Sunday, October 20, 2013

Finding My Scents Again - Divorce, Corporate Takeover, and How an Indie Perfume Company Helped My Heart Continue to Heal

Today's post will be a bit personal and a bit long, but I hope you'll stick it out with me.  It is a topic that for me is very emotional and has taken a long time for me to write about.  You see, this is not just a post about perfume.  For me and for many women, perfume is never just about the liquid in the bottle and what they'll choose to smell like on any given day.  Perfume is emotion.  It's memories.  And, for some of us, it is part of our identity.

Many scientific studies have proven that of all of our five senses, smell is the one the most closely tied to memories and emotion.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved perfumes.  In my childhood home, my bedroom was across the hall from my mother's bathroom, and I remember the delicate "clink" of her perfume bottles against her mirrored vanity tray every morning.  I could tell which one she used by the sound that the bottle made when she put it back on the tray, even before the smells of Tiffany, Ombre Rose, or Ysatis wafted into my room.


 According to my mother (who today wears Chantecaille's sweet and beautiful Frangipane perfume), I would circle the fragrance counters at Rich's and Lord & Taylor when I was little, smelling every new bottle as soon as I was tall enough to see over the shiny glass cases (with her supervision, of course...if you know Paula, you know that she has zero tolerance for badly behaved children in public).  I could tell my mother what was new, what was popular, and exactly what I would like for birthdays and holidays (I'm quite sure I was the only girl in my class who asked her parents for Chanel No. 19).  When I was seven, someone (a great aunt? a neighbor?) gave me a small bottle of Christian Dior Diorissimo, and this was my first "big girl" perfume.  I remember feeling SO grown up, so chic, and so elegant every time I took off the black and white houndstooth cap and dabbed it on my wrists and behind my ears.  My mom eventually caved by the time I was 10 or 11 and I was spritzing on her perfume each day before I went to school. Every time she bought herself something new, she got me a small bottle, too.  By the time I reached high school, I had a full vanity tray of perfumes as well - Jessica McClintock, Alfred Sung, Prescriptives Calyx, and Guerlain Samsara to name a few.





Fast forward to adulthood.  It was here where I discovered, with great sadness, that no matter how attached I was to my favorite perfumes, there was one thing that could ruin my scents for me forever - a broken heart.  The first "true love" I ever had bought me a bottle of Issay Miyake.
Upon our breakup, I gave the bottle to my best friend Amanda.  Big mistake.  We met to go to the movies one day not soon after, and she was wearing her new hand-me-down perfume.  When she walked up to me and I smelled it on her, I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion, tears welling up in my eyes.  This rush of broken-heart-sadness was so bad that I had to turn around, leave the mall, and go back home.

Fast forward several years later to my wedding day.  After having worked for Chanel for a year, I had fallen in love with Chanel No. 5 Elixir Sensuel.


This beautiful, almost liquid-gel fragrance comes in a heavy glass bottle with an "old school" stopper, and it is a softer, much more wearable version (in my opinion) of Chanel's most famous but sometimes overpowering scent.  This marriage has since ended, and I rarely look at any of the photos from that day.  However, one of my favorite pictures from that day was one of me in the bridal suite of my church, dressed in my beautiful gown with Amanda behind me doing some last minute adjustments to my hair (and by then that Issay Miyake was just a distant memory for both of us), and me touching the stopper to my neck just before I walked down the aisle.  Later in my marriage, among the 547 other crappy things my ex-husband did, he gave a bottle of this perfume to someone else.  His ex-wife.  Yes, you read that right.  Goodbye, Chanel No. 5.

Now...rewind a few years.  Before I married and when I first moved to Ecuador in 2005, I discovered Philosophy's Amazing Grace.
This gorgeous, soft, clean scent composed of floral, citrus, and soft musk notes was pure happiness in a bottle for me.  While not particularly strong, on me it drew compliments everywhere I went if I layered it with its matching body lotion.  And for me, it was one of those scents that made me feel uplifted, feminine, and like every day was as new and fresh and full of beauty as the fragrance itself was.  I wore it before I met and dated my ex-husband and throughout our marriage.  When my marriage ended, though, I sold, threw out, or gave away so many things - the beautiful monogrammed towels, fabulous Crate & Barrel place settings and flatware, our gorgeous sofa, my hope for our future together, and my dream of starting my own family. All of it.  Gone.  With one exception.  I decided that I would be DAMNED if he was going to take my favorite perfume.

