Do you feel that some perfumes are too youthful for you to wear comfortably?
Do you find some perfumes remind you of “old ladies” (or gentlemen)?
Do you normally steer clear of brands aimed at the youth market?
Are you concerned that your choice of scent might age you?
Or do you think it’s silly to worry about how age appropriate your scent is?
I do think it’s sad when perfume classics get dismissed as smelling like “old ladies”. However, we all have our own scent associations and I have been guilty of this in the case of Guerlain’s L’ Heure Bleue, which is a real shame. It can be off-putting if a perfume strongly reminds you of the women of your grandmother’s generation.
When I tried the floral chypre Plum by Mary Greenwell a couple of years ago I did feel it was too mature for me, but that doesn’t happen very often with modern perfumes.
In the case of perfumes aimed at teenagers, I avoid the cheaper end of the market because I suspect they will be of poor quality and/or super sweet. The young target market never stopped me testing Shalimar Parfum Initial by Guerlain and I would have bought a bottle if it suited my tastes.
Do age associations play a part in your choice of perfume?
Great question. I have no answers but will enjoy reading the comments. Hang on, Old Spice. For years I would not wear this as it was perceived to be an old man scent. Now when I do, (I have a recent bottle) I feel like I am channeling the wisdom of both my grandfathers. It is really a splash scent and wears off in time to wear something else out the door.
Jordan, it’s nice that you can now enjoy Old Spice as an olfactory link to your grandfathers before putting something else on when you leave the house.
I can easily see how those fragrances once perceived as old fashioned suddenly become precious because of family associations.
Naah, if I like it I’ll wear it. It does get a bit embarrassing spritzing the Taylor Swift and Beiber offerings in Department Stores though when the SA looks at you funny.
I’d expect nothing less from you, Portia!
It is a bit silly that SAs make such judgements.
Good question Tara. Generally
I wear what I like and I will try anything that comes my way. Looking forward to reading what others say.
That’s a great attitude to have, Sandra. You don’t close yourself off to something that could be great.
As a woman approaching 60, I must admit that the “old lady” perfume thing is a pet peeve of mine. What does it really even mean? It’s ironic to me that the majority of the time I’ve heard/seen it used, it is in reference to a classic vintage. I don’t find it offputting at all if a perfume reminds me of the women of my grandmothers generation – those women are of the generation that chained themselves to railings for the vote, worked for social reform in the workplace, became the “new women” of the 1920s and claimed independence in a way that had never before been seen. Lets face it, if Marilyn Monroe was still alive, she’d be 88 and probably a grandmother. Poor Chanel No 5… Ageism is a negative part of our society in the West – it saddens me to see it in the world of perfume too.
Well said, SallyM. I wonder if Chanel No. 5 would be as coveted if Marilyn wasn’t eternally youthful and we’d seen her age. The Cult of Youth is very real and nowhere more so than in Hollywood.
I think it does help to think of those women of our grandmothers’ generation when they were pushing boundaries. One of the reasons I like Shalimar so much is the fact it was worn by these amazing, daring women in the 20s and 30s.
I’ve never thought about it before, so it’s a good question, Tara.
While I apply gender distinction to perfumes (there are some that are too masculine for me), I never think about perfumes in the direction “perfume -> age” and I wear whatever I like. Though the opposite (age -> perfume)happens sometimes when I try to think of a perfume to recommend for tinagers. But it’s less a question of an appropriateness and more of what I think they will like and appreciate.
I do wonder if teenagers really do prefer the syrupy fruity florals or if it’s just that that’s what they’re served up in the main. Even if they prefered No.19 they might not want to be caught wearing it among their peers.
Actually, yes. I still can’t wear old school chypres, even though I like the way they smell. I just don’t feel them as my own. The same goes for the sugary/fruity youthful conctotions. *shudder* Those I will never feel like wearing.
But speaking of Shalimar Parfum Initial, I’ve been wearing that a lot lately. 🙂 I don’t really put it in the category of those unwearable sweet thingies. 😉 Luckily, I have a huge decant but at some point I might go for a bottle. To have another in my Shalimar collection… 😉
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head for me when it comes to some older style perfumes, Ines. It’s a case of not finding myself in the perfume rather than some kind of prejudice. The association with someone else is just too strong.
