Joanna and the Amish

by the draft-horse lovin’ Musette






Last week, in the Beach Baby post, Joanna and I got into a conversation about appropriate scents to wear when visiting the Amish.  She kindly allowed me to use excerpts of the comments for this post – they went thus:

On my way to Iowa right now to buy some produce and baked goods from the Amish. For some reason I always have to really think about which scent to wear when I’m going to buy stuff from the Amish

and then:

I actually waited until after I had visited with the amish before I spritzed anything on today, (Ysatis which I got from Swapmania! Thanks swap partner!) I’m not sure why I’m always so afraid of offending them with fragrance?

I’m going to start this post by saying a) I only know about 12 Amish and b) the full extent of my knowing them centers around their incredible skill with draft horses.   But I’m also going to ooch my fat butt out on a limb here and say that everything that I have witnessed (no pun intended) in my dealings with those 12 Amish – perfume isn’t on the agenda.  For one thing, I don’t think it’s part of their general culture, though I have never heard the 12 I know say anything negative about smelling it.  For another, horses tend to not like a lot of perfumes – and the Amish tend to like a lot of horses.

But this isn’t about the Amish, exactly. Or horses.  It’s about our notions of what perfumes are appropriate for certain occasions or groups you might perceive as having issues or taking offense.  There’s a lot of resistance to perfume in many places, like offices.  But I’m thinking more about self-policing, out of fear of giving offense.  For me, it’s plummy plushy cumin-laden scents.   like current Femme.  Even lightly applied, I find it totally inappropriate, unnerving and weirdly offputting for any business meeting, as if I’d just shown up to a biofuels conference clad only in a too short, post-coital, soiled satin robe and chipped toenail polish.   For meetings, my go-to is always vintage Mitsouko (if I need to terrify somebody) or Parure (if I want to project ladylike confidence and still kinda scare them) – they just feel appropriate for my Meeting Persona.

But! I wore Mitsouko to hitch up some drafts and got green snot sprayed all over me.  Horses?  Do. Not. Like. Mitsouko. Neither do the people who handle them – it’s just not a barn-appropriate fragrance.   A 2000+lb animal does not need to be offended by perfume – they get spooked enough as it is.

Totally freaked out by the move to this very rural, conservative area I used to be more perverse in my public perfume choices.  I would wear really challenging scents to the most inappropriate places: hubba-hubba Carnal Flower to an Apostolic lady’s 90th birthday card shower, a whole lotta Tribute Attar to the Lions Pancake Breakfast.  Extraordinarily beautiful scents, to be sure – but not ‘pretty’ – and a place like the Lions Pancake Breakfast…well, it was a bit overwhelming (and, I suspect, almost offensive, like I was deliberately bludgeoning them with my Perfumista Coolness.).  I’ve gotten over myself and now save  the glorious Tribute for my city events.  I’ve not been invited to another card shower.  Hmmm… Sometimes a place just needs ‘pretty’.


So what people/places/horses give you pause, when it comes to choosing fragrance?  Are there any where you, like Joanna, are scared to put any on at all?


  • Calypso says:

    Hey Musette,

    I am responding late to this because I discovered something recently and remembered this post. Right now I am in northern Indiana visiting my mother (I live in Houston) and there are MANY Amish people around here. The roadways have many buggies and pony carts, and area grocery stores as well as libraries, etc., have hitching posts for buggies. There are wonderful farmers markets. There are numerous beautiful farm scenes with men plowing with four-horse plows and the women plant gorgeous colorful gardens. I have photos on Flickr which I’d be happy to share with you.

    However the real reason I am posting is because I learned there is a perfumer in Ligonier, Indiana (south of the very popular Amish/country shopping and auction town Shipshewana) called Annie Oakley Perfumery. I went there last week with my mom, and found it very interesting. It was founded in 1980 by perfumer Renee Gabet. She has two primary series of scent products, the Florals and the Nature’s Harvest. There are also a couple of men’s scents. She has various body lotions and butters and you can tour the small production shop and see how they make products. Many small bottles and jars and it looks lab-like, immaculately clean and pleasant. There are also perfume essential oils of all sorts. I did not wind up buying anything as I just didn’t find one thing I had to have, but it was a lot of fun testing them all. If I go back I will probably buy some of the Honey Citrus lotion or butter because it did smell wonderful. If you are in a group tour they charge $5 per person, but my mom and I went for free.

