Scents 2.0: On dudesmells, why I’ll never buy a Marc Jacobs fragrance , and my guiltiest perfume pleasure

So, I had a little extra free time tonight, and instead of watching Honey Boo-Boo and eating a whole bag of Trader Joe’s white popcorn in one sitting, I thought I’d do something barely more productive.  I decided to wander around Nordstrom in search of inspiration for writing.  And my, how the waves came a’crashin!  It seems the first thing I gravitate toward when I wander through a department store is fragrance.  I’m always too worried that I’ll commit to something out of my budget if I look at the clothes a little too long, and as for the makeup department, well, I honestly have everything I need.  But there’s always something new to experience in fragrances; it’s rare that you’ve familiarized yourself with all for them.  And with the turn of the season usually comes a few new gems that designers and fragrance houses have tirelessly worked on to create a completely unique sensation.  Perfume has got to be one of the most fascinating things ever to me.  How something that’s virtually invisible on your skin can manage to evoke such strong emotions amazes me.  I’ve said it before, but while  I know folks who refuse to listen to particular songs because of the memories associated with them, I am one who refuses to come near certain fragrances because of the memories encapsulated in them.  My brain can’t take it.

But anyhow, back to my adventures in wasting time.  I’ve come to realize that I’ve been trying to really “grow up” when it comes to fragrance.  I can’t go for anything too cloyingly sweet anymore, and any kind of cutesy packaging will be enough to detract me from purchasing a fragrance that smells delicious.  The bottle of a perfume that I purchase these days can certainly be feminine, but it cannot be cute.  It cannot have jewel adornments, it cannot be too colorful, and it cannot look as if it belongs on college girl’s nightstand.  Highly mature nightstands only!  I think it comes with my obsession with trying to be a forty-year-old French woman.  For this reason (and practically this reason alone) I shun the fragrances of Juicy Couture, Marc Jacobs, and nearly all celebrity names (because seriously, have you seen celebrity fragrance bottles?  I didn’t realize Katy Perry’s target buyer was a two-year-old who also enjoys the Woggles and a fresh diaper.).  And when it comes to the others like Marc Jacobs, well, his latest called Honey smells undeniably pleasant, but it simply cannot be seen in my home.  But just hide it, you say!  Um, no no.  I absolutely have to display my fragrances.  I don’t know why it’s such a thing with me, but leaving my perfume out on display is just a weird necessity of mine.  It’s something I always envisioned doing once I moved into a place of my own; that and lighting candles when company comes over.  And offering them Cheetos only to be happily turned down so I can have them all for myself.  I think I have this weird fantasy of people smelling my perfume in my bathroom when I’m not looking and thinking, “Ohhhhhh, McKenna, she’s sooooooo mysterious and sophiiiisssssticated.  I’m overwheeeeeelmed by her myyyysssstery.”  And then I offer them more Cheetos.


See Balenciaga’s Florabotanica located in the center shelf?  Here’s a counterexample of my previous point: the bottle is everything I want in perfume design, but the fragrance is just meh.  Boo.  It’s that perfect blend of awesome bottle and captivating scent that gets me, and it has to be just right.


I’ve been eyeing the new Marni fragrance up top for some time now, as I’m crazy about the bottle and very intrigued by the scent.  And yet, I’ve debated that the scent itself (a little rosy, a little woodsy) isn’t too friend-friendly as I like to call it.  That’s my other trouble- I always worry about others appreciating my perfume selections.  I mean, a perfume is honestly there for others’ enjoyment as much as yours, no?  It’s one thing to wear too much of a good perfume; that can always be remedied.  But wearing any quantity of a perfume that’s just plain ick?  No fixin’ that, and it can do a disservice to those around you.  Some scents are universally wonderful (and those I patiently search for), but others are very subjectively appreciated.  I’ve literally stopped wearing perfumes that I’ve purchased on account of realizing that they just weren’t friend-friendly enough for my taste.  When you wear a fragrance that others appreciate, they compliment you.  This really is the case.  People consistently ask you what you’re wearing.  I’ve had one or two in my time though where that has not been so, and it has left me wildly insecure.  I hate for this to happen, and so in the past year or so I’ve vowed to take my sweet, sweet time searching for the perfect scent that others will love as much as myself.