You can never have too much Shalimar!
My answer is so uncannily identical to Ines’s that I simply have to slip it in here…;) Also re Shalimar Parfum Initial, of which I had a 10ml decant initially, but found myself using it up so fast I have sprung for a (bargain) gift set in the pre-Christmas sales!
Ines, puts it so well, doesn’t she?
I saw your gift set on FB. Such a great buy. Guerlain are so good at what they do, you can trust them to make a youthful rendition of Shalimar and come out with something good. It’s hard to imagine a version I wouldn’t like.
Vanessa, our tastes seem to b approaching one another more and more. 😉
I never saw that happening! 🙂
I think niche perfumery has done us a favour since it’s reintroduced complex perfumes, or aldehydic notes. For me it’s more about style – some older perfumes such as Rochas Femme seem quite timeless to me – I find Feminite du Bois or perfumes such as Mata Hari or Mirabella by DSH Perfumes reminiscent of Femme. I like Arpege but its powerful aldehydic character does feel old fashioned. Then there’s Coco which is redolent of the 80s but seems to be enjoying a revival. I wonder if that has something to do with the ‘big night out’ perfumes such as ‘Black Orchid’ by Tom Ford – the sillage and ‘feel’ of both perfumes have something in common
I’d probably be least likely to wear something like Britney Spear’s ‘Fantasy’ but that’s because I find its message infantile – the ‘my little pony’ barbie connotations – all the usual gender stereotyping nonsense
Rose, you make a good point. The indie, niche and some high-end boutique lines mean that we still have access to a number of classic styles of perfumery. If we only had the mainstream our options would be much more limited, to put it mildly.
If I like it I wear it! I usually don’t waste my time/nose with celebrity releases and flankers of perfumes I didn’t like at first place.
I’m with you on the majority of celebuscents and flankers. Too many perfumes and not enough time to go down that road, unless I hear good reports.
I agree this is a really good question. There are some perfumes that sometimes feel either too young or too old for me, but often this has more to do with my mood than the perfume itself. But, there are some that are consistently associated too much with age (Chanel No. 5, Youth Dew) or youth (most fruity florals, lately Flowerbomb, most sweet-shop gourmands) for me to enjoy them. I noticed this morning as I was walking by an elderly woman that she was wearing a Guerlain (I couldn’t pinpoint it) and it did not smell nice to me at all (and definitely smelled “old”), which made me worried that’s how I smell when I wear Guerlain. Hopefully not!
Definitely not! I wonder if the perfume had turned considering you couldn’t pinpoint it and it smelt unpleasant.
You make a good point about mood being a factor too. There’s so much at play when it comes to how we feel about perfumes.
It might have done, actually. The powdery aspect was on overkill level, and it was quite sour. The other possibility of course is that it wasn’t a Guerlain, but something done in that style and not done very well.
Yes, it could be a cheap knock-off or a Guerlain that she’s had for a long time and perhaps kept out on a dresser.
Good question! I’m very influenced by ‘age associations’ when it comes to perfume choices. I love simple, modern clothes, furniture, and design generally, and carry this through to perfume. As a fifty-something, I grew up in an era before the idea of ‘retro’ had been developed in fashion, and my perfume ‘hobby’ began in the nineties when I discovered feminite de bois, and realized perfume could be adventurous. I avoid things which seem to me to be ’old fashioned’, eg complicated, fussy, ‘boudoir’-style, etc; they would simply feel wrong on me (conversely I also avoid what Ines termed ‘youthful concoctions’). I appreciate this is a subjective perception of what is ‘old’ and ‘young’, based on style not actual date, but at least it helps to limit my choices and spending!
That makes total sense to me. It’s nice to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes but generally your perfume needs to suit your style or you wouldn’t feel comfortable in it. A classic or vintage style perfume is not going to fit your modern, streamlined aesthetic.
I agree, with so many perfumes out there and more and more releases every day, we need ways to filter them.
