Little Bits of Luxury: Fragrance


When I was in high school, we stayed with my parent’s friends for a night on the way home from a vacation. I don’t remember much about the trip except the downstairs bathroom in their home. For décor, they had a goldfish bowl on the back of the toilet and it was full of perfume samples. I loved that idea, and as soon as I got home, I made it my mission to have something similar. Over 20 years later, I have filled a vase with perfume samples, and am ready to upgrade to a goldfish bowl.

At first, it was all about the look, but as I received perfume samples with orders (I never begged for them from perfume counters, they just came as gifts with purchases or friends would hand me a couple they didn’t want), I started checking them out. See, I used to be a perfume addict.

It started in elementary school with some fragrance I picked up in F&M that had a purple, orange, and pink ombred glass bottle that likely smelled like cotton candy. We went on a school field trip to the Museum of Natural History and the boy I liked told me I smelled good. Oh, the power of fragrance!

Through my school years, there was Benetton Colours, Sunflowers, Escape, Dune, White Musk, and whatever I could afford at the drugstore. Many gave me headaches but I soldiered on, thinking that fragrance was the finishing touch on my personal style. In college I dabbled with patchouli, but stuck mainly with Opium, which I felt was mature and unique and sophisticated. After college I worked for Express (which is the same company at Bath and Body Works and my discount worked there) and then The Body Shop (home of White Musk), so I spent many years smelling like fruit and flowers.

When I left retail, I swore I would never again smell like a Yankee Candle. I started buying fragrances… a lot of fragrances. Chanel N°5 was a classic so I bought it, but then realized I don’t want to smell like my mom (she’s a die-hard Chanel N°5 fan). I tried other Chanel fragrances, the scent with the actress I love in the commercial, the scent that the musician I love says she wears, the fragrance sold by my favorite cosmetics line, the fragrance in that magazine’s gift guide. I loved the look of all the glass bottles on my dressing table, but I ended up being someone who never wore fragrance because I was spending a lot of money and not ending up with anything I liked for more than a week or two (or else I would hug someone and they’d say, “Is that Gucci Envy?” making me realize I smelled like perfume, not me).

So I did what I should have done a long time ago – I started using those little testers I was collecting. Who cared if a couple of the vials were empty or close to it? This gave me a chance to test drive a fragrance without spending more money. And while I was at it, I decided to get rid of all those perfumes. Did you know people will buy partially used bottles of perfume on eBay?

dressing table
My first bottle of Burberry London on my dressing table in 2006, and my thinning fragrance collection.

And so, I came upon Burberry London. I didn’t like the bottle (who puts beige fabric on a bottle? It gets so grody looking after a few months!), I didn’t like the brand (I’m not plaid and trench coats, this brand doesn’t speak ALISON!), but it was the first perfume that I didn’t tire of, didn’t give me a headache, and didn’t smell like every other woman in the room. When I wore it, I rarely got comments on my fragrance, only when I hugged people, and no one ever asked what I was wearing but just said I smelled good.

For over past eight years, I have worn Burberry London. I stopped for a while once Emerson was born because I feared it would affect breastfeeding, but now it’s part of what Alison Gary smells like. I spritz it three times in the air and walk under it; when I am going out at night I’ll do a fourth spritz and then another spritz on my wrists. The older I get, the more liberal I am with my fragrance, as it has become part of my signature. And since I have one solitary scent, the cost isn’t as bad. And yes, I have purchased unused and tester versions of Burberry London on eBay for a fraction of the retail price (if you try this, go with sellers with great reviews that detail the quality and authenticity of fragrances, often fragrance companies will sell their overstock or extra testers for a nice price).

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  1. Sonia
    January 29, 2014 / 9:16 am

    I enjoy the smell of DKNY Pure Scent Spray. It’s fresh, light and I can spray a little or a lot without it being overpowering. I get compliments all the time even after wearing it all day.

  2. Leah
    January 28, 2014 / 1:02 pm

    My honey is really sensitive to smells–I have to run face moisturizer by him before I buy it so he doesn’t gag when we’re in proximity–so I don’t wear anything other than the smell of the coconut oil I use as moisturizer (fine by him). In the past I’ve worn a few scents I picked up at the Fragonard factory for cheap(er) but didn’t use them all before they went bad (something to pay attention to–fragrance eventually degenerates, so if you’ve got that bottle from highschool it probably isn’t working like it’s supposed to anymore–throw it out!).
    Now I like smelling like me–whatever scent my skin naturally gives off + the coconut oil–but I love the idea of playing with/finding something unique and memory-making. I still remember the smell of my 5th grade teacher’s cologne and am transported right back to his class whenever I smell it!

