Awhile back someone emailed us here at the blog looking for a fragrance. This happens at various times in various ways (sometimes they´re looking for a particularly shaped bottle, or they have a few memories or visual cues.) Invariably the result is pretty much the same: I have no clue. I poke around online and write back a polite, cheery email wishing them luck. This particular reader was looking for a fragrance called “Zoo” by Dolce & Gabbana. And there isn´t one, of course. But not too long after, s/he emailed me back to report that, after some research, it appeared that the D&G “By” for men (or women, it never was quite clear to me) was the long-lost love, the clue being (drumroll, please) both scents are done up in animal prints: zebra (men) and cheetah (women.)
I was a little embarrassed. I hadn´t looked at the online images closely, and I should have been able to Sherlock my way into that deduction. Then I stumbled across the “By” Woman at the weird local perfume shop (note to anyone in D.C. area: check out the boringly-named joint — Perfumania? Perfume Shoppe? — right outside the top-floor Macy´s entrance in Wheaton Plaza, which has a fun selection of offbeat stuff with testers and a very patient staff). I was sufficiently intrigued to buy a mini of the “By” Man, which is possibly discontinued (it´s much harder to find online, anyway).
I like most of the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance line. I find their eponymous D&G men´s scent very sexy. I love their women´s original D&G in the red cap as well, although its incandescent sultriness reminds me of curvy Italian goddesses (my parents were Fellini nuts, and regularly dragged us to movies like Juliet of the Spirits.) I have a bottle and I wear it maybe twice a year, and I have to dab it on very lightly or I´ll kill everyone around me with the sillage. Sicily (which has been d/c´d?) was a little too much sandalwood, but I probably should retry it now. The One (which I believe is widely available in the UK and elsewhere in Europe but not in the U.S.) is pretty enough but feels a bit like they were trying to recapture the success of Light Blue. And who can blame them?
Light Blue, which I am assuming you have smelled unless you are anosmic, or live in a yurt in Bhutan … well, you may want to sit down. I like the way Light Blue smells. I tried to hate it. Its dullsville ad campaign and mall ubiquity annoy me. It is everywhere (or at least anywhere Angel isn´t.) But it smells great, and there´s nothing I can do about it. Diva´s getting a bottle for her birthday at her request, and I can think of a lot of things I´d be less thrilled to smell on her. I have drenched myself liberally in Light Blue on several occasions, trying to trigger one of my hissy fits or petulant screeds, but instead found myself walking along eating a hot pretzel from one of those mall kiosks, humming cheerfully to myself. I´ll stop yakking about it now and move on (finally!) to By Man and By Woman.
A fragrance called “By” is a perfect illustration of the phenomenon Robin at NST, tmp00 and others have joked about: perfume designers who aren´t thinking of the google hardships when they name their fragrances. Try googling “by Dolce” to look for the fragrance and you´ll see what I mean. The notes for Woman are: clementine, bergamot, cyclamen, ginger lily, tiger lily, pittosporum, bourbon, coffee, sandalwood, cedarwood, and musk.
By Woman starts off on a spicy-citrus note (clementine and the lilies, most likely) and then rapidly moves on to the notes at the end of the above list – it is a more “masculine” smell than I expected, and even at the opening it´s a feline rather than feminine floral. The impression is something playful and sexy at the same time, like a woman dressed up in a panther costume rather than the panther itself. This is the sort of interestingly offbeat, attractively priced scent I wish were available near you, instead of the Ferragamo flankers and the entire fruity-floral army. It´s not unconventional along the lines of, say, Malle, or Serge Lutens, but it is certainly unusual; the coffee/woods drydown is extremely attractive, and I think someone smelling it at the latter stages might even place it by mistake in the men’s department. Women who like their scents less sweet might try it. If you google “Dolce By fragrance” and dig around it´s available online at various fragrance discounters.
