This Month's Column

Signature Fragrances vs a Fragrance Wardrobe

You can never have too many fragrances. You can quote me on that. In fact, as of this writing, I own over 600 fragrances. There are actually a few more I want, and many I don't, only because they are similar to something I already own. But most people don't have the number of fragrances I do.

How do people begin a fragrance collection? They usually start with an old fragrance in a pretty bottle given to them along time ago by a relative, maybe one or two from past relationships, and maybe another they bought for themselves.

More often than not, from these modest beginnings folks form a like or dislike of certain types of fragrance, frequently due to memory association. As a result, some people will wear only one fragrance, their "Signature" scent. This may be because they truly like it better than any other they have tried, or because this one was pleasant and they never gave fragrance another thought. Plus, if they ever told anyone what they wear, every relative and friend gave them that fragrance for each holiday, birthday, and special event—and probably still does!

As someone who has hundreds of fragrances, you can guess which side of the debate I fall. It seems to me that wearing the same fragrance is like wearing the same outfit every day--it becomes a little boring, and predictable. But hey--and least they're wearing a fragrance, and the feel passionate about it—underneath it all, these are true fragrance people, and I adore them…I just don't understand them!

I have found that most people who have a signature scent have one that is powerful, like Shalimar, Opium, or Joy. Once again, phenomenal taste aside, how can you toss on such a fabulous scent when you're cleaning house, running errands, or playing volleyball?

If you have clothing for different activities and moods, so can you have a fragrance to match. When people ask me how in the world I select from my collection what to wear for that day, it's actually easy. I asked one of two questions: What mood am I in? As this is usually the morning, a typically answer is "I don't know…I've only had 2 cups of coffee." If a selection is not obvious after this question, I ask the second question: "How do I *want* to feel?" Is it a really hot day? Maybe something crisp and cool. Is it blah and overcast out? Then maybe I want something sparkling to contrast it, or maybe I want something more mellow to reflect the quietness of the day. And yes, some days I just don't have any strong feelings toward one fragrance or another, so I go to my trusty group of "Elegant/finished/polished" fragrances--the equivalent of the black skirt or pants you always wear when you don't know what to wear that day. (This list is below.)

Just as you have a wardrobe of clothes, I believe so should you have a wardrobe of fragrance. Or to put it another way, you have a rainbow of eye shadow colors and lipstick to go with your outfits, so why not fragrance? Men have a dozen or more ties, so why not a dozen fragrances?

Where did this mindset come from? After all, you don't eat the same thing every day...I think it comes from the idea that perfume is precious, expensive, and women especially still have issues of buying non-necessities for themselves. I hope that by the end of this column, you feel (and truly believe) that it's OK to have more than one fragrance on your dresser. In fact, I hope you are looking forward and ready to go out to add some fragrances to your dresser over the next few months.

Assuming I’ve somewhat persuaded you to expand your fragrances, what's a good start to a delightful collection? Look for fragrances for the following occasions and reasons:

1. One you love: This is one to have for all wonderful occasions—no, not just special occasions—*all* wonderful occasions. This maybe this scent you wear most often, or your "I am not in any particular mood, so I'll wear this favorite. "

2. One for casual or round-the-house/errand-running activity. This one is sporty, fresh, clean.

3. Two for your work environment: one for every day, and one when you need a boost of confidence for the presentation you are making, the raise your asking for, or the award you are receiving. These work scents should have the smooth characteristics of a fragrance that does not walk into the room before you do, and generally makes you feel good, whether it is a pretty, feminine scent, or just clean and fresh, making you feel dressed and "finished".

4. One for evenings, that are fun and romantic. This one’s characteristics can be a little heady and lingering.

5. A new one that delights you—This fragrance may have something unexpected, such as an unusual ingredient like chocolate, or a trusted and true one like rose.

There is no basic starter set I can recommend, because everyone's chemistry and preferences are different. That is the point of the lists in these columns—they can guide you into trying some specific fragrances, to see how you like some, and progress from there. Drop me a note if you would like more suggestions to try—I’m at

All of my friends have commented at one time or another, that due to my fragrance passion and influence, their fragrance collection has grown, on average, by a factor of 10. They appreciate so many more scents of all kinds, and their sensory world is enhanced beyond their imagination. All they needed was little insight into fragrance because it seems a so esoteric, complicated, or just plain confusing. Some people see fragrance like art--they don't understand it, and don't know where to begin, so it's easier not to begin at all. I hope these columns are changing your outlook and the lists give you a good place to start. I'm here to act as your personal guide through the maze that is the fragrance counter!

Elegant/finished/polished: this list of fragrances is good for when you don’t know what to wear, or just want a "finished" and sophisticated, subtle wrap to your look.

For women

Ivoire de Balmain



Paloma PIcasso

Goldleaf and Hydrangea

The Thymes Limited

Chanel No 5


Haute Couture

Hanae Mori



Fraicheur Muskissime

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier




Eau de Hadrian

Annick Goutal

Eau d’Orange Verte



Thierry Mugler

Eau de Cartier concentree


Eau Parfumee


L’eau Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake

Millesime Imperial


Selection Verte


Acqua di Parma

Acqua di Parma Colonia

Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat



Bulgari for Men


Cool Water


Good Life



Paul Sebastian

Silver Mountain Water




Green Irish Tweed




Our next column: Ten all-time show-stopping fragrances!