  3. Christina C
    January 28, 2014 / 12:00 pm

    I have become a total Tom Ford Junkie. The scents are so amazing and potent. The signature line can be unisex and you can mix and match the fragrances. They are pricey but a bottle lasts forever and I guarantee you will not smell like anyone else.

    • kaijsa
      February 10, 2014 / 7:49 pm

      I agree about TF. I wear a lot of niche perfume, but the big brands that I love are Tom Ford (Neroli Portofino!) and Chanel Les Exclusifs (so much more amazing than the regular line).

  4. bubu
    January 28, 2014 / 11:29 am

    Fascinating to see both the post and all the comments. I held off perfume for years (my hubby was allergic for a while, and I sing in a choir where it is forbidden) but I’ve come back to my old favorite Tuscany per Donna – but only in the winter months, where I find it a nice warm scent. Will be looking for something lighter come summer. Question to everyone re those samples and older bottles: how long before perfume goes bad? I found the Tuscany held up well but I finally had to toss my old Aqua di Gio because it just smelled like alcohol. Ditto my endless Clinique Happy samples — do some just last longer than others? Thanks!

    • Little Red
      January 28, 2014 / 10:38 pm

      Fragrance is sensitive to light and heat so storing it in places like a bathroom is a bad idea. A cool, dark place is the best place. And yes, sometimes they just go bad anyway.

      • Erika
        February 3, 2014 / 8:15 pm

        And sometimes they last for decades. A shady cool spot keeps them in good condition, as well as being tightly stoppered. It can be a bit of a gamble, but for the older fragrances, I find it’s one worth taking.

  5. Jocelyn
    January 28, 2014 / 10:14 am

    My all-time favorite was Calvin Klein Eternity Purple Orchid. It was only sold for a couple of years, and I horded what I could find. Since it’s pratically impossible to find now, I’ve been on the hunt for something else. I’m also a perfume addict. The gorgeous bottles draw me in. I recently have been wearing CK Eternity Aqua which is a really clean watery scent.
    If anybody is really into fragrances, TJ Maxx and Marshalls are the way to go. I work there part-time and in among all the pop star frgrances, we often have Burberry London, and lots of other high priced fragrances, for a lot cheaper than retail prices.

  6. Jessica
    January 28, 2014 / 9:17 am

    My go to is Pure Grace by Philosophy, which is light enough not to scream “I’m wearing fragrance” when I’m working in a school setting. I also love Light Blue by Dolce and Gabana, I typically get a lot of “you smell good” comments when I’m wearing that one. Love hearing what others wear, and just goes to show how different things smell with different body chemistry!

  7. Nanne
    January 28, 2014 / 5:10 am

    I have trouble finding perfumes that smell nice on my skin, so I have stayed with my trusted favorites for years! They are Roma and Laura from Laura Biagiotti and Laguna from Salvador Dàli.

  8. Sara
    January 28, 2014 / 3:16 am

    I really, like really like perfume and I wear some every day. I love the way I feel and you are correct, it is my daily bit of luxury. My love of perfume dates back to my childhood enjoying mom’s perfumes, Nina Ricci L’air du temps, Chanel (No.5, Coco Chanel Mademoseille), Palona Picasso, etc. When I was gifted my own, Sunflower, Elizabeth Arden Green Tea, Estee lauder White linen, Pleasures, Escada Magnetism…I could go on and on…I don’t have a signature scent though, just wear what I like until it is all used up. My latest obsessions are anything by Jo Malone, Viktor & Ralph Flower bomb and on my wish list is Oriens Van cleef & arpels.

  9. January 28, 2014 / 2:07 am

    My fragrance tastes have really changed over the years. When I was in high school, Polo Sport was my favorite for everyday use and Sun, Moon, and Stars for special occasions. I don’t own tons of fragrance like others, but I have specific uses for the ones that I have. I have about 4 bottles of fragrance mists from Bath and Body Works that I use for work, going out of the house for errand runs, and bedtime. If I’m going to events or dinner affairs, I will wear my current favorites from Gucci, Lancome, and Balenciaga.