So, life went on and I continued to buy and wear my beloved Amazing Grace.  I even returned to Ecuador to work at my former school, carrying not one but TWO bottles of my fragrance plus a huge bottle of the body lotion.  Did it remind me of my former life?  Yes, absolutely.  But, this perfume came to represent so much more to me than just being my signature scent.  It was my dignity.  It was my former self.  It was the part of me that was just fine before I met and married him, and the part of me that was going to be just fine without him.  That perfume was, literally and emotionally, my Amazing Grace.
The view from my patio where I lived in beautiful Quito, Ecuador, which sits in a "bowl" amidst the majestic Andes mountains.
Fast forward with me one more time to last July, when I returned to the U.S. again after another two years of living and working in Ecuador.  As soon as I could unpack my suitcases, I headed to Sephora and purchased a replacement bottle of Amazing Grace.  I took it out of its package right when I got in the car and immediately spritzed some on.  Within 30 minutes, though, I could smell nothing.  NOTHING.  I tried it again the next day, this time layering it with the body lotion.  This gave me maybe 30 more mintues of longevity.  But after an hour, nada.  Wondering if the formula had changed, I sat down and searched various phrases online..."Philosophy Amazing Grace changed," "Philosophy Amazing Grace watered down," etc.  And to my horror, I found this post and several others like it on various beauty and fragrance message boards.  It seems devout Amazing Grace users like me were complaining across the board that their latest AG purchases were totally watered down and now had zero longevity.  And then, I found this article and several others like it, confirming what I had feared.  Philosophy was being bought out by a bigger corporation - Coty.  In the world of cosmetics and fragrance, corporate buyouts almost always = changed and often inferior formulas.  My Amazing Grace, which had been a saving grace, was now a weak, wimpy, watery version of its original, beautiful self.  I was heartbroken. 

But, God bless the internet. I also found on some of those same fragrance message boards that many devout AG wearers were searching for a good dupe or replacement.  I had NEVER been one to even ponder using any sort of "imitation" fragrance, and the very thought bought back memories of this:
However, to my surprise, there were MANY independent and mostly female-owned and operated perfume and bath and body product companies that were being raved about, and all of them seemed to have one version or another of Amazing Grace.  Most of these companies offered fairly inexpensive eau de parfums, eau de toilettes, and perfume oils and also offered all of the matching body lotions, scrubs, and potions to go along with their dupes of not only Amazing Grace but also multitudes of other famous scents and even their own original scents.  One name that kept popping up over and over, though, was Pittsburgh Street Soapworks.
 So, with a little bit of fear but a whole lot of hope that someone had created a scent to replace my now pathetic, Coty-fied reformulation of Amazing Grace, I held my breath and placed an order for several products in their one Amazing Grace-type scent, which is called Divine Bliss.  A few days later the box arrived, and I immediately ripped it open and spritzed on my new fragrance.  And, to my surprise....it was BEAUTIFUL.  A 100% dupe?  Nope.  But pretty darn close?  Absolutely.  It was fresh, clean, soft, and just as uplifting as my former perfume, and even better, about 1/5 of the price.  And what was better - they made every possible form of all of their scents, which meant I could layer the lotion, perfume oil, eau de parfum spray in the morning (and even spray my sheets with Divine Bliss linen spray!), carry Divine Bliss solid perfume in my purse, and bathe and exfoliate myself into Divine Bliss heaven with the shower gel and body scrub.  All for about the price of ONE bottle of Philosophy's Amazing Grace eau de parfum.  Here I had thought that my Amazing Grace had been lost. But now, to my pleasant surprise, a new form of grace had been found in the most unexpected source for me - an indie perfume company.  My healing heart swelled with happiness.
Since then, Pittsburgh Street Soapworks has become one of my favorite and most-recommended e-tailers.  I am never without some of their products, and I have gotten both friends and family members hooked on them.  Owner Paulette Schultz makes perfume oils, edp and cologne sprays, solid perfumes, lotions and creams, shower gels, body scrubs, diffuser oils, and wax tarts in every scent that your heart could desire.  On her site you will find an impressive list of scents that includes dupes of many famous fragrances and original PSS scents as well.

