I am often reminded of the power of scent. A particular scent can instantly transport me somewhere else, to a time long ago, or remind me of someone.

I remember when I was living in London 13 years ago, at the tail end of a most miserable and grey Winter, and I decided to purchase a new perfume from Jo Malone. At that stage, Jo Malone perfume was only available in London, in her little shop on Sloane Street. After sniffing away at all the different scents, I selected French Lime Blossom. For some reason, it reminded me of childhood Summers spent at our beach shack, and feeling rather homesick, this was the one I decided upon.


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It only became apparent why I chose this scent upon my return to Australia. Fast forward 1 year later, and I walked into work in Melbourne wearing my French Lime Blossom cologne only to have one of my work colleagues sniff the air and say "who's wearing sunscreen?". The penny dropped. No wonder it reminded me of beach holidays.

More recently I have been helping my Father clear out my mother's things. I have to admit, this has been rather depressing. I burst into tears on entering her Dressing Room, as not only did it have all her familiar things in it, but her smell too. Mum always wore Hermes Caleche, for as long as I can remember. The smell still reminds me of being little and in bed, Mum dressed up ready for a night out somewhere leaning over to kiss me goodnight with a heady whiff of her perfume enveloping me.

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My Father has, for as long as I can remember, also stuck to a signature scent. Dad is quite particular about scent (although I think his sense of smell is used more for sniffing wine than perfume), and has worn Dior's Eau Sauvage. This does not seem to be a common aftershave, so I do tend to associate it with him, in the same way Caleche is my Mum.

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When I was 15 years old, I determined that it was time I should have my own "Signature Scent". I used to subscribe to Vogue, and my reading had lead me to believe that this was of vital importance. The scent I chose should be my scent alone for the Rest Of My Life. With this weight on my shoulders, after a lot of deliberation, I chose YSL's Paris. Frankly, it epitomises the 80's. Very overblown and full of Roses, it has the ability to leave a tailstream of scent behind you hours after applying. Of course I "layered" it, as the perfume marketing execs told us to, using the body cream and powder as well.

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A few years later, I was seduced by Ralph Lauren's Safari, partially because I loved the cut glass Victorian style bottle. It's a scent that Mr AV associates with me, as I used to wear it when we first met, back in 1994. I stopped wearing it around 4 years later, but even now, if I squirt a bit on, he will always comment on it.

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I can't say I have a signature fragrance now. I stopped wearing fragrance while I was pregnant and immediately after having children, as the hormones did strange things to my sense of smell and I found perfume overbearing. I have a few on rotation at any one time, my favourite probably being Jo Malone's Lime Basil and Mandarin in Summer, or her Nutmeg and Ginger in Winter.

Do you have a Signature scent, or choose as your mood depends?


18 comments:

  1. Loved this post and agree scent is so evocative.

    It is very sad to read about you clearing away your Mother's Things.

    I have all of the Chanel no 5 stuff that I gave Grandma over the years. She died 2 years ago and it's probably all gone off but I want to keep them anyway.

    My mother wears Givenchy's Ysatis which screams 1988 and always reminds me of her.

    Youth Dew and opium remind me of my aunt.

    The Chanel fragrances remind me of my sisters.

    Lavender baby bath reminds my of my son.

    The smell of rain on asphalt reminds me of my childhood.

    I'd forgotten that my 1st husband wore Eau sauvage until just then.

    xxxx

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    1. That's funny about your 1st Husband FF sharing the same scent as my father! Mr AV doesn't wear any scent at all. He has a cupboard full of aftershave given as gifts, but never wears any. If he ever does put it on, I tease him and ask if he's going to visit his girlfriend. Love your list of your family scents. My grandmother used to wear Anais Anais and it definitely reminds me of her. xx