  10. Little Red
    January 27, 2014 / 11:43 pm

    I don’t that if should come out of the closet as a perfume junkie or admit to the size of my perfume stash. All I can say is that I’m working my way through it all one by one. Currently wear Estee Lauder Knowing eau de parfum which I’m loving.

  11. GoddessMel
    January 27, 2014 / 10:31 pm

    My fragrance tastes have changed over the years – in my high school days it was Impulse body spray or Body Shop White Musk. A little later I moved on to Dune (my husband’s first fragrance gift to me, back in our dating days), then J’Adore, then Classique (by Jean Paul Gaultier), which I’ve been buying since its release.
    Classique remains a favourite and husband recently bought me a fresh bottle for my 40th birthday, with the beautiful lace overlay bottle. I love this fragrance as much for that womanly-shaped bottle as I do for the fragrance!
    In warmer weather I love Oscar (by de la Renta) and Marc Jacobs original scent, as well as Daisy. But for day I mostly now stick to MOR fragrance oil in Gardenia. It reminds me of my Nan but is a scent that is distinctly me; the roller ball applicator makes it easy to apply exactly where I want and not waste a spritz; it meets carry on requirements when I travel; and I can mix and match with their toiletries in the same fragrance if I wish for a longer lasting scent.

  12. January 27, 2014 / 9:21 pm

    In Canada there’s a ban on shipping liquids / creams via the mail now… If not I would have sold all my old perfumes instead of giving them away

  13. Erika
    January 27, 2014 / 9:03 pm

    I’m a perfume addict from way back, particularly the chypres and older Guerlain fragrances. eBay is brilliant for finding discontinued perfumes or older formulations. So I’ve been able to hunt down some of my mother’s favourites from the 1950s (Picot’s Le Train Bleu, Lucien Lelong’s Indiscret, Schiaperelli’s Shocking) a couple of classic reference perfumes (most notably Coty’s Chypre), and some that just don’t seem findable any other way (again Coty, one of the oldest fragrance houses, eau de Amber, which is the cologne and perfect for our scorching summer).
    Wearing lovely scents each day is one of my indulgences. I’ve never quite understood people who wear fragrance because it was given to them, rather than because they loved it.
    One trick is to dab a little at the nape of your neck, whenever Best Beloved snuggles in, he nearly always comments on how good I smell 🙂

  14. Anna Beers
    January 27, 2014 / 3:30 pm

    I still have two Bath and Body Works body splashes hanging around from high school. I’m 29. I wore DKNY Be Delicious for a while until it got too sugary. Now, I wear L’Occitaine en Provence Green Tea and it’s perfect. I even layer it with the Kiwi Melon body splash in the summer. Another thing you can do is dab some wax from a soy candle on your wrist until it melts. Candle scents have great staying power as perfumes.

  15. Patti_NotDeadYetStyle
    January 27, 2014 / 2:24 pm

    I choose one and stay with it for ages. Now it’s one of the Prada’s, and it makes me feel wonderful when I sniff my wrist : > Fragrance can really change one’s mood!

  16. January 27, 2014 / 2:10 pm

    Fragrance is a tough one. I’ve gone thru phases where I love it, must wear it, & stretches were I hate all of them. I’ve worn designer perfumes & essential oils I mix myself & quirky artisan-made scents. I do love trying out scents with those freebie vials tho, so your goldfish bowl of samples sounds awesome!

  17. charlene
    January 27, 2014 / 1:54 pm

    I have tried several and I have a few go to. Daisy by Marc Jacob or Dolce & Gabbana
    Pour Femme for special times. My go to signature smell is Amazing Grace by philosophy. it is such a light scent but I always get compliments when I wear it. I love roller ball perfumes because it gives you chance to play around with sent.

  18. Laura Lewis
    January 27, 2014 / 12:40 pm

    Good info. Didn’t know about fragrance on ebay but will give it a try. I’m a perfume hoarder too, so its nice to meet another one. I’m trying to use all my up, even the little samples. Thanks for this post.

  19. Keri Kaiser Howard
    January 27, 2014 / 11:24 am

    I love creamy/milky soft smells that make you smell clean and not like perfume-I started using the Archipelago Botanicals shower gel and lotion only and I get so many people comment on how my hair (my hair? really?) smells or how I always smell so good. It’s such a part of me that now my 2 year old grandson snuggles up to me and take a big breath and says “mmmmmmm mimi smell!”

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