By Man has notes of: hediones, pepper, nutmeg leaves, lavender, artemisia, sandalwood, leather, guiacwood, ambrox, amber. At first sniff it reminds me quite a bit of the gorgeous MDCI SB/1 (grapefruit, bergamot, violet leaves, white thyme, cardamom, lavender, ginger, cedarwood, vanilla and musk) now known as Invasion Barbare and carried by LuckyScent. The name Invasion Barbare doesn´t quite match up with the fragrance – instead, Invasion Barbare-SB/1 is the sort of elegant, woody fragrance that would be worn with a bespoke suit. D&G By Man, on the other hand, really cries out for one of those cornicelli nestled into some chest hair. (Those things are apparently to ward off the evil eye, and here I was thinking it was some sort of Italian horndog symbol.) By Man has SB1´s creamy, almost sweet gentle spiciness, with a more masculine leather-woods underlay. The hediones and ambrox give a particular luminous feel – as if you were smelling it on warm skin, and make it more sensual than swaggering (the men on Basenotes give it almost unanimous thumbs-up reviews but find it a lot more horndog). I like it very much, but I´m not really familiar enough yet with all the men´s fragrances out there to know what else it might remind folks of.
By Woman and By Man layer beautifully; I´d consider them both unisex. I´d love to hear opinions of anyone who´s worn these, and also – how do you feel about Light Blue or any of the rest of the Dolce line?
Giulietta degli Spiriti (1965) with sexbomb Sandra Milo and Giulietta Masina, imdb.com; Dolce images, polimaia.com.br
I got a nice big sample of “The One” and figured I’d hate it, because it said on the packaging “Oriental Floral”. I don’t know if anyone is reading this old post, but I really don’t understand what makes this scent categorized so.
I’m really enjoying wearing it, right now, in the cold winter, because it smells very warm on my skin, almost like chocolate. I suppose that’s the vanilla, but I usually hate food like smells in scents.
I’m a newbie, so if anyone would like to tell me what’s going on here, please do!
This is a weird turnaround for someone who ADORES Chanel No.19.
Julie, welcome! I get notifys from old posts (although I turn comments off occasionally if we’re getting spammed on a particular post, which sometimes happens.)
I think their classifications are, increasingly, nuts. There are a couple examples, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head, because I haven’t had enough coffee.
I think what’s going on is, you’re broadening your horizons regarding what you might like! Which is a good thing. If you read this or any perfume blog regularly, you will discover that WE are all discovering that we like something we thought we wouldn’t (or didn’t used to.)
I think D&G makes fine mainstream fragrances, and I happen to really like The One. It’s warm and comforting, and it’s got those sort of gourmand notes without being too sweet (like those candified vanillas in Sephora.) It’s more sophisticated. I say, enjoy the surprise!
Maria-just the fig-it just came and I sprayed-lovely!
I didn’t get apples at all either. I got a fresh snappiness that was quite nice. Bottle looks like crap though, but that may be the fact that the testers at Macys tend to look as if they’ve gone fifteen rounds.
this should have been a response to March. Oh well. :-w
It makes me feel soooo much better when you do that, because then I know I’m not the only one!
And I’m relieved to know you didn’t get apple either. I was beginning to wonder if I was nuts. I think “fresh snappiness” is an excellent descriptor.
I don’t get all the hatred for Light Blue either – I think it’s perfectly nice (which, of course, is the problem, I suppose.) So, I like it too, March, though I’ve also tried to be mean about it. But I like Angel, too. *sigh* /:)
Tigs — I think LB was the one Patty referred to as sort of like a cheerleader she wanted to hate, but couldn’t. That’s a pretty good description.
The Angel? Is all yours. I do like the men’s very much, though.
I have never smelled the Bys. And hate those bottles, which remind me of something else — what is it? Something by Dana? Can’t think of it.
Anyway, Light Blue is so determinedly pleasant that I don’t see how anyone could dislike it, although you can certainly get sick of it. Curious what they’ll do with the men’s version.
Well, I admit those bottles have a little Avon vibe to them … I dunno, I think they’re funny. Of course, I’m the girl who liked the Betsy Johnson bottle, too, so you can see I have no taste as far as those things go.;)
PS — yes! The men’s version! Woody? A dab of incense? Hopefully not something aquatic (shudder).
R – PS — the notes I found on Basenotes for Light Blue PH (maybe you already know this?) are: Sicilian Mandarin, Frozen Grapefruit Peel, Bergamot, Juniper, Rosemary, Szechuan Pepper, Rosewood, Musk Wood, Incense, Oakmoss.
