The Sexy Spectrum

I sweat Tyra Banks. The woman is clearly crazier than a Pan’s Labyrinth deleted scene, but she’s also extremely sharp (not to mention a terrific model, when she shuts up about “smizing” for long enough to take a picture). When Tyra talks, I listen. The other day I was watching the tragic America’s Next Top Model episode in which my all-time favorite contestant, Sheena, was eliminated. Despite being an absolutely stunning Japanese-Korean model, poor Sheena and her breast implants had a tendency to “hoochify” her photos. In this episode, Tyra tried to impress the concept of a more subtle sexy on Sheena: “You don’t need to stick ’em out. You don’t have to hoochify yourself to be beautiful.”

Unfortunately, Sheena’s hooch could not be controlled. Much like a shark, Sheena must hooch to live.

Now, let me get my feminism on real quick and say that this blog is not anti-hoochie. Nobody needs to be subtly sexy. All women should be able to dress however they way to. Dressing provocatively doesn’t make you slutty or stupid, and dressing conservatively definitely doesn’t make you smart. Anyone who dismisses you based on the length of your skirt is not worth a moment’s thought, and I assure you that Tyra would have some choice words for them. Both subtle sexy and hoochie sexy are equally valid choices, and both (as we will see!) are equally fun to explore through perfume.

Most of us don’t spend much time on either extreme end of the sexy spectrum when it comes to our fashion choices. Our skirts probably don’t vary more than a few inches in either direction. But through perfume, we can easily traverse the entire sexy rainbow, from the most subtly sexy scents to the most gloriously hoochified. So today, we’re taking on the sexy spectrum with a list of ten perfumes that range from discreetly sensual to couldn’t-miss-it-if-you-tried sexual. Please share your favorite subtle sexy and hooch sexy perfumes with us in the comments!

Subtle Sexy

“Subtle sexy” is the surprisingly tricky balance of appearing alluring without relying on the cliches of female sexuality (cleavage, Marilyn Monroe makeup, duckface, bikini-clad car washes, etc.) How does this concept translate to perfume? Subtly sexy perfumes are those that manage to evoke sensuality without containing the more traditionally sexy perfume notes, such as tuberose, vanilla, and musk.

1) Etat Libre d’Orange Tilda Swinton Like This. Look, I don’t particularly like Like This. It’s not my kind of perfume, and you’ll never catch me wearing it. But I would never deny that Like This is a perfect example of a subtly sexy fragrance. It conveys warmth using unexpected notes of pumpkin and immortelle rather than the standard vanilla. It’s not remotely sexual, yet it’s terribly sensual. Much like Ms. Swinton herself, Like This has an unconventional magnetism.

2) L’Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine. Although I certainly fantasize about peanut butter cookies often enough, I suspect that most people do not find their aroma particularly sexy. And yet here we have Bois Farine, inarguably the sexiest perfume that smells like peanut butter. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena somehow managed to render this perfume delicately sweet and warm using nothing but cedar, sandalwood, and the flour-y farine flower.

3) Bulgari Black. What could possibly be sexy about rubber, leather, and black tea? Black represents a darker kind of attraction. Think The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth is not supposed to be sexy. Her every aesthetic choice, from the black hair to the piercings, is intended to repel men. But much like Black, the strangeness of her beauty draws us in.

4) Hermes Eau des Merveilles. Another perfume that manages warmth without sweetness. There’s nothing sexual about this rich combination of bitter orange and amber, but that won’t stop you from wanting to cuddle with it in front of the fireplace.

5) Chanel No. 5. No. 5 is not the scandalously sexual perfume that Marilyn Monroe’s breathy endorsement might lead one to believe. No. 5 is too refined to giggle, wiggle, or flip her hair. No. 5 does not do duckface. No. 5 is not a Marilyn. It’s really more of a Lauren Bacall, with all of the haughty, unapproachable allure that entails.

Hoochie Sexy

The word “hoochie” refers to a brazen, over-the-top sexuality. Too much skin! Too much hair! Too much makeup! Hoochie perfumes honor this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to sex appeal with unabashedly sexy notes: jasmine, vanilla, gardenia, musk. Hoochie perfumes go straight to business, and that business is seduction. Like stilettos, a tight dress, and flashy red lipstick, a hoochie perfume sends a potent message: you’re ready and willing.

