Pandemic Perfume Diaries (Week 19)

Chanel Cristalle, 1979

I realize that I spend a lot of time wearing and writing about niche and independent fragrance. Like everyone else, though, I cut my fragophile teeth at department store perfume counters and Sephora, so I still make a habit of sniffing mainstream launches when I can. Since I haven’t been to a department store or Sephora since early March, last week I decided to wear a few big-brand perfumes just for the heck of it.

Chanel No. 5 L’Eau

I don’t love every Chanel fragrance, not by a long shot—I don’t enjoy any of the Chances or the Cocos or even all the Exclusifs. But I’m a diehard No. 5 woman (all concentrations!) and my bottle of No. 5 L’Eau gets plenty of use, especially when I’m giving a presentation or a tour and I want to wear something that gives me a little emotional lift. It smells old-meets-new, sophisticated but subtle.

Angela reviewed it on Now Smell This.

Versace Bright Crystal

I also pulled out a few Sephora samples this week, just to refresh my memory or try something for the first time.

I remember liking Bright Crystal when I tried it more than a decade ago. Either it’s changed, or I’ve changed, or I was in a weird mood that day—because I remember it being an icy-sheer rose-violet blend (like Costume National Scent Gloss, R.I.P.) but this is a generic fruity-floral mess. At least it doesn’t last long on my skin.

Prada La Femme

Another Sephora sample!

Robin at NST described La Femme as a “feather-soft, warmish floriental — not, to me, a grand floral, or even a white floral, but a soft, seasonless floral with a slightly creamy, almost-but-not-quite beachy character.” I agree with her, and I think I liked it a bit more than she did. 

You can read her whole Now Smell This review here.

Dolce & Gabbana Dolce Garden

I own a mini of Dolce Garden, probably a Sephora Beauty Insider “reward” that I kept because I do like the Dolce bottle design (inspired by flower-shaped marzipan confectionary). I’m not sure where the “garden” is here—this is a soft vanilla-coconut scent. Inoffensive, but nothing special.

In 2018 I reviewed another Dolce flanker, Dolce Rose Excelsa, and I wasn’t impressed by that one, either. (See here.)

You can read a description of Dolce Garden here, on NST.

Thierry Mugler Angel Muse

One more Sephora sample that I’ve been using bit by bit.

I own a travel spray of the original Angel, which is probably all I’ll ever need—I can’t actually wear it, although I do like sniffing it and I use in in my classes from time to time. Angel Muse smells like Angel’s less melodramatic younger sibling, but it’s still pretty rich and should probably still be avoided in the middle of summer, eek! Still, I wouldn’t mind owning a small bottle someday.

Robin reviewed it for NST, here.

Have you been wearing any mainstream favorites lately?


  1. The Chanels I have are No. 5 and Cristalle so the top ad made me smile. Thoughts of Cristalle made me free associate to Clinique Wrappings. So, I applied some of my Wrappings body lotion (which I use way more than the actual perfume) after my afternoon bath. It made me wonder: what category is something like Wrappings? Clinique is a pretty darn mainstream department store brand, but I hesitate to classify Wrappings as such. Of course, Estee Lauder has used the Clinique brand as the island for misfit toy perfumes, which creates possibly anomalous situations for general rules of classification. I wish my body chemistry didn’t do wrong things with Aromatics Elixir and Calyx, which reside on the shelves by frickin’ Happy (if that’s happy, make me something called Melancholy). Are there any other mainstream brands that are secretly safe houses for wonderful weirdo perfume orphans?


    • I bet there are! I like some of the lesser-known Lauders (Aliage!) and there are probably some good Lancome lurkers too, once you get past La Vie Est Belle and the other biggies… and I still cherish the little bottle of Smoky Poppy (now discontinued) I picked up at The Body Shop!


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