I read an online comment recently expressing surprise that when I talked about ‘layering’ in the introductory passages of my book, I didn’t mean it literally: ie. actually spraying one scent physically on top of another. This can work, if you have a particular inspiration, but it is a little like listening to two songs at the same time: they cancel each other out. It had thus never occurred to me to wear fragrance that way. Rather, although on the whole I usually tend to wear only one perfume at a time, for compare and contrast and interesting synergies in the air around me and in my brain, I will sometimes wear two complementary or thematically linked perfumes on different parts of the body, or even just one on each wrist, in order to get a plusher, more interesting effect.

What about wearing a dipytch or tripych of perfumes with the same family DNA? I find that Guerlains can work very well in this regard. I have a bottle of Shalimar Parfum Initial that I quite like but will never love (it is just ……..less intelligent), but I do like the base: I thus sprayed some Japanese jinbe pyjama trousers I float about in with copious amounts of this scent and the base accord lingered for days; it worked very well with either the vintage Shalimar edt I have, some very precious extrait of Vol De Nuit I discovered recently and also, just for the hell of it, some vintage Jardins De Bagatelles for some tuberose lift (gorgeously given full colour camera close ups by the soft powder surrounding me in the air : doing this allows you to really focus in on a scent, see hitherto unseen facets, create individualistic sillages).

Of course, this will not work in the vast majority of cases. Try mixing up all the Dior Poisons and you will have a dog’s dinner of indigestible incompatibles (or, my god, Miss Dior and ‘Miss Dior’! -). I think the Muglers can work : Angels and A*Mens and Aliens of various varieties can be combined quite happily if you want that bombastic burnt sugar bombshell quality that can be quite intoxicating on the committed: I can also imagine the Chanel Nº5s being effective worn together. A spray of L’Eau or Première after a day of working the original, in vintage or otherwise, would undoubtedly be accumulatively pleasing.

Yesterday was one of the best layering experiences I have had: one of those combining of scents where the fusing of two fragrances undoubtedly flatters both and creates a new illusion. D has unfortunately gone back to work (a two week, rather than the usual five week summer break – on Monday he looked like a ghost when he came home after the first day); I have been by myself, either just at home, or at the beach, though I am still not yet convinced of how much fun it is going there by myself. It has been nice, though, meeting for dinner in the evening in Kamakura. The other night I surprised myself by wearing Sisley Eau Du Soir, in the original black bottled version to go to a Spanish restaurant : it was dark and sparkly and Iberian and elevating, if a tad insistent (as always). Yesterday I felt like something softer, muskier. Caron Pour Homme Un Homme fits the bill nicely for this mood, although it is sometimes a bit too old school, too powder puff lavender/vanilla: I feel like an ancient Pomeranian being taken for a walk on the promenade despite the perfume’s supposed Gallic masculinity. Jump from 1934, when this classic was released, to 2015, and we have the bizarre Caron Pour Un Homme Sport, a beautifully blue green flanker/reiteration that D got last year, August B.C, and wore to Neneh Cherry at Billboard Tokyo. It is like nothing else: taking the original lavender vanilla DNA of Ernst Daltroff’s deceptively simple creation, it adds a ton of grapefruit and mint, some mandarin, cedar and verbena, to create an entirely different scent that somehow, wears perfectly with the original (and, strangely, smells a little bit like pineapple) . Spraying on the Sport yesterday – D has moved on to other scents now and hasn’t taken to this as much as I hoped – I found that the more peculiar aspects of the newer version were immediately neutralized by equal amounts of 1934, which in turn was made more robust and stimulating by its much younger and leaner descendant. The amalgamated effect was brilliant – I had scent sensations that reminded me of when D and I would both wear Jean Paul Gaultier’s lavender vanilla Le Mâle back in the nineties – fresh, rich, full; new; alive.


Filed under Flowers


  1. I kind of do that after work each day. Once I get home, I spray a different and random scent than I wore all day but some still lingers. Then after dinner I spray something else on me for the evening. Lastly, I spray something else before going to bed. The next morning when I wake up, I can smell something wonderful on the bed sheets, but half of the time I can never remember what I sprayed about I got home from work.

