Big White Florals Are The Marilyn Monroe Of Fragrance

What do I love about BWFs? They're feminine, but they're a little bit naughty, too.

I live for perfume--always have. With a steadily-expanding collection of both bottles, samples, and perfume literature, I own bits and pieces from nearly every fragrance genre, but my longtime favorite is the Big White Floral.

Big White Floral (or BWF) is perfume-speak for fragrances containing heavy amounts of white flowers like jasmine, gardenia, magnolia, and tuberose. These scents are often incredibly lush and feminine, which is probably why I'm so drawn to them.

However, Big White Florals aren't all sugar and spice and everything nice. I rounded up seven different BWFs to suit nearly every mood.

1. Fresh: Marc Jacobs Woman

Marc Jacobs' original fragrance for women was my first "big girl" perfume. I bought it at age 15 with my confirmation money. I felt so grown up and proud to have my own bottle of real perfume.

Marc Jacobs is built around the gardenia, with a watery note that makes you think of white flowers floating on a stream in the summer. The gardenia is augmented by a little jasmine and honeysuckle, with a light musk note to keep it from weighing too heavily on the skin.

Marc Jacobs is perfectly appropriate for a young girl, but it ages well. It isn't trendy or overpowering. If I hadn't worn it for so many years in my teens, I would wear it now.

2. Animalic: Histoires de Parfums Tubereuse 3

Tuberose is an enigmatic flower. It can be pure and sweet, or rich and powerful. Histoires de Parfums paired it with a strong plum and tobacco note for Tubereuse 3. The scent reminds me of the great "loud" perfumes from the '70s and '80s; it's sexy and almost incense-y due to its mix of spices. Here, the tuberose note enhances the plum instead of overshadowing it.

Once Tubereuse 3 dries down, it softens down into a creamy tobacco and the tuberose note all but disappears.

3. Romantic: Monyette Paris

I can attest to the power of this perfume oil. Recently, a male friend leaned into my neck and exclaimed, "Oh, you smell so good!" I think the heat of the summer evening intensified this glowing, sweetly sexy little charmer in just the right way.

Monyette Paris has become something of a cult classic, with a devoted celebrity following including Gwen Stefani and Cameron Diaz. It uses a blend of lush, tropical Tahitian gardenia and orchid.

Because Monyette Paris is a perfume oil, it's highly concentrated and you only need a bit. I apply some behind my ears and behind my knees so the scent rises with the heat. It's incredibly intoxicating in the summer; the creamy gardenia sits on your skin and radiates warmth. Make out with someone and see for yourself.

4. Girly: Juicy Couture

Don't laugh! The original Juicy Couture is one of my favorite BWFs. It's an ultra-sweet and fanciful tuberose and lily scent that's blended with watermelon, apple, and vanilla. Juicy co-founders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor formulated it to be something like Barbie would wear. There's even a little plasticky note I sometimes pick up on that smells like a Barbie fresh out of the box.

5. Classic: Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia

Are you a bride? Perhaps a bridesmaid? Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia is THE perfect wedding fragrance. The two BWFs play nice together: tuberose sparkles over pure, fresh gardenia notes. It sounds strange and simple, but the entire fragrance is built on those two scents--and it totally works. It's classically feminine, but not cloying or sweet, and it lingers on your skin all day long.

6. Modern: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

I've written at length about how this is my dream fragrance, and it really, truly is. Carnal Flower smells like me.

It's a little icy at first, due to a strange menthol note that reads very green to your nose. On me, it smells a bit like eucalyptus and mint, at once threatening, odd, and fresh.

But as the scent progresses, it opens up beautifully, much like the tuberose itself. There's a sweet coconut note to calm down the icy greens, which quickly soften into a lush, warm floral. It's not subtle and it's not sweet. Carnal Flower is a fragrance full of edges and ideas. It's a bombshell in a red dress, it's an island princess, and it's a Hitchcock heroine, icy in her full skirts. It's so complicated and full that I can't imagine ever loving another fragrance more.

7. The Grandmama: Fracas

You didn't think I would write about BWFs without mentioning the greatest of all, did you?! I live and die for Fracas, the grandmama of every BWF on the market today.

Fracas was launched in 1948 and is still worn by millions of women today. It's a classic. You know how sometimes you smell, say, Shalimar, knowing it's an important perfume and it smells very "old lady" to you? Fracas has never felt that way to me. I bought my first bottle at age 18.

Fracas is a femme fatale. She's a Marilyn, all curves and sighs and grand gestures. Though tuberose dominates Fracas, there's a lovely jasmine note here that shines. As you wear it, the floral notes dry down into a sandalwood base. I own Fracas in both eau de parfum and pure parfum, and the pure parfum is insanely gorgeous. It's loud, unabashedly feminine, and a bit dirty. Fracas is a lady in a prim and proper dress--with red underpinnings.

And that's what I love about Big White Florals: they're feminine, but they're a little bit naughty, too. Hmmm... sounds familiar.

Do you have a favorite BWF? Have you tried any of these picks? How do they smell on you?

Photos by Emily Ruf

Flowers courtesy Munster Rose