The Way She Smelled: My Favorite Fragrances That My Mom Wore

I think that if I can at least wear scents as good and as memorable as the ones she wore, then I’ll come close to leaving the same effect on people that she has on me.
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Tynan Sinks
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I think that if I can at least wear scents as good and as memorable as the ones she wore, then I’ll come close to leaving the same effect on people that she has on me.

What I remember most is the sound of her high heels on her bathroom floor as I was waking up for school every morning. It was always the first thing I’d process as I was clinging to the last bit of sleep. Most of the time, she’d be out the door before I was out of bed. The only remnant of her was the cloud of various beauty products hovering above where she had been getting ready for work just minutes before, the lingering scent of perfume, hairspray, lotions, and lipstick still thick in the air. The room was always at least five degrees hotter than the rest of the house from the blow dryers, curling irons, and whatever else. 

It was the smell of beauty, both product and characteristic. It was the smell of my mom.

My love of fragrance started with my her. She always wore perfume, never a ton of it, but it was always there. I definitely get my specific taste in fragrance from her. We all inherit opinions from our parents whether we realize it or not, whether they're views on politics or religion or whatever. I inherited her taste in perfume. I can’t say if I all of my scent preferences are the way they are because of her, but we both hate overly floral scents, powders that go stale, and rose. We both like warmth and heat.

My mom has always been a frugal girl, really knowing how to stretch a dollar, whereas I, in the event of a power outage, will set fire to a $100 bill and use it as a light source. Oddly, the first piece of beauty advice she ever gave me was to never spend less than $40 on a fragrance when you’re looking for a quality, long-lasting scent. I forget why she told me that. I was probably trying to buy some Hollister scent from the mall or something, so thank God she imparted that little piece of advice.

The first perfume she wore that showed me how beautiful a scent can really be was Lolita Lempicka. I don’t know why I liked it, I just knew it smelled like a woman, but not like every other woman.

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The scent is based around anise — a spicy, fragrant plant. This is very appropriate for my mom because her Sicilian family would do shots of anisette, an anise-flavored liqueur at every big celebration, weddings, graduations, (funerals?). I don’t even know if she knew this, or if it was a subconscious decision, but fragrances are comforting, and often, we’re drawn to familiar scents, even if we don’t realize they’re familiar. Or she could have just liked how it smelled.

Amaryllis and iris lend a soft floral hand to licorice and orris root, which compliment the anise nicely. Praline, musk, vetiver, vanilla, and tonka bean provide a sweet, gourmand base. It’s spicy, sweet, with just enough florals and musk to round it out and make it wearable without giving you a toothache. Considering all the fragrances I’m drawn to, it’s not hard to see why I love this fragrance so much.

My mom taught me, through her actions which I watched very closely, that your friend’s needs always come before your own, even if that “need” happens to be as simple the fragrance you’re wearing. 

On multiple occasions, she’s worn perfumes that her friends have like so much that they’ve stolen them from her. She’ll just replace them, or take it as a good excuse to find a new scent, which are equally great ways to handle the loss of a fragrance. After all, having a unique product that you love is great, but keeping it all to yourself is almost isolating. Sharing great products is sharing a part of yourself, and when you hand over a scent or a lipstick then your friend will always think of you when they wear it.

Delices de Cartier was a scent that, I remember, got her a lot of compliments, and was probably stolen before the bottle was emptied.

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Delices de Cartier doesn’t read much different than most fragrances, fruity, with a floral midsection and a sweet base, but it wears like a scent all its own. By the time she started wearing this, I was old enough to be cognizant of her changing her scents and not just thinking “This is the way my mom smells because she is my mom.” It was always a big deal when she bought a new perfume. It was the first thing that made me feel like I was getting older, the fact that I could track eras in my life by the way that she smelled. "When I was little, she wore that, but now, she wears this." I don't know.

Bergamot and pepper bust the scent open, but cherry is the top note that pulls focus. Pepper can be such an abrasive note, but it also transform depending on what you put it next to. The tart cherry and juicy bergamot pair with pepper and make the top fruity and chilly, like a popsicle. Violet, jasmine, and freesia take up the middle to soften the scent and vanilla, tonka bean, amber, and sandalwood level the scent out, taking the edge off of any loose ends.

Covet by Sarah Jessica Parker

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Okay first of all Covet has the most iconic campaign of all time:

I HAD TO HAVE IT!

I HAD TO HAVE IT!

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Also, I have this weird place in my heart for Sarah Jessica Parker because I’ve always thought she looks a lot like my mom.

She doesn’t, I don’t know what it is, but I think that some very minor details are similar, and I see my mom in her face every once in awhile. Don’t tell her I said that. Also, sometimes I’ll watch hours of Sarah Jessica Parker acceptance speeches on YouTube and burst into tears. Don’t tell her I said that, either.

I’ve always loved celebrity fragrances because I’m impressionable and incapable of forming my own opinions without a pop star telling me how to think. Even when I was younger, I knew celebrity fragrances were a little taboo in the beauty world, but when my mom came home with Covet, I decided it was okay to openly love them. If she likes them then I can like them, too.

Covet is gorgeous, everything about it. The oval bottle, jade liquid, the amethyst top that’s not so much a cap as it is a halo, wrapping around the atomizer but leaving the top of it exposed. It looks like a brooch that you'd wear, rather than something you'd cap your perfume with. The whole thing feels important.

The scent opens with lemon, lavender, and dark chocolate (a note which is underutilized in perfumes, if you ask me.) In the middle, pleasant white florals like honeysuckle, lily of the valley, and magnolia make the scent airy without giving you a headache, and amber, vetiver, and woods make a subtle base that is as dry and herbaceous.

There are a good number of scents that have made an impact on me throughout my life, whether they were on me or other people. Scents that my mom wore were, and still are, the ones that always left the biggest mark on me. I get a lot of things from my mom, and the older I get, the more of her I can see in myself. She’s always the person I’ve wanted to emulate and I’ll never be able to, but sometimes I think that if I can at least wear scents as good and as memorable as the ones she wore, then I’ll come close to leaving the same effect on people as she has on me. 

She’s still the standard to which I measure everything, including the scent I wear, because she always notices. When I created my own scent at a perfumer in Chicago, she caught of whiff of it and really fell in love with it, and that’s when I knew that I’d succeeded in creating something really special. She really had the final say, since everything I know about fragrance, I learned from her. 

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Tynan smells like his mom on Twitter @TynanBuck.