October 4, 2007

Perfume Layering in October

There are as many ways to layer scents as there are to layer clothes, which can be a good way to deal with the variable temperatures, atmospheric conditions and moods of the Fall.

Lately I find I am increasingly drawn to this practice. Combining and setting beside one another two fragrances, can for me,express much more closely my aims in personal experience of perfume. There are also (more rare, it seems so transgressive!) occasions where I might actually put one on top of the other.

There are certain very beautiful perfumes, that have a particularly strong reaction to my skin chemistry, which I love in theory, but find in practice take on a very high keyed sweetness on my skin. (I am thinking of certain Caron perfumes, for example). If I also wear another scent with them, in a related or blending family, the result is a toned version that for me enhances wear-ability and gives a dimensional and spacious effect that I enjoy. I have tried Etro's Ambra beside Caron's Fleur de Rocaille EdT. The mellowing affect of the Ambra turns the sharp sweetness of the Caron into an subtly caramelized deeper tone, without losing the uplift of the Caron.

Another I have enjoyed is Le Labo Iris 39 on one arm and Comptoir Sud Pacifique - Vetiver Haiti on the other -- a more extreme version of layering. The powdery sweetness of the Iris then wafts up beside the almost burnt quality of the Vetiver and becomes for me much closer to what I want in fragrance at the present moment, which is getting to be more autumnal every day.

This is also a fun and useful way to deal with the immense quantities of tiny samples and small decants that I have accumulated. Some I have tried but found not all that compelling on me, but if I use them in certain layering combinations, I can put them together to make a scent experience I find very satisfying.

It's a good use for all those samples that I might not find exactly to my taste otherwise, while also a enjoying the unique quality of the results.  I find it a personally meaningful creative expression, similar to  putting together what I am wearing any particular day, from the lingerie to makeup, putting together shoes with jewelery and hair style. Layering can even relate to the fantasy of self-presentation within an ideal world of infinite choices.

Yesterday I tried Miller Harris Cuir d'Oranger, layered with Ava Luxe Fire Wood.If I put one on the arms and another on the neck, the dimensional, spacial quality this gives  allows for appreciation of each one separately but also acts over the course of the day to create a combination of tones. After an hour or two, the close proximity increases the blending of the impressions.
Right now I like to try Vetiver, Vanilla or Sandalwood, Amber, Patchouli, or some other wood or resinous notes, to tone the unalloyed sweetness of certain scents that have many other qualities I am really drawn to, but find difficult to wear. The tiniest hit of Caron Poivre will also do the the trick with many sweet florals or high keyed citrus tones.

This is also a solution when sometimes I find certain fragrances that I loved six months ago no longer work for me at the present moment. Rather than let them lie fallow for months until I can re-infatuate myself with them, I can  use them in memory laden layering combinations.

I'm glad that there are lines that really look to work with layering, as does Jo Malone, L'Artisan and Etro. After reading up on some reviews, I am now avid to get hold of Molinard's Vanille as a good layering element for the coming cooler weather.

Ambers and jasmines are both great layering notes.  They tone and unify other perfumes and soften the edges that might be poking your nose in a way that doesn't completely agree with you.  I found a a jasmine concrete --  an almost tarry salve of deep jasmine I got from Enfleurage on Bleecker Street, N.Y.,  awhile ago, magnifies and beautifies many other perfumes worn on top of it.  

Above, amber toned perfume flacon from Andzia's Amber blog.

14 comments:

Mary said...

Hi Lucy; I'm a frequent contributor on the Perfume of Life board and I have my own blog here: http://tea-sympathy-and-perfume.blogspot.com/

I've just discovered your delightful blog and plan to read it regularly. Keep up the great work!

Lucy said...

Mary, I am so glad you wrote and I thereby found your site -- it's gorgeous!
Thank you for your kind words.

Vetivresse said...

L., Greeting on this humid monochrome day. Interesting posting. The fraught subject of layering is not for the perfume neophyte, as it takes not only a rather comprehensive knowledge of ingredients but also a sense of how a fragrance evolves over the course of a day or night. That said, I'm happy you're taking up the subject. There are many stores (like Body Time in Berkeley, CA) that offer a range of essential oils for this purpose. Of late, Christopher Brosius's people seem to be encouraging this at his gallery here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as do the salespeople at the Jo Malone counter at Saks. Please share your findings!

Zz said...

