When the two people you're closest to tell you they're no longer 'feeling' your signature perfume anymore, it's probably time for a change. Though I was heart-broken to admit my bottle of Carnal Flower isn't working on me anymore—whether because my body chemistry has changed or because my bottle is old or sun-damaged—it was also an opportunity to find a new scent. My search inspired a full-on office discussion about each of our favorite scents, the perfumes we wore in high school (Body Shop, anyone?), and the qualities we each look for in a perfume. Read on for a transcript of our recent office conversation:
Emily: I recently bought a fragrance that I thought I loved—I tried it on in the store, and it was great. It was my typical, light floral scent, but, three hours later, it turned. I'm devastated because I still haven't found another fragrance. For so long, light, white florals have been my thing, but now I'm questioning whether I should go a different route entirely.
Leslie: Are all of your perfumes white florals? I know you have a pretty big collection of perfumes you associate with major events in your life.
Emily: For the most part, yes. There's the one my mom gave me when Sloan was born that I still love, but it lasts for two minutes on me, and by the time I'm out the door, it's totally faded. Which I swear is also just something that happens to me more than other people—I'll spray it, and then when G and I are in the car on our way to a date and I'll give him my wrist and ask him if he likes what I'm wearing, he won't smell anything. I do know that I am particularly judicious with my application. While some people just bathe themselves in their scent, I only do two very light spritzes. I do still have two other scents that I like (Petit Cherie and Antonia's Flowers), but they're both so light that I'm ready to find a new signature scent.
Leslie: I actually wanted to ask how everyone applies their perfumes. How many spritzes do you apply, and where do you apply them?
Katie: I do my wrists and my neck, and I just go for it, depending on which of the rotation of my five perfumes I'm wearing that day. I have a Miss Dior perfume that's so light that you really have to get into it, but I also have a [laughs] Kim Kardashian West one where two spritzes are all I need.
Anne: That sounds so 'on brand' for you! [laughs]
Jess: I do my wrists and rub them together, then my neck, my shirt, and hair.
Leslie: That seems like a lot, but I've never thought that you smell overwhelming.
Jess: Yeah, so four spritzes. And then I shake it into my hair because you emit heat from your head, and it creates a more pungent smell.
Emily: I've noticed I can always smell you—it's not overwhelming, but I do smell you.
Jess: That's always my plan.
Leslie: Now I'm thinking of adopting that as my strategy! I think mine goes away because I do my wrists and then I'll spray the back of my neck beneath where my hair falls. I also heard that you're not supposed to rub your wrists together after you spray because it crushes the oils in it and it makes it smell different...
Anne: Yeah, I remember reading that too.
Leslie: I probably read that in Seventeen magazine or something, and it just really stuck with me...
Kelly: I used to spray my neck when I first started dating my fiancé‚ but now I really don't care and just spray one spritz on my clothes before leaving the house.
Emily: Which I noticed when I was wearing your coat the other day, I instantly thought, this smells nice!
Kelly: I definitely focus more on my clothes rather than on my body, which is probably not the strategy I should be using. I think I cared a lot more when I was trying to impress my then-boyfriend, but now I'm good... [laughs]
Katie: What were everyone's first perfumes? I always find that so interesting! Mine was Vera Wang princess, and I still restock it from Amazon for $18...
Leslie: Remember when Camilla Belle was the poster girl for Vera Wang? I had that ad campaign on my high school bathroom mirror as makeup inspo...
Katie: I used to cut out the ads and put them in my room too!
Jess: DKNY 'Be Delicious', baby...
Emily: I bought my very first perfume around middle school from The Body Shop, and I think it was a raspberry one that I doused myself in. That's when my mom first talked to me about the fact that if you wear too much perfume, it can smell really bad and maybe that's why I've always used such a light touch with it. I never want to be the girl who overdoes it. I rotated between three perfumes in high school: Tommy Girl, Ralph Lauren Romance, and Clinique 'Happy'. And I still use the body wash for Clinique 'Happy' because it truly does live up to its name! Since I've been struggling so much with coming up with a new signature perfume, I'm almost considering going back to another one that I wore that people would stop me on the street for—it was Burberry Brit...
Leslie: What does that smell like?
Emily: I looked it up today, and it doesn't have any of the notes that I typically go for, but I really liked it and people would compliment me often, mainly men, which is kind of fun... so maybe I should go back to more of a basic, straightforward option. Anne?
Anne: I think my first perfume was 'Charlie' from the drugstore.