I’ll also take a brief moment to address that otherworldly blue and silver bottle you see on the shelf, Thierry Mugler’s Angel.  The concoction is almost unbearably sweet, and yet intoxicating all at once.  You cannot stop smelling it.  It seriously invokes this sense of infinity and overwhelming nostalgia in me.  With notes of dewberries, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, red berries, and honey, I am not kidding- it is cloying, and yet powerful.  I once had a friend who used to wear it all the time, and for that reason alone I cannot wear Angel.  I can’t think of anyone but my old friend when I smell it, but it is a true masterpiece of a scent.


A brief word on men’s fragrances- WHY DOES THIS NOT HAPPEN NEARLY AS MUCH AS IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN?!   Males (especially the younger set) seriously underestimate the power of a sophisticated fragrance.  A couple spritzes of a Tom Ford something-or-other seems to carry the potential to change Tracy Jordans into Ushers, Judah Friedlanders into Jon Hamms (not that those men can’t clean up, but you get it).  How this all occurs in terms of biochemistry is lost on me, but I’m a believer.  Don’t have the money for something, dudebro?  No worries, but save for something tasteful.  Do not wear Bod.  Do not wear Axe.  If you choose to wear Axe, I will personally pray for ladies to hiss at you as you pass by on the streets.  As wondrous as fragrance may be, do not buy into advertising that says that women will suddenly be happy to serve you as your playthings simply because you bought a cheap, albeit cough-inducing, body spray.  Axe carries the subtlety of a garlic sandwich, and consider it the male counterpart to Mariah Carey’s Lollipop collection.  And yes, if you’ve been searching for the snob in me, you’ve found her.  And yes, I’ve familiarized myself with an Axe fragrance or two so that I may pray for hissing.

But you know, I really shouldn’t talk too much.  I mean, we all tend to have those guilty pleasures when it comes to things like scent.  That ginormous birthday cake-scented candle?  Or the Bath and Body Works four-for-twenty deals, or whatever they are?  You know how it is.  While I dream in my heart of hearts of being a forty-year-old French woman that only wears Jour D’Hermes or a Frederic Malle’ elixir, I know my weakness for Country Apple and Love Spell.  And speaking of Love Spell (WHICH I KNOW YOU KNOW), can we be honest in naming my absolute guiltiest pleasure when it comes to fragrance?  I seriously just spent twenty minutes trashing on Axe for their sex-based advertising (though I do think its problems go beyond just being “sex-based”), and yet I’ll come clean and say that I have major difficulty resisting the following brand when it comes to perfumery, and their entire name is built on sex and the idea of a human “angel” (which would consist of no less than a full C-cup, mile-long legs, a six pack, and hair with extensions).yes

Awwww yeeeeeeee.  You know what I’m talkin’ about!  You’ve stood at this table!  You’ve smelled that smelly stuff!  AND YOU LOVED IT!  You KNOW you loved it.  Victoria’s Secret might carry some of the best fragrances I’ve ever laid my sexy Angel nosehairs on, and their popularity is testament to that.  Fragrances like Dream Angel’s Heavenly and Bombshell have won countless awards, and I’m always impressed by the brand’s ability to tow the line of girly-femme and bold modernity with their scents.  Save for the sticky-sweet teeny-bopper VS Fantasies collection (featuring the likes of Love Spell), nothing here seems to ever veer too far into berry-bubblegum One Direction Our Moment territory, which is exactly what keeps me interested in VS fragrances as a customer.

vic room

The place might be far too pink and sparkly for my taste, but it’s the smelly stuff that keeps me coming back!  Victoria’s Secret Bombshell is my personal favorite, though I have to say, the bottle itself is very, um, French can-can dancer Barbie?  And I’ll admit that there are times when I look at the posters and photos of VS models around the store and think, Good God, Lemon!  You wearing one of these fragrances is like trying to make a cucumber spicy.  It might not work.