Layering is an art in itself, and requires a bit of know how to do it properly. Making sure that each element be showcased, and not overwhelmed.
My situation is different, in that I have at my disposal hundreds of notes to choose from, but almost always layer from pre-made bases, rather than wear a single fragrance. I rarely wear the same thing twice. Even this morning as I applied fragrance from two new testers, I had to dab on a bit of additional base as I was tidying up my organ.
Z....

Lucy said...

Monsieur V --

How nice to hear from you. You are so right that it's important to be aware of the ingredients --
and how they might affect each other over the course of the day...

Hope to see you at the Sniffa on Saturday! I understand Christopher Brosius will be there in the flesh,
along with so many others. Could be a good question, to ask him and others if they engage in layering, themselves (I would bet that they do...)

Lucy said...

Dear ZZ -- you are living a life of fragrance sensuality that I can only dream of -- the materials you have gathered around you must provide quite the library to choose from.

I imagine you as existing in a fragrant cloud as you go about your daily perambulations --

chayaruchama said...

Like minds...
Just DON'T tell Monsieur Malle-
He doesn't approve.

So nice to see such lovely folk checking you out, Miss Lu.

[I am an amberholic, myself.
CSP's vetiver is one of my favorites- so balsamic and lovely]

Lucy said...

Hi C/I

So you are probably in a cloud of amber these days, I imagine, since the season lends itself to well...probably combined with hints of a dark forest floor...

Thanks for letting me know re Malle...it makes sense on his part, considering (my instinct was to leave those alone, thank heavens)...

anna said...

thank you for this interesting entry. please contine to share your layering suggestions. i, myself, have not dared to do this. my husband, however, has been daring enough to do actual layering --to be exact, one scent sprayed in a diffused manner all over the body and the second scent sprayed onto the skin, at selected pulse points. several times he has tried gucci for women (pulse point) and gucci for men (diffused). the effect has been... mmmmmm.

Lucy said...

Wow Anna, what a lucky woman you are with such a discerning and creative husband! Who smells so good!
I will update at some future point as to what has worked out well, at least to my taste...

helg said...

Dear Lucy, what an interesting post!
Layering is not for the neophyte, true. And although I flatter myself that I am no such thing, I nevertheless seldom layer myself. However the combos you suggest sound great.
I especially like the MH Cuir Oranger you mention. Isn't it great?

BTW, I do know of acclaimed perfumers ;-) who condone layering and in fact have them mentioned in detail with their suggestions on my seperate Info Site (link to that on my Blog).
Maybe interested in checking it out.

Qwendy said...

Hi Lucy,
It's funny you should bring this up, as I have just begun layering myself recently. I got a couple of absolutes at CB in Brooklyn on a recent trip to NY, Frankincense and Wildflower Honey, which I have happily layered with spicy scents the few cooler nights here. I'm looking forward to more experiments in the cooler weather. I love your evocative photo of amber BTW. There's also the theory that Amber in scent is related to Ambergris, but I can't imagine it -- I have a vial of it but I'm afraid to go near it! I hope I get to try Cuir Oranger someday, sounds like it would be great with Franincense and Honey! Happy Fall.

Lucy said...

Helg!

I love what you have been doing at your site, the in-depth research and information is so involving. I have read a lot on your site and will go back to read more...

In doing a little research for this post, I did read some articles on Jean Claude Ellena's suggestions in regard to specific layering combinations that he found to be especially successful, and it was enlightening, tho I could tell that some were kind of taken back by the idea.

I just started layering spontaneously out of enthusiasm, back in August of last year (I posted earlier about this)
http://indieperfumes.blogspot.com/2006/08/le-maroc-le-maroc-pour-elle.html I had experimented with two Tauer fragrances this way, but I think AT was somewhat taken aback himself when I wrote him a note about it. I don't want to do this when it offends the perfumer, but I think there is nothing inherently wrong with the practice when it is not an issue for them...and now I notice a number of perfumes are marketed as good for layering, too. Though of course there is a big difference in using those and using very complex compositions together. A complex and a simple one can work well though.
The MH Cuir Oranger becomes very sweet on me (skin chemistry issues) so that is why I like it so much better (on me) with something to cut the sweetness beside it...

I have also read of a number of perfumistas reviews on Basenotes that refer to layering so I don't feel all that much the odd woman out anymore...

Lucy said...

Q -- believe it or not I have yet to get to the IHP Williamsburg store, but I will be setting that right asap...CB is going to be at the Sniffa too -- so can't wait...
I envy you your treasures! I think having some good choices for layering use can do a lot to extend the usefulness of other fragrances, especially seasonally.