Sephora: Panning for gold in mainstream waters

We’ve been hitting high-end fragrances a lot lately, so I thought I’d go for something a little different today. A while back I had the luxury of a Sunday afternoon to myself, so I headed up to the mall, and went rambling aimlessly through Sephora.

There are shelf upon shelf, and row upon row of fragrances there, enough to boggle the mind, really, if you think about it. So why do I tend to glance over all the bottles cursorily and just keep walking?

Which got me thinking: If someone were to give me a Sephora gift card to buy fragrance, what could I get and wear happily?

There’s a lot to consider, and I’m sure I’m missing some real gems, but here’s what I came up with:

SephoraMarc Jacobs original: This is really quite nice, built around the idea of a lush, wet gardenia. It’s a simply lovely white floral, not loud enough to be offensive, fairly reasonably priced and also comes in an elegant, sleek perfume solid. So what’s not to like?

Kate Walsh Boyfriend body cream: The juice itself is OK, but as I wrote about a while back, the cream is just the bee’s knees for me, especially on cool evenings, before bedtime. It’s just a comforting embrace of delicious warmth wafting up from my skin.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine-Basilic: A refreshing citrus sparkler in a generous bottle that perks up even the hottest days. Keeping it in the fridge makes it even better.

Chanel Coco (the original): I’ve recently re-discovered this vibrant amber beauty after many years away. The Website has the EDT and the EDP, and I’ll take them both, but I can still wish for the body products. Are you listening, Sephora?

Tom Ford Violet Blonde and/or Black Orchid — Both great scents although very different. The Violet Blonde is classy and pretty, and pretty much wearable anytime, anywhere. And the Black Orchid — well, I’d definitely have to save it for cold weather and wear in dab-only mode, but in the right circumstances, a real stunner.

And for the hubs: Anything by John Varvatos, although most likely the original scent. And Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb or Marc Jacobs’ Bang, more for me, really.
Oh, dear, Sephora doesn’t carry Bang anymore, you say? 🙁

What about you? What would keep you afloat, perfume-wise, if you could shop at only one mall-type (not high-end) store?

51 Comments

    • That’s a great choice — I didn’t really look at the Diors because most of the ones they have there are not my thing. Thanks!

  1. I’m sure I could find something I like at Sephora because I like Prada. Right now I’m lusting after Prada Candy. Still, I sure am grateful for on line retailers. I live in a large city but it has no high end department stores.

    • Oh, yes, Suzy Q! Prada Candy is yummy to be sure and some of the others in the line are nice as well. I knew I’d forget some things, but that’s a testament to how much they carry.

  2. It’s been a long time since I’ve set foot in Sephora. The closest Sephora to me (45 minutes away) has nothing but snotty or pushy sales people. I’m probably going to be going in there when I do some Christmas shopping.

    • Eldarwen, that’s awful! I’ve never experienced that, so thought it was part of the Sephora ethic for SAs to be friendly and helpful. Here’s hoping you can find a nice one on your next visit and then he or she can be your go-to person for what you need. If I find a good SA when shopping, I really try to give them all my purchases (though I don’t buy nearly as much as I used to).

  3. I’m a regular at Sephora, I have at least three of their stores relatively near and I often drop by to check what’s new, not only perfume-wise. I love the fact that they hand out samples of whatever you like for free, unlike the high-end perfumeries around where you can either order a tiny little sample and pay for it the amount of money you’d pay for a latte, or just spray a little on your skin at the shop… I usually go with the first option and order the samples online, since one spritz is not enough for me to make up my mind, but I don’t really think the 1 mLs are worth the price…

    Anyway, back to Sephora. As I wrote under some earlier post, I love Narciso Rodriguez for Her edt. I also have a thing about Bvlgari Omnia Crystalline and D&G l’eau the One. When it comes to fragrances for men, I totally enjoy Zadig & Voltaire’s Tome 1 La Purete for Him.

    • Hear, hear on Sephora’s great sampling policy — gotta love it! Mmmm .. I like the NR in all its forms but have not tried the other scents you mentioned. Back to Sephora I must go …

    • My Sephora’s are dreadful with samples. I intentionally buy online because at least then I can get 3 samples. I’ve even asked for a sample of something and was told, sorry we don’t have any of that. I like sephora but I have yet to find a helpful SA.

      • Oh, dear, sorry to hear this, Poodle. It surprises me, though, because all three of the ones in the metro area near me have been pretty nice about making samples when I’ve asked and even some elsewhere (Florida, San Francisco, etc.) so I figured it was part of their customer service across the board. Maybe your Sephoras need a sampling “attitude adjustment,” eh?

  4. I like the Pacifica line –very affordable and fairly gentle as far as allergies go. I also love Prada Candy, plus Guerlain L’Instant (although our Sephora seems not to be carrying L’Instant anymore), LPRN, and the Aqua Allegoria line, and one of the Burberry’s. I also sprayed the new Miss Dior Le Parfum on my wrist at Dillards and was surprised how nice it was–not so strawberry as Miss Dior Cherie.

