Thursday, August 09, 2007

Layering Fragrance - with Style

Long time ago in a middle-school far away in the 80’s, 12 and 13 year old teenage girls would create layers of colours in their clothing by wearing their clothes out of order (the short sleeves or tank tops on top of the long sleeves) or folding the undershirt’s sleeves over an overly open necklined sweater to make the colours of the under layers show on top. Layering has since evolved into a far more fun, loose and creative way to mark one’s individual style – turning even the most mundane pieces into something special simply by the way they are put together.

While this works fantastically well in fashion, and is an interesting way to put into use and create a new look out of many different favourites without looking indecisive, the perfume equivalent of layering is not quite as exciting for the most part. Not in my opinion, anyways. For several reasons: One, being the performance of layered fragrances. I feel that just like wearing a long sleeve shirt under a sweater, you see the sweater but you don’t see the shirt. Not quite, anyways (unless the sweater is very loosely knit or has holes). When I layer scents that work well together, I always smell the top one (the last one applied) better than the first one. The first one will remain very much in the background. Perhaps there is too little time for the scents to truly interact and for their molecules to bond and create something new.

Two, and this is the most disturbing one – is that more and more perfumes are released as a collection, exactly with the idea of layering in mind. Part of it could be a way of getting more attention in the very saturated market. But the result is - guess what? - an even more saturated market, with less and less perfumes that stand on their own rights.

To me, a perfume should be a complete entity. An olfactory story with a beginning, middle and end, and unique characters (notes) interacting within. This is scarcely found in collections that were designed for layering. One reason being that in order for the perfumes to interact well with one another without clashing, they should be simple enough to not provoke an olfactory dissonance when blended.
I would like to suggest a different approach to layering. One that is still fun and creative, but a little bit more sophisticated and takes into account that we deserve to wear complex and rich fragrances that can stand on their own. But we are also entitled to some fun and playing with them sometime too!

Instead of layering fragrances on top of each other, in hopes that they will create a new scent – create layers that peak through one another, sometimes overlapping and other times standing on their own so you can enjoy the scent the way it is. This can be done by wearing different fragrances on different parts of the body. I discovered this can be truly fun when I encountered several body products that I really liked their scent, yet seemed mellow enough to accommodate another fragrance on the wrists. Don’t forget to take into account your shampoo or conditioner or any other hair product. Many of them are so highly scented, that they should be considered when you design your olfactory aura for the day…

Azuree body oil goes fantastically well with a light spritz of Chinatown. The two scents have very little in common, but the result of the mix is sultry and exotic.

I find that Lovely body spray or Liquid Satin applied as a body spray is fabulous with Chanel's No. 19 Eau de Toilette applied to wrists and other pulse points. This is particularly fabulous on a hot day.

I’m also very fond of a few of Aveda’s haircare and styling products. Here are a few that have quite a significant scent on their own and a perfume that pushes them to the background to create a mood for a perfumed centerpiece:
Air Control Hair Spray:
This dark and rich spray could be worn as a fragrance if only it wasn’t so sticky (well, that’s how a hairspray works, right?). The dominant note there being labdanum, it is very sweet yet earthy. I like to wear it with Youth Dew parfum dabbed carefully on the wrists and behind the ears. This is best in cooler weather.

Aveda’s Sculp Benefits conditioner has an intense vetiver aroma, and can be a nice way to balance the sweetness of a chocolate based perfume such as Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Amour de Cacao.

And their Elixir leave-in conditioner smells mostly of ylang ylang and geranium. I like to use it to keep me hair smooth in an up-do when a little black dress, pearls and a dab of No. 5 extrait is required...
Alba Botanical’s Coconut Milk Body Cream serves as an excellent companion to tropical white florals, such as Songes by Annick Goutal.

And Jo Malone’s Vintage Gardenia goes on the skin particularly well with a little caffeine boost from Nyakio's Kenyan Coffee Sugar Scrub. It actually layers quite well with Black Vetyver Cafe too (The only way it makes me close to satisfied with layering these fragrances on top of one another is apply a spritz of Black Vetyver Cafe sandwiched between two layers on the Vintage Gardenia - one on the botton and one on the top). I really wish there was a Black Vetyver Cafe bath oil to use instead...

Crabtree & Evelyn's Lemongrass & Brown Sugar sugar scrub is an interesting combination between a body butter and a sugar scrub. It has a rich lemony scent supported by impressive amounts of frankincense and peru balsam oil. The latter appears also quite significantly in Opium Fleur de Shanghai, which explains why the two are so great together. An interesting combination of freshness and luxurious resins...
I also like to wear the same sugar scrub in a gloomy winter day to uplift my spirits, and add a dab of No. 19 parfum, worn with a mossy woolen sweater...

What I enjoy about these layering combinations is that I've found a way to pair together a scented body product whose fragrance I enjoy, along with a favourite fragrance - yet the two complement each other rather clash together. When wearing them this way, I can always bring my wrist to my nose to smell the perfume alone, while overall, I just smell the two interacting and wrapping around me, creating a new fragrance aura.

* Images illustrating this articles are courtesay of Susie Bubble, AKA The Layering Queen of Style Bubble - the most innovative and fun fashion blog you can find on the net.

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