Department Store Dystopia – By Nava

I originally wrote this a few months ago, and want to share it with all of you now, given my newfound love for the department store gem, Estee Lauder Sensuous.

As we are now in the midst of a recession here in the United States (don´t kid yourselves folks, it´s not coming, it has arrived like a biblical plague), I´ve been on something of a mission trying to find beauty in the many department store fragrances I´ve ignored over the years. Yes, I am a “niche snob”, mostly wearing scents available exclusively online, or in places that would require a very expensive plane ticket in order for me to buy them in person. Despite my admission of snobbery, I do tend to, on occasion, troll the shopping malls looking for something inspirational. Sadly, the malls in my area are now filled with empty walled-off spaces and there are no exciting “Coming soon…” signs to indicate that there will again be life in these barren retail shells. That they are simply gone is indicative of the hard economic times that have now befallen those of us in the dwindling American middle class.

Hard times have suddenly and severely curtailed my niche perfume habit to the point that I´ve been looking for a fix at the department store level.  I´ve been “slumming”.  Sure my current collection could keep me wonderfully and excessively fragrant for the rest of my life, but as a perfume lover, there is never enough. I am always on the trail of something new and exciting, but I´m beginning to realize that my avoidance of what´s out there in the fragrance Zeitgeist has been for good reason.

There are two things contributing to my malaise: Firstly, a good many of the department store fragrances I´ve smelled recently have two things in common: fruit and flowers. Secondly, I read Chandler Burr´s latest book, The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. Admittedly, the book was more of an olfactory wake-up call than the actual concoctions I was sniffing. Who among us can claim insider status in the world of commercial fragrances the way Chandler Burr can? I may not be a New York Times book critic, but I say with heartfelt honesty that reading this book has completely changed my perspective on fragrance; especially the mass-marketed scents for sale in department stores. I´m not saying there aren´t any appealing options, but more often than not, there is safety rather than edginess; fresh, clean and friendly as opposed to lewd, nasty and interesting.

Of course, not everyone wants to smell like jasmine left to macerate in an ashtray (Etat Libre d´Orange´s Jasmin et Cigarette), but on the flipside, if my only choices were Ralph and Tommy Girl, I´d blow my brains out. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. It´s not that I don´t appreciate the art of fragrance – I do now, thanks to Chandler Burr. Generic department store fruity-florals are, after all, the creations of artists: Perfumers. But, when it comes to scents created to appeal to the masses, these artists are not invoking their own creative instincts; they are given an olfactory road map laid out for them by a bunch of marketing execs in monkey suits sitting in a boardroom. I have this vision of Donald Trump sitting, “Apprentice-style”, at the head of a table the size of a hockey rink with Jean Claude Ellena, Dominique Ropion, Olivia Giacobetti and Michel Roudnitska, giving each one of them grief for screwing up the task assigned to them. I can literally hear it: “Jean Claude, your version stinks! YOU´RE FIRED!”

I have great admiration for these artists and their willingness to comply with the marketing wishes of the monkey-suited set. They are paid handsomely for their time and trouble, so why not? But, there´s got to be some degree of frustration at having their creativity stifled in the name of capitalism. Long before I knew who Chandler Burr was, some of my favorite niche fragrances were those created by the perfumers I mentioned: Parfums DelRae´s Bois de Paradis by Michel Roudnitska is a scent I adore, along with Bvlgari Eau Parfumee au The Vert by Monsieur Ellena, Idole de Lubin by Olivia Giacobetti, and Frederic Malle´s flat-out amazing Carnal Flower, courtesy of Dominique Ropion. Of these, only Bvlgari´s green tea scent is now considered mainstream. When it was introduced in 1992, it was something new and different. The others wouldn´t be able to command even an inch of a square foot of retail space in the fragrance department of any American mall-anchoring department store. It is partially for this reason that I love them so much. When I put them on, the likelihood of running into someone else wearing the same scent as me is pretty slim; except maybe if I’m spending a fair bit of time browsing at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman or perusing the offerings at Henri Bendel. But, given my present financial state: penny-pinching and prowling Macy´s, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom, I am more likely to be assaulted by Angel or whatever the fruity-floral celebu-scent du jour might be.