    • Howdy, Sherri! The Pacifica line (smacks hand to head), how great is that? As I said before, I knew I’d be forgetting a bunch of good stuff. You’ve got me curious to try that Dior, as that other was, as you mentioned, way too strawberry. But you must refresh my feeble, aging memory, dear: What does LPRN stand for again?

  5. At Sephora, I’d have to say that I could happily live off their Hermes Jardins line (do they still carry those?) and any Chanel. Chanel No5 Eau Premiere and AA Mandarine Basilic are both staples for me, so as long as I could get those I think I’d be OK.

    That being said, I live more that two hours away from the closest real shopping mall, so I have to buy almost everything online. There IS a Macy’s 40 miles away, but it’s small so they don’t even have the entire Chanel line. And a TJ Maxx, where I’ve found some decent items.

    • Hi, Audrey! Not sure about in my stores, but I do see quite a few of the Hermes (including several Jardins) online at Sephora, and thanks for the heads-up on the No. 5 EP — I like that as well. And glad to see another AA MB fan!
      Lucky you to have found some good stuff at your TJMaxx; mine always seem to have nothing but beat-up boxes of dreck (some of which I have never heard of)..

      • It’s the one good thing about being in the middle of nowhere….I think I’m the only perfume-obsessed person for about 200 miles, so I’ve found some good things…….. Aqua Allegorias, Marc Jacobs splashes, Womanity, Prada, etc at TJ Maxx.

        • Those are some great scores, you lucky girl! I’m coming to visit next week (just kidding). Seriously though, from all I’ve read, it makes me wonder if the TJ Maxx stores further out from metropolitan areas get the more exclusive/expensive stuff, and they send the junkier things to the stores near bigger cities.

          • I think it definitely depends on the store, but not sure how much you can rely on location, because my TJ Maxx and Marshall’s here on Long Island (20+ miles from NYC?) have provided me with both Marc Jacobs splashes and Womanity. I think they don’t get tons of good stuff, but occasionally, it’s there.

            Unfortunately those kinds of scores make me haunt other TJ Maxx’s for months and then when nothing good turns up I get despondent. 🙂

            • Thanks! I always hear about these cool scores and have yet to find one, so was trying to find some kind of rhyme or reason for it. But lucky you!

  6. Hi Ann. So good to hear that you’re loving the original Coco! If the only store available to me for perfume shopping was a mall-type store, I’d definitely be looking in the direction of Chanel and Estee Lauder for my purchases. It would make for a very small perfume wardrobe, but perhaps that would be a good thing. 🙂

      • Thanks, Elizabeth! And thank heavens that the original is still around. It would be a perfume tragedy if it were gone and Chanel would probably be inundated with screaming, outraged customers, ha!

    • Hi, sweetie! You’re right, it might be a good thing in a way. And there are some lovely choices to be had from those lines, so I could live with it quite nicely, if I had to.

  7. I don’t have a Sephora. The only mall perfumery I have access to locally is either Belk’s (30 minutes’ drive) or Macy’s (55 minutes). So what would I buy at either of those places that I’d wear?

    Marc Jacobs Daisy (SHUT. UP. I like it. And it does NOT smell like strawberries, nyah nyah.)
    Chanel No. 5, EdT or Parfum. Or body cream. ‘Nuff sed.
    Clarins Eau de Jardins, which my younger son likes very much. It smells something like Guerlain AA Pamplelune to me.
    I was *going* to say Esprit d’Oscar, but last time I went to Belk’s they no longer had it, only the Oscar de la Renta.
    Prada Infusion d’Iris

    • Howdy, Mals! Belk and Macy’s offer some good choices, I think, and they have more to offer in the Chanel line than does Sephora, plus they have Estee Lauder as well. I have not tried the Clarins but do kind of like the Daisy.
      BTW, I just got a sample of the Esprit and really enjoyed it — it reminded me of the original but with a little twist, which was nice.

      • BTW, Mals, I got all excited when I saw TF Voile de Fleur (I know you liked it, too) listed on the Sephora site under Tom Ford. But then I read “not in stock.” I guess I was hoping that they’d miraculously found a forgotten, unopened box of it in their warehouse or something. Darn!

    • Ha..I hate to admit it , I like Daisy too, and I do think it smells like strawberries but shampoo…and in a really good way! my daughters both wear it so it reminds me of them and I love that.

  8. In Scotland the closest thing we have to Sephora would be Debenhams (or John Lewis), and I live about a half-hour drive from three fairly large stores.

    The mainstream releases haven’t been all bad lately, and I have quite a few in my collection. Bottega Veneta, Cartier Baiser Vole, Opium Vapeurs Legere, Guerlain Lys Soleia, TF Violet Blonde, Bulgari Mon Jasmin Noir, Kenzo Madly EDP, and lots of old staples… No.5, Eau Premiere, Coco, Hypnotic Poison, Addict, Diorissimo, Eau des Marveilles, NR for Her Intense Musc.

    Burberry Sport for Her makes for a pretty decent summer spritz, as does TM Cologne.

    My husband tends to wear mainstream aftershaves, but again, recent releases haven’t been too bad – I originally bought Spicebomb for myself but hubby commandeered it! The L’Occitane ranges for men are excellent too, and I really love TF Grey Vetiver and Juicy Couture Dirty English.

