For some lucky perfumistas, a single, wondrous signature scent reveals itself to them, and they live happily ever after in familiar fragrant glory. For the majority of my adult life, a signature scent evaded me, however, and while I dabbled with this scent and that scent, I realized that cultivating a fragrance wardrobe could actually fulfill my myriad fragrance cravings. Having a little collection of scents means that you can reach for something to suit your mood and the occasion.
A Note on Collecting Fragrance
Let’s face it—fragrance can expensive. Not all of us can afford to shell out for multiple scents at once. There’s an understandable common concern that fragrance goes “bad” within a short period of time (say, a year—which may not be enough time to finish your precious bottle—noooo!!!). There’s some good news, however! Fragrance can actually last a long time if it’s stored properly, i.e., away from heat, away from sunlight, and out of your humid bathroom. As much as I love to admire gorgeous bottles, I store mine in their original boxes in a sock drawer. Truly old perfumes may smell a bit “off” at first, but if the fragrance has been stored properly, it’s likely that the top notes, which fade quickly anyway, are damaged—however, the true heart or “personality” of the perfume will likely still be there.
With that in mind, I encourage you to feel emboldened to try vintage or swap new(ish) bottles with other perfume lovers via online perfume communities like Fragrantica or Base Notes (or even try your luck on eBay). This is a wonderful way find a treasure that would otherwise languish unused—and without buying something brand new.
1. Something Classic (& Cruelty-Free)
There are dozens of classic perfumes that have been wooing the world for years. Classic perfumes often have that “I’ve smelled this before…” effect and feel timeless rather than dated. The beautiful thing about wearing a classic is feeling connected to different eras while instantly elevating your style. The trick is finding one that’s cruelty-free (since many classic perfumes are born from conventional brands that may not be cruelty-free, unfortunately). Why not try this royal-approved perfume?
Notes: Citrus, Hyacinth, Jasmine, Rose, Clove, Cinnamon
2. Something Romantic
How do you define romantic love? Is it a rush passion, heady and unforgettable? Comforting and steadfast yet forever exceeding your expectations? Timeless while ever-evolving? I posit there is a perfume for that, a cherished fragrance you may reach for on special occasions like fancy dates or weddings—or, if you’re like me, whenever you want to be charmed and feel giddy.
A hard lesson on perfume: Two of my favorite scents, including my wedding-day scent, were created by niche perfumers that no longer exist. So take note—when you find true love, don’t let her slip away.
Notes: Rose, Cocoa, Vetiver, Patchouli, Cedar, and Coffee
3. Something that Puts You at Peace
A perfume that helps you unwind and breathe more deeply—or one you can go to bed—with is one that wraps you up in a familiar, comforting scent and makes you feel safe. For me, this is my late grandmother’s scent, an old fashioned vanilla-rich oriental that forever reminds me of her sunlit bedroom. The perfume you choose to tuck you in should be as familiar as a beloved relative. The right one will cushion your slumber with soft, dreamy dreams.
Notes: Lavender, Vanilla, Bergamot, and Lichen
4. Something that Makes You feel Polished (When You Feel Anything But)
The amazing thing about scent is that it can turn your outlook around while elevating your level of polish, all while being invisible! It’s magic! As a mother of a toddler, I don’t have much time to primp even though it’s something I love to do. Thank goodness for a quick splash of perfume—it takes mere seconds, and it helps me feel like a shiny, confident version of myself. Your instant-polish perfume is a no-brainer perfume, an easy-to-wear perfume, and office-friendly perfume.
Notes: Rose, White sage, Lime, Botanical musk
5. Something that Challenges You
Whether it’s something unisex or something cerebral, something vintage or something out of your comfort zone, every sophisticated perfume wardrobe needs something challenging, something that’s not an easy wear. It’s not something that you’ll reach for to wear at a balmy backyard party or to an average day at the office. In fact, you won’t choose it at all—it will choose you.
Notes: Atlas cedar, Incense, Patchouli, Saffron, Gaiac wood
6. Something that Plays to Your Opposites
Like a challenging fragrance, a fragrance that brings out your less visible qualities, or darkness to your lightness, masculinity to your femininity, etc., can help you show the world a side of yourself that isn’t easily expressed on the surface. Plus, it can encourage you to embrace your multiplicity. This is why I occasionally love something somber, moody, and moss-covered versus a scent that’s full of sparkling sunshine and flower petals.
Notes: Guaiac wood, Agarwood, Patchouli, Palo santo, Black amber, Blackened spices, Botanical musk
7. Something Nostalgic
As we’ve all experienced, a scent can instantly take us back to a poignant moment or period from our past. I am positively enamored with a few uncanny fragrances that remind me of my youth and a few of the women I admired growing up. Scent may be the closest thing we have to time travel. Keeping a nostalgic scent in your stash is a beautiful way to keep memories alive and give them a powerful, 3-D quality.
Notes: Peony Flower, Rose Mandarin, Amber
What are your favorite vegan and cruelty-free perfumes?
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!