  2. Robin

    I feel like an ancient Pomeranian being taken for a walk on the promenade despite the perfume’s supposed Gallic masculinity.

    I did. I laughed out loud! Ah, Neil, just what I needed.

    I could read about his kind of thing endlessly. I wear so many different scents in a day sometimes, and I’ve had lots of really effective, surprisingly good overlaps. This might be sacrilege to you, but I find No 19 in different forms can make some interesting progressions. Riffing on a brilliant theme.

    Caron Pour un Homme Sport with the regular?! That does sound good. I got Ric the Sport this summer, actually, and while I like it there’s something a bit too . . . obvious? crude? . . . about it. As if it needs some blurring of the lines between the components, some softening, some greying of all those bright tones. I can see PuH doing just that.

    I like developing a leather theme sometimes. Suede for a time, then a saddle-y leather, then vintage, then something more modern and smokey-spicy. Say, from Bottega Veneta to Lonestar Memories to Cabochard to Jaisalmer, but not necessarily in that order. Lots of times here, the weather changes quickly, and I’m doing several different things through the day, around people and alone, so I do whatever goes along with that.

    And you know I’m a rose woman so there’s lots of scope right there to play around. Something pink and green in the morning all the way through to something deep and noir at night.

    Lots of possibilities with Shalimar, yes. I’m with you: I’ve always felt that PI needed a couple of dozen more IQ points. I do think that the Eau de Shalimar flanker is a smart one. The bergamot really hums.

    • LOVE IT. You are as leather-clad as Suzi Quatro. And yes – the sport IS crude, like a cheap Raoul Dufy poster. With the original, all is forgiven and blurs beautifully. I am going out again this evening – this time – SHOCK HORROR! – with someone else for the first time in god knows how long. Three of us. And I am thinking about wearing this combo again though KNOWING she hates vanilla. Perhaps I will wear it all just in lower doses.

    • Have you tried what the title says though: a perfume AND its flanker?

  3. I really like the suggestion of using No. 5s together. I only keep a tiny amount of No. 5 EDT around to remind me of my late mother, but I really like Eau Premiere and L’Eau for myself. I think you’re right that they would liven up the vintage.

  4. This sounds very interesting and daring to me. The combinations you describe sound like they are perfectly symbiotic.
    The closest I come to anything like that is wearing a fragrance in the morning that compliments the prior nights parfum. I always bath in the evening, very Japanese of me I know, but I do not bathe again in the morning; my bed is always immaculately clean (sheet changes multiple times per week) so I do not see the need to rebathe in the morning. This allows the fabulous base notes of my prior nights extrait, I always wear pure parfum in the evenings, to dictate my morning’s fragrance choice. So, using Caron as an example, if I wear the extrait of Or et Noir in the evening, the next day I would choose Parfum Sacre edp to wear. It is amazing how much this adds to the overall effect of the the next days scent. It gives it just that much more oomph, than it already had.
    For Christmas time I do something special, I wear Caron Voeux de Noel during the afternoon, early shower and all, then in the evening I apply some Nuit de Noel, the next morning I apply some Fete from Molyneux and the whole effect is magical.
    I know I am not very daring, but I just adore fragrances on their own, the way they unfold, all the different notes show themselves and just tickle my nose in delight. I guess I could try putting on a dab of parfum, then following it with a spritz of the edt, or edp. On verra.
    *please excuse my lack of accents, being french I know where they go, but I can not make the laptop cooperate with me.


      You have Voeux de Noel? I think if I ever saw your perfume collection I would faint with desire. Or Et Noir is such a gorgeous rose, if my memory serves me right – I almost bought that one at the Caron boutique in Paris many years ago – and to think of you at night asleep in your perfumed sheets…… wonder you feel no need to leave the house!

      • I adore Vœux de Noël so much, it is such a treasure. I doubt I’ll ever find another bottle again, but since I only wear a dab at Christmas, I hope I’ll have my little bit for a few more years to come. Or et Noir is a dark dusky rose. I wish I purchased a larger bottle at the Paris boutique. I have had it for over 30 years now.
        You are correct about the sheets, they always do smell of the loveliest melange of scents. Even after washing, they still have the aura of my fragrances. The bedroom is our sanctuary, it is deserving of lovely scent.

