spin through fast), I can get away with them. I can't wear anything at all with musk - it turns rancid on my skin (even the real stuff), and synthetic musk = instant vomiting migraine.
Cheap perfumes rely far too much on musk to get their point across. And people who wear perfume regularly put way too much on, producing an effect reminiscent of body marinade a la "Chantilly". I can frequently trail people by the heavy scent they leave on the air behind them. If I can smell where you were standing five minutes ago, you're wearing too much.
Does anyone remember "Chantilly"? It was very big in the '60s, and had a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s. It's one nasty, nasty perfume that produces, along with the migraine, instant memories of the mall, big hair, and too much blue eyeshadow.
(I did eventually throw out the blue eyshadow, but not before buying blue eyeliner and blue mascara. What can I say? It was the '80s, and I had a poodle perm.)
(We will draw a discreet curtain over my wardrobe of neon sweats and Stevie Nicks-type swirly Indian skirts. Some of the vintage stuff was nice, but that's no excuse.)
I was terribly pleased when Bob found a company that makes Climat, my mother's favourite perfume. It was discontinued some time in the 1970s, and I remember she had one tiny bottle left that she nursed for years - it was the one thing I was never allowed to touch on her dressing table. My mother then tried several perfumes, and settled on Joy, which on her, smells like hyacinths. On me, it smells like dead and rotting hyacinths, thanks to the presence of musk.
For a while, I wore Amarige, which on me, smells exactly like a fuzzy navel, heavy on the peach. I still have a bottle, and I will sometimes spritz a teeny bit on, especially when I want to feel grown-up (it's one of the more expensive perfumes I have). Normally, I'll just dust with a perfumed talcum powder, and I am a sucker for anything lavender.
The perfume I wore all through my teenage years was Blue Grass - advertised as "Fresh as the Kentucky Hills", though it smells nothing like grass.
(A good thing, since the Demeter fragrance company puts out a perfume called "Grass", and it smells revolting. Nothing at all like fresh-mown grass - more like compost. Their "Gin and Tonic" isn't bad, though.)
I recently broke down and got a bottle of "Blue Grass" from the Vermont Country Store, since I was waxing nostalgic, and I wondered if it really smelled as good as I remember. Fortunately, it does - but it's pretty specific for my mood, and not an all-purpose scent, like some of my florals. I am wearing it today, on complete impulse, but like Amarige, it makes me feel grown-up (Lord knows, pretty much nothing else does).
I've never been particularly susceptible to perfume advertising - my requirements for how a perfume smells override any gorgeous advertising featuring Elizabeth Hurley in a wedding dress - but I have found some specific bottle designs rather tempting. Nina Ricci's "Nina" perfume (yes, the one that the Twilight marketers ripped off for their cheap and nasty stank) bottle is delightful, designed by Lalique, and I was seriously tempted, but it's kinda pricey for the bottle (I do not care in the least for the scent - though I do quite like L'air du Temps). I admit, I am a sucker for a good bottle design. Caswell-Massey doesn't do much with theirs, but they're pretty low-priced (under $30), so I just keep them in the box, which usually has beautiful graphics. Amarige has a lovely simple design, but "Blue Grass" is an absolute failure on the design front - cheap-looking, with a very late 1960s sensibility.
Clearly, I'm not that much of a sucker for the bottle. Maybe I just appreciate a good design. I do have a couple of perfumes for my 1940s stuff - Evening in Paris, and Tailspin - but I have both of them for the bottle, not for the fragrance.
(You can get all kinds of old perfumes at the Vermont Country Store, including ones that really smell pretty terrible. Clearly someone, somewhere, likes them. They do appear to draw the line at "Chantilly", since I couldn't find it on a search, but I bet they'd offer it if someone asked.)
I do think people perfume things too much - it's awful being assaulted by heavy scents wherever I go - but I don't want to do away with perfume completely. I like some things to have a gentle scent (though I draw the line at the new "scent-renewing" laundry soaps - ugh!), I just don't want to be overwhelmed. I should only be able to smell someone when I lean in close. Once upon a time, women (and men) wore one scent, and it became "their" smell; you associated it with them, and it made you think of them when you smelled it elsewhere. Unfortunately, we've become so over-olfacted with scents from everything that it's impossible to distingush one scent from another.
I think it's this that leads to over-perfuming - to smell yourself over everything else, you have to drench yourself in pong. Unbearable.
Of course, there's nothing that smells so good as a light soap and clean skin. Bottle that one up and sell it - one for the men, one for the women.
Eau de Bob - yummy.