Another one of my favorite scents from this site is Paulette's dupe of the famous Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille.
I have actually never even smelled the original Serge Lutens fragrance, and, quite frankly, I don't need to.  PSS's version is DE-LISH.  It is a sultry, sophisticated "grown-up" vanilla that I love to use on its own or as a first layer underneath any of my favorite sweet or warm perfumes (Allure, Coco Mademoiselle etc.). (see how to make your own perfume tray like the one in the above photo in this post!)

Two other fabulous things about Pittsburgh Street Soapworks are that you can easily try any of their scents with their sampler packs of six 4 ml spray vials of any combination of scents, AND Paulette can add an extra "shot" of scent to a few of her products (I always request this with the body lotion), which will make your fragrance last even longer. 

So, fast forward to today.  My heart has been mended and life has gone on.  My perfume tray continues to evolve, but I also keep some of my trusty favorites on it at all time (Samsara, to name one).  The other day I was in Nordstrom at the Chanel counter, and I was tempted to smell Chanel No. 5 again, just to see if I could "handle" smelling its new and highly-touted Eau Premiere version.  But, as I picked up the bottle, a little voice in my perfume-loving-but-stronger-and-wiser heart said, "No, no, no.  Leave it in the past, big girl."  And so, with that all-too-familiar "clink" of a glass perfume bottle on a vanity tray, I put down the bottle unsniffed, and I bought myself a lip gloss instead.

So, big girls...go and by yourself a new perfume.  You and our heart deserve it. :) 

Thank you so much for reading.  Happy Sunday.

*all products mentioned were purchased by me, and this is not a sponsored post




36 comments:

  1. This is such a beautiful post - thank you for sharing a bit of your heart with us. I have never been much of a scent person, but you have made me reconsider - I think I need to find my signature.

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    1. You're welcome, and thank you as well!! Yes, ma'am...get out there and find your scent. :)

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  2. Great post! It is amazing how smells can take us back to moments and we can actually feel that way again. It makes me wish I coukd stand the smell of perfume on myself.

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    1. Thank you!! Emma...you should definitely try one of the PSS Scents! (I think you'd like the Divine Bliss) They are clean, fresh, and never overwhelming. Miss you, girl!

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  3. "It was my dignity. It was my former self. It was the part of me that was just fine before I met and married him, and the part of me that was going to be just fine without him." Well said.

    For me it has taken a while to recognize that divorce has not left me a broken half in need of another half to be okay. As much as I value unity and marriage, I'm not a half heart necklace. I was okay before my marriage and neither the marriage nor the divorce has the power to take that from me.

    I didn't know about your history with perfume but looking back 20+ years, I do recall that you wore attractive perfume. Thanks for sharing the post!

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    1. "I'm not a half heart necklace." - what perfect metaphor. Thank you so much, Matt, and glad to see that you are moving on as well. And thanks for the perfume compliment! I am sure that I doused myself in it from Day 1 of 8th grade at Tucker High School, lol.

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  4. What a wonderful post! I, too remember scents with my mother (Youth Dew amidst others) and having sold perfume for years, I loved being reminded of your favorites - mmmm, Samsara. Thanks for the great read.

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    1. Thank you, Donna. When I worked for Clinique we were next to Estee Lauder, and there were many fiercely loyal Youth Dew customers. I think this is a fragrance of many people's mothers and grandmothers. It's a classic!

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  5. Wow Lizzy!! What amazing insight. I am so proud of you. You were always one to give very sound advice, some of which I still recall today. The symbolism here is extremely encouraging. God bless your healing heart. Love you always xxx

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    1. Thank you so much, Maran!! You know who bought me that Issay Miyake, lol. :) God bless you, too, my sweet friend. Hope to come and visit you some day soon! Love you!!