    And most important, regarding this topic, there is one “for horses and those who love them”! It is called Journeys and is a lavender oil based series of products, even including muzzle rub and ranch & stall spray! These are described as pure organic lavender oil and said to “promote effective training and ease tension.”

    They do have a website at and will ship products. The website is pretty clear and informative, I think. Meanwhile if you are ever in north central Indiana (not too far from South Bend), go and visit–somewhat off the beaten path, just in a small neighborhood of a small town, but definitely worth a visit.

    All the best,

  • Wordbird says:

    I used to live in a little village in the Swiss countryside and I must admit that I did tone down some of my perfume choices (no more Opium in the supermarket), but other scents were actually more acceptable in a rural environment. Particularly acceptable were leathers and hays: my beloved Dzing! which to me smells of everything you find in a stable from horse and hay to dung and sweaty saddles, caused absolutely no raised eyebrows in the village shop. I guess people just thought I’d been riding.

  • Dante's Bra says:

    Hey Musette– whaddya think of Ysatis? I love it dabbed, it has a really pretty woody rosewood drydown. And I find it surprisingly buttery-coconutty.

    I try to be careful with my work choices, since i’m a nurse. A discreet belly spray of something warm makes it so only I can smell it. I don’t think it’s fair to subject my patients to 12 hours of Fwench fwagwance.

    • Ann says:

      Ooh, ooh (waving hand frantically in air)!! I love me some Ysatis. Only have a little bit of it, but think it’s every bit as fabulous now as when it was launched in the early ’80s. Gotta go find mine now — thanks!!

    • Musette says:

      I used to love it – it’s been ages since I’ve smelled it, though. I will revisit. I remember it being BIG!

      :-?…I dunno. Might be just me – but I like the idea of a touch of Fwench Fwagwance ;)) I can imagine too much would be, well…too much …but just a spritz? that would cheer me right up, were I stuck in hospital!

      xo >-)

  • HemlockSillage says:

    This is a great post! The topic is also well chosen. . .where do I hesitate to wear fragrance for fear of offending? Everywhere. I’ve had so many people overapply, that I fear offending others. I chronically under-apply.

    I’d fear ruining somone’s expensive dinner, someone’s theater/concert experience and recently felt awful when I overdid Nuit de Tubereuse at a church service. The only place I feel free to blast away is at home, at night. My SOTE (scent of the evening) tends to be big–Carnal Flower, I’m looking at you, my lovely :D My day scents are much more tame. . .and if the SOTE is still detectable, I just go with that, and don’t reapply.

    I will wear perfume to a funeral, but *very* discreetly. Chanel No 5 went with me this past winter when I had to speak at my 97 year old grandfather’s funeral. It was a comfort, and I know he loved me best as his little lady. My mother and I laughed when we realized we’d chosen the same fragrance for a really emotionally tough day, and smiled watery smiles together. She’s taught me well.

    My perfume collection will certainly outlive me. That’s why I daily crazily spray it into my shower/bath/air vents and enjoy it to its fullest. Be well!

    • Musette says:

      What a lovely story! I love the idea of you and your mother finding out you were wearing the same lovely No 5! Yay, Grandpa!!!

      I always do an apres-bain SOTE. It’s a little nuit treat – even if I’ve worn something fabbo all day I like the idea of something different for bedtime. Carnal Flower Body Butter is perfect for bedtime (heck, it’s perfect anytime!!! 😡


  • Joanna says:

    Oh lordy I can’t quit laughing!

    There is an Amish community very close to where I live so this is actually something I think about often. I don’t wear makeup or perfume and dress conservatively when I visit them for anything so as not to offend. I do have a lot of gay rights bumper stickers on my minivan and I’ve noticed they do tend to stop and read them but have never said a word. :)

    As a rule I tend to not wear fragrance to hospitals or nursing homes and I’ve stopped wearing it to my kid’s school events as well. I’m conservative with scent when visiting someone’s home…unless I know them well and they are also perfumistas. I wear more challenging scents at home and out to bars or clubs, sometimes I get a little wild and break out the Dzing or Mitsouko when I’m going to the grocery store. I’m a stay at home mom and I shop in the middle of the day so it’s usually me and the little old ladies who smell heavily of little old lady perfume. I have a very part time job, (I’m the clerk at a landfill! LOL) and since I deal with people through a window I’m liberal with scent at work. I mean really…it’s not like I could smell any worse than the piles of rotten lawn clippings. One of the best parts of my job is having people comment that I smell so nice. For some reason I almost always grab Cruel Intentions by Kilian or L’Artisan’s Traversee du Bosphore for work. Apparently my psyche has decided those scents pair best with garbage.

