Generally, I ignore all the blather about seasonal fragrances and wear what I like, when I like. Some summers however, are made for exceptions and this appears to be one. The idea of wearing anything even remotely spicy in this weather makes me gag, as does anything too heavy on the tuberose.
I once heard summer in the midwest summarised as: There's one seat left on the bus beside you, and the sweaty man without a shirt takes it. And the window won't open.
Which is pretty accurate, but I'd add: And a group of tween girls doused in CK One and numerous hair products get on the bus and sit opposite you. And the window still won't open.
Ideally then, you want something that will serve not only as olfactory protection against the sweaty man and Aqua Netted tweens, but will not inflict suffering on others. Naturally, I have some thoughts about this.
Yardley Lily of the Valley
It seems every morning since around March I've started my post-shower day with a liberal dousing of Yardley Lily of the Valley talc. The large canister is still better than half full, and at five dollars it was the scented bargain of the season. Sure, I have the lavender and April Violets talc as well, but when the dew point is over 70 degrees F. and the humidity is lingering around 80%, violets and lavender are going to smell too sweet. Where Lily of the Valley can at times waver between air freshener and antiseptic, the hot, humid weather brings out the deeper floral aspects that can be missed in cool weather. I can't say enough nice things about Yardley Lily of the Valley, and the fragrance is also an excellent value. As a bonus-it is a difficult (though not impossible) scent to over-do.
Coty Muget des Bois
A classic lily of the valley fragrance that is easily found on the web for very little money. It isn't terribly long lasting, but is cheap enough that you can keep refreshing through the day. I like the rose note here as it isn't overpowering and works well with a pleasant blast of citrus at the top.The sandalwood and musk base are nearly impossible to detect, though they are listed. I consider that skilled perfumery as it lends some depth without overpowering the bright lily of the valley. I still love most of the Coty fragrances (we won't talk about my Emeraude stash) even if they are starting to show their age. I hope they don't stop making this one. Stockpile at your discretion.
Oscar de la Renta-Live in Love
Another inexpensive gem that would seem somewhat uninteresting in winter but really blows me away in the warmer weather. Lily of the valley again, but here blended with hyacinth, rose, bergamot, cedar, sandalwood, and musk. It sounds heavy on paper, but is as fresh and refreshing as frozen lemonade on an August day. The cedar note is very well done, and avoids smelling like moth repellent. I should note however, that there is just the teeny, tiniest, aspect to Live in Love that reminds me of Deep Woods Off mosquito spray. That's not a bad thing (I rather like it) particularly if you have good associations with it of summer camp. Personally, I hated camp-but I still like the smell of Deep Woods Off. The lily of the valley, galbanum, and rose do a swell job of keeping it more perfume than bug spray. Marketed to women, Live in Love is clearly unisex. I bought mine at Marshalls for about ten dollars.
4711 Maurer and Wirtz
Cedar, basil, oakmoss, citrus-the classic summer fragrance for over 150 years. You can't go wrong with this one. Cheap, easy to find, attractive bottle loaded with nostalgia, it ticks all the boxes of what an inexpensive summer fragrance should be. It does not last more than an hour, so you'll need to reapply-but that's the idea of 4711. It is intended as a sort of pick-me-up. I think of it as a less expensive alternative to Guerlain Imperiale, and even Cedrat. You get that bright, light enjoyable fragrance without the price tag. I have nice memories of going to Kuhns delicatessen with my dad to buy Christmas presents for his customers (mostly booze because you can't go wrong with a bottle of Asbach at Christmas) and the old ladies that worked there sending me home with enough samples of 4711 to last until next Christmas. And licorice pipes that I didn't have to share with my sister because she didn't come along for the ride to Lincoln Ave ( She didn't get poppy seed strudel from Dinkels bakery a few doors down from the deli either, but we never mentioned the strudel as it was gone long before we got home). I can't smell 4711 without thinking candy and strudel as the association is so strong. Anyway, 4711 is a perfect summer bargain. I think I know what I'm baking tomorrow.
Gres Cabotine Rose
Unlike regular green Cabotine the rose flanker is a nice surprise. I'm listing it here as inexpensive as the EDT is often available at discounters for under $20.00. The rose name is misleading as it smells more of cherry blossom than rose, but it is blended nicely with notes of pepper, pear and vetiver creating a fragrance that is anything but rose scented. Interestingly, this isn't a sweet perfume at all, and it barely projects any sort of warmth. To my nose, it is quite fresh without smelling of household cleaner. As a bonus, you get an attractive bottle with a flower shaped cap.
Elizabeth Taylor Violet Eyes
Violet eyes smells exactly like Eclat de Arpege-at half the price. In fact, I prefer it to Eclat de Arpege as it lacks the sharp green note that reminds me of Glade solid from the 70's. The bottle is nicer than the stupidly designed Arpege that threatens to slip from my hands and crash to the tray each time I lift it up. Violet Eyes has a well done peach note that lacks that rotting dead animal aspect it can sometimes get. Peony is such a lovely note and I'm happy to see it used here to great effect. I paid about seven dollars for my bottle at Marshalls, and am quite happy with it. The warm weather seems to help with the longevity as well. I get several hours from a small spray on my wrist. Put on your best caftan, a few sparkly baubles and indulge your inner-Liz (you know you have one).