I adored the Betsey Johnson bottle until I saw it in person. I thought it was going to be fun kitsch, but the top just looked so flimsy.
Have read that Attitude is terrible, and also that it is wonderful. So am curious to try it, but last I was at the mall I forgot to go look for it. I do like the cigarette lighter bottle — in pictures, anyway 🙂
The worst drink I ever had was an appletini. The fake apple taste made me gag. That’s what Light Blue reminded me of when I tried it. As I don’t go around gagging at other people’s appletini smells, I guess Light Blue smells okay on them. #:-s
I’m there with you on the Appletini- the first sip when it was icy cold wasn’t bad, but the instant it was above freezing it was just ghastly. 8-x
EEeeeew — it just sounds terrible! But I’m a notorious lightweight and don’t drink martini-things anyway. You are now the umpteenth person who mentions the strong apple smell in LB. Weird. I just don’t get apples from LB. Something closer to grapes, maybe. But not really fruity at all.
Whoops! Posted in the wrong spot, my response is right above this one.:-” I know apple is in the notes, but not on my skin… and I’m glad, frankly.
Help! I had an au pair who wore Light Blue and it smelled truly heavenly on her. Wonderful, lemony delicious sillage. But what is that top note that I am literally allergic to when I put it on my OWN skin? The one that catches your throat. Recently smelled it again, I think, in Bond Scent of Peace. Would be very pleased to know what this is.
S — that’s funny, our au pair wore something by Victoria’s Secret (?) that smelled *amazing* on her. And dreadful on me. I actually asked her to show me the bottle to be sure I was trying the right thing. Ugh. Even she laughed. Her coloring couldn’t have been more different than mine, which makes me wonder if there’s something to that theory.
PS The notes I found in common between the two are cedar and musk, so maybe one of those is gagging you (I’d guess cedar, although, oddly, I can barely smell it in Light Blue.) Or there could just be a reaction to Chemical X — who knows what’s in those things?
You know, before I realized I could buy samples on-line (good bye mad money), I had seriously considered Light Blue as a perfectly acceptable every day fragrance. It wasn’t a floral vanilla, and that counted for a lot.
I did a quick and feeble internet search and found some Spanish sites and one for lingerie. I can see how the name alone poses an opportunity for sleuthing.
Amen on the no floral vanillas!!! And no super-sweet fruity florals, either. I’d sneered at Light Blue because it’s so pervasive, but anything that manages to be that pervasive without being revolting (looking at you, Angel) must have something going for it, right? I saw it on a list of “fragrances your bosses like,” the idea being you wouldn’t be annoying your co-workers. I’d second that. I also find it weirdly timeless — it works for teenagers, but someone my age can wear it and not feel silly.
By is a scent that I’ve tried a few time, Sephora has it, or had it, I haven’t checked lately. The funny thing about it is, while it never smelled fantastic to my nose, it was considered very sexy by everyone else. Men love it, or should I say, respond to it in a way that took me by surprise. Now, I have nothing against a sexy scent, but I like to feel sexy when I smell it too. It was always disconcerting to get comments on By when it smelled so unsexy to myself. I liked it, but it hardly smelled vixen to me.
The cat pee note is so odd. I’m getting it right now from a fragrance which remain nameless, wafting up to my nose and praying it will pass. I may have to go scrub before I find out though. I’m not a cat person, and I am even less a cat pee person. Why is it that a fecal note, some sweat and musk that combination I don’t mind at all, but a little cat pee and I’m off to scrub.
I feel your pain, honey. Butt smell — fine. Cat pee — get me out of here.
I think men would find By Woman very sexy. There’s something sweaty about it, but feminine sweat. Damp skin on the sheets. It’s got that musky part, without any intense florals hiding it.
You know, if I have smelled light blue, I could not pick it out of a line-up. Do I need to run onver to Macys at lunch and sniff it?