    • Musette says:

      TOO funny with the landfill! =))

      I’m probably your polar opposite. I’m conservative in nearly nothing and always wear scent to visit my pop at the nursing home. The old ladies and gents there always comment on it (positively). Like the landfill, so little smells ‘nice’ in a nursing home…

      I remember roaring into a driveway to buy some produce – it was an Apostolic home, with home-schooled kids….the mom was vaguely freaked until we started chatting. ….but even when she relaxed a bit she only let the boys come over to look at my bike. The girls she kept BEHIND her! Perhaps I was a bit too “outsider’ for them?

      xo >-)

      • Joanna says:

        Oh gosh I’ve been giggling all afternoon about this Musette. Thank you! And the mental image of you roaring in on your bike is so rich!
        By the way, sadly in this area the Amish aren’t known for treating their animals very well. :( Some of the horses I’ve seen are horribly thin, ribs and hipbones sticking out all over. It seems like depending on the community this can vary. I wish it were different here.

        • Musette says:

          Oh, that’s awful! I don’t have working livestock so I can’t say, beyond outright abuse, what constitutes good v. bad treatment but what you describe certainly doesn’t sound good. 🙁

          xo >-)

        • tammy says:

          We have Mennonites in our part of northern Arkansas, and their animals (cattle, mainly) are generally very thin also. I don’t think they give them supplemental feed at all, they just get what grows in the pasture, and in times like they’re having now, with temps above a hundred for weeks on end with no rain, there can’t be too much pasture grass.

    • jen says:

      Love it! We should compile a list of the best anti-landfill scents. I nominate liberal amounts of Fracas.

  • Tara says:

    Musette, I love your posts. :-)

    I have to say that it is often difficult for me to determine when I over do it. Often when I think I have a killer amount of perfume on, I ask my officemates or my husband if they smell anything and they always say no. I am completely mystified. Then when I barely have anything on or it’s what I consider a light fragrance, my son almost gags. So I just don’t know what to.

    I think one of worst places for too much perfume is the movies/theater because you can be a captive for hours breathing in a horrid scent, so I tred lightly there.

    Restaurants are another place I don’t want to be smothered by Angel (which I love, but not while eating). I try to be aware of my surroundings while eating.

    • Musette says:


      And thanks for not overapplying in restaurants. That is :-& , no matter the fragrance! Yes, even Mitsouko. Even Her.

      xo >-)

  • Kate S. says:

    Amish fragrance: PG Bois Blond. duh.

    I wore Mitsouko, a little bit, to a friend’s father’s funeral. At Arlington National Cemetary.

  • Janice says:

    My mother actually grew up in an Amish family. I think perfume is one of those things—like patterned clothing, or fancy buttons, or ornamentation of any kind—that they consider “worldly” and therefore to be avoided. (My mom tells the story of her father once receiving a second-hand horse bridle that had a tiny rose-shaped ornament on it and getting a stern talking-to from the preacher.) But they don’t expect other people to avoid those things and wouldn’t, I think, be offended by others wearing perfume, any more than they would by someone wearing, say, a plaid shirt or jewelry.

    For me, meetings at work are the place I get skittish about scents. I’ve found myself sitting in conference rooms feeling very self-conscious because the (light, lightly applied) scent that seemed so innocuous when I put it on that morning suddenly seems overwhelming.

    • Musette says:

      Does your mom make that slammo Friendship Bread?

      Except for the horses (and they are not actually Amish ;)) ) I have never known any Amish (all 12 I do know) to object to anything or try to push their beliefs on anyone – I’ll bet they probably enjoy the smell of a good perfume (if that is a olfactory pleasure for that person) without any need to wear it themselves.

      Horses – even Draft Horses – are a whole ‘nother thing altogether. If they don’t like it, they will let you know. In painful ways. /:)

      xo >-)

  • Teri says:

    For a while, my dentist had a hygenist who wore Angel…and a lot of it. Going to the dentist is a stomach-churning event for me in any case, and having that cloud of Angel seemingly smothering my face was too too much. Ever since then, I’ve been extremely sensitive to scent in the dentist’s office. As I usually visit the dentist during my work day, I try to make afternoon appointments so that my morning perfume application has worn down to a mere memory.

