9. Why do some people wear too much scent?
Because they simply like it strong—just as some people like the TV volume turned up high—and/or because their sense of smell isn't as acute as other people's. And the sense of smell diminishes with age, which is why older people often wear too much.
10. Can I layer light fragrances or somehow boost their scent?
You mean like wearing Bulgari Green Tea over Chanel Cristalle? What, are you kidding? Would you wear a Prada blouse over a Gucci blouse?
11. What makes perfume so expensive?
Sometimes you're paying for astonishingly wonderful raw materials, flowers and essences of rare roots and resins, and difficult-to-make expensive synthetic molecules with great scents. And sometimes you're paying for a $10 million TV advertising campaign or a bottle that turned out to be hard to make. You'll never know which.
12. Is it embarrassing to still love Chanel N°5?
Hell, no! I don't even think it's embarrassing to love Jean Naté. Chanel N°5 has remained more wearable than most, but it does show its age. This is not an argument against it. In fact, it's the opposite. There's a regal correctness to N°5 you're not going to get in a Comme des Garçons, and an edge in the Comme you won't get in N°5. Just understand what you're communicating with each one.
13. Why are fragrances classified by season? And should I change mine seasonally?
I think the classification is mostly marketing. I'll concede that there are a few seasonal scents: pine tree and cinnamon at Christmas, flowers and the scent of green stem in the spring, hay in summer, dead leaves in fall. The natural world can inform our choice of perfumes, but I'd actually argue for wearing the fragrance equivalent of a parka to the beach. Etro Messe de Minuit carries the scent of an old European church at holiday time—musty altar wood, incense, even mildew—and it might be just the thing to make everyone stop and say, “Huh!?...” on a hot day. All of Anna Sui's bursts of summery fizziness would have the same effect in the dark of winter.
14. Is it ever inappropriate to wear fragrance?
Yes, on an airplane. The best scent for a flight is a good deodorant. About restaurants: There's nothing wrong at all with a discreet perfume at dinner, and in some cases, it absolutely can enhance the meal. Hermès Ambre Narguilé is excellent for French cuisine; if you're going to a sushi place, either Bulgari's purified, crystalline Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert or Fresh Sake will be perfect. The Escada scents are great with Italian because they have a light fruitiness that graces the Mediterranean spices. Avoid Giorgio and Fracas with any cuisine; they demand way too much attention.
15. Do you think the idea of having a signature scent is dead?
Nope. But that's a different question from whether you should have one—which would mean wearing it and no other, decade in and decade out. With all the great, terrific, innovative, fun stuff out there, that's a tough choice. On the other hand, there's a seriously deep satisfaction in coming up behind someone who's wearing Guerlain Rose Barbare and saying, “I knew it was you. You always have that great smell.”
16. Can fragrance damage my jewelry?
It will have no permanent effect on silver, gold, or stones, although a layer of perfume will dull the shine. But never get scent on your pearls; it can eat away at the gems' surface.
Discover Chandler Burr's favorite scents
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