The gorgeous, glorious thing – well, one of the many gorgeous, glorious things – about buying yourself perfume is that you have plenty of time to consider your purchase. You don’t sniff and swoon and say that you’re going to wait until payday only to discover that the scent you love has sold out in every store south of Manchester. You don’t have to pounce, or do any panicky pre-empting of what Future You might like. You can visit your object of lust, and build up a slow, sensuous relationship until the time is right to commit.
This is how I discovered Pétales by Chantecaille. I found it in the back of the Liberty beauty hall. I love every inch of the beauty hall, but the perfume section is like a forest. No-one will disturb you, and you can spray until you’re dizzy. Household names are bunched with perfumes you only usually encounter in books. Being in that room makes me feel like Belle, singing and sliding through a library on a wooden ladder.
If I’d walked past a Chantecaille counter and had a sample forced upon me, I don’t think I would have fallen so hard for the fragrance. All I had was an unfamiliar brand name, a linen bound box and my curiosity. It’s almost offensively floral, a rush of pure gardenia with jasmine, tuberose and a little cedar. It’s upsettingly sexy, and slightly funereal – I guess that’s what happens when you evoke white flowers and coffin wood. I sniffed it and realised that if someone ever wanted to lure me off a cliff, Wil.E.Coyote style, all they would have to do is leave a scent trail of Pétales and I’d follow it to my doom. What a way to go.
Now, I “met” Pétales at some point in 2011. It cost £150. I did not have £150. I did not have enough Boots Advantage points for a free can of Charlie Red. I obsessed over the perfume like it was a pop star I had a crush on, going out of my way to visit it, spraying it on my wrists, my hair, drenching a tissue in it to keep the smell alive. I thought it would be forever out of reach – then after a period of financial mismanagement, I realised I was out of my overdraft and in the black. The bank wanted me to talk about setting up a savings account, as it was the first time in my life that I’d ever had “spare” money. My priority, obviously, was to run to the shops so that I could buy a bottle of Pétales.
When other beauty products seem to exist to play down my flaws, wearing perfume makes me feel strong and unique. I don’t think there’s anything frivolous about that
I’m not sure that I could have asked someone to buy it for me. Other than the fact that it costs the same as six weeks of council tax, my relationship with it was too intimate, almost carnal. I’ve grown up with perfume loving parents, and generous partners have given me some gorgeous fragrance gifts, but it’s rare that anyone is going to take you out of your perfume comfort zone when they know you usually wear Prada or Chanel.
Also, the way you want your skin to smell is a deeply personal choice. After all, it’s the olfactory essence of you, I think perfume is the one beauty product that can be purchased for wholly selfish reasons. A bright lipstick might make me feel great, but other people are going to see it and respond to it more than me, unless I spend all day by the bathroom mirror. However, I’m the first to feel the benefit if I smell perfume on my hair or hands.
We know that scent is extraordinarily powerful when it comes to evoking feelings and memories. I once had a panic attack on a flight because I’d absent mindedly put on some Paul Smith Rose in Duty Free, the perfume I wore during an especially unhappy period at work. Shopping for a fragrance you love puts you in control when it comes to reliving your memories, and creating new ones. Celebrate a promotion with a perfume purchase, and you get to choose what success smells like. If you’re working through a break up, and working through the bottle of scent that your ex to bought you for Christmas, it might be time to buy something that makes you look forward to the future instead of reminding you of the past.
Anything that women choose to buy for themselves is often dismissed as silly, frivolous, or a “naughty treat”. My perfume habit lies somewhere between hobby and obsession. I buy it for myself, so it is, by definition, selfish. But it gives me a positive space to explore the relationship I have with myself. It makes me feel powerful, playful, happy, sexy, significant. When other beauty products seem to exist to play down my flaws, wearing perfume makes me feel strong and unique. I don’t think there’s anything frivolous about that. I’ll leave the house barefaced, and if I get run over by a bus, the doctors will just have to deal with my mismatched underwear – but wherever I am and whatever life throws at me I shall deal with it while reeking of white flowers.
The Pool's favourite perfumes to self-gift
Lauren Laverne, Co-Founder and broadcast director
My nothing-is-too-good, blow-the-budget dream fragrance purchase is Escentric Molecules 01. I'd always been agnostic about posh perfumes until a couple of years ago when I was gifted a bottle of this scent, which reacts differently with each wearer's skin. At first sniff I almost lost my mind. This stuff is basically catnip. It smelled so delicious I wanted to eat myself.
Frankie Graddon, Fashion and beauty editor: Marni Spice
I’m a real perfume person and love anything from Jo Loves, Diptyque, Tom Ford and Byredo but the thing I keep coming back to is Marni Spice. I love the warm, sweet scent that feels comforting but sexy.
Elle Turner, beauty assistant: Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt
I bought this for myself with my very first pay check when I joined The Pool. It smells light and breezy – which I enjoy enormously when I'm pushed up against the door on the tube. If I close my eyes I can just about imagine I'm on a brisk beach walk. A bit salty, a bit earthy, faintly aquatic – it's a tough one to describe but a total joy to wear.
Jo Morrell, Chief commercial officer: Kiehl's Musk Eau de Toilette
I absolutely love this. It used to be called Love Oil and it's my party fragrance. This reminds me of late nights dancing in New York in the early 2000's. I always buy one for myself and wear on special nights out.
Lynn Enright, News and content editor: Le Labo Santal 33
It's wildly extravagant as it's so expensive and it's actually become pretty commonplace, too. But I still love the rich, smoky scent. I don't care that I regularly smell it on other people on the train or in supermarket queues. A new bottle – with my name printed on the label – is a rare indulgence. I buy myself one around once every three years and use it sparingly, so as to ration the luxury.
Caroline O'Donoghue, Social media manager: Diptyque do son
Despite the fact that my mum never wore it when I was a kid (it didn't exist then) wearing it always makes me think of her coming home from a dinner party – her hair all shiny, her make-up done, the smell of cold on her. It's a grown-up fragrance, but it's never too heavy or too musky. I can only ever afford it as a birthday present, but it usually lasts me for most of the year.
Louise Stephenson, Commercial project manager: Chanel No.5
A little dab goes a long way, so to be able to afford to buy this for myself makes me feel very special indeed and very chic – like those lovely French girls going to a party at Versailles. And, yes, I do want to smell like Keira Knightley, thanks.
LILY PESCHARDT, CONTRIBUTOR: TOCCA LILIANA
I'd buy myself Tocca's Liliana because I'm a narcissist. When I was a kid, there were never any of those mugs or rulers that had my name on it, so I still feel a thrill when I see something that even vaguely bears my name. Plus, it smells like peonies, which are my favourite flowers. I've been using this perfume for a year and I've only just run out but the bottle is so pretty it's still sitting on my dressing table.
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