Perfume in a woman’s life

The word “perfume” works like magic on a woman’s psyche! Just look around the women’s perfume section in any department store or mall and you will see what a truism this is. The word perfume comes from the Latin phrase, “per” meaning “through” and “fumus” meaning “smoke”. And the history of perfume has been intertwined with the history of the human race.

From almost the beginning of time, man and women have tried to use products that enhance the feel of skin and the smell of the body – products that have been highly valued in by every culture.

Over the centuries, trade routes between Europe and the Far East via Arabia and the vast steppes of Central Asia introduced spices to different parts of the world and an ever-growing range of scents could be made. In long ago days people mixed their own potions, creating their own aromatherapy products… both mens’ and womens’ fragrances. Many homes in Europe had a still room where essences were steeped out of flowers and herbs.

During the early days of Christianity, perfumes dropped in popularity but experienced resurgence during the medieval period. By the 1600s not only were there men’s and ladies fragrances but scents were applied to objects such as furniture, gloves and fans! During the Georgian Era non-greasy eau de cologne was developed used in a variety of ways: from bath essence to mouthwash.

Perfumes for the afterlife

The first form of perfume was incense. Historically speaking, the most famous incense was found in Asia and Arabia. Hieroglyphics on ancient Egyptian tombs clearly depict how perfume played a part in the lives of the Egyptians… with evocative images of perfumes for women as well as men being depicted.

Incense, aromatics, and perfumed oil became available to all Egyptians as the priests gradually relinquished their exclusive rights. Fastidious in their personal habits, the Egyptians took elaborate baths, which were the forerunners of the luxurious and often communal baths of the Romans and the Greeks.

The Egyptians were actually responsible for creating scented creams, oils and lotions. And using them lavishly! A habit that rapidly spread to Rome where aristocratic ladies followed the Egyptian custom of applying soothing lotions and ladies perfumes after their baths.

Since the Egyptians believed that the soul ascended into heaven and needed to be comprehensively equipped with the luxuries of life in the hereafter, relatives ensured that perfume accompanied the spirit. Urns encrusted with gold, jars of delicate pottery, and chalcedonies filled with aromatics were placed in the tombs.

Nefertiti, an Egyptian beauty, from a dynasty many millennia ago, surrounded herself with perfume: decorative boxes filled with myrrh, flacons filled with sweet oils, and handsomely ornamented jars of unguents were at her disposal.

In the 21st century, Egypt still holds a prominent place in essential oil production for perfumes and is responsible for a significant portion of the world’s jasmine production.

The Greek influence

In ancient Greece, perfume shops were popular meeting places for almost everyone and the daily bath was an important activity of Greek men and women. The Greeks are credited with the art of making the very first liquid perfume, although it was quite different from perfume as we know it today. However these perfumes not specifically womens’ perfumes.

Using a variety of fragrance carriers, such as olive oil and almond oil which acted as carriers, the Greeks added essential oils made from lilies, roses, anise and orris root. Both mens’ and womens’ fragrances were applied lavishly, before and after baths, during the day and on all parts of the body.

The perfumes of Arabia

Linking the past and present of the perfume industry are the Arabs. Extracting oils from flowers by means of distillation, a process that is most commonly used in modern perfumery, was developed by Avicenna, an Arab doctor who was also a chemist. His first experiments were with the rose. Until his invention, liquid perfumes were mixtures of oil and crushed herbs, or petals which made a strong blend. Rose water he produced was more delicate, and immediately became popular. Even today, the enticing scent of rose attars and perfumes form the base for many womens’ fragrances

Womens’ perfumes bloom under Catherine de Medici

During the reign of Catherine de Medici in France perfumes flourished. Catherine’s personal perfumer, Rene le Florentin’s laboratory, was connected to her apartments by a secret passageway, so that no formulas could be stolen en route.

17th and 18th century Europe saw perfumes becoming hugely popular. Louis XV, who came to the throne in the 18th century, was a perfume aficionado. In fact, his court was called “le cour parfumee”, “the perfumed court” and King Louis demanded a different fragrance for his apartment every day… while Madame de Pompadour indulged herself with generous supplies of womens’ perfume on a daily basis.

At the court of Louis XV, each day was named after a specific scent in use that day. Scents were applied daily to the skin but also to furniture, fans, clothing and other objects of daily use. Perfume was used as a substitute for soap and water. No wonder then that the use of men and womens’ perfumes in France grew steadily.

As Napoleon came to power, the Emperor’s court saw exorbitant expenditures on perfume. Two quarts of violet cologne were delivered to him each week, and he is said to have used sixty bottles of double extract of jasmine every month. His consort Josephine had even stronger perfume preferences. She was especially partial to musk, and she used so much of it decades after her death the scent still lingered in her boudoir.