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  6. Wow...Thank you so much for sharing this very personal story. I feel like I want to hug you now!! :) I went through a very nasty divorce when I was 30 (I had 3 young kids) and to this day I can't wear the scents that I wore during those rough times. Luckily time has healed my wounds, and I have new memories (and perfumes!) I haven't tried PSS, but it sounds right up my alley! xoxo Amber

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    1. You are welcome, Amber, and thank you, too! ((virtual hugs)) :) Divorce as a single woman was awful...I cannot imagine going through a divorce with small children. You are one strong woman I can tell. But, here's to new memories and new scents!! Do check out the PSS. They are all wonderful! Beauty Blogger Love, Elizabeth

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  7. As they say, life takes us to strange places where things are just beyond our control and we are not even fully responsible. I love the story of your renaissance and am rooting for you to live life and best wishes for it. A friend of mine broke out of her shell to be a more confident and outgoing woman. It also started with her new found confidence found on perfume and other choice scents.

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    1. Thank you so much, Lalaine. Life certainly has taken me strange places that I never expected to go, but I trust that they are where I need to be at any given time. :) Cheers to your friend as well, and best wishes as she discovers new paths!

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  8. I loved this post, and the chance to hear your heart! I think Divine Bliss will be one of those scents that stays in MY heart now that you introduced me to it!

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    1. Thank you, Aba. :) I am so happy that you have fallen in love with PIttsburgh Street Soapworks like I have, and that you are my awesome neighbor at school and loving friend. :)

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  9. THANK YOU SO MUCH ELIZABETH!! I am going to go check out PSS ASAP! I cried when I discoverd that not only had Amazing Grace been watered down into oblivion,but my Autumn time favorites, Cinnebar & Opium, had been destroyed as well. It's going on evidently, across the boards in most perfume companies. Very sad........

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    1. I was just reading the other day about how Opium has been altered/watered down to a subpar version of its former spicy/warm beautiful self. How heartbreaking - Opium is a classic that should not be tampered with!!

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  10. PSS has discontinued Divine Bliss...I cant believe it.

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    1. Oh no! I just checked the PSS website. This cannot be!! :( I appreciate that the owner, though, refuses to use a different oil that doesn't match the quality of the original Divine Bliss one. If her Un Bois Vanille type gets discontinued, I will go into full-fledged mourning...

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  11. It looks like she still hasn't found a replacement for divine bliss. I just wrote paulette to ask again, event thought he site still says she hasn't found one. Have you? This was my absolute favorite! I will not buy from coty since they allow animal testing in other countries.

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    1. I know...so sad about this. :( I assume that once she does find a replacement she will let her customers know immediately, as it was one of her best-sellers. For now, I have contented myself with Terra Nova Rain perfume oil (good layered under other scents and a similar citrus/floral/musk "skin scent" like AG) and another old summer favorite of mine, Bvlgari Eau Parfumee Au The Blanc. I will keep checking the PSS website, though!

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  12. I can SO relate! I have worn Tova Borgnine's original TOVA fragrance since 1992. My sons (31 & 25) have really never smelled anything else on me. A few years ago, I noticed it was not the same. I started reading on the internet that some of the ingredients used in the higher end fragrances had been banned, and can no longer be used. In my opinion, that is the reason why most of our beloved fragrances now smell like pretty much nothing. I do have a bottle of the most recent TOVA which promised to be as close as possible to the original. It's not, and since I've found PSS, it's sitting on a shelf collecting dust. I have not been disappointed with Paulette's dupe. I never tried Divine Bliss, but if she gets it back, be sure I'll try it!

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  13. Dear Elizabeth, thank you so much for the beautiful narrative that you wrote. I found it very moving. I wanted to share that I have found some lovely fragrances at The Fragrance Shop, which is located here a few hours from me in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they also have a large mail order online store. They have some very talented perfumers on staff and make perfume oils and other body products with high quality natural essences, aromatics and aromachemicals. To me their products are very high quality and they are a small family-owned company that is very personal and has wonderful customer service. For six dollars for a sample vial that will last you a long time, I think they are well worth a try. I also highly recommend their dry body oil. I have copied the link with some customer reviews here:
    http://thefragranceshop.com/amazing-grace-type-for-women/?revpage=3#reviews
    Warmest regards, and I hope you find Amazing Grace again,
    Karen