Caron Pour un Homme de Caron felt too old (or that I was too young) to wear it. The same applies to all Creed fragrances – to me they’re like for 40+ or 50+ men.
It’s interesting to learn that the Creed fragrances feel too old for you. I’ve always been put off them without being very sure why but maybe it is because they seem rather staid to me.
Old lady doesn’t bother me and never did. I always wore perfumes that were considered a bit old fashioned , even when I was in my 20’s. The too youthful for me question doesn’t really apply because I don’t like what’s advertised as a young scent these days. There is one exception though: I own a bottle of Lolita Lempicka and I don’t wear it much because there is this nagging thought that it’s a girly scent.
I don’t know it well, but I wouldn’t view Lolita Lempicka as a girly scent at all.
I admire you for going against the grain in your 20s. I was very attracted to the brand and new releases at that age.
I think that Hanae Mori is absolutely delightful, but don’t know that I’d have the guts to go out in public smelling like marshmallows at my age. (My mother, who is pushing seventy, has no such compunction.)
Well, plenty of people wear Love from By Kilian which smells like orange flower flavoured marshmallows so I don’t see why you shouldn’t wear your Hanae Mori. I bet you’ll get a lot of compliments. It’s not like it smells of sickly strawberries or something like that.
I think sometimes you get to a certain age, like your mother, and you just don’t care what other people think anymore. I’m looking forward to that.
It would be so liberating!
If I could be half as cool as those old ladies that rock the classic Guerlain’s then I have succeeded at life 😉 Those grannies were proper perfume renegades in their day.
It’s an interesting question though, Tara. I’ve never personally felt that anything is too old or too young for me, but I can understand people feeling that way. I suppose it all comes down to what one feels comfortable in.
Thomas, you’ve been rocking some seriously sophisticated stuff since age 16 so it’s no surprise to me that age is not a concern for you in your perfume selection. I can’t imagine anything you couldn’t pull off.
My “old lady” pleasure is Jean Nate’ after bath splash! My Mom wore it every night after
her shower. For years, I avoided it because I felt it was “old lady”, but gave in and bought some, and absolutely love it!
“After bath splash” what a lovely idea. I can see why you gave in despite your reservations.
We should all have an old lady pleasure!
Interesting question! I agree with you and Ines, Tara, in that it is more an association with people, rather than an age bias. Shalimar was worn by my mil and all the elderly aunts on dh’s side. Sweet, wonderful ladies, all of them, but it is just not romantic to smell like you mother-in-law! (That has not stopped my admiration and I own at least half a dozen bottles of Shalimar in some vintage). L’Heure Bleue and Apres L’Ondee always remind me of one of my grandmothers, not in a bad way, in fact I spray them when I want to be reminded of her, but I can’t bring myself to wear them–they are too much “her”. (Thankfully my mother and other grandmother wore so many different fragrances I don’t associate any one with them).
I recently purchased Indult Manakara blindly, and regret it because, although I like it on one level, I feel like I am wearing my teenage daughters’ Victorias’s Secret Pink! It just doesn’t seem to suit me (tho I am fine with Loukhoum and other sweet perfumes).
I don’t think anyone would blame you for not wanting to smell like your mother-in-law! It’s very hard to get past those kind of close personal associations but great that you can still appreciate Shalimar, even if you don’t wear it.
Vol de Nui ts probably my favourite perfume (no doubt because I’m wearing it today) and I don’t have any issues with that or Shalimar. L’Heure Bleue just has such a strong association for me though.
It’s realy lovely that you can put on a little Apres L’Ondee or L’Heure Bleue to be reminded of your grandmother.
I can totally understand how you feel about that blind buy. It must be very off-putting.
The insulting “old lady” phrase continually puts me in a bad mood. The overwhelming number of poorly crafted fragrances are the truly headache-inducing nightmare, no matter what genre they fill. There are some delightful fruity and sweet fragrances, just as there are some horrible aldehydes or orientals. I would venture to propose that most people who complain about a fragrance do so as much because they don’t like the person they smell wearing something as much as they don’t like the fragrance itself.