Emily: I remember the girl in my class who would wear that, with a red lip...
Anne: Yes! ...and then when I finally bought a perfume for myself, on my birthday, I went to Sears and got a Calvin Klein One. I like mens' colognes more than perfumes, so I've always worn those.
Kelly: My first perfume was definitely Dior Pure Poison. It's almost a sultry one. I think I got it when I was sixteen, and then in college I wore Marc Jacobs Daisy. I smell it now, and it just brings me back to being in my early 20s. It's still a really good scent. What's funny is that I've looked up a bunch of the scents that I've worn throughout the years and they all have one thing in common- jasmine.
Emily: That's always been one of my go-to's as well. When I went perfume shopping a couple weeks back, the guy offered me the most pure, perfect gardenia scent, which is crazy because I usually don't see gardenia listed in perfumes. He said, for whatever reason, it's a really hard fragrance to get right. He made me a sample and when I first put it on I thought it smelled really expensive and good, but, unfortunately, a couple hours later, I smelled like an old lady...
Leslie: Do white florals usually turn like that?
Emily: I've noticed they do... The thing I hate the most is when they go powdery. Which is why I will never wear rose. If someone has a really good rose scent on, I'm not offended by it, but powdery is something that you just can't come back from.
Kelly: Regarding body chemistry, things can smell totally different on different people too. I smelled Glossier You on Katie, which was absolutely amazing, and then Caroline and I went to the Glossier store, and I spritzed it on myself and I gave it an hour, and I really just didn't like it on me...
Leslie: I wasn't even aware that perfumes turned or changed.
Emily: I think it happens to me more than most humans...
Leslie: You also have an amazing sense of smell.
Emily: That's also true. My sense of smell is not normal.
Jess: Well, I also hear you when you say you're not liberal when you spray so maybe if you're not using a ton, the bottle is sitting there a lot longer than other people's. My bottles go pretty quickly...
Emily: That's not a bad call!
Leslie: How long does it take you to go through a bottle? And what scent are you using right now?
Jess: I use a Le Labo scent, and a bottle lasts me about 9 months. I mean, if I'm spraying five spritzes per day, every day...
Leslie: That's about twice as quickly as I use a bottle... good to know!
Katie: Are there any perfumes that you have bought and brought home that have been really disappointing? Because that was Miss Dior for me. I was so disappointed by the perfume.
Anne: Yeah, I remember I bought Chloe Rose to go to a friends wedding, and I was disappointed...
Kelly: I don't like Chloe Rose either. I had a friend who wore it and it made sense for her, but it definitely smelled better on her than me.
Anne: I love the ad campaigns and the bottles, but I think I ended up giving it away.
Emily: Are you influenced by your significant others/friends' opinions?
Literally everyone: Yes!
Jess: Justin actually prefers the scent I wore in college, probably because it's the scent I wore when we met, which was Byredo's Rose Noir.
Emily: You were very classy in college!
Leslie: I think I wore Juicy Couture in college...
Katie: That's the one that got me the most compliments from men...
Emily: That got a ton for me too!
Anne: Yeah, men have no taste. [laughter] I'm joking! Mostly...
Emily: But at the same time, I'm very influenced by that! If someone says, 'You smell great!" I'm like, fine, this is my new scent!
Jess: What's that male cologne that smells sooo good?
Emily: Acqua di Gioia.
Jess: Yes!! That one gets me every time!! And I don't know why—it's not that great!
Emily: That also goes back to high school... it's spicy but not Abercrombie... I think I gave that as a gift to probably seven of my ex-boyfriends...
Jess: This is a gift to you for me... [laughs]
Emily: I would douse their sweatshirts in it... I mean scent is such a powerful thing...
Leslie: Abercrombie 'Fierce' is still so high school to me! I worked at a Hollister, and we had to spray the mannequins every three hours with a huge bottle of perfume... I worked there for a month, and then was like, "I'm going to go blind and lose my sense of smell if I stay in this dark store one more day!" But that idea of stores using scent for marketing is still so interesting to me...
Emily: Some of the other early ones for me were the GAP scents... Grass, Om, Heaven, and Dream... I still remember all of them, and everyone in our high school chose their perfume from those. Even before that, we all started out with the very perfumed lotions that we'd pull out of our backpacks towards the end of class. When people wanted to share, it was like, "Okay, cool, now all thirty of us are going to smell exactly the same..."
Kelly: Yeah, ours were perfumed lotions from Victoria's Secret.