Victoria’s latest offering is called simply that- Victoria by Victoria’s Secret.  And I’ll admit it, I’m smitten.  The scent is DEEEEEEE-lectable.  It’s sparky-sweet and very gourmand, and it reminds me of a more grown-up version of a Harajuku Girls fragrance I used to wear (oh yes, the ones with the little Gwen Stefani dolls on them).  However, LOOK AT THAT FREAK OF A BOTTLE.  The thing makes me gag!  I see poodles and cherries and Louboutins and pearls and nearly EVERY OTHER THING THAT I DO NOT WANT IN MY LIFE (and yes, I do not desire Louboutins; different discussion, different blog).  THE BOTTLE ALONE is stopping me from literally BATHING in this heavenly stuff.  Ughhhhhhhhh.  I know!   If you love how it smells just buy it and stop worrying so much about the stupid packaging!  But for whatever superficial reason, I cannot help but believe that the items I purchase say something about my taste, my aesthetic, my identity.  And I DO NOT identify with that bottle.  Sorry, Vicki.  Lose the bow, and then we can talk.

So anyhow, my trip into the Great Beyond of fragrances this evening turned out to be quite a  … trip.  I’m currently using Flora by Gucci, and while I’m highly satisfied, and I have to say that I’m not much of a signature scent gal so I know that once the Flora runs out I’ll be gettin’ along to the next thing I find (and I’m realizing that sentence just made me sound like some vagabond heartbreaker cowboy).  I’m still searching for my next olfactory love, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with a shot of some old favorites.



Lancome rarely does wrong when it comes to perfume, and that pretty little thing sitting in the front is what I was wearing this time last year.  La Vie Est Belle, if we must name it.  That might’ve been the fragrance that earned me the most compliments out of any that I’ve worn.  Shall I return to The Beautiful Life?  Je ne sais pas, mes amis!  Alright, time for bed.  Forty-year-old French woman is now demanding too much attention.  xo, MR



Weekday update! And how I have no sales resistance.

So, an update.

I’ve been using the same very cheap under-eye concealer for a couple years. I’m pretty sure the shade is wrong (a cool tone, which is not even a characteristic of my own skin), but for some reason I continue to use it. I thought I’d perhaps purchase the same concealer but in a neutral shade instead. So I stopped by Ulta (so that I also might purchase some new cologne for the husband … Givenchy Play smells like swag, but the nice, helpful, courteous, I-may-not-be-loaded-but-I-still-have-good-taste kind of swag) and found myself experiencing an acute lack of confidence as I checked for a better shade of my beloved L’Oreal True Match Super Blendable concealer. It’s not often that I feel the confidence drain out of me as I shop for makeup. I’m usually the one bossing someone else around in that situation. You need THIS blush! You’ll make your eyes pop more with this eyeshadow, dummy! Stop it- that shade makes you look like Snooki on an even worse day! So what did I do? I did the last thing … literally, THEE LAST THING … that I ever like to do in the beauty department: I asked for help from a sales associate.

It’s a strange combination of anxiety and exhilaration that I experience when I ask a beauty sales associate for help. On the one hand, I almost have this sort of avoidant disorder that makes me want to throw up when a sales associate approaches me and asks if I want to try anything or if I need any help. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m asked for money by a solicitor outside of Target. I’ll put my phone to my ear and pretend I’m talking to someone just to avoid contact with the person, or I’ll run past them as fast I can. I just hate having to say no. However, if I decide that I do want to try something on my own terms, I throw all caution to the wind and I want them to go absolutely crazy on me. The only problem is that, well, it’s really awkward if a sales associate tests a couple things on you and you don’t purchase something. In fact, if an associate ever does apply a full face of makeup on you at your own request, it is expected that you purchase at least two items. I’ve taken this policy to the extreme in that I feel obligated to purchase something shown to me by any associate if I’m helped at all.