    And Mrs. Honey, I can so see why you wouldn’t want to wear scent to an allergist’s office. So many people are sensitive to one note or another in various perfumes.

    • Musette says:


      Angel! Poured on (isn’t that always the way?) And at the dentist’s where they are right in your face! Better had she been working for your gynecologist…or your podiatrist…;))

      xo >-)

    • Rednails says:

      Angel is what the younger women in my office wear, and in my synagogue, too. The older women in my synagogue wear Youth Dew. I first smelled Angel at shul right after I walked past a woman wearing YD, and it occured to me that Angel is the YD of the 30-something generation. Make sense, no?

  • Sherri M. says:

    I agree with Ann on the appropriateness point. Even though I love Jubilation 25, and I am a light sprayer, I still don’t think it is appropriate any more than I think too much cleavage is appropriate for kids’ school functions, work, church, etc. There is just too much sexy there.

    As much as I love soft, fluffy things like Alessandro, New Look 1947, and the comfort vanilla family, I don’t feel they’re the best choices if you want to be taken seriously. That’s when you gotta pull out the Mitsouko, baby…:-)

    I don’t have any qualms wearing fragrance to funerals. My personal funeral favorite is Kilian Straight to Heaven. I think it’s soft and reflective, comforting but intriguing. It always gets compliments (of course a funeral home really is one of those places you will have people close to you, hugging and actually smelling you).

  • Maureen says:

    I work in an office, and I have been wearing very light summer fragrances lately, but am getting bored. I have been trying a few samples of different fragrances, just dabbing on wrist, and it’s really fun to get a waft of something lovely that I’ve never experienced before. Makes the day more interesting…especially when I tried Diorissimo….God, loved that! I have a sample of Coco and worry that it might be “too much” for the office. I wore Coco back in the day and my late husband loved it. He usually bought me Chanel, and I think that one was one of his favorites. I just sampled Bois des Iles last night right before I went to sleep and OMG…loved that, but could not smell anything this AM…so sad.

    • Musette says:

      Diorissimo is gorgeous! If you get a chance, try the vintage. Swoonalicious!

      I think Coco, lightly applied, is perfectly appropriate for an office. Then again, you might want to take my recommendations with a grain of soap. I’m not always known for judicious choices :”>

      xo >-)

  • Millicent says:

    I was thinking about all my this ‘n that-ing about what I have worn to work with a mostly very traditional group of Malaysian Muslims, but there’s not any difference, really, with any other office environment.

    The worst, most inappropriate choice I made was wearing Montale Black Oud to give blood. In a tiny room with a medical tech and a blood pressure cuff on, the odor was just overwhelming. I’m sure the poor guy was just baffled — What IS that smell?!

    The next, and last, time I wore it, I was seeing a bunch of friends and hugging them. Again, very wrong.

    Black Oud is something to ponder in solitude.

  • dinazad says:

    Theoretically, this is a problem I rarely have. My skin eats most skanky scents alive, so I can happily sit in the office in Tabu, Roma or Eau d’Hermes and smell perfectly elegant and even demure. But in practice, I do choose a fragrance to complement an outfit (Balenciaga Rumba, to give an example, is NOT appropriate for a crisp outfit in black and white. Or for anything taking place indoors, for that matter. It’s great for scenting belly-dance veils, though) or to fit an occasion. Caron Nuit de Noel or Eau d’Hermes are my choice for conferences (classic, elegant, not too accessible, but not scary), Bas de Soie for meetings when I want to appear cool and knowledgeable. I’d probably wear Dior Eau Noire to a funeral – it seems to have such a warm “here’s a shoulder to cry on” vibe.

    • Sherri M. says:

      I’m like you Dinazad; I pretty much match the perfume to the outfit. Love all your choices, BTW! :-)

    • ggperfume says:

      I love Bas de Soie and am glad you feel it gives off the “cool and knowledgeable” vibe. Chanel no19 seems to do the same – all the more reason to wear them.

    • HemlockSillage says:

      I love your matching idea. . .but I’m a heyoka, a contrarian. I tend to go opposite with my perfume and outfit. I think I like having the juxtoposition of images. If I wear a very sweet ladylike pink suit, I’ll pair it with MKK or Bal a Versailles. If I’m wearing somthing really out there, like a red tight sheath dress, I tend to wear something more soft and demure, like No 5.