    I’m sure I’d survive without access to niche goodies (currently via the internet), but I’d be pretty sad…

    • Wow! You list some really good stuff there. I love many of them as well. Thanks for the reminder about the Thierry Mugler Cologne — that is so lovely in hot weather. And too funny about the Spicebomb! You’ll just have to sneak in when he’s not looking and re-commandeer it (at least steal a few spritzes now and then).

      • And you’re right — sometimes I feel a little spoiled by all the niche goodies. It’s easy to forget how many good scents are out there in the mainstream. I’m glad we can enjoy both …

        • I’m just so glad we have the internet and online shopping for niche though. My bottle of Seville A L’Aube arrived this morning, and I’m currently reading through Denyse’s book too…bliss!

          • Ooh, I am so envious of you! That Seville is some seriously good juice, isn’t it?

  9. If I’m at Sephora I can always make do with Hermes….Un Jardin en Mediterranee, Un Jardin sur le Nil and Eau des Merveilles. Also, Bulgari Black is a definite favorite and can be had there…though I prefer to order it online, it’s much cheaper!

    • Hi, Samantha. I didn’t realize Sephora had it and sure didn’t know it was cheaper online. Thanks!

  10. Sephora – um – Bulgari Black and Fresh Cannabis Santal 🙂

    • Yay for Bulgari Black! Have not tried the Fresh, but next time I’m in Sephora …

  11. No Sephora near me, but other malls, and there I would by Guerlain (I’m planning to buy Shalimar Initial and perhaps L’heure Bleu, so in fact heading for the mall soon). Chanel Coco (mine already, love it), YSL Yvresse, and I would explore Estee Lauder. Perhaps examine what Dior offer. Donna Karan? Nah…I have Gold, which is wonderful, but otherwise I’m not too curious. Kind of like Prada, but they are a bit to weak on me – disappear within the hour. L’eau l’Ambrée is lovely woodsy though. No celebrity frag – I hate the phenomena.

    • Lots of good choices there, Ann-Sofia. I need to re-try the Prada Ambree now that it’s getting a bit cooler, so thanks for the reminder.

    • Lots of good choices there, Ann-Sofie! I really need to re-try the Prada Ambree again now that it’s cooler here, so thanks for the reminder.

  12. I just realized I have never smelled the original Marc Jacobs but it has one of the most beautiful bottles in Sephora. It is a pity Bang was such a flop. It really deserved better.

    • I love the bottle, too: simple, classy and functional. It is such a shame about Bang, isn’t it? It was one of the few recent men’s releases that I really liked, both for me and my DH.

  13. You’re limiting me to a single mall store? Where do you come up with these nightmare scenarios, girlfriend? 🙂

    Okay, I’ll play, but only in a “this is an extremely brief contemplation of a hypothetical post-semi-apocalyptic event in which, for a very limited time, I am unable to acquire samples, decants or full bottles of my favorite high-end perfumes.”

    Prada Candy, Boyfriend (I thought the perfume wasn’t bad, actually), an Aqua Allegoria or two, Balenciaga L’Essence, Terre d’Hermes, Narciso Rodriguez For Her. There. That’s it. I’m not thinking about this anymore!

    • Hey, Lisa! Come on now, I haven’t done anything torturous in quite a while (wink, wink). I just thought it might be a good idea to step back and realize that we can still have a bit o’ fun in the mainstream pool. I would hate to give up my niche lovelies as well, but my wallet would be so much happier! Nice choices, BTW.

  14. I’d do OK — I love Estee Lauder’s Private Collection (and want to try Azuree, I love leather), and then there’s Eau Sauvage, Eau des Merveilles, Kelly Caleche, Bottega Veneta, Narciso Rodriguez, and Shalimar (the one Guerlain you can always at Macy’s and Sephora). I like Idylle too, I wouldn’t mind a bottle of Versense, and I haven’t tried Violet Blonde yet but I suspect it’s my kind of thing.

    • Hi, Thalia! Sounds like you’re all set. Mmmm … I do love me some Private Collection and BV, too. Think you’d like the Violet Blonde, and Sephora (and Nordstrom, too) are so good about making you samples.

  15. Sephora has some interesting things on line, including L’AP Nuit de Tubereuse and Timbuktu, Clinique Aromatics Elixier, and various Atelier, Hermes and Aqua di Parma frags. That’s sort of cheating, though. Perhaps the mall stores actually have Bulgari Eau de The Vert and Balenciaga Paris?

    • Hi, Nozknoz. Wow! I just looked online, and yes, indeedy, there they were. I don’t recall seeing the Bulgari or Balenciaga on my last visit but could have easily overlooked them. Will take a peek next time I’m there.

  16. I’d go for the Chanel or Prada scents. Bvlgari has a few I like too. There’s Guerlain and Givenchy too, so there’s plenty to amuse me. They have Kenzo as well.

    • Hey, Poodle! Yep, there are some surprisingly good picks there on the shelves. And I’d forgotten all about the Kenzo, so thanks!

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