1) Monyette Paris. The irresistibly appealing Monyette Paris is much more than just another luscious gardenia perfume. It raises the seduction stakes with a sweet incense note that snakes its way through the fragrance.

2) Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. This is another perfume that I am personally not crazy about. But it undeniably belongs on this list, because no other perfume says “I demand male attention” quite so loudly. Please note that this shrill, sweet floral is unlikely to charm anyone much over the age of 25, but it works like a goddamn charm on everyone else.

3) Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison. Subtlety be damned! This distinctly indiscreet blend of jasmine and vanilla is unmatched in raw seductiveness. I’ve never really liked jasmine notes, and definitely never thought of them as sexy until I smelled Hypnotic Poison. This perfume gets the jasmine:vanilla ratio exactly right, to dazzling effect.

4) Montale Chocolate Greedy. Why bother with abstract gourmand scents when you can literally smell like chocolate-covered oranges? If you put stock in the old adage that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, Chocolate Greedy will be your weapon of choice. Wearing Chocolate Greedy is like holding a giant sign that says “Eat Me”.

5) Parfumerie Generale Felanilla. Guerlain’s Shalimar used to be universally considered one of the most seductive perfumes in the world. Thanks to a few too many reformulations, everything but the parfum is now a hot mess. But before you start mourning, take heart: Shalimar’s former glory has been preserved in Felanilla. The spices, that dark, animalic drydown- it’s all here (except for the bergamot, which was always my least favorite part of Shalimar anyway).

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32 thoughts on “The Sexy Spectrum

  1. I’m going to answer according to what works on MY skin, since so many of the va-va-va-vooms like tuberose just don’t work on me. Subtle sexy would be Ormonde Woman. When I wear this there’s a bit of swagger to my walk, “That’s right, I smell damn good.” Half-way to coochie-dom is Cuir Ottoman because….. just mmmm. And full-on sex-aaaay is my Black Cashmere, a scented message to The Engineer that says, “Shut up and get over here.”

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with all of your choices, except for the Black Cashmere- and that is only because I was too late to ever smell it 😦

      1. It’s back, Ari. Slightly reformulated (some people find it more wearable in its new iteration) and still absolutely amazing. If you can wear woods, incense and spice, I’d highly recommend searching it out.

        1. What great news! I’ll try to hunt it down. I’ve never seen ANY of the Donna Karan perfumes in person, so this will be quite a quest.

  2. I like your distinction about “hoochification” – it’s not just sexy, right? It’s sexy in the Pamela Anderson kind of way. What EauMG would call “trashy” but in the nicest possible way, I think.
    I’m going to think about what I’d include on this list. Subtle-sexy to me would be elegant, tailored or structured, aesthetically pleasing, confident, and feminine. Hoochie-sexy would be blowsy, joyfully excessive, stereotype-sexy, calling attention to a sort of tits-and-ass factor. Is that about right?

    1. You have hit on it exactly! Hoochie, to me, is “sexy” taken to the point where it’s almost a joke. Big boobs are sexy? Well, I’m gonna have the BIGGEST! Big lips are sexy? I’m gonna have the BIGGEST! It’s somewhere between Pam and Dolly Parton. Sometimes the hooch is in on the joke (Dolly) and sometimes she’s not (Pam).

      1. Oh, I think Pam’s in on the joke. She refers to herself as a female drag queen; she knows she’s “putting it on”.

        Somehow, I ADMIRE hoochie. It’s a hellacious amount of WORK, for one thing.

        1. Oh, it’s totally admirable! Hooch is FUN, dammit, way more fun than spending hours making sure that your hair and makeup look effortlessly, flawlessly natural.

  3. I do not think I associate perfumes with sexy-ness of any kind: I just do not think most men process them as such. Take the nicest and the calmest summer scent and bathe in it before the date/party and you will be wild sexy for the man who’s interested in you. Dab a breath of Carnal Flower or Fracas behind your ear and you’ll be the classiest lady at the official tea party with the Queen. Context and sillage define everything much clearer than a perfume’s formula, notes, etc. That’s how I see it.

    1. This is very true! It is the setting that creates associations with perfumes (like with Mals’ stories about how her husband loves light florals because she wore a B&BW scent on their honeymoon).

