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· Notes: Thanksgiving
· Perfume Notes: Perfumes: The Guide

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Notes: Thanksgiving
by Dorothy

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada, which means that after more than a month in Small Maritime City You Haven't Heard Of, I had a long weekend in Toronto to eat turkey, drink wine and shop.

Being fairly short of both time and funds, I just went to the mall. Exotic, I know. I'll write a proper, non-grab bag post one of these days, but for the moment:

I covet fancy boutique-y clothes, but I don't live in them; they tend to require too much care. Since junior high, I've bought a lot -- perhaps most -- of my basics from Jacob, a Montreal-based Canadian chain whose prices and quality put it roughly in league with the Gap. (Jacob even has its own Old Navy-ish offshoot, Jacob Connexion.) Jacob only put up a website quite recently, and unfortunately, it's one of those annoying websites that display garments in outfits (often hidden by a big scarf or something; how useful!) and not individually. But perhaps this selection of outfits will give you an idea of the aesthetic, or at least of how Jacob differs from the Gap: slightly more urban, a little more dressed up (except for the Connexion mannequin on the right), with a lot (a LOT) of black, always.

Over the years, I've probably owned a dozen pieces in Jacob's never-varying red, a rich-looking and almost universally flattering deep cherry. It amused me to discover that Jacob's website refers to this colour as "perfect red". My latest acquisition is the plaid shirt from Jacob Connexion (in red), faintly seventies, surprisingly soft, perhaps a little baggy (story of my life) but not unacceptably so. For the price ($38 CAD) one doesn't expect great quality, but some things I've bought at Jacob have lasted me years.

Dain suggested I look for a plum-toned eyeliner or mascara, and I have found one: MAC Fluidline in Macroviolet. Like all Fluidlines, this looks much brighter and more shimmery in the pot than it does on my face; also like other Fluidlines, it is easy to work with and stays put. Macroviolet is dark enough not to look teenage or clubby, but plummy enough to bring out green eyes: perfect.

I went to Sephora to try Shalimar again; I felt I should know what it smelled like, and the last time I sprayed it on in a department store, my immediate response was "Oh my god, this is evil." I believe that bottle had turned, because the Shalimar I smelled this weekend was the deep, mysterious lemon-and-vanilla oriental I had been led to expect. I can see why Luca Turin describes Shalimar's sillage as "black"; it's dark and smoky and, unlike many modern vanilla scents, not particularly sweet. For a smoky dark fragrance, I think I prefer the Tabac Blond extrait I got from The Perfumed Court, but Shalimar is cheaper, more consistent (word is Tabac Blond is constantly being tampered with -- bah!), and easier to find.

I have Lolita Lempicka on my other wrist as I write this and cannot make up my mind about it. Is it a marvellous, autumnal mix of roasted apples, licorice and vanilla with a warm, musky drydown, or is it just an awful, boring, cloying thing like the hundreds of other awful, boring, cloying things on the market? It appears in different guises at different moments. I may have to get another sample.

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10/14/2008 [1]

Perfume Notes: Perfumes: The Guide
by Dorothy

I finally sucked it up and bought Perfumes: The Guide, after probably a half-dozen trips to various bookstores to thumb through it furtively.

I think this book has suffered from its marketing. The book jacket proclaims it to be the "definitive" guide to perfumes, which is understandable (who, besides a confirmed perfume addict, would buy a non-definitive guide to perfumes?) but also silly, and when you read the reviews, you realize Turin and Sanchez aren't trying to be objective. They're presenting their own opinions, sometimes with elaborate metaphors, sometimes with funny but hardly illuminating quips, sometimes drifting off into personal anecdote.

I love this. I think they are both hugely entertaining writers; I love their bitchiness, I love Turin's arrogance, and I love their willingness to sum perfumes up with lines like "If you drive a Moscow taxi at night, this one's for you" and "If you like this kind of thing, your thong is probably showing above your jeans." Consider the image that came to my mind the first time I smelled Fracas:

Followed by this image:

And it's not that I don't like or appreciate Fracas; I do. But I don't wear it, simply because no matter how beautifully orchestrated the peach-and-tuberose combination, no matter how lovely I find it on others, it feels like a fragrance for someone else: a bombshell, a sexpot, "a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole through a stained-glass window". There's nothing technical or intellectual about this response; it's all memory and emotion -- but isn't that why most of us wear perfume?

Since I'm new to perfume, I'm not really concerned about what reading Turin and Sanchez might do to my own critical judgment. At this point, I don't feel I have much, and fragrance is such a very intimate, personal thing that I think it's hard to be too much swayed by others' opinions. It's one thing to muscle your way through a book you don't like, quite another to live with a smell you don't like. I have smelled Bulgari Black and Dior Homme, both of which get raves from Turin, and...well-composed they may be, but they both give me an instant headache, and that is that. Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise, which Turin has called "the perfect floral", was another headache-inducing scrubber for me, calling up images of Mystic Tans and all-inclusive resorts. I don't think Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte smells like a "soapy green" at all; I think it smells like mimosa, jam and several types of powder (baby powder, cocoa powder, icing sugar), and I'm clearly not alone in that. And on a more general note, my personal experience doesn't bear out Turin and Sanchez's assertion that skin chemistry is unimportant.

I think this book could have been edited a little better; for example, it's odd to see Turin and Sanchez repeatedly reference perfumes they don't review in the book (Knize Ten, YSL Champagne/Yvresse). And again, I don't consider it "definitive" in any way. But it's enormous fun, often hilarious, and a good resource for a relative novice like me, someone learning the basics of perfume history and trying to decide what to sample next.

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10/02/2008 [5]

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