It would be unfair of me to conclude this essay without revealing some mainstream perfumes that don´t make me want to blow my brains out. They would be: Sarah Jessica Parker´s Lovely and Covet, Givenchy´s Organza Indecence (a bit hard to find these days, but not impossible), L de Lolita Lempicka, Donna Karan´s Cashmere Mist, and her very first scent, Donna Karan New York, Burberry Brit, Kenzo Amour, and my most recent discovery, Max Mara Le Parfum. This is just a partial list.

In happy times, as well as not so happy times, I can manage to find scents that will lift my spirits, regardless of their cost and availability. It all depends on how motivated I am to look for them. There are gems hidden everywhere, even in department stores.      

  • Mitsouko says:

    BTW, I forgot to say that after reading about SJP’s scent, I was of course curious about it. So I went to Macy and asked for a sample. I tried it on and … nothing. No, really. There was nothing there. I asked my husband to smell my wrist and to tell me how he liked the scent. He asked “What scent?” Now I usually have a very “receptive” skin. But like I said, these new perfumes have NO staying power.

  • Mitsouko says:

    Well, I can understand Nava’s disappointment with department store perfumes, but not all of them are bad. My greatest peeve with any perfume these days is their – especially in some cases – almost non-existent staying power. What’s with that? 🙁 I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to shell out $50 – $120 (my beloved Serge Lutens), I want something in return for my money. Which is why I always go back to the oldies: Opium, Ms.Dior, KL, and others like them. And since some people consider them “old ladies’ perfume,” at least I know I won’t smell like everybody else. 😉 I too love niche perfumes … but being truly middle class, I can seldom afford them. Which is why I’m glad to find some good choices in dep stores now and then.

    I’m now reading Burr’s book and it is interesting (especially if you can get past his huge ego and all the sycophantic adoration for Ms. Parker – I mean, I’m sure she’s a nice person and all that, but come on …). I’ve always had great respect for perfumers and I was horrified at the way their arduous work is sometimes treated. Just comes to show how classless jerks can be found even in the poshest environments.

  • HopeB says:

    I agree with you on several of the good mainstream scents: the Sarah Jessica Parkers, Brit, Addict, Marc Jacobs, Guerlain, Chanel, Lolita Lempickas, etc. are some of my favorites.

    Oddly enough, I find that ‘paler’ cheapies are easier to wear in summer, when its near-100 degrees and humid in the south: I bought a tiny bottle of Clinique Happy (don’t laugh, its citrusy, yet fizzy like champagne ,which works in the heat), and I find myself reaching for things like China Rain, Kai, or La Maison de la Vanille-Madagascar. Transparent florals and light vanillas seem much less overwhelming than my usual orientals in this heat.

  • Teri says:

    If living through bad times builds character, it’s no wonder we old people are such characters.

    (one of my grandmother’s favorite remarks)

  • Kathryn says:

    Hi, Nava.

    Thanks for another really interesting post. Now that I’m way up north, more than an hour from the nearest department store and a pretty pathetic one at that, I’ve been satisfying my hunting gathering instincts online. (Thank you, BTW, for pointing me in the direction of a sample of Profumum Olibanum, which is now on its way.)

    Even far away from the bright lights of the big city, I worry that my perfume consumption has gotten a bit out of hand, I mean, the money I spend on perfume would buy a lot of the paint my barn so badly needs and isn’t getting. As a counterbalance to my perfume excesses, I’ve been spending a little of my online time at the website of the anti-consumerist performance artist Bill Talen, a.k.a. Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. His Elvis-inspired anti-retail sermonizing, backed up by a gospel choir, is pretty funny and partly serious in a Steven Colbertian kind of way. His basic message is to avoid the “shopacalypse” by practicing the “beatitudes of buylessness”.

    After my latest score of a mega-batch of perfume samples on eBay, I may have to make a stop at Rev. Billy’s online confession booth. Of course, even when I am laughing at the thought of this, I’m wondering what, if any, incense he uses when he stages his sermons/performances and retail interventions. Maybe my burst of interest in scent has something to do with the sensory deprivation foisted on me by virtual reality?

    However, before I confess and foreswear my perfume buying sins, I think I’ll spend some time tracking down a sample of Idole de Lubin. I totally adore every other one of the niche scent you listed and I bet I’ll love this one, too. As the Rev. Billy says, we are all sinners and we are all forgiven.

