The Manic Pixie Dream Girl Holiday Perfume Gift Guide

I really liked occasionally-feminist-website Jezebel’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl holiday gift guide, and I wanted to do a perfume-themed guide of my own. Here’s the traditional definition of a MPDG, courtesy of TV Tropes: “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is there to give new meaning to the male hero’s life. She’s stunningly attractive, high on life, full of wacky quirks and idiosyncrasies (generally including childlike playfulness and a tendency towards petty crime), often with a touch of wild hair dye.”

Classic MPDGs include Natalie Portman in Garden State, Zooey Deschanel in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (you totally thought I was going to say 500 Days of Summer), and Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, the role for which the term was coined. Two movies that beautifully deconstruct the MPDG trope are The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Ruby Sparks.

MPDGs are generally frowned upon by feminists because of that whole “new meaning to the male hero’s life” part. If we go by this definition, being a MPDG would indeed seem unrealistic and undesirable. Who wants to be a man’s plot device? But I maintain that there are 3D MPDGs (and MPDGuys); strange, exciting people who enhance all of our lives, not just the shiftless male protagonists among us. My best friend, a beautiful, brilliant artist with wild, red-streaked hair and a collection of colorful tights shoplifted from American Apparel, happens to be one. Her cheerful boldness has been making me braver since the day we met 12 years ago.

She doesn’t need this gift guide (I just got her a bottle of Lolita Lempicka, the most charming fragrance I know), but what about the rest of the MPDGs? You can’t just get a MPDG the new Demi Lovato perfume and call it a day. (Please note that as of press time, Demi Lovato does not actually have a perfume yet, but I assume that she will by the time I press “publish”.) I am pleased to present a list of the most unusual, unexpected perfume presents for the MPDG(s) in your life to gleefully unwrap.

TokyoMilk Garden State Mix n’ Match Parfum Set

A little too on-the-nose? Probably. Still hilarious? Absolutely. Contains 6 ml each of three different scents: Patchouli & Tundra Moss, White Sage & Lemongrass, and Turned Earth & Cedar. $18 at TokyoMilk.

ZOMG Smells Marmalade Tabby

Orange cats are a MPDG tradition dating back to Holly Golightley’s long-suffering Cat. (HOLLY WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU CAN’T JUST THROW CATS OUT OF TAXIS) Marmalade Tabby appropriately smells of orange things: “sweet orange, peach, [and] fuzzy musk.” $15 at ZOMG Smells.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Wanderlust Scents

BPAL’s alarmingly extensive Wanderlust collection will have the perfect scent to accompany your favorite MPDG on her epic journey of self-discovery, whether the wind leads her to Prague, Morocco, or Machu Picchu. $17.50 at BPALPhoto courtesy of Temptalia.

Etat Libre d’Orange Tilda Swinton Like This

Everybody loves Tilda Swinton, but MPDGs really love Tilda Swinton. With its overdose of pumpkin and immortelle, SWINTON’s namesake fragrance is as unusual as her movies and love life. $99 at Luckyscent.

Byredo Gypsy Water

Free-spirited, commitment-phobic MPDGs feel a great deal of kinship with (a highly romanticized version of) the gypsy. I like to pretend that Byredo named this perfume for Crystal Waters’ Gypsy Woman. $145 at Byredo.

Histoires de Parfums 1828 Jules Vernes

Jezebel’s MPDG gift guide recommends “a beautiful antique book would make any MPDG chirp with delight”. Why not get them a literary perfume to go with it? Vernes’ fantastical novels dovetail so nicely with the MPDG’s cravings for adventure and whimsy. While you’re at it, get her the Kate Beaton Jules Verne/Edgar Allen Poe Bros shirt, too. $125 at Histoires de Parfums.

Guerlain Après l’Ondée

The MPDG is at her MPDG-iest when dancing in the rain, rekindling your sense of joy and wonder at the world. There could be no more appropriate perfume to round out this list than the graceful Après l’Ondée (French for “after the rain”). $108 at Bergdorf Goodman (in-store only).

Lubin Gin Fizz

Do MPDGs like gin? I don’t know. I like gin, and that’s what’s important. This is a really long post, y’all. Oh, wait, I remember the connection now- MPDGs love vintage dresses, so why not vintage perfumes? This Gin Fizz is a reproduction of the original Gin Fizz, created in 1955 to honor Grace Kelly. $120 at Luckyscent.

