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5 fragrances that elevate my outfits
smell—the invisible dimension of sartorial experience
Yesterday, I wrote about getting the funky smell out of a vintage skirt. I’m a strong believer that smell is a dimension of your outfit; it deepens the way you experience clothes. A smell can communicate moods and concepts the same way clothes can…elegance, flamboyance, rebellion, angst, detachment, obsession. A spritz of the right scent is like an invisible hero piece that brings the outfit from 3D to 4D. Articulates it further. East of Borneo by Kashina is a book that made me fall in love with the language of scent and think about how it related to the performance of getting dressed.
That said, I actually wouldn’t describe myself as a big perfume person. My collection is small and tightly edited. I enjoy sampling smells but rarely commit to buying a whole bottle of something.
Here are the 5 fragrances I reach for most often, and how I use them.
Riddle oil original: I’ve used this body oil for years. It was my first “adult” foray into fragrance and I bought it after watching one of my favorite vloggers talk about it on Youtube. She described the smell as clean skin. I think it has a slightly salty oceanic side to it. It’s very light and comforting and reminds me of sleeping in a hammock on a beach. The vial is small so it’s what I always pack for travel. It’s best for applying directly on skin—wrists and neck.
White lily oil: You might be familiar with this if you grew up in an Asian household. I know it as “white lily oil” but the product name online is “white flower oil.” It’s very concentrated and strong. My family uses this as a panacea for various ails like headaches, stomachaches, and congestion. If you get a tiny bit too close to your eye, it’s going to sting like fire. I love the sharp acuity of the first whiff, it really does clarify my entire nasal passage. Because the smell is potent, I’d apply a small amount on your forehead temples before bed. It wears off nicely after 8 hours of sleep into something more mellow and herbal.
Kindred Black A Woman Is Fire: Ethaney got me this for Christmas. The glass bottle is beautiful and looks like it’s from a medieval apothecary. It’s a perfume oil with a rich and thick emanation. I typically like anything that has sandalwood and vanilla in it. This perfume feels very hot and fiery, true to its namesake. It evokes mulled wine, a roaring hearth, ashes with a touch of cinnamon.
Mondo Mondo Hysteria: Mondo Mondo has some of the best fragrance branding I’ve seen. The bottle packaging has a minimal but eclectic design, and the scent descriptions are poetic. This one has “indian tuberose, indian jasmine, rubberbands, coconut, sunscreen musk.” It’s my favorite summer perfume, transporting me to a tropical night where my skin is warm from suntanning all day and I feel pretty without any makeup. Best sprayed on loose silky dresses and clothing that flows.
Aesop Karst *or* Eidesis: I live nearby and Aesop store and pop in every once in a while to sniff things. These are my favorite scents, and they feel like opposites in way. Like it has the same base notes but the Karst reads blustery and coastal, very blue, whereas Eidesis reads earthy and sylvan, very red. I find these scents meld well with fibers, so spray on sweaters and knits.