  4. Great post! I’m going out tonight for a girls dinner and then who knows, and you’ve just convinced me that Coco Mademoiselle is the SOTE, as it is perfect for the somewhat hoochie/’girl-hot’ outfits a ladies night out requires. I don’t think I’ve worn it in a year.

    I would add Hot Couture to the hoochie list for sure, something about its raspberry/cream mélange screams “my underthings are hot pink.”

      1. It didn’t end up happening, went to a bbq instead. Obviously CM was no longer appropriate and I wore the more laid back Eden in its place.

  5. Okay, so apparently I smell hoochified a LOT of the time… you know me and my intense tuberose love. And my love for vintage Emeraude and Shalimar Light, which are both very like Felanilla, if you ask me. And I don’t necessarily wear it for this reason, but I know that The CEO will follow me around if I’m wearing a big ol’ white floral like Amoureuse or Voile de Fleur or (this is the big shocker), POISON. Yes, Poison. I KNOW, right? He loves the stuff.

    And I do admit that *I* find musk pretty sexy. Why else would I have bought my husband a bottle of Gres Cabaret, the girly version, and decanted it into a plain bottle so HE could wear it? Yowza. And why else would I be slavering over Citizen Queen?

    OTOH, I wear a lot of green florals and aldehydic florals, which don’t register too far on the Sexy Scale.

    1. We got a genuine hooch on our hands, folks! I had a chance to try Shalimar Light for the first time while visiting the Unseen Censer this weekend. It was really, really lovely- can’t understand why they discontinued it. So much nicer than Shalimar Parfum Initial.

      1. Mals and I have very similar taste in perfume – she was responsible for me acquiring a bottle of Mary Greenwell Plum unsniffed. 🙂 So I guess she’s as hoochie as I am (or I’m as hoochie as she is?) I don’t think we’re all that hoochie. I personally don’t own any pink thongs.

        Also: massive love for Shalimar Light. Also Poison.

        1. I don’t either, thanks to Zelda. It turns out that thongs are natural cat toys. Or maybe Zelda just disapproved of my hoochie ways.

  6. Well, I’ve never thought of myself as a hoochie mama, but I have quite a few ‘fumes that I consider hoochie-sexy: Bandit, Fracas, Habanita, Mariella Burani, Paco Rabanne La Nuit (rrrROWRrrrrr), Rochas Femme (hubba hubba), and Poison. In the subtle-sexy category would be Shalimar (reform or no, still like it), Emeraude, Montaigne, Anais Anais, Neil Morris’ Scrumptious, and Chanel No. 22.

    1. Y’all, I met Patty at Sniffa and I can confirm that she is not a hoochie mama! Do you really consider Shalimar subtle-sexy, Patty?? I think of it as being majorly on the prowl!

        1. She was! This is not Patty of Perfume Posse, however. This Patty is a very tall lady and was wearing purple.

      1. Hmm, maybe it all depends on your attitude when you wear it! 😉 I think of Shalimar as smoldering-sexy, rather than in-your-face sexy.

  7. I was going to put Bandit and Mitsouko in my “subtle sexy” category, but I see that Bandit is considered more hoochie! And to think I thought I hardly ever wore any hoochie scents (I wear Bandit almost every other day).
    Of the scents in my collection I would place MFK Lumiere Noire, Portrait of a Lady although they’re rose-patchouli scents in the hoochie category. And Rubj!

    1. Sorry, lady- Bandit is most definitely hoochie! I can see Mitsouko going either way. (Or going straight to man-repellant, as several commenters on my Perfume Posse post suggested!)

  8. Hi there! What a lovely blog you have, and I’m so glad to have discovered it via your guest post at PP.
    Subtly sexy? Amouage Epic Woman, all the way. My Hoochie Mama frag would be Datura Noir.

    1. Thank you so much, Lala! It’s such a pleasure to have you over here!

      I know it’s really bad for a perfume blogger, but I haven’t tried a single Amouage (besides a quick sniff of the incense-y one on paper). Frankly, I’m a bit intimidated by them!

  9. Love Hypnotic Poison. I don’t think it gets much respect, just not on the current radar! I feel sexy wearing it, and that’s what counts!

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