What other MPDG-worthy perfumes would you add to this list? Please share them with us in the comments!

How To Buy Someone Perfume For Valentine’s Day

This morning, I received a desperate text from my long-distance best friend that read “[My boyfriend] says he’s going to buy me perfume for V-day. I need ideas!” Well, Scents of Self to the rescue, y’all. When you have finished reading this article, you will be a veritable master of Valentine’s Day perfume presents. Please try not to abuse this awesome power.

Step 1: Get a sense of your intended gift recipient’s tastes.

What perfumes has he or she worn in the past? Are there any connections or common themes between these fragrances? Perhaps your IGR has never worn perfume. In this case, we’ll have to start with the basics. What are his or her favorite smells? If he or she mentions naturalistic smells such as “fresh-mowed grass” or “the smell of the ocean”, you’re probably going to be looking at light, clean fragrances. If he or she says “a bouquet of [insert favorite flower here]”, we’re talking florals. If he or she salivates over “fresh-baked brownies”, you’ll do well to focus on gourmand fragrances. The website Basenotes provides a helpful basic guide to the different types of fragrances, with examples of each type.

Be sure to also take note of what kind of things your IGR enjoys outside of fragrance. Is he or she a label-lover who has never stepped a Manolo-clad foot inside a Walmart? You’re probably best off sticking to the big names, such as Chanel, Dior, or Prada. If, instead, your IGR is a tree-hugging hippie with a carbon footprint in the negative numbers, he or she might be happiest with a gift from natural or organic perfume lines. If you’re buying for a hipster who delights in the obscure, your best bet is a niche brand that only 5 people in the world have ever heard of.

From here, you have two options.

Step 2A: Take your IGR shopping with you and allow them to pick out a perfume for you to buy. I consider this the less romantic option.

Step 2B: Present your intended gift recipient with a collection of 5-10 samples which, based on the information you gathered in Step 1, you think he or she will like.

Giving your IGR five to ten choices greatly increases the chance that he or she will like at least one of them. DO NOT JUST BUY YOUR IGR ONE PERFUME. This has a much lower rate of success, and is quite likely to be returned. How will you get these samples? You have two choices: in person at stores, or online. I highly recommend the online option, but if you are short on time, here are some rules for in-store interactions. First, do not talk to the salespeople. For more information, please refer to this post. Your own nose will tell you whether what you are smelling is a floral or a candy-sweet gourmand. Do not talk to them until you are already sure of which fragrances you would like to have samples made of, and are ready to ask them to make or find those samples.

Here are the stores who will make you a sample of anything in the store: Nordstrom, Sephora, bluemercury, Lush. Here are the stores who will give you pre-made manufacturer’s samples if they have them and if you ask nicely: Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s New York, Macy’s (if you ask VERY nicely). Here are the stores who will not give you samples under any circumstances unless you have already purchased something, and maybe not even then: Neiman Marcus and virtually everywhere else. Feel free to add to this list in the comments, y’all.

If you are instead ordering your samples online, the process is significantly easier. There are three main websites from which to order samples: LuckyScent, The Perfumed Court, and The Posh Peasant. Each has their own advantages. LuckyScent is probably the best choice for beginners. It has the fastest delivery, and its website groups fragrances into many helpful categories based on fragrance family or specific notes. Each sample costs between $3-$5. The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasant, however, offer a greater selection of vintage or discontinued fragrances. Many smaller perfume houses, such as Ineke or Andy Tauer, offer sample packs on their own websites. The samples will not come wrapped in anything more glamorous than bubble wrap, so make sure you have your own pretty wrapping supplies on hand.

Step 3: Observe your IGR’s reactions to the samples. Act accordingly.

Most likely, your IGR will have a clear favorite. Hooray! Buy that one! If your IGR does not like any of the choices, you can resort to Step 2A, start over at Step 2B, or give up entirely. Frankly, I would give up entirely. Some people are more into the idea of receiving perfume for Valentine’s Day than the actual perfume. Buy them a nice book or a coffee machine instead. Take comfort in the fact that you have at least learned not to talk to perfume salespeople.