So anyhow, I sort of on-purpose ran into a woman working at Ulta and explained my dilemma. She perked up, went and grabbed her favorite undereye concealer, and proceeded to perch me on a chair and blend the product neatly under my eyes. And it looked alright. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes I experience this feeling of not liking something so much because I didn’t find it myself, even if it does exactly what I need it to do. But like a moron, I thanked the woman and walked away with the concealer- which was priced at thirty bucks. Ugh. Seriously? Not even $24.99? I don’t know, sometimes I can be pretty spineless when it comes to sales resistance. This stuff wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t even Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche’ Eclat (the legendary luxury undereye brightener and concealer that I own but am continuously underwhelmed by). The drugstore kind I’d been using never tops ten dollars, and I just felt like a sucker. And yet I did not want to say no and hurt the nice lady’s feelings! Her whole career in makeup might hinge on that thoughtful, enthusiastic sales pitch of hers!

So what did I do? I picked up one of the L’Oreal concealers in a better-matched shade, held on to the thirty dollar one too, stood in line, flashed the thirty dollar one unmistakably and reassuringly when my friendly helper walked by as she assisted another customer, made it to the register … and proceeded to sigh and whisper, “You know, I’m not going to take this today”, and handed in the thirty dollar concealer to be put back on the shelf, discreetly out of view from my helper. And then I bolted.

There’s something extra difficult about resisting a sale in the beauty department. Beauty sales feel more personal to me because usually the associate has taken the time to assess your personal features and desires, and has then used their technical skills by applying the makeup to your face. You feel as if they’ve pampered you a little bit, and you also may feel that they’ve played “artist” a little bit, and turning down a sale would be insulting to their artistic abilities. It’s something I really need to get over, though.

I don’t exactly have any pictures of my escape from Ulta, but here’s a picture of the current state of my medicine cabinet!


There isn’t a whole lot that’s new here. I found that Caudalie Vinexpert Radiance Fluid for about a third of it’s original price (which always makes me worry that it’s old) and so I snagged it just to try. It leaves you looking very glowy, which I love, but it’ll never be worth the full price. I ran out of eye makeup remover (and I’d been using Caudalie’s) and so I picked up some of the famed Lancome Bi-Facil. It works really well, but I’m not used to the feeling of oil left on my eyes (as I’m pretty sure it’s not oil-free). I love having a pretty, sparkly, blue fluid in my cabinet though! Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream is a cult favorite for dry lips and skin, but it feels and smells as if it’s almost one hundred-percent petroleum or mineral oil, which freaks me out and makes me want to use the smallest amount possible. I got it for Christmas and luckily I know it wasn’t very expensive, but it definitely isn’t what I thought it would be. I’m about two-thirds through my Boscia B.B. cream, and half-way through my Acure night cream.  And nowhere through that Bio-Oil.  Anyone want that stuff?

And for a last little bit of excitement, I busted out my most saturated shade of pink yesterday in celebration of the spring-worthy weather we were experiencing.


I’m wearing CoverGirl’s Lip Perfection lipstick in Spellbound, the most kick-butt shade of fuschia EVER.  It’s very much pink, but it’s got enough purply-plum in it to give it some edge and keep it from being too baby. The purple makes it more flattering for darker skin tones too.   I first applied a couple coats of it around ten in the morning and I think I reapplied a total of three times (one coat each time) during the whole day (and I think I finally scrubbed it off around nine at night).  I probably didn’t need to reapply any at all because the stain it leaves is very even, but over time the purple fades out of it and you’re left with the hot pink base.  I just like keeping it looking fresh.  Oh, and this photo is unfiltered!  No joke!

Let me know how your medicine cabinet’s looking these days, what spring makeup you’re trying, or your awkward stories from the makeup counter!  Believe me- I didn’t even get into my worst tale.  That’s yet to come.  xo, MR