Fragrances of Ireland Innisfree
I'm listing this as a warm weather fragrance, though it does nicely in all seasons. The perfume has undergone reformulation since the 80's when I wore it regularly, but they've managed to keep the scent pretty much the same. I believe it had some oakmoss at one time (it does not now) and my older bottle does seem closer to a chypre than a fougere, but let's not quibble-this is a terrific fragrance for very little money. The longevity is incredible, and the silage is...all the way to Ireland and beyond. Yes, it is strong, and yes it is vibrant-but it won't sting your eyeballs, and at most people will want to know what smells so good. You will smell good. Iris, apricot, cedar, lavender, lily of the valley-the sort of perfume that is *almost* universally loved. It will send my son running from the room, but everyone else in my immediate circle loves it. There's always one fougere hater in a family.
Fragrances of Ireland Connemara
Years ago, when I first encountered this one I thought it dull compared to Innisfree. How wrong I was. Connemara has all the bright notes of Innisfree with a good dose of rose mixed in. Carnation and orris root give it that spicy/fresh smell with that nearly impossible to describe "cold" clay smell of orris root. There's quite a bit of violet here, and for some people that would put Connemara firmly in the powdery/old fashioned category. On paper, that's true but in person what you get is a floral with a nice green base that has decent longevity for such an bargain perfume. Ever try that C Howards violet candy and gum designed to disguise cigarette smoke on your breath? It is a bit like that. By the way, for the youngsters reading-you shouldn't smoke, and your mother will know you've been smoking no matter what you do, so spare yourself the C Howards mints and Sen Sen. Don't smoke kids.
Jean Nate-The splash is great, but the body lotion is incredible. For the money, you get a wonderful body lotion that not only smells nice but does something. Sure, it is so cheap they practically give the stuff away, but it is bright, light, and inoffensive which is the sort of thing you want on hot, muggy days. I have the splash in a spray bottle which makes it convenient to blast the back of my neck and shoulders when I'm feeling miserable by midday. There's a bit of vanilla-just enough to make it smell like like lemon sorbet and vanilla ice cream which is the best antidote to summer heat I know of.
Revlon Charlie (Original)
To be fair, you can wear Charlie year round but as I first discovered it in the summer, and it is so forever etched in my 70's mind, I had to mention it here. Oakmoss, aldehydes, gardenia, and hyacinth read like an olfactory yearbook of 1977. Again, lily of the valley makes an appearance with some sandalwood and the result is an extremely well-made bargain fragrance that for someone like me never quite went out of fashion. Put on your best white flares, get in the Dodge Dart, and load up the 8-track player with the new offering from Slade (your sister will bitch about it and want to listen to a James Taylor 8- track, but ignore her). Spray the car and yourself liberally with Charlie and go hang out at Belmont Harbor in Chicago. Your sister will want to go to North Ave. Beach, but ignore her. Spray more Charlie, and enjoy reliving your youth without all the angst and acne.
In the last few years of my mother's life she took a liking to Pavlova. At the time, it seemed strange that someone with a perfume tray overflowing with expensive, glorious perfumes would prefer wearing this cheap drugstore scent in the crappy looking bottle. There's a dead swan on the cap-ya know, because...Pavlova the ballerina, and Swan Lake. I hate that ballet, and frankly I don't want any bird much less a dead one on the cap of my perfume bottles. What's wrong with a fancy dessert of fruit and meringues as an homage to a ballerina? Huh? Well? No, they have to go all dead swan on the perfume bottle. Geez. To my nose it smelled floral without any real direction-a perfume that didn't know what it wanted to be when it grew up. Twenty five years later, I have a better understanding of what makes a fragrance wearable, and I'm less swayed by fancy bottles and esteemed names. Raspberry, lemon, and orange at the top makes the initial impression of Pavlova seem too weak. After a bit though, the florals come through with *just enough* tuberose and hyacinth to keep it from being too heavy in the summer heat. In fact, this fragrance almost seems made for humidity. The vetiver and oakmoss base do quite a bit to keep the florals fresh smelling, and though my mother would have been layering it over Coast soap (vile, I know but she could not be swayed. Once it was introduced in the 70's that was it) and Breck shampoo and creme rinse (that's conditioner in the 70's). Somehow, it all sort of worked on her, but you can still make use of Pavlova without resorting to Coast soap. The longevity is crap with this one, but again it is so cheap, who cares?
Vera Wang Periwinkle and Iris
I can't believe I like this one as it is so far from my typical sort of scent, but I do. It is super-cheap (they sell it at K Mart) and it won't last very long on your skin (it is a bit better on clothes) but if you're looking for something light that will cut through all the bad odours summer has to offer (everything smells like fungus and rotting garbage where I'm at) this is your bargain fragrance. Periwinkle, iris, and violet might sound a bit old fashioned, but there's so much vanilla and benzoin in it you could practically eat this one like candy. Normally, I shy away from that in a fragrance but here it just seems to work so well without smelling childish. Vanilla doesn't sound obvious for warm weather, and I can't guarantee you won't have every honeybee in a five mile radius approaching to see if you're dinner, but wear this out on a humid evening in late summer and you'll seduce the fireflies and anyone else around. I do understand that this sort of fragrance is objectionable to many people (typically I'd be one of them) so I urge you to try before you buy. My K Mart had a display of testers with other scents in the Vera Wang line. Be warned though-the green tea and pear blossom one is disgusting. I have a hard time imagining anyone liking that. Maybe a fruit fly.
Honorable Mention: Guerlain Terracotta
It isn't exactly cheap, but the edt is available online in the $30-$40 range which won't break the bank. You could save a few dollars and just slather on some Coppertone suntan lotion, but the Terracotta is a bit more nuanced. I didn't care for it back when it was released, but Danny likes it and I admit it is starting to grow on me.
Well? What about you? Have any inexpensive scents for the dog days of summer to recommend?