Nah — just stick your head out of your office!;)
No, seriously … you probably couldn’t pick it out of a lineup, and therein is part of the charm. It’s not intensely sweet (at least not to/on me) which I like very, very much. It’s … drier? And more sparkly? The feminine equivalent would be a beige dress that looks extremely dull on the hanger, but is perfect for the days when you want something clean-looking that doesn’t call attention to itself, if that makes any sense at all. It’s like fragrance wallpaper, only that sounds like a negative, and it’s not. Every day can’t be Borneo, at least not for me.
Hmmm. Just so happens I am wearing a favorite “wallpaper” frag today — L’Eau Par Kenzo Homme. The women’s one is OK, but has an obtrusive vanilla note I don’t care for. Normally, I dislike “marine” scents because they seem fake to me. The men’s version on this one, though, comes out like light mint and sun-warmed laundry. It’s dirt cheap at the discounters, so will have to get some before August grabs me by the throat. –Ellen
I’ll have to try that! I like several of the Kenzos, and they’re usually light enough for summer.
E, that sounds good! Kind of like L’Artisan L’ete en douce with mint instead of musk – and at a much better price. I shall check it out…
Well I did go over and sniff. It’s nice. (and no, that’s not an insult) It smells well tailored, like your nice beige dress.
I’ve always thought Dolce & Gabbana perfumes are quite unique. Just think of how many versions of Light Blue there’re on the market today! I remember the day when By was new in stores (in Latvia) and very popular, and I totally didn’t get it then. I really need to resniff now.
Hey, that makes me feel better — someone else likes it!
I totally missed By the first time around.:-“
Ha, ha…”By,” as in “bi.” Such an obvious play on words, but hey–I love the photos of the bottles. I may have to track these down as the notes sound intriguing.
Vi — I’m having trouble picturing you in the Man, but the Woman is workable. If you check around at the online discounters, you can get a bottle fairly inexpensively.
I did wonder about the By/Bi thing…/:)
I have worn By Woman since it first was released, I think in 1998, and have been searching all these years to find something that I like better. Very occasionally, probably due to hormonal fluctuations (I am at that age!), it smells somewhat off, almost bitter, but, most of the time it meshes just perfectly with my chemistry. One hundred and forty-one perfume samples later (thanks, Patty!) and I still haven’t discovered anything that comes close to comparing. Any suggestions??
I’ve spent awhile considering your question. If By works for you … well, maybe that’s your signature fragrance, you know? In some ways that makes me envious. And I think most of us would say that, occasionally, even the most beloved thing smells wrong on us. So that’s not unusual.
However — if you want to continue looking for something else, have you spent much time in the men’s dept.? I find By Woman decidedly un-sweet, and sexy. Take a browse at the men’s counter for some of the less hairy-chested frags. (The sales associates will probably not be much help; they seem terrified when I sample men’s frags.) You might try: Ralph Lauren Double Black or Armani Attitude (both have coffee); L’Instant Pour Homme, Prada Pour Homme, Antidote, and Gaultier Le Male or Gaultier2. I’m also tempted to steer you toward Donna Karan’s d/c’d Chaos, but you don’t want the heartbreak of trying to get ahold of it. Good luck!
Thanks so much, March, for the recommendations. I will definitely “sniff” them out.
I wore By Woman as a signature fragrance about seven years ago or so. Today I find it a tad overpowering and almost too straight forward sexy vixen to wear. I’m not saying my nose is accurate, it might very well be all the memories of early adulthood that tumbles over me that makes it hard for me to wear. Love the bottle though:)
Julia — I do think that if you have a fragrance strongly associated with a period in your life, it can be difficult to wear it later.
I read some negative comments about the bottles. I don’t know why — I think they’re cute!
We have The One and Light Blue and all the D&G fragrances in abundance here (Brazil). The only D&G fragrance I actually like is the original one of men. It’s wonderful! It’s really easy to wear, too. You can dress it up for a party, or dress it down with jeans, just a fantastic scent and the one D&G should really be proud of. As far as the original one for women, it’s very similar to Red Door, and in my opinion both of them pale in comparison to Samsara, so, that’s never going to happen. I don’t know if I ever paid any attention to D&G By because I was so sick of smelling Light Blue everywhere (I have not been converted yet), I’ll have to revisit. I love the animal print bottles!!
Flor — I can’t even remember what Red Door smells like! But I can believe the similarity. The Big Cheese wears the D&G men and it’s very nice on him.
