Perfume: Guerlain’s “Sous le Vent” 1933

‘I switch perfumes all the time. If I’ve been wearing one perfume for three months, I force myself to give it up, even if I still feel like wearing it, so whenever I smell it again it will always remind me of those three months. I never go back to wearing it again; it becomes part of my permanent smell collection. Smell really is transporting. Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting are just not as powerful as smelling if you want your whole being to go back for a second to something. Usually I don’t want to, but by having smells stopped up in bottles, I can be in control and can only smell the smells I want to, when I want to, to get the memories I’m in the mood to have. Just for a second. The good thing about a smell-memory is that the feeling of being transported stops the instant you stop smelling, so there are no aftereffects. It’s a neat way to reminisce. I get very excited when I read advertisements for perfume in the fashion magazines that were published in the 30s and 40s. I try to imagine from their names what they smelled like and I go crazy because I want to smell them all so much.’
– Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again

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Print ad, 1936 for Geurlain’s “Sous le Vent” a perfume released in 1933
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Perfume, a personal history

Each March, SXSW interactive and music festival descends upon Austin with a striking fury, growing larger and larger each year. My neighborhood is no longer safe from the madness, and with my local coffee haunt turned into a Spotify lounge and usual food trailers sold out of tacos by noon, I have been spending my intentions inwards: towards craft projects, catching up on podcasts, and researching a few historical gems.

About once a season, my friend Angeliska describes her new favorite scents she’s been wearing or lusting after.  For any of us lucky to hug Miss Angel in person, we can attest to the romantic waftings of fragrance that hide within her mermaid hair and emanate from her fancy, cluttered purse. The collection of perfume bottles in her powder room is truly a sight to behold. A question about one fragrance leads to one story, one experience after another. They can be photographs, perfume. Little time capsules.

This lead me to my own lackluster journey with perfumes:

Emporio-Armani-Pour-Elle1

Armani “Elle” is my snapshot of 1998. In a sea of CK1 (launched in 1994), I meandered a bit out of the solid lines of High School code when I chose the overly sweet citrusy, sandalwood fragrance of “Elle.” I purchased this fragrance with money from my afterschool job of child minding at the local elementary school. I’m sure it went well with the cheetoe stained thrift store dresses I was rocking back then.

 Basenotes.com writes that the packaging design was based on that of a mobile phone. Ha! A nod to innovation!Amber_Perfume_large

For the last five years, I’ve been dabbing a swatch of essential oils (Nemat brand) behind my ears and knees and calling it a day. These are little $9 vials that I get at my local food co-op, and are good for a finishing touch to an outfit. The scents I wear/rotate religiously are Amber, Rose and Vanilla Musk. For the summer, I’ll wear Jasmine and Lily of the Valley (Kuumba Made brand) which are a bit lighter. I  did buy a vial of Majmua and wore it for a bit last summer, until I overheard a bartender growl after catching the scent, “Who let all these fuckin’ hippies in here?” It has been hidden in my makeup drawer out of embarrassment. I do love the smell, but it’s not “me.”

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Funeral Home is a blend of classic white flowers: lilies, carnations, gladiolus, chrysanthemums with stems and leaves, with a hint of mahogany and oriental carpet. I purchased this scent on my first trip to NOLA, in 2003, after a rather macabre walk through a cemetary after bering broken up with via email.

My new interest in perfumes is, in part, in the hopes that they can help me with anxiety. If I am in a triggering situation, say, an overflowing crowded room, I’ll reach into my purse and sneak a smell of Violet or hunt around on my wrist for a trace of Whiskey Tobacco. The smell of violet reminds me of crunching into Flavigny Violette Pastille candies during college, or sipping a bourbon on my front porch. This transport helps to slice down the anxiety until I am able to gulp it back down and regain composure. Hey, we all have our secrets!

In the search for a new perfume for myself, I am compiling a list of scents/flavors that I am attracted to, and have calming qualities for me:

Tuberose
Amber
Wood Smoke
Rose
Violet (oh, I forgot about CHoward purple violet mints!)
Tobacco
Cinnamon
Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Cabreuva, Vetiver (like those in Oshadhi Roots).