      • I just checked the Caron website, and didn’t realise that so many of the fountain fragrances are no longer there: Bellodgia, Or Et Noir, Farnesiana, POIVRE (how could that not be there?!!) There wasn’t even Nuit De Noel. A bit shocked actually.

      • Caron is going through a rough patch it seems. Hope they make it intact.

      • Me too. They have a real talismanic pull for me as a house, a secret excitement I can’t quite explain. Maybe because in England they weren’t known at all – I didn’t even hear of them until I bought a book about perfume when I was in Japan. I have always felt that Caron is for people ‘in the know’ real perfume lovers perfume, not simply gorgeous like Guerlain, but more curious and emotionally difficult to decipher.

      • Caron is definitely for those “in the know”. There is an old french saying, “Caron pour la duchesse, Guerlain pour la maitresse.” That is how I have always viewed Caron. There is something so much more special about their scents, than most other old houses. Maybe it is the classic Mousse de Saxe base, maybe it is how seamlessly they develop on the skin, I am not sure, but they are exquisite.
        I first came to know Caron when I was a young girl of around 10, a friend gave me a small spray perfume of Infini and I was immediately entranced. It was just beyond anything one could imagine. My next was Nocturnes, and that was just as sublime. Down the rabbit hole I fell. Over the years I have acquired as many Caron sent as I could get me hands on. I even have Coup de Fouet, the lighter version of Poivre.
        I have always been and always will be a Caron girl. Even though I adore so many houses, and absolutely adore older Guerlains, in my heart Caron holds a special place.

      • Me too. Infini and Nocturnes : DIVINE. I am really craving some vintage Poivre as well (what else is like that? ) They are all genius.

      • Sadly, nothing is really like Poivre. It is a truly unique scent.

  5. bibimaizoon

    I’m not brave enough to mix many fragrances. Most of my collection is florals and I prefer floral-wood-musk compositions so I keep a bottle of Coty’s Skin Musk, a dilution of habanolide (a synthetic musk that I love the velvety elegance of), and sandalwood, myrrh, and frankincense heavy attars I’ve picked up in Delhi on hand. Some members of my perfume collection can be a bit shrill (I’m lookin’ at you Fracas!) and I find that tempering them with a clean musk or dry wood/resin calms them down.
    That being said, sometimes I’m feeling full diva & layer lilac over lilac or tuberose over tuberose for some hardcore bombast.

  6. Tara C

    I don’t normally layer fragrances. Either I pick a body oil or lotion that complements the scent I’m wearing, or I wear complementing scents serially throughout the day like others have mentioned. I don’t know if I own any flankers other than the Guérlain La Petite Robe Noir original and the Black Perfecto flanker. One of my more oddball combos is JPG2 massage oil under L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu. It gives it a sweetness I like along with the spices.

    • I had forgotten the JPG2. That sounds amazing. I imagine the Petite Robe Noires would mix well together even if ultimately I find something irritating about them in the base – as though there is a promise of something great that just collapses in blandness. Are you a a big fan?

  7. johnluna

    What a great article, with a proposition that I think is less common than you give yourself credit for. I love this idea of layering via different bits of bodily topography, with clothing in the mix as well, as in a way it feels sort of like a four-dimensional perfume wearing: time (development & drying down) being mixed with warm & cool/more & less dynamic parts of the body, with topnotes lingering on fabrics and basenotes permeating both exposed and covered skin… I think my daughter does this accidentally, with Shalimar Cologne EDT (not the original eau de cologne, but a flanker I used – successfully! — to get her aboard on the Shalimar express mixed with Shalimar EDT (the next step in my plan) and the occasional draft of vintage Calvin Klein Obsession (a lucky find). The layering is incidental, as she, being a teenager, tends to apply so much that those sticky vanilla basenotes linger on everything she wears and everything in her room for days. Personally, I think it suits her down to the ground.

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