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.”
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” 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.
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).