I'm cheating because I have to speed this up for the holidays, man! My fam is coming on the 19th, and I will be super busy tour-guiding.
So, dear anonymous female reader: this time around, the gifts are for you!
I've chosen four different perfumes that I find nearly universally pleasing. You'll notice they are all carefully-balanced blends of citrus, floral and "oriental" (as perfume people would say). If I were to buy a beautifully-wrapped little box of eau de cologne for each of you, I would choose the scents that follow. I wouldn't even cross my fingers. I'd know that nobody could really hate these perfumes. The worst that could happen would be that you'd find them nice, but not really 100% perfect, and therefore only wear them once in a blue moon when you felt like being someone else.
So here they are! Pick up one of these if you are clueless about what to get a fragrance-lover for a holiday surpise.
Jean Paul Gautier Classique
This is my top pick. My friend Annka wore this when we were students together in Paris in 2001. She shared an impossibly big, lovely, grand old flat on the top floor of a Hausmann building with three other students in the 11e. She had a tiny balcony and we spent all our time drinking out there, watching the hustle and bustle, and wearing weather-inappropriate clothing. Classique always reminds me of her, stylish, girlish, impractical and ultimately down-to-earth.
According to Sephora, it smells like: Orange Flower, Bulgarian Rose, Italian Mandarin, Star Aniseed, Orchid, Iris, Ylang-Ylang, Indian Ginger, Soft Vanilla, Woody Amber.
According to me, it smells like: French 1960s pop music meets a fresh, peach-colored shift dress meets vogueing it up in front of your mirror and then laughing out loud.
I had a good time watching the campy, pretty commercials Gautier has made for this stuff over the years. They are seriously fantastic. In one of them, an old, pearl-enlaced English dame morphs into Jean Paul Gautier!! Go watch them:
Wizard of Oz in Ladyland
Girlfriendz in the Powder Room at the Opera
And my favorite:
Cruisin' and Kissin'
BONUS: The bottle, designed a little differently every season, is like a Barbie with an atomizer for a head. Just what we all need.
Giorgio Armani She
Sez Sephora: Angelica, Cardamom, Bergamot, Mandarin, Heliotrope, Vanilla, Cedar, Musk.
Sez me: Soft and powdery, feminine but not frilly. Minimalist and modestly elegant. Like the perfect pair of classic black heels, stylish but barely noticable, or a locket you've been wearing since you were 5.
I wore this for a while in college. I catch a whiff of it occasionally from other women and think, "Ah, yes. Good choice." The bottle is well-designed and can easily slip into a handbag.
Sephora: Mandarin, Cassis, Lychee, Jasmine, Rose, Basmati Rice, Sandlewood, Ambery notes, Musk.
Me: Also soft and powdery, but with more of an energizing kick to it than the Armani scent. I think that must be from the jasmine.
My friend Ayumi wears this. I think she likes this perfume because it's so versatile. It's clean and restrained enough for her to wear it in a professional environment, and yet it smells modern and alluring enough to wear when she's out with me, hitting on good-looking single men. The perfume equivalent of a pencil skirt?
Last and least:
Flower by Kenzo
Sephora: Amber, Oppoppnax Resin, White Musk, Bourbon Vanilla, Almond, Parma Violet, Bulgarian Rose.
Me: Youthful, trendy, sweet, feminine, J Crew-y.
There's nothing really wrong with this perfume, but basically 1 in 3 American woman between the ages of 14 and 30 is probably already wearing it. Because it's already had such widespread appeal, I think it's slightly boring. I like to dig amongst the less-frequented stuff on the shelf. I also think the bottle design is middle-of-the-road kitschy. Classic I like, over-the-top kitschy I like, but middle-of-the-road kitschy is almost tacky.
All that trash-talking aside, it's still a good bet for a blind present exchange, and would probably be quite appreciated.
Happy holidays, you guys. Everyone gets one of each, for their own smelly pleasure. And no re-gifting, hear?