My sister wears Light Blue. I don’t particularly like it on anyone, but on my skin it’s horrid. I hate fake apple scents and what little freshness it has in the topnotes quickly transforms to something sour and sharp and stale. There are a gazillion fresh, inoffensive citrus and green tea scents out there, so why Light Blue?
But I guess that’s just me. There’s some quality that a lot of supposedly “fresh” scents, especially of the masculine variety, share that I just can’t stand. It’s musty and stale and sickening, but you can tell it’s supposed to be fresh because it’s sort of watery and cool and not sweet. The worst thing ever is combining this watery/cool/”fresh” note with “warm” notes like wood/spice/leather. Yuck! It seems to be a widely popular approach to creating generic men’s scents though… Trussardi Uomo does this to my nose, as well as Fahrenheit, Polo Black and hordes of other scents in the men’s department.
I like the men’s department, there’s less florals and fruits and sugar there, and more wood and green notes. I only wish they would stay away from the Stale Water Note….
I’d guess it’s probably a skin-chemistry thing. As I said up there … somewhere … I don’t really get the apple. I just get a lot of sparkle and some inoffensive florals.
I do agree with you about combining cool “fresh” notes with warm notes. I’m not a big fan of most “fresh” fragrances in general. There’s something about them that doesn’t appeal, but that obviously isn’t the majority opinion./:)
It’s funny, but wine geeks (closely related to perfume geeks, I should think) refer to Sauvingnon Blanc as “cat pee” because of the sharp, metallic grapefruit/gooseberry smell in it. Makes sense that some would pick up the same note from grapefruit in perfume.
Okay, the BY chick one sounds pretty good. You can mark me down as the only person on the face of the earth that Light Blue smells like hell on. My husband thought this scent smelled great, “Here, honey, try this on.” Sniffed the cap, mmmm. Put it on… cat pee.
There you go, you knew there had to be someone that it didn’t work for, right?
Cat pee?!?! Actually, I can see it. I tend to get the cat pee thing from particular combos of green notes, but there is also clearly some sort of citrus dynamic (often grapefruit) that renders as cat pee on those less fortunate than myself.:d
Like everyone else I think I need to (re) try these. I love SB1, so I guess By Men should be on the top of my list. . .
J — I enjoy finding something that, while not playing on the level of Serge or PG, is a pleasure. And it’s nice to review something that isn’t $200 at Bergdorf. Certainly Man would be worth a try; I’ll encourage you to give Woman a go too. There are minis available at some of the discounters so the financial commitment is really minimal. Woman is really growing on me.
Note to self: Retry all the D&Gs. And By Woman (you’re right – how impossible for googling, but amusing double entendre when said that I hadn’t noticed before, since I hadn’t actually paid attention to the scent at all) sounds potentially fab w/ that coffee/woods drydown.
Elle — let’s see, FT — the original woman is prob. too over-the-top for you. I do think you’d like either of the BYs. I’m too ashamed to advocate for the Light Blue. It’s one of those things … I wouldn’t buy it for myself, but I’ll probably borrow it occasionally from Diva. It’s comforting but not too sweet, and it strikes me as a workable summer scent in our humidity.
Time to resniff I 5think – I’m sure the local bargain basement perfume shop sells these…
Lee — the Basenotes comments make me giggle — lots of references to clubbing and other things, like this fragrance is part testosterone. They probably ARE available at your local joint.
I forgot — do you all even HAVE Light Blue, or just The One everywhere?
Oh we do, but it’s never reached the American level of ubiquity for some reason. I think the One could though.
I just tried One at the airport, de Gaulle, I think…kinda yucky on me-is it really popular?
Yep – pretty damn popular, at least my way. It’s kind of meh to me.
L — I am under the impression The One over there is huge, the way Light Blue is over here. So the marketing is interesting; they only have LB over here, but both over there?
I think I should try By Men…SB1, hmmm…
M — I think you would DEFINITELY like By Man. I even think By Woman has potential on you. They’re both woodsy and interesting. Man took a little digging online, but Woman is available fairly cheaply ($30ish?) at some of the discounters.