I agree that it’s wrong to blanket a whole group of fragrances and write them off as “old lady-ish”. The Guerlain classics from the first half of the 20th centure all smell so very different, it would be foolish to label them all in such a way.
As you quite rightly point out, conversely not all youthful fruity florals are poor either. It’s always worth keeping an open mind.
It is definitely hard to like a perfume if you associate it with someone you dislike.
When I was a much younger person I wore L’Heure Bleue and loved it. I’ve never associated scent with age, except that I didn’t like the powdered things that my grandmother wore and have avoided those kinds of fragrances. Lolita Lempicka is certainly not a young person’s scent – it is suitable for any age. Gender is no longer so important to fragrance lovers either, young or old. In high school I wore my father’s Old Spice..
Anita, I think surprising contrasts can work really well. Like you as a girl wearing Old Spice, or a man wearing a big white floral.
Thank you for this great question? Thinking about age perception and perfume started me wondering why I wear any fragrance at all! I just realized that using fragrance is a very selfish thing for me. I don’t wear a perfume to bless or seduce those around me or as any kind of a fashion statement. Like Anita, for me perfume seems to have no age or gender. When I choose a fragrance to wear it just smells good and feels right to me no matter the vintage, the price or how it is marketed.
That’s great, azar. It’s how it should be. It’s annoying that negative scent associations can get in the way for many for us.
Fun question. I think if you like something you should wear it. However, I haven’t sniffed many a perfume because I would have a hard time believing that something like Harajuku Lovers would appeal to me 🙂
Very true. There are so many perfumes out there that we have to weigh up the probability of something suiting us. We would just be overwhelmed otherwise.
Great post! It’s funny, but the one perfume I’ve gotten the most compliments on, like 10x more than any other, for over 15 years, is vintage L’Heure Bleue, and I was quite young when I started wearing it. It just suits me, I guess, or maybe I’ve always had a “grandma soul”?? I really don’t know, but it’s always been pure heaven to me…. And I do wear a lot of old-style chypre’s, and get compliments on those, too! Weird….
That’s wonderful. i’m very envious!
i think you’re right, those old style chypres must really work with your skin chemistry.
Glad you’ve enjoyed today’s post, Marla.
Generally, I don’t have much of an age association with perfumes. The exceptions are most celebuscents – Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber, Hilary Duff, etc all smell like cheap, fruity body sprays. Also anything from Victoria’s Secret, and Aquolina. All they make me think of is the scantily-clad girls that are barely drinking age in the bars (I am just shy of 40).
Lately, the only perfumes that I’ve felt was a bit “older” on me were 24 Faubourg and Odalisque. I used to think any oakmoss-y chypre ‘fumes were “old lady,” but I no longer associate that. I think that anything with a sharp, strong floral note feels “old lady.”
I know what you mean. I struggle with floral chypres, not because I think they are “old lady-ish” but just because I don’t think I’m ready for them yet.
Oh – sometimes violet perfumes can smell old fashioned to me. Depends on the other notes.
Youth Dew used to smell “old lady” to me, but I see so many perfumes in a different light than I have in the past. Even perfumes that my mom and grandmas wore don’t smell “old lady” to me.
I have that association with violet perfumes too sometimes. Particularly soapy or powdery ones. Though you’re right, your perception can definitely change over time and with improved appreciation of perfume generally. .
My most recent experience with this was with Houbigant’s Orangers en Fleurs which I bought a sample of last year. I thought it was lovely. However, the dry-down reminded me strongly of a scent worn by my elderly female relatives. I just couldn’t get past that even though I love orange/neroli scents. I’m hoping that like some of you that impression will change over time. I’d love to be able to wear this for the beauty it is instead of being reminded of some of my fussy older relatives!
Kandice, hang on to that sample and take a sniff periodically. The association may well fade over time.
I love “old-lady” chypres and if anyone says I smell like their grandmother, my response is that their grandmother ROCKS 🙂
But I do have to admit that I really struggle with a lot of the 80’s powerhouses. They smell really dated to me and I can’t really wear them. But what is old becomes new again, right? So a perfume that was popular in the 20’s smells fantastically modern to me and Giorgio Beverly Hills will be wild and edgy in 2070!
