Fragrances to Try This Summer From The Women’s Counter

Yesterday I wrote about fragrances marketed to men that work for summer. With the recent popularity of sweet gourmands that can smell too cloying in the heat, I think it’s worth discussing some options from the women’s counter that can hold up to our intense Southern summers. And as a reminder, just because something’s marketed for one gender or another doesn’t mean it’s not for you! Marketing is just marketing. Wear what you like!


The summer limited editions of Dolce & Gabanna’s iconic Light Blue, both this year’s Escape to Panarea ($75, Belk) and last year’s Dreaming in Portofino, which I picked up recently at TJMaxx at Concord Mills, have a lot more character than the original. Where the original is all about the lemon and cedar, Escape to Panarea is richer, a pear-bergamot-white floral composition on top of a rich base of tonka bean (which smells kind of like a more resinous version of vanilla), ambergris accords, and white musk. It’s not the kind of super-light citrus thing that only works in summer, but it’s airy enough to be pleasant in the heat, while still having enough lasting power not to melt right off the skin.

pure grace

Philosophy Pure Grace ($16-46, Sephora) is one of the cleanest scents I have. It’s a beautiful soapy floral with a bit of an herbal character from the lavender in it. I know they say not to wear perfume to job interviews, but I feel so naked without that I’ll wear some Pure Grace instead. Nothing says “This heat doesn’t faze me a bit!” like smelling like you just stepped out of the shower.

iris ukiyoe

OK, so this one’s probably out of most people’s price range. I know it’s out of mine at the moment! I wouldn’t have ended up trying it at all if the people at Hermès hadn’t sent me a sample. But if you’ve got the money to spend on it, Hermes Hermessence Iris Ukiyoé (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce that last word either! $245, Hermès, at SouthPark or online) is a fantastic floral, with a citrus opening and enough iris in it to make it just a little powdery but not in the baby-powder way that Prada Infusion d’Iris is. This is understated enough that it’s perfect to wear to the office or to church, but it gives off a lovely classic vibe. I know it sounds weird to put it this way, but this scent really smells as expensive as it is. The downside of light and airy, though, is that while I get about 4-6 hours out of it, some people have noted that they can’t smell it on themselves after a couple of hours. So if fragrances don’t tend to last on you, try spraying this one on your clothes instead of on your skin.


Alberto Morillas is one of my very favorite perfumers. He’s the one who did CK One, Estee Lauder Pleasures, Lancome Miracle, etc. This one, L’eau d’Issey Florale by Issey Miyake ($74-98, Nordstrom), is one of his that I wear all the time. It’s got a little bit of mandarin orange in the opening and a little bit of something woody in the base (the official description just says “wood notes”), but more than anything, this is all about the rose and lily. In typical Issey Miyake fashion, it’s simple, elegant, and very pretty.


I am, quite possibly, the world’s biggest snob when it comes to celebrity fragrances. After having been burned by too many generic fruity florals that bored me half to death, I typically don’t even bother, so when I found out that Elizabeth and James was an Olsen twins line, I wasn’t all that interested. Then the mini rollerballs were on the Sephora Beauty Insider freebie thing. Nirvana White ($22-75, exclusively at Sephora) is soft, elegant, and unapologetically floral. It’s got some musk and some lily of the valley in it, but it’s dominated by a very realistic peony note. (Seriously, it smells JUST like the peonies my grandma grows.)

mon jasmin noir

For me, Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir ($85-107 at Macy’s if you want to buy from a department store, but you may be able to find the smaller 25ml/0.84 ounce “charm” bottle like I have in a $30 range if you shop around)  is the perfect evening fragrance for warm weather. Supposedly there are top notes of lemon and lily of the valley, but they don’t even register on my skin. The biggest note I get is jasmine, but not a fresh-from-the-bush garden jasmine. It’s a very concentrated form that is heavy on a molecule called indole, which is what gives some white florals (jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, etc) that sort of dirty character. It also has some nougat, musk, and patchouli, making it a very sexy scent on me.

Now, as I did with the ones marketed to men, I feel like I should probably touch on what doesn’t tend to work well for the summer. So here are a few you should probably let go until things cool off a bit.

  • Thierry Mugler Angel. Now, I’m not a fan of Angel on the best of days, but when it’s 90-plus degrees outside the way it’s been most of this week, anything with such a prominent patchouli note in it is probably going to smell like BO.
  • Any of the old-school “signature” fragrances, like Chanel No. 5 and all its various versions, Shalimar (except the eau de cologne and Eau de Shalimar, because they’re citrusy enough to work), Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, etc. These take a lot of presence to  pull off anyway, to wear the scent instead of having it wear you, but if you wear them in this weather, you’re going to smell like that little old lady no one wants to sit with in church because her sense of smell is nearly gone and she wears enough perfume that you can smell her from the parking lot.
  • Dior Addict. Now, some of the Addict flankers are quite nice for hot weather (I have Addict to Life, which was later rebranded as Addict Eau Sensuelle, and Addict Eau Fraiche, and I wear both in summer), but the original resinous vanilla thing has too much projection and is too heavy.
  • Bath and Body Works Cashmere Glow and other warm, snuggly vanillas. If it gives you the same feeling as curling up under a warm blanket, it’s probably best left for blanket weather.
  • Most of the Lolita Lempicka line, especially the original, now branded as Le Premier Parfum, and L de Lolita. (Elle L’Aime is a notable exception, as a bright, citrusy neroli thing.) Most of the fragrances in the line are pretty heavy on the licorice and/or spice notes, and those really do best when they’re closer to the skin. In hot weather, on me, Le Premier Parfum has a sticky plastic vibe that just seems out of place.

Don’t be afraid to switch up your scent for summer! The days of having to have one signature fragrance and never trying any other are over. Remember, if you’re not having fun with it, there’s no point.


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