‘A Pocketful of Miracles’ : 30 Fragrance Tips You MUST Try!


A wee frivolity for The Glorious First Of June.

Possibly the professional question I am asked most frequently is –

‘Where may I spray my fragrance? How should I apply my parfum?’

Behind the ears, upon the throat – and always with pleasure. But you can cast your net so much wider than this. Be always open-minded to experiment and adventure.

Accept this nosegay of handy hints to help you enhance your aura and exaggerate your ambience. Be remembered and well-beloved for the fragrance and harmony in your wake.

“I did but inhale her passing by:
And yet I love her till I die” ¤

Here we go.

* They say the canny Parisienne – “pas folle, la guepe!” – applies scent behind each KNEE. A hangover from the 1920’s, when the female knee was exposed and fetishised for the first time in history. Knees were not only perfumed, but rouged and powdered. And before the knee, the ANKLE. Hot air rises so the wearer – and those very close to her – should appreciate her own delicious odour all the more. By the same token, perfume on dress (and trouser) HEMS works well, too.

* Newly-washed porous HAIR¤¤ is a great conductor of scent for both sexes. Some  old roues and voluptuaries might  recommend that the EYEBROWS should also be anointed with a discreet dab. We are told that Assyrian ladies & gents daubed their LASHES too – but I wouldn’t try that. Follically-challenged males should apply their cologne to the SCALP – and/or to the inside of their CAPS and HATS. On a lady’s elaborate chapeau it’s amusing to perfume artificial flowers, feathers and veiling.

* Team your TRIMMINGS & ACCESSORIES with your own signature scent. Use fragranced artificial flowers for a home-made tropical LEI – or weave a fresh garland of real flowers. Marigolds and jasmine are traditional – and the marigolds¤ will also repel noxious insects in a healthier way than CIGARETTES. (You CAN dip the tips of your 20 Players in fragrance though – as did all those depraved Noel Coward characters, aeons ago).

* Mary Queen of Scots went to the scaffold wearing hollow golden rosary BEADS stuffed with ambergris. Avid rummagers in bric-a-brac shops still  occasionally discover beads that be filled – or soaked – with perfume. Amateur potters can make their own and string them as bracelets and necklaces. Or simply scent lengths of RIBBON to adorn a well-turned wrist and swan-like neck.

* FANS – as long predicted in this column – are now madly back in fashion. Make up a perfumed collection to cool and seduce on the Tube, the street or in the ballroom. Fans look so glamorous when held in beautiful GLOVES. The trend for scented Spanish leather gloves and gauntlets goes back to Tudor and Jacobean times. Back then, the raw material – tanned in human excrement – needed to be sweetened a little. Now you can afford to be more sophisticated.

* And inside the glove, do spray your not only your WRIST but also your PALM. You’ll leave your mark on everyone you touch. I noted that Marlene Dietrich had perfected this trick when I got to kiss her little hand back in ’72. Her perfume was mine for the night.

* With your redolent hand, now write a billet-doux on perfumed PAPER with scented INK. The first, you can prepare yourself. The ink you may have to search for, but quite a variety are still available. Put your flaming heart on paper in notes of lily, lilac and leather.

* Of course, before you dress, you’ll have added a few drops of essence or extrait to your BATH; and blended some more into a neutral skin CREAM. That’s if your favourite fragrance House does not supply bath and body products. Layering is the way forward for richness, tenacity and depth.

* Washable natural-fibre CLOTHING can be sprayed with most fragrances once you’ve done a discreet patch test. FUR is a delicate and controversial issue but – like hair, of course – it does carry superbly. A whole race of long-ago perfumes were created especially to be worn on and with pelts. Your great great grandparents’ preference for scented HANDKERCHIEFS should also be noted. Spray a hanky liberally and make great play with it or let it trail from your pocket.

* If you have your own long-term favourite CUSHION or PILLOW and can’t face breaking in a new one to fit the exact angle of your sleepy head, then you’ll need to freshen the inner pads. Air them in hot sunshine, toss them up to make the feathers fly; then spritz with your favourite scent.

* Dining at home? A quick dab on CURTAIN linings and under the RUGS works wonders. Then, make like the ancient Greeks, and rub your wooden kitchen FURNITURE with a bunch of fresh mint, parsley, marjoram or thyme. The aroma of bruised herbs will sweeten the air, stimulate the appetite and appease the household spirits.

* Gather ye rosebuds and other edible FLOWERS while ye may, to garnish the FOOD. Orange flower or rose water is wonderfully luxurious when discreetly added to your cooking. Try delicately perfuming your creams, jellies, custards and rice dishes.  Kindle your scented beeswax CANDLES, add a sprig of lavender to the mint sauce and you’re ready for anything. Hand rose, violet and geranium chocolates separately. Go so far as to taste your own scent on the TONGUE as recommended by Pierre Guillaume of Parfumerie Generale; or lightly touch your GUMS. You’ll remember, too, Scarlett O’Hara lurching downstairs to the parlour after gargling eau de Cologne – and brandy.