Jess: And I remember a pink one too...
Caroline: Yes! Sweet pea or something... My sisters used to use that, and it was way too sweet for me...
Emily: Does anyone change their scents by the season?
Jess: I pick my scents based on knowing I want to smell a certain way right when I wake up every single day. I actually get anxious if I'm on my way to work and realize I forgot to put it on. I get stressed out.
Leslie: I feel that way too. I feel naked if I'm not wearing it.
Kelly: Oh, I would not notice. I wouldn't give a second thought to it.
Anne: I don't usually wear perfume... I wear mens' deodorant too, which in itself is a choice. I really just don't think about it. My mom never really wore makeup or perfume or anything like that, so we didn't have any around the house. And you're not necessarily the way your mom is, but I think definitely, in this way, I very much am.
Jess: One of my college essay prompts was: If you had to bring three things to a deserted island, what would they be? One of mine was my mom's perfume because that scent is so associated with going to sleep and a goodnight kiss. My mom obviously read my essay so when she dropped me off at college, she gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, "There's something under your pillow." When I went to my pillow, there was a bottle of her perfume. I always had her scent if I needed it. It's just straight musk, and that will forever be associated with my mom. I would wear it just because it smells like her. And I wouldn't say that I wear what my mom wears, but definitely my affinity for scent came from my mom.
Kelly: We said this the other day about something else—everything comes back to your mom!
Emily: It definitely does!
Leslie: I also have bottles of perfume from the women most important to me—my grandma's, my godmother's, my aunt's, my mom's... I'll forget that I own them, and then once in a while I'll come across one and smell it. It's such a good reminder of each of them.
Emily: My mom likes makeup and skincare, but she is such a huge perfume person. She has blogs that she checks on a daily basis to find out about the brand-new perfumes, and if she knows I'm going to Barney's or something, she will be like, "Byredo has a new fragrance that I want to smell. Can you get me a sample?" Two of her fragrances have actually ended up becoming mine as well. Antonia's Flowers is a great floral, and then Petit Cherie is another great one.
Kelly: Where has everyone gotten their best perfume recommendations from? One of the perfumes I wear almost everyday was from a salesperson in a Bloomingdale's. I told her I was looking for a new scent but couldn't find anything I liked, and she asked me what notes I prefer. I told her jasmine and orange or mandarin, and she took me over to the Trish McEvoy makeup counter and with one spritz, I was sold... It's called 'Snowdrop & Crystal Flowers'.
Emily: That sounds like something Sloan would name a perfume... [laughter]
Kelly: I just really love it, even the packaging—it's in a triangular shaped bottle which I really love; it's a super light scent that feels like you're on vacation, and it's one of my favorite scents I have ever smelled.
Katie: If you like orange you should try the Atelier Parfum Orange Sanguine.
Kelly: I got a sample of a really similar one from the same brand from Sephora, and it's amazing! I'm going to buy it actually- I love it!
Emily: You should try the Le Labo's Fleur d'Oranger. My mom wore that for our wedding.
Jess: I take all my notes from men... I like androgynous scents for the most part so I have found my last two perfumes/colognes from guys that I've hugged, then asked them where their scent is from.
Caroline: And you bought the same exact scent or a similar one with the same notes?
Jess: The exact same one after making sure it smelled similar on me. I like almost muskier, deeper scents. I don't really like lighter florals...
Emily: Yeah people usually go one of two ways, and what's funny is that the one time I went a little bit more musky was for Gypsy Water. Unfortunately, I wore it during my first trimester when I was ill, and even to this day, I have to ask my friend not to wear it around me because it turns my stomach so badly.
Caroline: One thing to add in terms of staying-power is that I will usually use a body oil before I apply my perfume. Layering helps with longevity.
My daily signature scent: Le Labo
My go-to musk, perfect for everyday or special occasions: Kiehl's Musk
When I want to feel like a Parisian sunning in their rooftop garden (i.e., chic and conscientious): I turn to Hermès' Un Jardin sur le Toit
In my regular rotation (day): Trish McEvoy No. 3 Snowdrop and Crystal Flowers and Atelier Cologne Clementine California
In my regular rotation (night): Elie Saab Rose Couture (RIP because it's being discontinued, but on sale now), YSL Black Opium
My most recent discovery: Byredo Bal d'Afrique
P.S., Read tips for layering scents here, and share your favorite perfumes (and tricks for making them last!) in the comments below.