Yes, it’s funny the way it works. It may just be that we are too close to the 80s and that the younger generations to come will latch on to those perfumes because they lack our negative associations. Those powerhouses still smell very dated to me also.
I bet you smell great in those “old lady” chypres!
My friend and I were haggling in a rest stop in Delaware for perfume. I said I wanted Tresor, and the middle-aged proprietor was like “that’s an old lady scent.” I said no it wasn’t and that it was what I wanted, but he wouldn’t sell it to me for $40 because he said it cost him that to buy. (Right.) He then said that if I went on a date with him he might reconsider. I mean, was that cheeky or a serious offer? I’ll never know.
I’ll wear any of the old classics, like Joy, all Guerlains, and anything leather/chypre/tobacco. Where it starts to get old lady are the old drugstore scents like Vanilla Fields, Ma Griffe, some Estee Lauders, etc. I guess that’s because my mind associates high-end vintage fragrances from my grandmother’s time as retro cool, but the cheap scents from 30 years ago aren’t old enough or classy enough so they just come off as dated.
What funny goings-on at the rest stop! I hope you manage to get a bottle of Tresor from elsewhere. I had a bottle of that a long time ago. I wouldn’t say it quite has old lady status just yet but maybe that’s because I wore it once!
I think you’re absolutely right about those drugstore scents. We have the equivalent in the UK and my aunt still wears them. They’re not unpleasant but clearly the quality is lacking and they do smell dated. I doubt they’ll ever be sought after in the future but who knows?
I’m not sure I’ve smelt enough to even know what the ‘old lady’ perfumes smell like. But I’m definitely aware of the younger end of the market and steer way clear of the Biebers, Britneys, One Direction and Swifts. Most of these are aimed at tweens and I really won’t even test them. I think I’m definitely prejudiced against celeb scents in general though – and the only one I’d try is the SJP one and that’s only because I read Burr’s book and in general find her more appealing as a woman than other perfume people such as Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, KK and JLo. Anyway there’s only one other thing I can say and that is – never say never! I’m finding out that tastes in this perfume world can change quickly. ISM was one of the first Lutens I tried on the wax samples and I couldn’t believe such a foul creation had been concocted but the other day when I tried it in store I thought it was incredible. So we’ll see …..
Ha! Iris Silver Mist is incredible but I wouldn’t blame any newbie for being put off at first sniff. I’m glad you’ve come to appreciate it. Never say never is absolutely right.
It seems a shame that the vast majority of perfumes aimed at young people these days are celebrity scents. It seems very unlikely that they are buying them not for the smell but just because they are a fan of whoever it is. This seems to me to mean that the companies can get away with a poor quality composition and still make a load of money because there’s a guaranteed market. Shame.
No, in fact I don’t think in these categories : I think in “bad” and “good”, or if I can pull it off or not. Well, I tend to associate anything overly fruity or bubble-gumy or cloying as girlie – but I didn’t like those when I was a teenager either (admittedly, that was a long time ago…).
Yes, I can see that for you it’s more a matter of first, is any good and then, whether it suits your style. I would expect that kind of sense from you dear LJG!
Great question Tara, I have been enjoying all the replies.
The two scents that remind me of my Grandmother are rose and lavender. I love rose fragrances now, but lavender remains associated with her and I can’t help but categorise it as ‘old fashioned’, I just can’t wear it as a note – but that is my bias, it shouldn’t be society’s! But generally I think old or young is mere marketing, I love Shalimar and my Mum wears Shalimar Initial – go figure… x
You do have to be able to identify with a perfume to be able to wear it, so how you feel about lavender is completely understandable.
You’re so right about a lot of it coming down to advertising. We shouldn’t be put off by that alone. You and your mother are a great case in point!
How about Les Nombres d’Or – Musc by Mona di Orio? Does it lean towards ‘mature’ scent? Really cannot make up my mind here, please help. I’m not looking forward to getting old and even avoid notes of gardenia, tuberose, iris etc.
In the end, why and what for is the classification of perfumes into young, old, day, evening, sport, leisure etc. if most of us, perfume wearers, spray on something we feel most comfortable in?