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  2. Dear Heidi
    Such an interesting post about perfumes and memories. I think perfumes are rather like Proust's madeleine. They really do bring all kinds of memories back.
    My mother's two favourites in her more mature years were both Estee Lauder fragrances, Youth Dew and Beautiful. When she died I too had to clear through all her things, as the only daughter. She had left almost full bottles of both. I thought it was a pity to waste them so even though I've never really liked either personally, I started wearing them. But found myself crying several times a day because they reminded me so much of her and my loss. My husband insisted I find someone to give them too as they were making me so sad. Even now if I smell either on someone, I'm instantly reminded of her. Perhaps you can relate to that with Caleche.
    Strangely, Hermes Caleche was an old favourite of mine when I was in my twenties and I still rather like it, but not as much as in those days.
    I remember the same advice about having a signature fragrance and layering it, but have never bought into that (maybe the layering).

    From my early teenage experiments with Tweed and Revlon scents I graduated in my early twenties to Caleche after being been given a bottle; had a brief flirtation with "Charlie" as a young office worker in London - it was considered very hip - and went with my Mary Quant clothes. From there in the 80s there was YSL's Paris (like you), and yes overblown and too many roses, then Opium and too heavy and oriental, then onto Chanel beginning with 19 which I still love and then also 5 and the Hermes Mediterranean garden, Un Jardin sur le Nil and even the Monsoon garden. Also enjoyed Safari at one stage too. For me, perfumes need to suit my mood, or the mood I'd like to feel. That might be freshness like spring or more woody and deeper. But after YSL's Paris I've never liked single flower scents. I came early to preferring more complex fragrances. It would be boring for me to wear just one fragrance all my life.
    But every perfume I've ever worn for any time is a trigger for so many memories of that particular period in my life. Didn't have any problems with wearing perfume during pregnancy though. But we went through some stages when money was a little too short to spend much on French perfume. So I was a little more frugal in my use of it during that time.
    A perfume should raise your spirits, make you feel happy and good about yourself. I wear a perfume I love every day. It's part of my morning routine and makes me feel better as soon as I spray it on. I vary the particular scent depending on my mood or the weather. Very fickle! With best wishes, Pamela

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  3. Pamela, such an interesting history of Fragrance you have - you've really covered all the classics of their period! I hope you've still got your Mary Quant clothes? I have exactly the same dilemma with my mother's Caleche as you had with your mother's fragrance. There is half a bottle left, and I was discussing with my father and younger sister what to do with it this morning. Neither of us want to wear it because it just smells like mum, and Dad said he would hate to smell it on us as it would remind him of her and make him sad. We've put it aside for the time being, and hopefully I'll find someone that will want it, someone that I won't be around to smell it on them! xx

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    1. Dear Heidi
      As I work one morning a week as a volunteer in our church Op. Shop, I took my mother's perfumes and offered them to co-volunteers (they couldn't be sold of course as they'd been opened). The two who put their hands up were very pleased. I felt this would have made my mother happy. I also asked her special friends who were her size to chose some of her clothes (she had lovely things) for themselves. This way I felt the clothes she loved were still going on and being appreciated by them.

      But it's very difficult to get over such a sad loss, it takes a long time. Eventually though the worst of the sadness goes and you can think of lost loved ones again with happy memories and talk about them with smiles and not tears. My best wishes, as you work your way through this. I feel for your father too. They were obviously a devoted couple.

      In answer to your question about the Mary Quant clothes. They were fantastic and I loved them to bits but gave them all away years ago. They were from my skinny young days and I've sadly put on weight since then. With best wishes, Pamela

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    2. That's a great idea about giving the scent to someone you work with. I might ask my older sister to take it back with her to Canberra when she next visits and see if someone she works with wants it. As for giving away the Mary Quant, I am a big advocate of cleaning out the cupboards regularly myself, so I would probably have done the same. My mother, clearly, was not. We have been staggered at the amount of clothes and shoes she has managed to spread throughout their house. I think when you have room, it's easy not to feel the need to purge regularly. It was all very neat on the surface, but underneath was a titanic iceberg of possessions. Around 1/3 has gone to a consignment shop (all the European and Australian designer things), and 1/3 to the op shop and 1/3 to the bin (her gardening clothes. She had a very large amount of her wardrobe given over to this category). Still have to sort through the scarves, bags and costume jewellery with both my sisters when they are home at Christmas time. xx

