Break Ups Best Friends And Big Sisters Team InStyle On The Perfumes That Have Shaped Their Lives

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by: Madeleine Spencer
9 Mar 2018

If, like me, you’ve ever wondered why people don’t realise they smell especially good or horribly bad, the answer is a reminder of how very rooted in survival scent is. As master perfumer Roja Dove once told me: ‘when you walk into a room, your mind wants to know if there’s danger, a source of food, or a potential lover in there. Once it’s ascertained that there is or isn’t, it simply weeds out that smell to focus on others.’ 

In that kernel of wisdom also lies the explanation to why you seemingly can’t smell your own perfume after a little bit: your mind has simply tuned it out as a background scent that has no bearing on your wellbeing. 

Scent therefore invariably becomes about others. Tied up in a whiff of perfume is a moment with a human, a tendril of memory. It’s that summer in Greece spent wrapped up in a boy’s arms, cheap, slightly too musky aftershave engulfing you. It’s the time you were sad, and the comfort that came from an aunt in a cashmere jumper redolent of fizzy rose. It’s your mum, applying her favourite red lipstick, and a squirt of her ‘going out’ scent before heading out the door in a haze of glamour and perfume. 

RELATED: The Best Perfume for Women Of All Time

To celebrate scent memories, team InStyle have cast their minds back through their memories to dig out a moment in time where a person and their scent felt especially intertwined. Here they are…

Dior Eau Sauvage Eau De Toilette Spray

Charlotte Moore, Editor-in-Chief: ‘This smells like kissing my boyfriend goodbye before my sixth form ball. I was sobbing and bereft at that moment because he wasn’t able to go. We’d been together for 9 months and inseparable. He was older than me and was taking a year out to work on his ‘music’. I’d bought him the scent for his birthday and felt super-cool and sophisticated because it was so new. Not that I behaved that way at the party; I met someone else (who I also kissed) that night without a care in the world.’

Available at John Lewis | £52


Cerruti 1881 Femme Eau de Toilette

Suzannah Ramsdale, Digital Editor: ‘My childhood best friend, Carmen, wore Cerruti 1881 when we were teenagers. One sniff of its rich musky scent takes me back to getting ready to go out in her garishly turquoise bedroom – complete with lava lamps, posters of Leonardo DiCaprio and nineties-tastic inflatable armchairs. We were probably talking about boys and definitely reassuring each other about our teenage insecurities – her telling me I wasn’t spotty, with wonky teeth, me promising her that her thighs were, in fact, in perfect proportion. Still one of my close friends, she was my biggest cheerleader then, always quashing my self doubt and instilling me with confidence, and she’s my biggest cheerleader now.’

Available at Boots | £26


Jean Paul Gaultier Classique For Women Eau de Toilette

Madeleine Spencer, Beauty Editor: ‘It’s 1993, and my older sister is in her bedroom getting ready to go out to watch Grease at the Dominion Theatre. I’m sitting on her bed in a shaft of sunlight, watching her, mesmerised by the adultness of the process. Her hair is glossy and blonde thanks to liberal applications of Sun In during an especially hot August, and her lipstick is a deep, muddy brown. The sound of the sprinkler combined with Ace of Base’s All That She Wants forms a symphony of background sound and, after casting her hands along the bottles on her dressing table, clinking past Charlie Red and Anais Anais, and then grabbing that corset-shaped bottle, she adds to it with the ‘spritz spritz’ sound of perfume being released into the hot summer air. 

When the smell hits my nose, I’m transfixed. It’s powdery, with a distinct note of vanilla and rose, but more than what it actually smells like, it mostly tells my 9-year-old nose that it’s made for adults, for women. For women who go to the theatre. And drink wine. Women who understand the mysterious words meeting my ears: “It is a night for passion, but the morning means goodbye…” ‘

Available at Boots | £58.50


Dior J’Adore Amphora

Charlotte Vossen, Editorial Assistant: ‘A couple of years ago, my mom bought herself a new, rather expensive leather handbag and a new Dior perfume. When she left the house, she popped the bottle in the handbag. We were sitting in the car when the smell of the perfume started to get overwhelming. At first, we couldn’t really figure out what was going on – maybe it was just a really strong scent? But after a while, my mum opened the handbag and discovered that the perfume had leaked all over the bottom and had stained the leather. Luckily, the stain was only on the bottom of the bag and wasn’t visible to anyone who didn’t know that it was there, but whenever she opens that bag, you can still smell the perfume.’

Available at House of Fraser



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