Many many thanks in advance for all/any opinions!
Personally I love the fact that the Mona di Orio perfumes are womanly rather than girly. They are full-bodied and sophisticated scents but to me, they are in no way old fashioned or ageing. Musc is my favourite from the line so I wouldn’t hesitate to wear it myself. While the fragrances tackle traditional notes I don’t think they’re handled in a traditional way. I think you have to look past the main note on the bottle.
Of course the classification of perfumes into young, old, sporty etc. is arbitary but it does often give a helpful short-hand for the kind of fragrance you might expect ie. sweet, classic, fresh or whatever. This can save time when there are so many perfumes on the market. You’re right though, at the end of the day if you feel comfortable wearing it that’s all that matters. I’d advise just trusting how the perfume makes you feel and not analyse it too much intellectually.
Thank you very much, Tara!
I’m glad my reply was of some help, Deidre!
I guess I don’t really think of fragrances in terms of age. For me it’s more whether I like how it smells and if I feel like it fits me. My tastes are broad enough that if you asked me what “my style” is, I don’t know if I’d be able to articulate it. And I don’t tend to worry much about whether something is “too masculine”, though the more fougere-ish men’s scents make me feel like I raided my dad’s medicine cabinet, so I feel less comfortable wearing those. But I’ve only been down this crazy rabbit hole of ours about 2 years or so, so maybe my associations would be different if I had come to it younger. I will admit to a bit of prejudice against the celebrity stuff. I have tried SJP Lovely, but that’s the only one. I haven’t bothered even trying the Justin Biebers or Britney Spears or One Directions or what have you, and who knows, I might be missing out on something by thinking that way. But there are so many scents out there to try that it’s impossible to keep up!
You’re right. It’s just not possible to keep up with everything and if one of those tween-centric celebrity scents was really good I’m sure we’d hear about it!
I think it’s great that your taste is so broad and you don’t define your perfume style in narrow terms. Being wary of whether a perfume is age appropriate or not can be limiting.
I would like to believe that fragrance is used to match who and what you are, so if your style suits you, a 24 year old can wear Vol de Nuit just as a 54 can wear Prada Candy.
Of course there are certain fragrances that used to be “hip” and “chic” but during the course of time have become more of a classic or having a “presence” too strong for what is considered modern taste.
In my personal case, I have always have a uber soft spot for Youth Dew by Estee Lauder. (I know, I know, its your “Grandma” fragrance and I am only in my early 20s.) But I think it is such a beautiful creation and it works with me. I wear it whenever I want to and I truly think having the right mind-set, knowing what is compatible and self confidence then you will most-likely “own” it, whatever your choice may be. Just the same for how a woman may wear a men’s fragrance or vice-versa.
Great comment, Etomidac.
It should come down to what you feel suits you and what you feel comfortable in. If you feel a negative association that’s one thing, but if you don’t, then just because others associate a perfume with older people shouldn’t put you off it.
I think you make a great point about “owning it”. If you feel good in something and it suits your style you’ll carry it off well, even if you’re wearing something that goes against type. It’s so true that some younger people feel at home in classic perfumes while some older women will have a personality that suits fruity florals. Those can often be the most interesting people 🙂
Thats funny – I ve never thought of fragrances in terms of age, but there are people, who certainly do. My husband commented my Guerlain perfumes couple of times. And it was always about “age” – he said I smelled like an old lady – though I have no idea where he could smell old ladies… So I love and wear Shalimar, Samsara, L’Heure Bleue, Chamade, but when we go out together with husband, im trying to wear smth else.. And my daughter, who is 17 years old now, loves Chanel No5, it suits her perfect and she always sprays it onto her wrist when we go to the perfume shops..
Perhaps, like others, your husband had older female relatives who wore Guerlain when he was gorwing up, whereas you didn’t. I think it’s nice that you still wear those perfumes but choose to wear something else when it’s just the two out together. It’s not surpressing yourself to do something for the one you love now and again.
How wonderful that your daughter is drawn to – and suits – No.5. It really is one of the few classics that seems like it will endure for generations to come.