We live in a world that has gotten more and more casual. We entertain casually, we dress casually, and most of us tend to prefer a casual feel in our homes. However, during the holidays everyone likes to get a bit more fancy. We entertain more formally, we decorate our houses, and we go to more festive events.
The holidays also offer a perfect excuse for dressing up. It’s the season for eveningwear, fancy jewelry and elegant little black dresses. For the finishing touch, why not add a glamorous fragrance that is as festive as this time of year, a special occasion scent perfect for a holiday night out?
For years, my go-to evening fragrance has been Fracas, a legendary French floral that launched in Paris more than 50 years ago. It is distinctly fragrant with tuberose, jasmine, lily of the valley, and a hint of orange. It definitely makes a statement and smells like almost nothing else. I love it, but this year I thought I should explore some other possibilities, and play a little dress-up at the perfume counter.
The simplest way to dress up for an evening out is to put on a perfect and classic “little black dress.” Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire is named for that dress, and was created using “black notes,” including black cherry, black rose, patchouli, smoked tea, almond, and a touch of licorice. The notes are unusual, and the result is a fragrance that is bold, but also fruity and slightly sweet. It will work for any occasion.
Another perfect complement to a little black dress is the fragrance that many call the little black dress of perfume—Chanel No. 5. Designer Coco Chanel is actually credited with inventing the little black dress, and Chanel No. 5 is the most popular perfume in the world. Its elegant black and white packaging is iconic, and has always struck me as the equivalent of a black dress and pearls.
The fragrance itself is a powdery, almost sparkly scent. The sparkle is the result of the aldehyde top notes, which are blended with bergamot, lemon, neroli and ylang-ylang. The heart notes are jasmine, rose, lily of the valley and iris, and the base includes vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla, amber and patchouli. In creating No. 5, Chanel reportedly wanted to create a beautiful blend, with no single note dominating. If you want a classic scent to go with your classic dress, Chanel No. 5 is a perfect choice.
Like Coco Chanel, Christian Dior created designs that revolutionized the fashion world. Perfume was always central to the House of Dior, and many Dior fragrances are perfect for dressing up. Perhaps the most perfect is Grand Bal, part of the specialty line of Dior fragrances called La Collection Privée Christian Dior. The name paints an irresistible picture of a festive night out—who can resist the idea of a grand ball? The packaging is beautiful, and the scent’s creator, François Demachy, calls Grand Bal “an echo of Christian Dior’s great ball gowns, whose full skirts and beauty evoked the petals of a flower in full bloom.” It is a lovely, Mediterranean floral, with a heart of jasmine from the south of France. While perfect for a fancy night out, why limit yourself to special occasions? The scent is pretty enough for everyday. You can find it at select Saks Fifth Avenue stores and Dior boutiques, or on the Christian Dior website.
I found two other French florals that, like my favorite Fracas, are based on notes of tuberose: La Nuit de Tubéreuse and Carnal Flower. La Nuit de Tubéreuse is from the L’Artisan Parfumeur line, which was founded in Paris in 1976 by perfumer-chemist Jean Laporte. It was one of the first niche fragrance houses, and works with master perfumers and high quality ingredients to create fragrances that are distinct, but still approachable.
La Nuit de Tubéreuse is described on the L’Artisan website as “the scent of luminous Parisian nights, narcotic and unexpected, romantic and compulsive.” That description is hard to resist, and I liked the scent very much. It is different from other tuberose scents, perhaps because it combines the distinctive floral with fruit, spice and woods. In addition to tuberose, the notes include cardamom, clove, pink pepper, pepper, citrus, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, mango, and sandalwood. You can find it online at www.luckyscent.com or the L’Artisan website.
Carnal Flower was created by perfumer Dominique Ropion for the fragrance house Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. It is beautiful and sexy, but also has the freshness you smell when you walk into a florist shop. The richness of the tuberose is combined with notes of bergamot, melon, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, jasmine, white musk, coconut, and orange blossom. It is very different from my favorite Fracas, but at the same time feels like a direct descendant of the fifty-year-old classic. It may be my new holiday favorite.
Before finishing my shopping I tried scents from two designers renowned for their eveningwear—Tom Ford and Elie Saab. Saab is famous for his red carpet gowns, and he became a fashion celebrity overnight when he dressed Hallie Barry the year she won an Oscar for Best Actress. Renowned perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who has created scents for Narciso Rodriguez and Lanvin, in addition to having his own line, worked with Saab on his Elie Saab scent. It is a white floral that starts out soft and then seems to burst into light. If you are looking for a scent that sparkles like Saab’s gowns, give it a try. It is available at major department stores.
Tom Ford is one of the most famous designers in the world, and his fashions have long been a staple on the red carpet. The Ford-designed white gown that Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Oscars was one of the most photographed and praised dresses of the year—it was simple, but opulent and one of a kind. There are two Ford scents that I think echo the spirit of that dress and are perfect for a holiday night out—one if you are looking for something that will make a statement, the other more elegant, but still festive.
Jasmine Rouge is the more quiet, elegant scent—a white floral, with a slightly spicy edge. The top note is jasmine, with some bergamot, pepper, neroli and ginger, and there is leather and vanilla in their somewhere. It’s packaging is also perfect for this time of year—it comes in a beautiful red glass bottle that definitely says “holiday.”
If you want something completely different, and a fragrance that makes a unique statement, you may want to try Ford’s Black Orchid. Its scent is very rich and luxurious, and like, Fracas, it is very distinctive—I don’t think it smells like anything else. Its signature black orchid note is custom grown for Ford and blended with bergamot, citrus, mandarin, gardenia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, and vanilla. I love the black and gold art deco bottle, but have to decide if I want to be bold enough to wear something as glamorous as Black Orchid. But maybe it is time to break out of my holiday routine and try something new. Holiday season is not the time to be shy!