Tomorrow IS another day – and another perfume!

¤ Thomas Ford 1580-1648 (arr. LW)

¤¤ Editor’s note: we have just heard that the Maison Francis Kurkdjian hair mists will be arriving from the city of light in June


“I’ve Got a Little List!” : the empowered customer

shopping list


Do you take a list when you go shopping? Really you should, for  apparently we are all likely to spend  twice as much if we browse the packed aisles without an aide-memoire. I am never in the supermarket without a pen, notebook, a postcard or two and auxiliary scaps of paper to update me. This is not really to ensure economy. It’s because, unlike an elephant, I can’t remember. There is also something about any kind of list that stimulates and fascinates me. I collect other people’s memoranda, left behind in trollies, baskets or on the pavement. I love to ponder the curious shorthand priorities of strangers – “lettuce, tonic water, frozen peas”/ “whiskey, vodka, beer, pork pie, sausage roll, butter, cream, Mr Kipling…BREAD!”.  One of our local charity shops has had the brilliant idea of pinning a board with the papers found in donated books – almost invariably prayers or shopping lists. Or prayer lists. Library lists would be interesting but are not shown.

Lists are compelling because they cut straight to the heart of a matter; they are all meat and no pastry. They seem to convey something of the power of a clairvoyant or a preacher or a magician: gnomic utterances ‘en bref’, stripped of  padding or explanation. They can be startling revelations of inner preoccupations: so I’m not keen on strangers having a gander at my lists – as sometimes they will, over my shoulder, idling away time in the check out queue.

Lists may also take the form of recitals to contemplate, to relish, to inspire and comfort. I have only recently found out why a Bucket List is so named – it’s a charter of what you want to do before you kick said bucket.¤ Shopping lists are needed only to remind us of our more mundane requirements, not of our treats. You would hardly expect to read “perfume” scribbled down between ‘scouring pads’ and ‘quinoa’. Scent is more likely to appear on those gloating rosters that appear in Christmas gift books or decorate magazine columns: 12 Forgettable Fragrances, 50 Royals Who Went Mad, Your 100 Best Tunes.

However, when you are out and about – as the weather men say – you might like to jot down the following to remind you, not of WHAT to buy in the fragrance line, but WHY to buy it. For this is one of the questions I am most frequently asked: how shall I know I have the RIGHT one?

As ever – “By their fruits ye shall know them”.

And so: when you are smelling and musing in the relaxed haven of Les Senteurs, so different – o, so very different! – from the hurly-burly of the department stores, ask yourself the following:

Does this perfume excite me?

Yes, I like it – yes, I believe it suits me. But it must do more. It must have me awake at 5am, willing the clock on so that I can spring up to souse and douse myself in this heavenly scent. Perfume must draw you like the most powerful magnet; like a child to his favourite new toy – “may I take it to bed with me?”. You will know you’ve chosen the Right Scent if you just can’t leave it alone: like a lover with his new inamorata.

Does this scent elevate me?

Does it make me soar like a bird? The ideal perfume should have you taking wing like a bird of paradise, leaving the mundane far below, falling away and discarded like a sloughed skin. You’ll know when you light on the Right One because it will act like a talisman – changing everything and “painting the clouds with sunshine”. Life begins anew: or appears to, and who can do better than that?

Does the perfume intrigue me?

Is there an oddity in there, something that intrigues, mystifies, baffles? That’s good. You won’t get bored by it – you will be forever pursuing that final delicious enigma, and that in turn means that you won’t become onosmic. Your nose won’t lose the scent because your brain will be still trying to rationalise its components. Your perfume will be like a mesmerising lover or intoxicating mistress, forever witholding an essential elusive Something…….

Does it last?

And if not does that matter?
It may be Heaven if it is tenacious – like everlasting love – but if your preferred scent is transient that’s perhaps because it’s intended to be so. Life is all a bout the bitter-sweet joys of fleeting pleasures. Would we want a delicious meal, a concert or a movie to last for ever? Not unless there was something badly wrong. Fragrance conjures up a fragile mood, a passing emotion, an atmosphere: perfumers try to reflect this in the construction of their creations through ingredients, structure and concentration. If you love the scent, buy it. Don’t insist on its being glued on: just enjoy the luxurious ancient ritual of re-application.

And finally, will my significant others like it?

Try to ignore this consideration. If you love a scent and embrace it fully then others will love it too as part of your Gestalt and aura. The thing is, never to ask your Dear Friend: “do you like this? Does this perfume suit me?” This always predicts the answer ‘no’, as we used to be told in language classes. Your anxious tone will very likely put your partner on the defensive and prompt a discouraging reply. So say nothing: apply your new scent with quiet confidence. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Just now, as I finish this – very Jungian and extraordinary! –  I read of a new exhibition – Alice Instone’s THE PRAM IN THE HALL – opening @ 1 Cathedral St SE1 on 9 March! It all revolves around the ‘Things To Do’ lists of notable women. How great is that?!

¤ is the implied subconscious suggestion that if we faithfully fulfil the list we won’t need to kick the pail?