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    1. Karen - you are so welcome, and I want you to know that I finally did order from The Fragrance Shop! I purchased one of their sample vial kits (that also comes with a $30 off coupon for my next order), and I am currently trying out my new perfume oils that I bought from them. I picked their dupes of Amazing Grace (of course!) and Donna Karan Chaos and their Egyptian Musk, 24K Egyptian Musk, and Black Coconut scents. Already I can say that their oils are much more thick and "hearty" in both scent and texture than other perfume oils I have bought before, which I LOVE. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

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  14. I just came upon your post and I was excited to try Divine Bliss. Unfortunately the company no longer makes. Have you found another substitute? I am missing my Amazing Grace! Many thanks!

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    1. I have been toying around with several other fragrance oils in the last few months, and while nothing replicates my long-lost Amazing Grace, I have found some that are similar in that they do have that clean, skin-scent appeal. I love Somethin' Special fragrance oils (http://www.somethinspecial.com/default.asp OR they also have an Etsy shop), and their Amazing Grace oil is pretty good. I also love her Joe Malone Nectarine Blossom and Honey dupe, which reminds me of AG because of its fresh, pretty scent. And, I've found that layering an Egyptian Musk oil underneath my other favorite clean scents (like Bvlgari Eau Parfumee Au The Blanc and Lancome's O de L'Orangerie) gives me that same "skin-scent" fragrance. I have been using one from Nemat (I have several of their oils, actually...Amber, Sandalwood, Vanilla Musk as well, and they are DIVINE on their own or under my favorite winter scents like Chanel Allure) and a new Egyptian Musk oil I've found and like is from Fragrant Body Oilz (http://www.fragrantbodyoilz.com/index.php/en/). Hope that this helps! :)

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  15. I am happy to find this very useful for me, as it contains lot of information.It's about the perfume related blog. This blog help me to buy best the perfume. I always prefer to read the quality content.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! I will do an updated Fall/Winter scents post soon. :)

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  16. I will never give up my search for the original Amazing Grace scent that I have loved for years. I don't understand how Philosophy/Cristina/Coty could destroy something so beautiful and then lie about it. I will keep checking to see if you found THE ONE.

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    1. Thank you, Grace Girl, and I will keep you posted!!

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  17. I'm going to trust your opinion and order this. I have been grieving over the change in Amazing Grace. I can totally relate to what you are saying. For years I didn't wear perfume because it gave me a headache. Then I discovered Amazing Grace. I received weekly compliments on the way I smelled. I can't imagine why they would change something that was so perfect to so many people!

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    1. Cathy - sad news...Pittsburgh Street Soapworks discontinued their Divine Bliss, unfortunately. :( The closest other dupe I have found since then is from Somethin' Special, which has their own website plus an Etsy shop. I sure wish Philosophy (well....Coty, inc.) would pay attention to the bajillion message board and blog posts lamenting their watering down this gorgeous fragrance!! If I find any other good substitutes, I'll be sure to post an update. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  18. Came across your blog, today I found an old, never opened, tiny sample bottles of amazing grace body wash and lotion in my old gym bag stuff. . Heaven! My husband said " you smell so good!" I told him to enjoy it because I only have a couple of showers worth left. Really, really miss my AG! Was so excited to see your divine bliss comment and then so disappointed to see they don't have it anymore. Thanks for your blog, nice to know others are so sad and disappointed about our signature scent that we can no longer have.

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  19. This makes me sad. I mostly stopped wearing fragrance when my parents were diagnosed with COPD, but AG was my go to fragrance when I could wear fragrance. I have an old bottle of AG that it appears I need to ration carefully!

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  20. I'm sorry to hear about your Parents and hope they are doing better. I was an Amazing Grace fan for over two decades. Now sadly Coty has cheapened and destroyed one of the best scents ever. I am searching for a product that is closest to Amazing Grace. Do you have a suggestion? Perhaps a company that can make it? I am desperate and will pay anything! The new Amazing Grace smells terrible. Shame on Coty to have such a wonderful product and ruin it for all of us who love Amazing Grace.

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