      Again, I’m a contrarian :D Today, I’m really confusing–I’m in scrubs and Onda extrait. Not sure how that’ll be interpreted, but I’ll not be boring. Be well.

      • Musette says:

        That sounds like fun, if a little mind-bending. Like Mitsouko and a fluffy pink sweater!

        xo >-)

      • ggperfume says:

        I like the effect of contrast too, easily achieved for me as I love elegant scents (Chanel classics, Iris Poudre) but dress rather more casually.

    • Rednails says:

      I wear Rumba to work, no prob.

  • Ann says:

    Good morning, lovely Posse people. I agree that appropriateness is key, in fragrance, attire, or whatever. I rarely wear anything too potent to begin with, but usually just dab once on my wrist and/or neck. If I must spritz, just one very light spray to a wrist will do. Heading out today for another few hours of a work tryout, so will go armed with a tiny bit of Eau Duelle or Kai on one wrist as my perfume armor/comfort scent. Have a great day everyone!

  • Mrs.Honey says:

    I generally don’t wear perfume to my weekly trip to the allergist for shots. Perfume does not set off MY allergies, but that does not mean it won’t set off someone else’s. (Highly recommended the shot route for the chronically allergic, BTW.)

    I tend to be a very light applier so I feel free to wear anything I want. Yes, I have worn modern Femme, Jubilation 25, Bal a Versailles and of course, my person favorite, Miel de Bois to work and no one has ever said anything.

    • Musette says:

      That is extremely considerate of you, Mrs H! I can imagine folks at the allergist have a huge range of triggers!

      I’m with you on wearing what you want, lightly applied. I think most people object to the sheer volume of scent sillage – unless they are PC control freaks, looking for a fight. I’m wearing vintage Mitsouko parfum today – just a spritz on my left wrist. It’s plenty – but so far nobody’s even noticed! Fine with me. 😉

      xo >-)

    • Rednails says:

      Mrs. Honey writes:
      “Femme, Jubilation 25, Bal a Versailles and of course, my person favorite, Miel de Bois to work and no one has ever said anything.”

      I have worn the first 3 to work, too — and Tabu, Fracas, Parfum de Peau, KL, Yatagan, the original Chloe, vintage Occur! and VCA Murmure (a jasmin poopfest in the heat). No one will ever say anything. The only scent I haven’t dared wear is Rabanne’s La Nuit.

      The only one I regretted wearing was Occur! Ta think, the skankiest NSFW frag around is a 1960s AVON offering.

      • ggperfume says:

        I remember when I was a child hearing my mother describe Occur as smelling like cat pee: “Oh, Mommy” said I, “no one would make a perfume that smelled like cat pee!” Little did I know that I would encounter a few of that ilk in the years to come – and like my mother, I won’t go near them.

  • Jillie says:

    Funerals. Just can’t bear to be thought of as being so selfish/frivolous/thoughtless as to actually wear perfume at such an event. But what if it is a tribute to the person whose funeral it is? Their favourite frag maybe? I hope that when I go that everyone soaks themselves in something lovely for the event, and that I am buried with some of my best bottles!

    • Jillie says:

      Good grief! The first time ever that I have been first responder in anything)! Must be a good omen ……….

      • Musette says:

        I like that idea! I am not too conscious of wearing scent to funerals – from my own experience the directly bereaved probably won’t notice if you’re naked, let alone scented – and the guest of honor is way past caring, one way or another. But it is one of those places where scent definitely needs to be lightly applied unless! you have the odd situation where you are in a packed, poorly ventilated wake, in 90F heat and a 400-lb corpse. Limited a/c. wall to wall folks who’ve been standing in the hot sun for nearly an hour, waiting to pay their respects, now crammed like sardines in a can.

        Then…a healthy slug of Imperiale really helps. The mo’ the mo’ bettah. And a fan.

        xo >-)

        • Olfacta says:

          I’m going to a funeral later today. A friend’s mother. I’ll wear something, but just a dab of extrait in the cleavage (what there is of it) so only I can smell it. The friend usually douses herself with Beautiful and my guess is that she will today, too.

          • Musette says:

            My condolences to your friend. You’re probably right on the Beautiful-dousing today. It’ll be her comfort.

            xo >-)

          • Olfacta says:

            That is so kind of you, M. I just returned from the services. I wore a tiny bit of vintage Mitsouko. My friend wore a lot of Beautiful and a low-cut black dress. Tongues may be wagging. I say, good for her!