  • MattS says:

    It’s interesting to read these comments; scent shopping here in department stores is dismal, but I’d always assumed that it was much better in large cities. I visited a Saks in Charleston, SC a couple of months ago and was delighted with the sniffing options I found that I otherwise wouldn’t. I love to visit the Barney’s website and peruse their scent section, sometimes even ordering. Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus I’ve enjoyed also in the past, although I haven’t visited their stores since becoming a perfume junkie, so I don’t remember if I would be as enthusiastic. I’d always just figured you could walk in one of these stores in a big city and walk out with a bottle of Vol de Nuit extrait. I’m so naive. I suppose they’re all plagued with celebrity nonsense and the newest, biggest, most boring releases as well. On the flip side, I’ve actually managed to find a number of things I’m quite fond of at the drugstores, usually mighty cheap. Walgreen’s has hooked me up with a number of quick fixes when times have been tight and there is something oh-so-satisfying about finding a scent you love that cost less than dinner out. It also allows me to counter argue when friends accuse me of being a fragrance snob that I’m actually the opposite and not above wearing Stetson or Halston Z-14, something that cost less than their Acqua di Gio. :d

  • Kim says:

    I am just a perfume-perfectionist (perfum-ectionist?). I want really gorgeous, regardless of whether it is from my local Nordstrom or from France via New York. Besides, I think in this day of the internet and samples, the lines are much more blurred.

    I guess it also depends how you are defining mass market/department store fragrance. A number of my top 25 are readily available at department stores online: Chanel No 5, Paloma, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Opium, Goutal Songes, …. So is Mitsouko mass market just because I can buy it at Costco in the edp? Does that make it any less gorgeous?

    • Disteza says:

      Well, Mitsouko was probably mass-market at the time it was released, but no, that does not detract from its beauty. I have a hard time believing that any of the Britney or J-Lo frags (or their smell-alikes) will endure as long as Mitsouko, though. I mean, would any of us want to live in a world where Angel was considered a timeless classic?

  • Disteza says:

    I also throw my hat in with the niche snobs; I can’t remember the last time I was shopping for ANYTHING in a department store, let alone for perfume. I have a couple of mass-market bottles from my uneducated years, and a few recent gifts, but the true beauty of my collection still comes from those proud niche freaks and the more precious vintage/discontinued assemblage. Most of those mass-market ‘fumes are, as previously mentioned, safe, so they’re easier to wear for working out, quick errands, etc. I’m sure most of mainstream America would shake its head in shameful derision if it knew that I was wearing that bottle of Burberry Brit to do my grocery shopping. Oh, the horrors of decadent mass consumption! Still, even though the ‘economic downturn’ hasn’t affected me much, I’m trying to spend less for other reasons, so my perfume horde is only allowed to grow by one bottle or bunch of samples a month. As long as that bottle isn’t Shalini (or worse 😮 ), I won’t break my budget. I have a list of FBs to buy, and I go through it religiously to make sure I still want what’s on the list, and that the order of purchase is correct. That way, I have something to look forward to that first Monday of the month.

  • carmencanada says:

    My only luxury in the past couple of years has been perfume: I’ve been reimbursing a huge debt (don’t ask: divorce made me go a little plastic happy) so practically no eating out, no holidays (like Teri said, going home for a visit doesn’t count), no new clothes… I just finally broke down and bought shoes on sale, as I need to walk a lot BUT be elegant for my in-company training gigs.
    That said, I have been a niche snob for going on 25 years and don’t expect that to change: I really own very few fragrances that you could find in your garden-variety shopping mall, even in Europe. And even if I sometimes have to tighten my belt, I still probably have enough stash to be enbalmed in come the day…
    Also, in France, there’s practically no gray market to speak of, so bargains are rare: it’s full price all the way. So the way might as well lead me to the Palais Royal and the waiting arms of Serge…

  • Teri says:

    I’m one of the blessed few who work in an industry that is thriving in this downward-spiraling economic climate. Our salaries aren’t going up and our buying power is going down, just like everyone else, but at least our jobs are secure for the foreseeable future.

    Still and all, with prices on everything going through the roof (we just absorbed a 38% increase in our gas and electric rates, a 15% increase in water rates, and a $15/mth fuel surcharge addition to our waste collection bill-and that’s only one month’s worth of changes)and Mother Nature doing her best to wipe out crops in the breadbasket of the US, belts have to be tightened and hard choices need to be made.

