It’s that time of year when we rush out to choose that perfect mother’s day perfume. May is here with its run of public holidays, and now Mother’s Day – la Festa della Mamma as it’s called in my part of the world – is upon us too.
I have to admit to completely forgetting it most years as the British (as usual) celebrate it on a different day from Continentals. With no advertising calls to action to remind me, my own mother fared badly at receiving wishes, let alone a gift on the right day.
Among the regulars on the gift list to mark the occasion, flowers, chocolates and fragrance come tops. All three are relatively transportable and unlike clothing, don’t require a returns policy to be in place. Scent can be a quick off-the-shelf purchase as any neighbouring drugstore – or online behemoth like Amazon – can supply fragrance without you needing to hit the boutique perfumeries of inner cities. However, as anyone who has bought scent for another knows, it is fraught with dangers, even if you think you know the recipient well.
How to Choose that Perfect Mother’s Day Perfume
If you are thinking of gifting fragrance, you will need to think again – in a positive way, I mean. You can’t just rush out and buy the latest trending scent, nor dig back into her past, buying a replenishing bottle of her regular favourite scent. Those are big ‘No’s’ when it comes to buying with feeling, thought and passion.
To buy a scent – one that might become a signature scent – you need to know the person deeply. We tend to think that as we grew up with our mothers, that we know them. It was only when I came to going over my late mother’s possessions – some that included very personal memento photos of her early married years – that I realised, all too late and with sadness, that I hadn’t an iota about much of her life.
I do urge you to use the excuse of Mother’s Day to stop and think about your mother. Not in the gushy, commercial celebration card sense but rather to view her as the incredible person she is; and in a different light. Just as I did when I came across those old photos hidden, or forgotten with the passage of time, deep in the bottom of a bureau drawer. Those photos were of a woman I had never known and kindled my desire to find out more about her; asking my father and trying to piece her life together from the fragments I could find and glean.
So, for a start, ask yourself who is the woman behind the epithet of ‘mother’? What passions does she have? What fulfilled or unfulfilled dreams and ambitions does she have? What makes her laugh, or wince and what would she do if she had no ties, duties, or budgetary limits or other constraints on her? Can you guess? Dare you ask?
To gift the right scent, is to really know a person. To Google the innumerable guides to the latest and ‘best’ perfumes for mother’s day 20XX, and so on, is to shirk your challenge and go with the pack.
To guide you in your quest for the perfect mother’s day perfume, I’ve penned a few thoughts to mull over rather than a list of must-buys. I advise you to think them through even if you don’t intend giving her a fragrance.
Know the Person, Know the Perfect Perfume
I want you to think more laterally and be guided by personal insights. We must go deeper than think about her day-to-day perfume preferences or whether she likes rose scents.
I use three words to guide me in which fragrance to gift: Places, Passions and Possessions. With some mind mapping and notes jotted down aide memoire style as I head to the fragrance counters, I go with a sense of clarity about what I am looking for. Let me explain:
1. Perfumed Places
List down all the places you can think of that your mother would associate with happiness. These may be cities of her student days, where she married or met a beau, from where she originated, or places she holidays in still. Place is often the muse for perfumers, and rightly so. They are redolent with sensuous experiences, sights and sounds, all of which can be translated into scent. My mother loved the time she spent in New York in the late ’50s. She never managed to return, but it would have been a period of her life she’d have loved to recall in scent and therefore in spirit.
Once you’ve a list of potential places, you will need to further your mind mapping exercise and jot down adjectives that speak volumes about the place. From these keywords, you will begin to profile a scent. This is not so very far removed from what a bespoke perfumer would ask of a client when devising a creative brief to work from. I wish you to convey the key elements of that happy place matching them with potential notes. Don’t please look at a perfume’s name. You don’t need to take things that literally. It may well be that a scent named, for example ‘Paris’ will be perfect, but not always. That particular ‘Paris’ will be the commercial perfumer’s take on the city and it may not tally with the way your mother loves it.
2. Perfumed Passions
I have a million creative passions I’d explore if I had more lives to live! Our mothers will have too. While they were working and bringing us up, juggling the day to day, they will have had the occasional moment to indulge in a passion. Mine loved to garden, and also learn languages. She was a Francophile and adored collecting antique French linens. I could translate these loves into scent, choosing a perfume echoing the aromas of a French garden. Try to work out what indulgences or passions your mother has, and how you could map these in notes and bring them to life in scent.
3. Perfumed Possessions
A glance at what your mother collects, loves to use, has by her bed or buys a lot of can give surprising insights into what scent to choose. Think about what she spends her money on, and I don’t mean the regular food shop. If silk scarves or shoes are her thing, take a look at their style. What period do they recall? What texture and tastes can you discern? Red shoes and plain dark 80% cocoa solid chocolate will have a scent counterpart – sexy or gourmand, perhaps!
I hope you’ve found this little scent mapping exercise helpful. It works of course as well for anyone you choose to gift fragrance.
A last word of advice: do push the boundaries and choose something your recipient wouldn’t have thought of; and don’t equate the price of the fragrance to a great gift.
The greatest gift of all is spending time with your mother. A perfect mother’s day perfume is not a panacea for missing loved ones.
On that note, I’ll wish you and yours a buona Festa della Mamma this weekend and each time you meet.
You might also like this post with other fragrance buying tips.