It’s 7am and you’re planning your work wardrobe for the day. You pull out a sleek suit, pair of high heels, and a vivid red lipstick. Once you’re dressed, you study your appearance. You mean business – and you look like it too. After all, you know that your appearance at work makes a difference to the way you are perceived by colleagues, clients and superiors.
But had you considered that the fragrance that you spritz on to your wrists could be making the biggest statement of all?
‘Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will,’ writes Patrick Süskind, fragrance expert and author of Perfume. ‘The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally.’
World leading fragrance expert Roja Dove agrees that the scent we wear can make a huge difference to the way we are perceived, adding: ‘What I love about fragrance is that it’s capable of really truly changing you.’
Just like the clothes we pull out of the wardrobe every morning, the fragrance we choose can make a big impression – and just as we wouldn’t choose to rock up to an important business meeting wearing sports gear, the fragrance we pick to spray on our pulse points every morning needs to match the occasion.
‘Many women overlook perfume as an invisible last step in getting ready in the morning,’ says sensory psychologist Avery Gilbert, author of What the Nose Knows. ‘In reality, fragrance is a key part of your presentation of self. Your fragrance should match what you’d want your ultimate self to be.’ So the scent we choose can make a big difference to impressions in the office – but can it really make enough of an impression to secure success at a job interview or win us a promotion? The experts believe it does – but it needs to be the right scent. As Coco Chanel once said: ‘A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future’ – and when it comes to our careers, the most important thing is to find the perfect scent to guarantee a promising future in the office. We’ve taken a look at the olfactory options…
A few years ago, international organisation The Fragrance Foundation (fragrance.org) decided to put a variety of different scents to the test in an interview setting. When the results came back, it was the overwhelmingly floral, sweet and musky notes that were considered inappropriate by both male and female interviewers when worn by female candidates.
So what should we wear instead?
‘If you want to be perceived as confident, strong and wise, wear a full-bodied chypre,’ advises British perfumer Azzi Glasser. ‘Chypre scents ooze sophistication – when you walk into a room, heads will turn.’
Chypre is the name of a family of scents that are characterised by citrus top notes, a middle of labdanum, and a base derived from oak moss and musk. The scents can have notes of patchouli, leather, bergamot or amber. Put simply, chypre scents are the high heels of the fragrance world and will ensure you are taken seriously in the office.
Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum (Dh395, Paris Gallery) is a great choice. With leathery floral notes, the chypre fragrance evokes the sophistication of the fashion house’s famous leather goods. You’ll also pick up gentle hints of mown hay, fresh meadows, flowers, earth and wood. It’s a great choice for a career girl.
A slightly softer, but still office-appropriate choice is Givenchy Dahlia Noir (Dh168, Glamazle.com). Spray it on to wrists and you will pick up notes of pink pepper, mandarin, rose, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla and amber. It’s an elegant, feminine, grown-up fragrance, and will work perfectly with that killer suit and heels.
Oriental fragrances are another office-appropriate choice. Perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek (www.ruthmastenbroek.com) says: ‘They exude a powerful presence; there’s nothing apologetic about them. They create an immensely positive aura.’
And when we’re searching for that promotion, a positive aura is exactly what we need.
So how do we identify an oriental scent? The fragrances are composed of rich notes including musk, vanilla, balsam, and oak moss – and they are one of the more intense, longer-lasting fragrance groups. If it’s a bit too intense for your tastes, you can lighten things up with a floral oriental, which will be softer with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove.
Yves Saint Laurent Opium (Dh433, Sephora) is one of the best examples of this fragrance genre. To say this is an iconic fragrance is an understatement, with bottles flying off shelves since it was first launched in 1977. There’s a reason for its success, too, thanks to exotic and exciting notes of orange flower, jasmine, incense, nutmeg, amber, and operanide – and although it’s intense, it’s entirely office-appropriate when applied in small doses.
For a modern take, choose Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau de Parfum, (Dh680, wojooh.com). This standout, memorable scent blends notes of black truffle and ylang mixed with black currant and bergamot, alongside a heart of exotic lotus wood and a base of warming patchouli incense, vetiver, balsam and sandalwood. It’s a stylish scent that will get you noticed for all the right reasons.
But what if your ambitions in the office are less about impressing others and more about motivating yourself to get through the day? You need a fragrance that will boost your mood and ignite energy levels as you work towards those deadlines and targets. And the easiest way to do this? Tap into happy memories with scent.
‘A fragrance is like a cat burglar in your brain,’ says Roja Dove. ‘It has the key with which to pick the lock and unleash your memories.’
Scent psychologists agree. ‘Smell is the most direct sense,’ says Dr Charles Spence at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. ‘With all other senses, you have to process the information first. But with smell, it’s right there, changing your emotions and triggering memories. Pleasant smells lower the heart rate and reduce stress, and that in itself makes you feel better.’
Citrus fragrances are a good place to start – and Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne (from Dh300, Jo Malone) will perk up your mood in minutes with its blend of lime, peppery basil and white thyme. Designed to smell like limes on a Caribbean breeze, you will definitely be transported to happier places while drumming up the motivation for a meeting with your boss.
Talking of holidays to sun-drenched shores, Versace Eros Pour Femme (Dh379, Paris Gallery) smells like a vacation along the Mediterranean coast, with crisp, summery notes of lemon, bergamot, pomegranate, jasmine, peony and sandalwood. It manages to perfectly balance vibrant, happy citrus notes with a stylish, sophisticated base – and works very well for career girls.
However you choose to make an impression in the office through scent, there is one golden rule – it should always be used in moderation.
The Fragrance Foundation paints a picture of a ‘scent circle’ when recommending the proper amount of perfume to spray or dab. Roughly arm’s length, the scent circle should be the only place your perfume is recognisable. Think handshake length as a general rule of thumb.
Fragrance writer Lee Kynaston adds: ‘Unfortunately, knowing when to stop can be tricky because our nasal receptors become rapidly desensitised to new odours, meaning we often can’t detect the very fragrance we’ve applied.
‘As a rule, people should only be able to smell you when they step inside your own personal scent circle. If you’re worried about overdoing it, stick to what I like to call the two-sprays rule. Two squirts of any fragrance is enough for its presence to be felt without it being overpowering.’