    It’s been months since I’ve been out to eat, bought a new pair of shoes, or been to the theatre or ballet, and I don’t see that changing in the near future. There will be no vacation per se this year (except the Chicago sniff, of course!). But that’s going home for a visit and doesn’t count, right? lol I’m driving a Volvo that’s old enough to quaify for its own driver’s license because it’s indestructible and sips gas. Pretty it ain’t; practical it is.

    That’s kind of been my fragrance philosophy recently, too. If I really want the bottle, I’ll settle for the more practical decant. If I’d like the decant, I settle for the more economical sample. As others have said, if I never buy another drop of fragrance, I have in my possession enough scent to last.

    Could I eliminate it entirely? Sure, I could. But since I don’t smoke, rarely drink, don’t gamble, have virtually done away with purchasing art glass
    :((, I figure I’m entitled to one lonely indefensible vice like fragrance collecting.

    There are some department store fragrances I really enjoy (two were on my top 25 list yesterday) and there’s no reason not to put them in heavier rotation. I, too, have been trying TJ Maxx finds and discovering some enjoyable, wearable (albeit not sublime) treats.

    We, as citizens of the world, will get through this challenge as we have so many others. We’re strong, resourceful, and sometimes at our very best when adversity strikes.

    • Nava says:

      I certainly hope for resilliency. Things seem kinda bleak at the moment, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

      • Teri says:

        Sorry, Nava. My comment at the bottom was supposed to be in response to your comment on my original response.

        No technology wiz here lol

    • Musette says:


      I’d love to know what your industry is (seriously) – so many of my friends are in dire straits. I own a machining/manufacturing company and our small size, which used to be a detriment, is turning out to be a blessing in these scary times. I agree with you on folks’ resourcefulness – I’m reinventing our shop to address the needs of our small customers who are desperately trying to shave where they can (and I want to make sure they don’t shave us off their list)…..

      …but back to perfume! Like you I am being extremely careful with FB buys. I’m newish to the ‘mista world and as such bought samples with abandon. Now, I think, is the time to actually use those samps and make really educated purchase decisions. Some of the samps/decants I thought I loved have evolved into ‘meh’ and some have come roaring through – alas, none of them, except Agraria Bitter Orange, fall into the inexpensive range.

      So those of us who must will tighten our belts, really use our samps and decants and weather this recession; when the tide turns (how many metaphors do you think I can cram into this one sentence?:-? we’ll be better-learned purchasers, don’t you think?

      • Teri says:


        You’re in flood country, no? So you’re entitled to all of those ‘watery’ metaphors. lol

        I work in the oil and gas field services industry. My company supplies geologists, physicists, engineering specialists and all combinations of the foregoing to both major oil companies and mom and pop backyard drilling operations. We’re on the front end of the rock-to-pump continuum — doing the geological surveys and the pre-, mid- and post-drilling scientific testing. You might also call us in for various types of mid-productivity lifespan analyses. In short, we’re the ‘cerebral’ component of the gas and oil industry.

        With oil prices so high, many of the drilling companies are taking a second look at well fields that wouldn’t have been profitable at $50/barrel oil. So in this crazy economy, our services are in high demand.

        I do understand your challenges in manufacturing very well indeed. The first 20 years of my adult life were spent working in steel manufacturing businesses in the rust belt, where we were always riding the trough of one economic downturn or another. Layoffs were a way of life. If you, as a company, were lean and nimble, you survived, if not, fageddaboudit.

        I think you, too, may be in a good place during a bad time. Companies tend to spend less on new capital machinery during tough times and more on retooling the equipment they have to fit the business they’ve still got. You’re clearly smart enough to position yourself well, market yourself to the right people, and I’d bet my bottom dollar you’ve got the concept of nimble nailed.

        We’ll definitely have to talk a little economics at the Chicago event.


  • moi says:

    I was at a local mall the other day and noticed a new “perfume shop” had just opened up. Upon entering and quickly perusing the contents of three floor-to-ceiling walls of shelves, I was shocked to realize that I recognized few scents. They did not seem “niche” to me, but instead smacked of what I can only describe as “designer duplicates,” with a few “real” scents thrown in to give the place at least a semblance of veritas. Almost immediately an SA, looking all of twelve years old and dressed a la Britney, sauntered up to me with a simpering, “would you like to try . . . .?” which prompted me to recoil in horror and back right the heck outta there.