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  4. Heidi, what an interesting post. I used to LOVE wearing perfume - Chanel number 19 to be exact, but this year, for some reason, it doesn't feel right to use perfume on my skin anymore and instead have been using more essential oils. I think I might go down the more natural route but no doubt will keep my Chanel number 19 in the cupboard as it is still my signature scent. My mum used to wear Oscar De La Renta and Eternity, however she doesn't wear them anymore. Funny you mentioned what your dad wears, as I had to help my dad last week complete his first internet shopping order on Strawberrynet for a perfume called Tsar Van Cleef & Arpels, as he has been wearing it for as long as I can remember. I hope helping your dad with your mums things goes ok. Fifi xxx

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    1. I have seen by your posts over the last year that you are definitely going in a more organic direction. When I was at Gwinganna, they asked that none of us use perfume for the duration of our stay, as it was so irritating to people with allergies and bad for us as well. I do love Chanel No 19 though, it has such a lovely fresh scent. Funny re your Dad and his strawberrynet purchase! I can totally see me having to help Dad do this - he's had to learn a few new things in the past year! xx

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  5. Heidi, I absolutely agree with you about scent, it's like a time machine. There are certain smells that take me back to the past in an instant.

    I am an Obsession (CK) (Winter) and Princess (Wang) (Summer) junkie. I hope that one day (after a full and happy life) my daughter walks into my closet and smells those perfumes and they take her back to beautiful, happy memories.

    I'm so sorry that you have to go through what you're going through. Hang in there. Kx

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    1. I'm sure that in the future, the scent will bring back lovely memories of Mum. It's just all too raw at the moment. If you do indeed stick to your scents, I'm sure your daughter will one day have lovely memories of you too. xx

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  6. So true, scent is so evocative and so personal. A half full bottle of perfume sums up the transient hold that we all have on life.
    I too used to wear Safari.....when it was given to me another lifetime ago by a previous boyfriend. These days I wear Diptyque's 'Doson' which reminds me of trips to Paris, my husband and my beautiful children. I hope that one day you'll be able to smell Caleche again and only think of the happy times. Rx

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    1. I love the Diptyque candles and fragrances, and that is so nice that you have lovely family memories and trips associated with it. Did you find it first in their beautiful Paris store? xx

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  7. Scent is so evocative. I recall being confused as a child when Mum switched from Lou Lou to Anais Anais, I felt ripped off that she smelt different to the way she always had. I am a Jo Malone fan, Lime, Basil & Mandarin is my scent. I also use a bit of Elizabeth Arden Green Tea. The smell of boot polish reminds me of my Dad - he wouldn't dream of leaving the house with out first polishing. My husband smells of Loccitane Cade and our babies of Johnson's baby powder. I don't even know the point of baby powder but I love how it makes them smell so fresh from the bath. I hope your Dad is fairing ok. What a difficult task sorting through your mums things. Take care.

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    1. That's funny that you associate boot polish smell with your Dad! I remember that one person I know associates the smell of bleach with her mother. It sounds like we have fairly similar taste in scent - I like a fresh and green scent too. Dad's going ok, all things considered. He and Mum were together since they met at 17, so it's a difficult adjustment. They have a lot of friends (seriously, in the last month or so of my Mum's life I pretty much would never see her alone - there was always someone dropping in) and they are keeping an eye on him. xx

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  8. Hi Heidi, I love the Jo Malone scented candles...thanks for stopping by at mamacino...I look forward to reading more about your beautiful home in Adelaide x

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Mamacino, there's nothing like a lovely scented candle! xx

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  9. I wish I had a signature scent. However, I love and own too many to stick to just the one. Maybe one day... Lately, the ones on very high rotation have been chance and chance fruiche (both by Chanel) and Bvlgari Omnia, the purple one.

    B

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    1. I don't think I know either of the Chanel ones. Obviously I'm out of the loop perfume wise! x

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