I got really interested in perfume about six years ago. I think it started when I went into an apothecary, the kind of place that typically sells soaps and maybe a few perfumes, usually ones like Tokyo Milk. I was looking for a new perfume, and I felt like I had exhausted the department store counters and the niche brands like Aqua di Parma and Annick Goutal, which were the only ones available where I shopped (I don’t buy my clothes at Barney’s, folks).
The wall behind the counter in the apothecary was packed with bottles I had never seen from Guerlain, Caron, Dior, and others. Most of them were classics rather than new releases. The owner pulled out tester after tester and let me smell until my nose gave out. Then she recommended Perfumes: The Guide and told me to come back any time. When I got home, I ordered the book and started googling the perfumes she had shown me. I found the Perfume of Life forum, bookmarked it, and then didn’t think much more about it. I went back to the apothecary and bought Miss Dior Cherie. Over the next six months I moved, between states and internationally, five or six times. Whenever I saw a new perfume shop, I would go in and smell what they had, then go home and make notes. One perfume I smelled during that time haunted me, because I’d never smelled anything like it: Borneo 1834. Eventually, I had annotated most of Perfumes: The Guide and discovered several perfume blogs. When I read about something I couldn’t wait to try, I ordered it from The Perfumed Court.
This is my perfume collection about a year after I started blogging.
Almost three years ago, I decided to start blogging. I usually flit pretty quickly from one interest to another, and I think blogging helped keep me interested in perfume by adding another facet and forcing me to be more proactive about seeking out new (to me) fragrances. By the time I started blogging, I was living part of the year within shouting distance of a city where you can get almost every fragrance in the world, and the other part of the year in San Francisco, which also has a good supply of perfume. That made it relatively easy to find things to write about. I also started getting interested in vintage perfumes, and since I’ve always shopped vintage, it was easy to start looking for perfumes when I was scouring antique shops and thrift stores.
When I read stories on other blogs or talk about perfume with other people who are into it, they talk about how much perfume they acquired when they first got into perfume. In some ways, I was no different. I definitely bought more perfume than ever before after I started blogging. But my acquisition was at a snail’s pace, compared to what I believe is the norm. I remember being really against the idea of having more than a dozen full-sized bottles. My collection did eventually grow to more than that, mostly via gifts from generous perfume friends. But whenever I felt it had gotten out of hand (I think the most full bottles I have ever had was 40 or 50), I would give away massive amounts of stuff to friends and family. Anything they wouldn’t take would be left on the mail table in my apartment building. I don’t want to tell all of you some of the perfume that got left on that table.
These days, I feel okay about my collection, because I really do view it as a collection. I have some very old vintage perfumes, and some things that have since been reformulated, that I keep because I want to be able to smell them from time to time. Everything (maybe 20 full sized bottles?) fits into a plastic storage bin that is about 16 in. x 12 in. x 12 in. and three craft trays that hold small decants and samples. Everything except a few travel bottles is currently in storage in one of my mom’s closets (bless her), because I’m between homes right now.
In my last post, reader Chamekke suggested some great topics for discussion. One was what I’d do differently if I were just getting into perfume now. Here are six things that either I would do differently or that I’m glad I did.
1. I wouldn’t buy samples and decants from unknown Indie brands out of a feeling of obligation to support them. I didn’t have good luck with very many of those purchases.
2. I would be more careful about back-up bottles. The back-up bottle seems like a no-brainer, because we usually buy them when there is a threat the perfume will be gone in two weeks or two months. But in fact, it is always a gamble, rather than a no-brainer. Inevitably when I’ve bought back-up bottles of seasonal or limited edition fragrances, they have been re-released later as “permanent” members of a collection or they have been temporary loves that I could live without. On the other hand, when I’ve restricted myself to one back-up of something I already know I love, I’ve inevitably ended up on eBay, cursing.
3. I would pay more attention to whether a brand is cruelty free. Animal rights have always been important to me, but I have slacked in recent years when it comes to cosmetics and fragrances. When I discovered recently that L’Occitane, Estee Lauder, and Yves Rocher have all given up their cruelty-free status in order to sell in Russia and China, both of which mandate animal testing, I realized I need to be better about this.
4. I’m glad I kept my collection small. Even though I have had moments of regretting some perfume that I got rid of in a fit of minimalist-itis (it’s a condition, you know), they have been short moments. Mind you, I was never stupid enough to get rid of something important and irreplaceable. For example: 70s-era L’Air du Temps smells disgusting, and I’ll never forget what it smells like, thanks very much. I didn’t need to keep it. But the Coty Chypre mini that looks to be from the 40s will stay with me forever.
5. I’m glad I made some impulse buys. The practical side of me never would have shelled out the money I paid for La Tulipe, to wear it on my wedding day. The perfume was more expensive than my dress! But I don’t regret that purchase one bit. Ditto the bottle of L’Ombre dans L’Eau I bought randomly one day because I just felt like buying something. It grew from a perfume I liked into one of my favorites.
6. I wouldn’t make cheap impulse buys. Those $12.99 and $19.99 bargains I found at TJ Maxx and Fragrancenet.com never turned out to be amazing. If it’s not amazing, it’s just taking up valuable space in my collection.
What stands out in your story of perfumania? Any thoughts on what you would do differently or the same if you were starting from scratch with your collection? Please share in the comments.
Also, check out my latest post on The Lifestyle Branch.