    If that’s a perfume shop, I’m Madonna.

    That being said, I’m not above taking my bargains where I can find them. Nearly all of The Estee, for instance. Skin. 4711. eBay bargains, where, yes, you run the risk of some fabuloso vintage Caron having turned but when they don’t, SCORE!

  • Musette says:

    What Louise said! I tend to avoid most of the ‘NEW!’ offerings in dept stores mostly because they have proven to be so blah, though I found Jardin SlN first at Saks – and I love it in the hotter weather (horses don’t mind it either, and that’s important- if you’ve ever had a Percheron step on your foot and sneeze in your face you’ll know what I mean 😉

    But the classics are still there and for the most part are so interestingly done that they bear countless revisits. After years of sticking only with Diorissimo I decided (due in part to this blog) to visit the whole of the Dior line – and the originals blew me away! Same with the Guerlains, which I’d neglected for decades.

    And when you find an SA with some real knowledge of scent (rare but wonderful) it makes even mainstream sampling a delight!

    Great post, Nava!@};-

    • Nava says:

      Thank you Musette!

      I can’t say that I’ve ever been anywhere near a Percheron, but my cats have been known to sneeze on me.

      I’m back in Toronto with my “nutty” aunt and I’m wearing some Bond No.9 Scent of Peace today. So far, no complaints. 🙂

  • Samantha says:

    Good Mrning,
    I was just browsing around Ava Luxe’s newly functional website this morning and there are several 30ml edps offered for only $26…that made my very sad wallet feel a little better. I’d forgotten how affordable her stuff is.


    • Louise says:

      Oh, and some DSHs, too-I love Fresh Mown Hay, and her incenses.

    • Nava says:

      I am so glad Serena decided to resurrect Ava Luxe. I have so many of her scents, and some of them are absolutely incredible. I haven’t been to the site yet, but it’s comforting to know that she’s sharing her amazing talent with us again.

      • Musette says:

        I fell, hook, line and sinker, for her Film Noir. When my decant is done that will be one of the few FBs I buy this autumn, unless a major $$$ windfall comes my way, then it’s Katy, bar the door!!!


        • Shelley says:

          :)) I am catching up on some of the posts due to travelling earlier this week…for some reason, I guffawed at your closer, Musette. “Katy, bar the door!” indeed!!!

          I, too, am shifting focus to samples and decants…I was telling myself all through the crazy acquisition that there would be a “settle in” time when I just went through and tried and tried again. I have enough larger decants and FB’s to keep me scented for a while…and the pennies must be hoarded for Chicocoa!

  • Tania says:

    I know what you mean, Nava.
    For me, wandering around the local mall’s scent departments is like shopping for food at Safeway compared to Borough Market – it’s ok, but it’s dull. Borough Market is like shopping for niche scents – all sorts of fascinating smells, not all pleasant, but mostly memorable and different.

    I know that if the scent department is big enough there will be some wearable scents in there, but truth be told, I have most of those! New stuff is often disappointing, too. How many times have I sniffed the latest fashion scent, only to find it reminds me of another one, and that one reminds me of another and so forth – like putting two mirrors opposite each other, endless reflections. All the same fruit and flower formula, aimed at 20-year-olds. *sigh*….

    • Mariannetm says:

      Tania, I spent some time in Sephora (Prague) today and discovered some really worthwile fragrances, like Gucci Envy, F. de Ferragamo, Eisenberg J’Ose, Rouge Noir, and Gucci Rush.. and these are very nice too.

      Eisenberg, like Sisley has some very great classics like from the ’20s – ’30s last century.

      Not every fragrance has to be a niche product.

      • Tania says:


        I know (though I can’t share your liking for the Guccis, they are not my thing).
        I meant that niche perfumes are mostly refreshingly different from the mainstream ones which I can find in my local mall, with it’s very limited selection. The mall selection is either dull, or so widely available that I already have it.
        Sephora would be nicer, but there are no Sephoras in the UK.

        If I went to Selfridges or Liberty, I would find a better choice, and some interesting and unusual scents of both types. So those places would be more like Borough Market!

        • Shelley says:

          And to note Tania’s point, I would say that perfumes like the Eisenberg are for me like a PBJ sandwich; highly serviceable, pleasant, sometimes with a twist (ever use lemon curd or a good marmalade for the “J”?), but nothing monumental. Artisan breads, fresh ground peanut butter, and brandy-infused jam notwithstanding. (Again, tasty beyond expectations, but not ka-zam!)

