Volume 91, Issue 95

Friday, March 27, 1998



Smelling Sweet, past and present

By Ciara Rickard
Gazette Staff

Every so often, when a certain scent wafts your way, it might spark a memory, make you feel good or make you want to follow the individual wearing such an alluring aroma – these are the joys of perfume.

Perfume has its roots in a far less frivolous purpose than we give it today. 'Through smoke' is the literal translation of the word and one of its original uses was of a more divine nature, says Patricia Blakely, author, columnist and consultor to perfume companies.

If you take yourself back a few millenia to a funeral, you might encounter a scent that is remarkably similar to the Chanel or Gap spray you shower yourself with each morning. At these funerals, the mourners of the dearly departed would waft such scents up to the heavens in hopes that it would please the gods and sway them to look kindly upon the deceased, Blakely reveals.

Perfume has also had some less romantic purposes: "Many years ago it was used to help mask body odour or odour from the streets in the times when people travelled by horse-drawn carriages," Blakely explains. During these times, horses were forced to use the streets as their latrine, therefore polluting the air with an unpleasant odour.

Although traditionally perfume was often worn to help attract a mate, now fragrance creators are becoming more aware of the psychological effects it has, such as making the wearer feel good about themselves and lifting their spirits. People are wearing perfume for themselves rather than wearing it to impress someone else.

Perfume did not actually come into commercial production until around the mid-1700s. "For a time it was used only by priests and royals because it was so expensive; the general populace couldn't afford such a luxury," Blakely explains. "The commercial production of perfume really came into its own in the late 1800s. Chanel No.5 came out around 1926 or 1927."

Blakely also offers some guidelines on choosing and applying perfume. "At work keep your fragrance light. If you prefer something heavier, use a body cream, so it stays closer to your body. At night or if it's a special occasion, you can wear something stronger," she suggests. "It should be put on before you dress and before you put on make-up so it has time to diffuse and you don't overwhelm people," she adds.

Speaking of overwhelming people, Blakely also notes that one should be careful not to apply too much. Your scent shouldn't extend beyond a three foot radius, so that you and people who are in close proximity to you can enjoy it, but not so much that it will make people hold their breath as they pass by.

The most popular scents right now are lighter and less invasive: "For instance, Tommy Girl is quite light and also Hugo Boss for women. There are classics that have been around for years and years and keep on going. The trend now is to get away from the '80s perfumes," Blakely says.

Also, if you want your scent to stay on you for a long time, be sure not to apply it above the shoulders, as it quickly rises and dissipates, she notes.

Cherry Egan, business manager for cosmetics and fragrances at Eaton's in Masonville Place, reiterates that the current trend consists of light, fresh, natural scents. People want to smell good but they don't want to offend other people with an overwhelming scent, she explains. These light scents are particularly appropriate for the office or daytime.

"At night-time you would wear something heavier and warmer or something a little spicy. Vanilla, musk, cinnamon – these are all scents that are considered warm. Obsession is a great evening scent," she adds. "But it's going to change in a few months – people are getting tired of fruity scents, so they're going to be more romantic and softer, a bit sweeter," she notes.

Egan says while there are a number of popular scents, choosing a fragrance is a very personal decision. It is, therefore, wise to wear a fragrance for a day before you make any decisions about buying it. Wearing the wrong scent can really affect one's mood – so those annoying people who attack you with sprays of perfume outside of department stores? Let them – it's actually a good idea.

So what is the right amount of fragrance to put on? It depends on what you're using, Egan says. "Eau de toilette is a 'basic' you can wear everyday and you can wear more because it's a lighter concentration of oils. Eau de parfum is stronger. And with a good quality French fragrance, a couple of sprays on the body is enough.

"We recommend that you layer things: do the shower gel, the body lotion and then the fragrance, all of the same scent. When you layer, it cuts down on the harsh scent and it lasts longer through the day," she explains.

Many people have the tendency to spray perfume on their wrists and rub them together but, Egan says, this causes the scent to dissipate more quickly. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, spraying perfume on pulse points allows the scent to be lost more quickly. It's true that your body chemistry brings out the scent more, but it also causes it to fade. She suggests spraying it on the lower body, such as the chest area, arms, the torso while avoiding pulse points.

Egan also warns: "Never spray perfume on your clothes – it ruins them. If you want your clothes to smell like your favourite fragrance, you can buy the soap and keep it in your drawer. We also carry scented sachets for that purpose," says Egan.

As Blakely said, people have been wearing perfume since time began, therefore, reinforcing the idea that it could change your life since it is a great way to improve your own mood and maybe even entice others to join your 'scent circle.'

To Contact The Focus Department: gazfocus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998