The invention of eau de cologne in the eighteenth century brought a epochal advances in perfumery. This rejuvenating blend of neroli, rosemary, lemon and bergamot was used in a variety of ways: mixed in with bath water, diluted in wine, added on a lump of sugar, a mouthwash, and even an enema or as part of a poultice… and so on.

Perfumes: An English Queen’s obsession

In England, perfume reached a high point in its popularity during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. During her rule places where the public gathered had to be scented, since she had a violent aversion to bad odors. The Ladies who attended her at her court took great pride in creating delightful fragrances and were very proud of their skill at making up the most complex and delightful perfumes for women.

Perfume underwent profound changes in the nineteenth century. Changing tastes and the growth and development of modern chemistry laid the foundations on which present day perfumery is based. Kitchen sink alchemy gave way to modern-day chemistry with new, more exotic, fragrances being created.

Perfumes for the modern age

The late 19th century was the first real era of perfume as we know it when new scents were created because of advances in organic chemicals. Synthetic perfume products were used in place of certain hard to find or expensive ingredients

In early America, the first scents used by the descendants of the Mayflower pilgrims were varieties of light colognes and a choice of scented waters. Amongst these was Florida water, a simple mixture of eau de cologne mixed with tiny amounts of oil of cloves, lemongrass oil and cassia.

At the turn of the century, perfumes were single-flower fragrances. These were generally lilac, lily of the valley, rose, and violet – which were all very popular. At the end of the first decade of of the 20th century, a floral bouquet of scents were introduced, as compounds were found that could be used as binding agents to hold the fragrances together. Thereafter, more abstract and complex fragrances were introduced. This revolutionized the perfume industry. Today, perfumes are becoming many layered, with diverse notes, overtones and undertones unheard of before the perfume industry discovered the existence of aroma chemicals.

The fragrant fields of Grasse

How did Grasse in Provence, France, became a centre for flower and herb production for the perfume industry? Quite simply, the men who treated leathers in the same area found the smells so bad they perfumed themselves and the leathers. They were very knowledgeable about making the botanical essences and were the early perfume noses. Thus due to its rose, orange, and jasmine growing trades, the town of Grasse in Provence established itself as the biggest center for the production of raw materials for the perfume industry. In 1724 the statutes for the perfume-makers of Grasse were passed.

But it was only in the 20th century that scents and designer perfumes were really mass produced. Before that, the few trade names that existed were Coty and Yardley who made fairly light perfumes with familiar flowery scents.

Paris soon established itself as the commercial counterpart to Grasse and in rapid order, became the international center for perfume with the establishment of now world famous perfume houses such as Lubin, Dior, Roger & Gallet, Houbigant, Channel, Nina Ricci and Guerlain – all based out of Paris.

Perfumes for women… and men!

1921 and high fashion designer Gabrielle Chanel introduced her own brand of perfume, the brain child of Ernest Beaux. She called it Chanel No.5 because it was the fifth one of five fragrances Ernest Beaux created for her.

The 1930’s saw the emergence of fragrances which came to be known as the leather family of fragrances. And floral scents also become quite popular, with the introduction of Je Reviens from Worth, Joy from Jean Patou – supposedly the world’s most expensive fragrance for women, and Fleurs de Rocaille from Caron. With French perfumes reaching a peak in popularity in the 50’s, other haut couture designers such as Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain and Jacques Fath, created their own signature scents.

Today’s fragrances are artfully crafted by perfumers who are trained in centuries old traditions that hark back to the Renaissance. These highly skilled ‘noses’, spend long years apprenticed to master craftsmen and speak the language of white floral accords and amber notes. 21st century perfumers speak esoterically, and somewhat mysteriously, of the binding affinities of molecules in the floral-receptor proteins and musk-receptor agonists.

By the year 2008 perfume had become a $10 billion industry. Today the vast and varied range of womens’ perfumes enable women to have fragrance wardrobes of at least six different perfumes, rather than a single signature perfume while keeping one favourite perfume for really special occasions.

The $10 billion market place is so overcrowded that to keep up with the consumer’s desire for new scents and still maintain a measure of exclusivity, haut couture houses such as Dior, Guerlain and Lancôme produce limited edition perfumes for a few months only, with bottles destined to become designer items.

Trends in womens’ perfumes

What type of scents are trendy these days? Right now the world needs to feel optimistic… so there is a definite slant towards scents that arouse feelings of optimism. So many fragrances are using green, watery, citrus-type of notes, especially for spring, combined with spirit lifting fresh florals, such as peony. It is a note that combines a green and dewy feel that refreshes and lifts the spirit. What is also fairly obvious now is that bigger, bolder, heavier scents do not do so well in the Spring and Summer months.

According to the pundits in the perfume industry, the following fragrance types are likely to be at the top of the popularity charts for 2010.