          Hmm, did I clarify, or confuse?? 😕


      • Shelley says:


        You are the first person I have seen (other than myself) to mention the Eisenberg. I think that here in the states, you cannot really get the Eisenbergs–I found mine on eBay. I really like the Jose as a reasonably priced comfort scent…kind of along the lines of Organza Indecence, if you know that one.

  • Louise says:

    I’m generally with you on the quality and limited range of department store scents, with the occasional exception. This year I found that I like Guess Gold quite a bit ( :”> ), and Amarige Mariage, though I haven’t purchases the latter.

    For the most part when I want a less expensive hit, I am with Debbied above, and go to the internet. In the past few months I have discovered some lovely Balmains (Ivoire, especially), a Lelong, and Jacomo Silences-all for under $20 bucks. I also cruise *bay a lot, and have made some wonderful finds-vintage Joy, Patou Divine Folie, a bag of vintage Carons-all for very little. It’s a crap shoot, but loads of fun.

    I think there are a few department stores around still worth visiting, mostly because the SAs are knowledgable and/or helpful. Our local Saks still carries many classics-Guerlains, Carons, Chanels. A few days ago I had a wonderful chat with a SA about vintage perfumes-and she knew a tremendous amount about old Baleciagas, Patous, and others. She was the true find in the department store!

    • Nava says:

      It certainly is a rare treat to find a very knowledgeable SA in a department store. I think you have to really love fragrance to do that job. If you do, it shows. 🙂

      • Nava says:

        I agree. Some of those “fashion” scents do have a very “thrown together” vibe to them.

  • Debbied says:

    I didn’t wear department/mall fragrances for decades because nothing out there interested me. Thank heavens for the internet. I can still order quite a few really great things for under $30, which is even cheaper than the dept/mall offerings.

  • rosarita says:

    Oh, yeah, the recession is here with a big wallowing sound. Much of the industry in my area of the US is auto based and there are no jobs to be found at all, so I, a public school hourly wage employee, haven’t found work for the summer (my usual work gig having fallen through at the last minute.) So, I’ve been swapping on MUA and trolling *bay. I’ve found Donna Karan Gold edp and love it; I’m also a Cashmere Mist fan. The Bulgari line contains my warm weather staples: Au The Blanc, Vert & Rouge; Omnia Crystalline. Through swaps I’ve satisfied my love of loud w/Gucci Rush, and I’m flirting with Versace Crystal Noir. Marc Jacobs Blush is a lovely jasmine cheapie I found @ TJMaxx, and with my first back to school paycheck I plan to celebrate with 30ml of EL Sensuous (still not available anywhere near me.) There’s always scented soaps for a fix, both cheap and useful…

  • Masha says:

    Great post, Nava, thank you!
    I’ve been feeling the BLAH, too, over here in Europe, though it’s certainly a better situation here scent-wise (though much more expensive). For a few more mainstream choices, I’ve found a couple Laliques that are great (Flora Bella by B. Duchaufour, and Eau de Lalique by Ellena, I don’t know who created Perles de Lalique, but it’s a rosy-peppery treat). And I’ve even learned to appreciate the Thierry Mugler line a bit more, he’s weird, I’ll give him that. So there’s still some happy hunting out there.

  • tmp00 says:

    I’ve been going lower, to the perfume “slums” on Broadway and Santee Alley in LA. Sadly, I’ve seen that the “recession” (I don’t want to use the “de” word {kinehora poo-poo-poo!}) but even some of them have closed. Oy. We might have to put in for a perfume haven on some island somewhere.

  • Lara says:

    I, too, don’t like Tommy Girl or Ralph, but there is more than that at your local Nordstrom’s, Macy’s and Dillards. You may have to try on a bunch of different things, but there is that one scent, hiding in plain sight, that will work for you. If you choose a scent that did not come out in the past ten years, you can buy it off the department store shelf and be reasonably sure you won’t be assaulted by the scent everywhere you go. Personally, I like Dior Addict and Hypnotic Poison, Lolita Lempicka, Youth Dew, Chanel #19, Chanel #25, Boucheron’s Trouble, Aromatics Elixer and Cashmere Mist.