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Why do you buy?

Ari over at The Scents of Self recently asked a great question: how do you choose what to wear today?

I immediately was thrown into overdrive thinking about the complex algorithms by which I choose a perfume for the day, so much so that if you go look you’ll see I wrote – nothing at all. I suspect that if I actually explained my thinking process, and worse, if I juxtaposed it with what I actually do, which is – sometimes – just grabbing something I like the look of, even though I’d carefully planned and was really delighted to anticipate wearing something else, and spritzing on the random thing, and then being vaguely annoyed by it all day – yes, if I explained all this, I would look stupider than I feel comfortable looking. (What? I look great in this hat.)

I feel like the Great Choosing Bible has yet to be written, but here’s a more delicate topic:

How do you decide what to buy?

I have a very complex system for choosing what to buy: I want it. But there are oh so many reasons for why I want something.

Sometimes I want it because I’ve worn it and I enjoyed the experience of wearing it, but there are other reasons, the riskiest of which is that I read a blogger whose writing about it made me want to buy it – because I knew, based on what they said and knowing something of their perfume tastes, that I would love it.

I wonder if my fellow bloggers (some of whom occasionally have dropped by) realize exactly how much influence they can have. I can name off the top of my head perfumes that I have bought and exactly who is why:

Ari at The Scents of Self caused me to buy Après l’Ondée.

Mals at The Muse in Wooden Shoes caused me to buy Mary Greenwell’s Plum.

Gaia at The Non-Blonde caused me to collect an entire group of vintage Diors, including Dioressence, Diorella, and Diorling. (Also so many Edward Bess lip glosses!)

Katie Puckrik at Katie Puckrik Smells caused me to buy Miller Harris Fleur Oriental.

Undina at Undina’s Looking Glass has caused me to rethink Chanels, and lead directly or indirectly to the acquisition of both Chanel No. 19 and Coco.

And The Candy Perfume Boy has made me revisit every Mugler, and caused the acquisition of possibly too many versions of Alien, though seriously, I love this stuff.

And I’m not talking samples, either, folks, I’m talking full bottles, in pretty much every case. (Though the vintage Diors are largely adorable purse bottles. Look at them! They’re wee!)

Scared yet? Here’s the good part:

Every one of these was basically a blind buy. Yes, unsniffed.

I’m happy with every one of these purchases.

Here is the public service aspect of perfume blogging. I have gotten to know these perfume bloggers; I have an idea of their tastes and their interests, and where they overlap with mine. When I managed to land a fortuitous eBay bottle of Plum it was not even available in this country, but I still unhesitatingly put it on my “Get now” Christmas list for myself, because I could pretty much tell from Mals’ description what she was loving about it, and I knew I would love it for myself. And I do, oh, I do.

Ari is an interesting blogger from the other direction. Our perfume tastes don’t overlap almost at all. I’ve seen her buy things I would never wear. But that said, I can picture in my mind what an “Ari” perfume sort of smells like, and put that together with notes and history to make a decision like I did about Après l’Ondée. Here’s the best part of that one: This one truly wasn’t a blind buy. I’d sampled Al’O before and hadn’t liked it. But at a particular moment, when I wasn’t entirely sure what I was craving but I knew I wanted something in that category, she reminded me of it, I immediately realized that it would be, if sprayed all over and not just dabbed, probably exactly what I wanted, I got Après l’Ondée – and it is so lovely.

(To be fair, Patty from Perfume Posse backed up this choice – another perfume blogger who, now that I know a bit more about her tastes, helps me make decisions quite a bit. The Perfume Posse in general has started quite a few lemmings, including a constant re-testing of Amaranthine which has been extremely interesting.)

Witness the mighty power of the perfume blogger! Yes, they’ve pushed me in directions I otherwise didn’t know to travel. Ambers? Orientals? Birgit and Katie Puckrik were my guides! Classic chypres? The Non-Blonde, of course. Galbanum? Undina pointed me that way. I couldn’t follow The Candy Perfume Boy down the tuberose path but he did introduce me to a whole world of weird Mugler-ness that I wouldn’t have had a map for otherwise.

That is, from reading them, wearing what I already wore, and learning new things, I knew that I could buy full bottles, unsniffed, and be thrilled with what I got. Could I “picture” the scent before I got it? Maybe. Almost. Sometimes. But I knew I was going in the right direction because they’d already been there, and they wrote about it.

Am I a sheep? Probably. But it feels more like being a student – or a correspondent of letters, like in, you know, the old days, when astronomers and chemists wrote each other long letters that included charts and diagrams and speculations, and their recipients sent back the same. Olfactoria at Olfactoria’s Travels started me off on an entire season – I’m talking a sizable fraction of a year, people – sniffing ambers and then from there myrrh. They were notes I didn’t know much about, and I might not have explored them further if she hadn’t drawn out some of the detail about them, explained a bit of their allure. I can’t think of a full bottle I’ve bought because of Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels, but I can say that she’s opened a lot of windows and pointed out a lot of doors for me. In fact I know our tastes are sufficiently dissimilar that we don’t have a lot of overlap (though face it, it was pretty clear both of us were going to like Amouage Opus VI, I didn’t fall quite so desperately in love with it as she did) – and that’s useful to know, at least for me!

How about you? Anyone cause you to buy perfumes? Or if not, do you ever have a reason other than that you’ve smelled it and loved it?


Image is sheep by amcunningham72, via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license; some rights reserved.

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