March-how can you call that dear perfume-whatever place at Wheaton “weird”??? I spent a lovely half-hour there yesterday with the sweet SA, trying desperately to find a “spring” scent I like. Maybe you need to go back to Neimans and get b-slapped by the nasty SAs-now that is so odd. But seriously, now, it is a great little shop, in an unlikely locale.
I love the BYs-I was introduced to the men’s by a cabbie in NY that smelled sooo good. After breaking the language barrier with the aid of scrap paper and stubby pen, I discovered a great fragrance. Oddly, I haven’t tried the women’s. Maybe I just prefer Zebra.
You put up a valiant fight against Light Blue. Now I am off to smell it after work-if you gave in, I must give it a real go-to try. Oh-what’s a Hedione? Sounds very male.
Hedione is an aromachemical that has a jasmine like quality I think. First used in Eau Sauvage, it’s what marked that scent out in the male firmament as a sparkling star of be-yooty.
At least I think the above is all true, but I’m no Luca Turin.
L — heh — I meant “weird” in the sense of kind, friendly, humorous… you know. Okay, what I REALLY meant is they carry a funny collection — a lot of that stuff you see/read about, non-niche, non-dept store (like some of the stuff in those mall kiosks) only they actually have *testers* of almost everything. There were a couple of men’s I’d never seen/smelled was wild for — did you try them? YSL Opium Pour Homme and Rive Gauche PH.
My (non-perfumer) understanding of hediones is they add kind of a sunray note — they make things like florals more glow-y, if that makes sense, and they also increase sillage, but I can’t say if the chemicals themselves have a particular distinctive smell.
They have the BY Woman in that Wheaton store, if you want to smell it. I think it has potential, if it will last on you!
Hey March-I truly got the affection behind your use of “weird”-just ribbing you a tad. I love that shop-and yes, I have crossed the aisle there to men’s-I like the men’s Opium-but still like my O parfum better-and the summer versions (new orchid one out now or soon-I get each year’s). I also like the Rive Gauche. But still love my Angel Men best of the guy stuff.
Got to try the By Chick-if it lasts, I’m bound to like it! An fragrance that I like, to my surprise, that lasts on me, and is on me today is Sheer Obsession. Actually fresh and earthy. Wow!
Thanks for the Hedione explanations (you, too Lee). I wonder if they have hedone sniffers for down days-to inject a little glow? Or, maybe that’s just chocolate.
Louise, two fragrances I’ve just discovered last a long time on me: Parfums de Nicolai Fig Tea Eau Fraiche and Estee Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude. There’s no telling what will last.
I envy you guys who have fragrance shops to spritz things at. I have wild turkeys and a mountain lion in my neighborhood. 😮
Hi Maria-I just ordered the Nicolai! So well priced, too. Hoping it fits in with my “lighten up, girl!” goals for spring fragrance.
I need to try the Amber Youth Dew Nude again-I tried it on a many-spray day. Hey, I’d trade a few Mountain Lions (“puma” in Portland) for most of our limited perfume selection in D.C. Oh, and the traffic.
Louise, did you order PdN Vie de Chateau or Fig Tea or both? They’re both long-lasting on me. I guess “eau fraiche” is something I should look for in the title. 🙂
I too like “Light Blue”, though not enough to purchase it. Like you, I find it annoying that it seems to be EVERYWHERE, and has a fairly ugly bottle, and boring ad campaigns.
I’ve tried it a couple of times and really think its nice. It seems to be one of those “universal” scents that appeals to a wide spectrum of people. I imagine it will probably stick around for awhile.
The only note in Light Blue that bothers me a bit is the apple. I’m really not crazy about apple in perfumes, so I probably wouldn’t buy it for myself. I’d be happy if someone gifted me with it though!
Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention the ugly bottle, didn’t I? It’s funny — more or less the same design as the original D&G femme, but the frosted glass and blue detailing just look cheap.
I get very little of the apple (I know it’s supposed to be the focus.) I get … this universal, enveloping, slightly sharp thing. I deleted my tangent in the post, which was already too long, but I find it very interesting. It’s a more complicated smell than I expected, and one of those fragrances I have a very difficult time breaking down into any parts. It just … IS, from start to finish.