  • Tilleul/linden flower (limey)
  • Sandalwood with creamy lactones (organic compounds that have milky, creamy, and coconut qualities).
  • Deep dry amber notes.
  • Floral rose violet.
  • Tuberose orange flower.
  • Citrus aromatic.
  • Oriental floral.
  • Floral fruity.
  • Floral woody.
  • Woody — olive wood, precious wood, and cedar wood notes.

What the celebrities are wearing

There are as many celebrities in the world today as there are perfumes! Celebrities from every walk of life – ranging from sports to entertainment to politics… to name just three! You name the activity or profession, and you’ll find yourself knee deep in Page 3 people. All of them have their own favorites in the things they do, the clothes they wear and the perfumes they flaunt. It is almost impossible to give a comprehensive list of all the celebrities and their favourite perfumes, but here are a handful of A-listers and their favorite designer fragrances…

  • Carrie Underwood – Michael, Benefit Maybe Baby Lotion, Anna Sui, Gwen Stefani L
  • Christina Aguilera – Zents Concretta to scent her hair Sun , I am Beautiful fragrance, Momoberry, Inspire
  • Gwen Stefani – Victoria Secret fragrances, Pear Glace lotion, Kiehls Cucumber Essence, Baby Soft, Monyette Paris, Stacked Style Scentarettes.
  • Alicia Keys – Healing Garden Waters Pure Joy, Stella Rose Absolute, Sugar, Issey Miyake, Gucci, Bulgari, Ineke After My Own Heart
  • Gwyneth Paltrow – Rouge Hermes, Coco, PleasuresChanel 19, Sake EDP, Michael, Antonia’s Flowers, Kisun, Tom Ford Black Orchid, Fresh Rice Sake Bath, Fresh Index Pear Cassis
  • Aretha Franklin – Bijan, DNA, Clive Christian fragrance
  • Beyonce Knowles – Fleur De Rocaille, Giorgio Armani Diamonds in her hair, Baby Lotion, Emporio Armani Diamonds Intens, True Star
  • Ashanti – RL Romance
  • Bianca Jgger – Patou 1000,L’Heure Bleue
  • Avril Lavigne – Perfumeria Gal Fragrance
  • Britney Spears – Beautiful, Child, CSP Vanille Abricot, D&G Feminine, Ghost,
  • Curious, I am Wild fragrance, Fantasy, Black Tuberose, L’occitane Neroli Rose bath and shower gel
  • Cameron Diaz – Petite Cherie, DNA, Monyette Paris, Happy, Samsara, Clean, Demeter Rain & Ocean,
  • Alanis Morissette – A La Nuit, Douce Amere, Susan Lang Parfum
  • Donatella Versace – Serge, L’artisan, Comptior, etc., Versace Woman, Versace fragrance
  • Ashley Simpson – CSP Vanille Abricot, CSP Extreme Vanilla, Child
  • Donna Karen – Be Delicious, Cashmere Mist Watermist
  • Barbara Walters: Angel by Thierry Mugler Perfume for Women, Delicious by Gale Hayman Perfume for Women.
  • Charlize Theron: Eau De Dolce Vita by Christian Dior for Women, Enjoy by Jean Patou Perfume for Women, J’adore by Christian Dior Perfume for Women.
  • Angelina Jolie: Love in White by Creed Perfume for Women, Spring Flower by Creed Perfume for Women, 24 Faubourg by Hermes Perfume for Women.
  • Demi Moore: Vera Wang Princess by Vera Wang Perfume for Women, Vera Wang by Vera Wang Perfume for Women.
  • Brooke Shields: Gendarme by Gendarme Perfume for Women, Samsara by Guerlain Perfume for Women

Applying Women’s Perfume- The Right Way

The best time to put on perfume is right after you step out of the shower. This way when you don’t have to worry about leaving stains on your clothes or fading them. Before you start spritzing perfume all over your body, you should know about the pulse points. The right amount of  perfume should be dabbed on over the pulse points. Use it six times if you choose the backs of your knees and ankles or three sprays will be sufficient after you dry off.

Enhancing the scent of women’s perfume

To make sure the scent of the perfume is not confusing; it is advised that you use all products with the same scent. When the scents clash, it is not pleasant and can actually be irritating. If you want to wear a product that clashes with your usual perfume, you can skip the perfume and use eau de toilette instead. Eau de toilette has lower perfume concentrates and this makes the smell lighter. For a change you can also go for a scented bath and save the perfume for special occasions.

Sometimes women have their signature perfumes by which they can be even recognized by. At times, women’s perfume has even remained in family traditions where daughters use the ones their mothers did. Modern women now try more than one perfume and change them very often. There are also single note women’s perfumes like rose, orange and jasmine that can be chosen to suit your moods or events that you are attending. Getting a signature scent from the women’s perfume is what most women look for but now that there are a lot of interesting perfumes in the market; you can have more than one signature scent.

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