What Do You Smell When You Look In The Mirror?

01st January, 2012

Here’s something you don’t need me to tell you: perfume doesn’t come in Size Zero. In fact, perfume may well be more genuinely ‘One Size Fits All’ than any other beauty product imaginable. (Or should that be ‘One Fits All Sizes’?) The fashion world continues to do battle with forces that are - quite rightly - calling for it to display a more realistic variety of human beings on catwalks, but fragrance doesn’t care what you look like. Sure, the advertising of scent could learn a thing or two about body diversity, but the juice itself is quite happy to enchant you whether you’re tall, short, skinny or plump. Perfume is an equal opportunity seducer.

Poor body image is often cited as a factor which causes young people in Britain to feel depressed. Indeed, several studies have shown that huge numbers of teenage girls consider themselves to be unhappy about the way they look. Sadly, boys don’t appear to be immune to these pressures either: endless images of pecs and six-packs seem to have had the effect of increasing a sense of inadequacy amongst young men.

But maybe perfume could come to the rescue? Many people wear fragrance because it gives them that extra bit of confidence they need to get through the day. A favourite scent acts like a comfort blanket - some would say ‘suit of armour’ - to help us deal with the manic pace of our daily lives. So perhaps there are certain perfumes out there which could help you feel better about the way you look, if you don’t happen to fit what’s currently considered to be the ideal body mould.

In the spirit of promoting and celebrating diversity, I’ve come up with my suggestions for fragrances which accentuate the uniqueness of various body types. Notice I wrote ‘accentuate’ rather than ‘disguise’. This isn’t about making slender people feel rounder and curvaceous people feel more streamlined. Far from it. The idea is to take what you’ve been given and flaunt it to the max. As our fragrant friends across the Channel would say: Vive la difference!

Slender (small and slight all the way down from the breasts/chest to the hips)

For her: Hiris from Hermes - Sharp angles can be sexy, especially if they’re wearing a flapper outfit and doing the Charleston. Olivia Giacobetti’s composition is one of the most angular iris scents available, thoroughly at ease with its curious, powdery sharpness.

For him: Knize Ten from Knize - The quintessential masculine leather fragrance, tailor made for the wiry gent who exudes charm and sophistication with a single shrug of his unobtrusive shoulders.

Top-heavy (weight centred around breasts/chest; small hips)

For her: Portrait Of A Lady from Frederic Malle - Bosoms and roses. Is it a terrible cliche to say that the two just go together extremely well? Dominique Ropion’s rose is so powerful - and so downright sensual - it would feel right at home on an unabashedly generous cleavage.

For him: Kouros from Yves Saint Laurent - ‘Prominent chest’ spells ‘alpha male’ and Pierre Bourdon’s Kouros is perhaps one of the most resolutely alpha male scents ever created. It is also harder to pull off than a hundred press-ups, so wear it only if you’re worthy of its might.

Pear-shaped (weight centred around hips and bottom)

For her: Amaranthine from Penhaligon’s - Famously inspired by the smell of the inside of a woman’s thigh, Bertrand Duchaufour’s white-on-white-on-white floral extravaganza is perfect for the lady whose charm lies in her cheeky wiggle.

For him: Al Oudh from L’Artisan Parfumeur - The masterful use of cumin in this composition instantly calls to mind the intimate scent of human sweat. When coupled with the naughtiness of woods and spices, it makes an ideal calling card for the man who leads with the hips.

Apple-shaped (weight centred around tummy; generally rounded)

For her: Mon Parfum Cheri Par Camille from Annick Goutal - This body type suggests wholeness and ‘one-ness’, which leads us to Camille Goutal’s latest offering for her family line: a rich presentation of patchouli, plum and labdanum, with no rough edges whatsoever.

For him: Santal 33 from Le Labo - Another wonderfully rounded perfume, with an intoxicating sandalwood note and a warm harmony of spices. It’s strong, hefty, masculine and completely grounded.

Hourglass (prominent breasts/chest and hips/bottom; defined waist)

For her: Orange Star from Tauer Perfumes - This one’s a no-brainer: it has an opening that’s the very definition of ‘delightful’ and a drydown that’s quietly carnal. In other words: the perfect hourglass perfume.

For him: Gold Man from Amouage - I concede that it isn’t easy to picture a man with an hourglass figure, but if we take the term to mean a guy with a V-shaped torso as well as well-developed thighs, Amouage’s exquisitely proportioned wonder is an obvious choice: its top notes are lucid, its middle section is trim, and its base notes couldn’t be sturdier.

[The tongue-in-cheek tone of the above notwithstanding, body image and self-perception (particularly amongst the young) are being seen as increasingly important issues. For more information, just type ‘fashion body diversity’ into Google and get reading.]

About the author

Persolaise is a Jasmine Award shortlisted writer and amateur perfumer who has had a strong interest in the world of fine fragrance for over 25 years. You can find out more about his work at www.persolaise.com or by emailing him at persolaise at gmail dot com.

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About the author: Persolaise

Persolaise is a four-time Jasmine Award winning writer with a lifelong interest in the world of fine fragrance. His perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published in English by Hardie Grant and in German by Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has written for Sunday Times Style, Grazia, Glass, The Scented Letter and Now Smell This, amongst others.

Website: http://www.persolaise.com/

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    • PoisonAddictSlave | 31st December 2011 22:53

      Well, since I'm basically an apple-I guess it's Santal 33 from Le Labo that will be my next excursion into finding my "fragrance identity". (Even though green, mossy chypre-types have been my steady favorites, I DO crave to leave the realm of CK1 and the like for more uncharted territory). Strong, hefty and masculine, huh? Sounds like a perfect fragrance for bears! Woof!

    • Persolaise (article author) | 13th January 2012 14:49

      PoisonAddictSlave, if you ever get a chance to try it, let me know what you think of it.

    • 1dita | 25th January 2012 18:41

      Wonderful read! It's a concept I never considered until now, but it makes sense to use fragrance as a celebration of what one is, in all aspects. Thanks, Persolaise, for the food-for-thought.

    • Nefret | 9th March 2013 15:26

      I found this hilarious because, well, I have a very top-heavy figure and you hit the nail on the head with Portrait of a Lady. I wear the hell out of that, and yes I spray it just over my bosom. Ha.