Your Invisible Identity

When I was a little girl, my mother’s high heels, pearls, and perfume captivated me. As a woman, I latched on to Mom’s propensity for heels and have carried on the stiletto love, but try as I might, pearls and Chanel No. 5—the essence of my mom—were never really me.

But oh, how that fragrance infused my memories…there was (and is) nothing like the sweet smell of Chanel No. 5 on Mom. I can’t ever remember another fragrance on her, and while she mixes it up a little more today, back then, it was all No. 5. Of course, back then, there weren’t a gazillion fragrances on the market either. I remember when Mom would give me a hug, especially on a Sunday when she’d gotten dolled up for church, and her Chanel No. 5 would linger in my hair or on my clothes long after she’d left the room. That fragrance resonated with her, mixed with her chemistry, and became a hypnotic elixir that, for me, became synonymous with love, Mom, and the elements of womanly beauty. Even way back then I realized the power of perfume. It is the icing on the cake; that ubiquitous boudoir table fixture is the last—but most important—detail of a lady’s private ministrations. No one can see it, but it is a significant marker of personal style.

When you find that “you” fragrance, it delineates you the same way your wardrobe does, but on a different sensory level. It becomes associated with you, and somehow makes you even more you. It becomes part of your brand.

Over the years, I have held no such allegiance to a fragrance. I’m picky, have sensitive skin and a short attention span—I’ve tried many fragrances, but like a wanton lover, I was always seduced by another shapely bottle, another heady fragrance. And like any new, passion-driven tryst, the flames burn hot and fast…and then suddenly, you’re left with nothing but smoke. I’ve tried ’80s fragrances Giorgio, Magie Noire, Beautiful, and Bijan (too cloying);  Chanel’s Coco, Cristalle, and Gardenia (all lovely, but my taste changed); Dolce & Gabbana (ended up giving me headaches); Anna Sui, Gucci Envy, Still by Jennifer Lopez (all fade too quickly); and Angel by Thierry Mugler (too popular). And those are the ones I can remember.

I’ve moved on again and again until I met my match:  Youth Dew Amber Nude by Tom Ford for Estée Lauder. I fell in love only to learn that this fragrance that is so me was produced in horrifyingly limited supply (Tom…please stop the limited editions…you’re killing me!). So to preserve my stash, I wear it only for special occasions or at night, though I wish I could bathe in it daily. I’ve already gone through a couple bottles, and have 1/4 of my last bottle left, and since it can still be procured online I will be stocking up within the next 30 days. After a short-lived stint with Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, my day fragrance became oldie-but-goodie Cinnabar, also by Estée Lauder. Close enough in spice to Amber Nude, but still produced regularly, and in copious amounts. That said, it ain’t no Amber Nude.

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a brand new fragrance that has been the only one in recent years to really get my attention. So much so that I bought it.

Balenciaga Paris is:

A lovely paradox. A demure violet with airy blossom and delicate peppery notes. A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.

Believe the hype. It is mysterious and fragile. It’s one of the few fragrances I’ve tried (pardon the cliché) that makes me feel like a woman. Not Amber Nude femme fatale womanly; more like I’m-a-grown-up-wearing-a-grown-up-fragrance womanly. It has deep, tantalizing notes that are neither flirty floral nor sexy spice, but right in between. And part of the thrill of proper perfume isn’t just olfactory delight, but the packaging. After all, it is the one beauty item women display amongst their most cherished boudoir accessories. Like unwrapping a new Chanel compact or lipstick, there is just something so thrilling—so quintessentially female—about opening an elegantly packaged fragrance, and adding that gleaming new bottle to your collection. It’s like a rite of passage.

Will Balenciaga Paris truly become part of my invisible identity? It’s too early to tell. I have admitted that my attention span is infinitesimal. But should my love affair with Balenciaga Paris lose its lustre, there will always be Tom…er…Youth Dew Amber Nude. Even if I have to order every last bottle from every last warehouse on the planet.


  1. I loved this post V! So neat about the new fragrance in your life…and I agree, the packaging-presentation is stellar, wow.

    When I was in London a few years back with mother, I picked up several Floris perfume bottles and then added more when back in London with James last spring. They’re so hard to find here and I adore wearing these light, floral but not too-sweet fragrances. James prefers Chanel No.5 so I use that whenever he’s home.

    In Paris I saw a bevvy of advertising for Miss Dior and spritzed some onto a testing strip while milling about within the Duty Free shop in the Charles de Gaulle Airport… liked it but not enough to have to bother putting it back into my checked-bag while flying another flight-leg within the States to get home.

    Enjoy the Balenciaga Paris 🙂 Best, Lachlan

    1. Another thank you, Lac! Perfume is such a personal thing–and it’s amazing how much fragrance affects your mood and memories. Glad you liked the post.

  2. Really enjoyed that post, Vahni! I always thought I would be the only one being underwhelmed by Chanel No.5.

    The fragrance my Mom always used to wear is Lancome “Trésor” which I love, but could never wear because like you I instantly relate the scent to my mother.

    I’m not a big perfume lover as I easily get headaches from heavy smells, that’s why I mostly stick to fruity/floral scents. My absolute favorites are ANNAYAKE “Natsumi”, Dolce & Gabbana “Light Blue” and my precious “Diorissimo” which is one of the few perfumes containing lily of the valley. <3 <3 <3

    Really have to try the ones you mentioned to broaden my perfume horizon! 😉 Hope they don't have a strong vanilla note?
    .-= Irina´s last blog ..Real vs. Steal – Mulberry Oversized Alexa Leather Bag =-.

    1. Irina…no, we’re on the same page regard No. 5. Gorgeous fragrance, just not. On. Me.

      But don’t you adore how your mom has a special fragrance, something that makes you think of her? There’s something so lovely about that, I think.

      What I find so fascinating abut fragrances/perfume, is that although the aroma that comes from each bottle is exactly the same, the end result varies greatly from person to person. So when I wrote that fragrance “somehow makes you even more you,” it’s not a stretch. It really does define you as an individual on some level, because it interacts with your individual chemistry.

      My hubby has nearly turned flips every time I’ve worn my Amber Nude. I was wearing it the first time we met, and no one else we know wears that fragrance. So whenever I spritz it on, he often closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and says somewhat giddily, “that’s you, that’s your smell.” I just love that.

  3. I recently iscovered purfume properly for the first time (I’m 23, maybe I missed this crucial girl stage earlier!) and since then have not been out of the house, or even around the house without my beloved DKNY Be Delicious Green, so I definitely feel your love of a signature scent.

    My mum always wears Calvin Klein Eternity and on the odd occaision I have smelt it on someone else it’s been a very odd expirience – it’s strange how perfume gets into your head without you even noticing it!

    1. Harriet…welcome, and thanks for your comment! I have so enjoyed hearing others’ perspectives on this. And you’re right—it IS strange how perfume gets into your head without you even noticing it!

  4. Pingback: Grit and Glamour

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