Second chances: Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady Our darling Musette posted last summer about how Frederic Malle’s Noir Epices fragrance didn’t move her, but its body lotion/cream sent her over the moon. Well, her experience inspired me to rethink several scents. Case in point: I wanted to love FM’s Portrait of a Lady, but even one light spritz was just too, too much — too much rose, too much spice, too much of everything. I almost felt as if I were being rolled up and smothered in a heavy, albeit gorgeous, dark red Oriental rug.

So I got my mitts on a bit of the body cream a while back and tried it on a particularly cold day. (Cue angels singing “Hallelujah!”) And then I was very nearly cutting that proverbial rug, dancing with joy at the sheer beauty of it. The oppressive weight was gone, leaving me draped in a sumptuous cashmere throw, rosy, warm and enveloping, yet at the same time as light as angel wings.

Alas, the price of the divine black jar that is Portrait of a Lady is on par with that luscious fabric, so my wallet must sorrowfully decline. But that’s all right; I know where my next windfall will be spent, should I ever get one.

I had a similar experience with Ormonde Jayne Woman. It’s a stunning fragrance, no doubt, but on some days, it feels a bit overpowering to me, and has me wishing I could dial it down a few notches. But after slathering a sample jar of the body lotion on my hands and arms, I found it to be just right for those days when a spray is just too much. Ah … now this lets me have just a little peek into OJ Woman’s dark, lush, fairy-tale forest.

Have you found a fragrance that you love as a body product but aren’t as crazy for the actual juice itself? Or vice-versa?
BTW, I’ve since discovered that I CAN wear Portrait of a Lady if I use just a tiny dot or two out of the sample vial.

Portrait of a Lady body butter is $200 for a 6.8-ounce jar; available online and in-store at Frederic Malle, Aedes de Venustas and Barney’s New York. Sample jars of Ormonde Jayne Woman body lotion are available at Surrender to Chance.

This is interesting too!


  1. I literally just made a sound under my breath that was a cross between Oh and the screeching of braking tires -this is when I saw the PRICE TAG FOR BODY CREAM !!!!! AAAAaaaackk!!!


    Yeah maybe I’ll win Publishers Clearing House one of these days.
    Then maybe..

    I actually Do like a ancilary product better -JS Fancy Shower Gel smells more like Bvlgari Omnia(original red-brown bottle) than Fancy.

    • Hi, Jennifer. Yep, it is off-the-charts pricey, but what can you do? My only suggestion is to beg a sample the next time you’re in Barney’s, I guess.
      If I ever win the lottery, it’ll be Frederic Malle body butters for all you Posse peeps!
      BTW, I’m not familiar with the shower gel you mention — what does the JS stand for? Thanks!

  2. Jessica Simpson . Cheap I know,(I only paid $10.80 at Big lots for a giftset) but nice. The perfume is Uber-SWEET as in Pink Sugar dupe.

    • Sometimes that just hits the spot! I love me some sweet sometimes, too.

  3. I don’t use perfumed body products but as far as the “one dab (spray) will do ‘ya” juice category, I have several that qualify — ALL the Sonoma Scent Studio perfumes, most of the Andy Tauers, Carnal Flower and Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin, In the two dab category – POAL, Chanel No. 5 EDP and Guerlain SDV.

    • Hi, lady! I know what you mean; I have to do the same with most of those you mention (except sometimes when I’m feeling really decadent I’ll go for the second spritz of Carnal Flower, ha!). Something about the SSS and Tauer lines makes them “dab only” for me.

  4. I can wear Womanity on a really cold day, in small doses.. But the body lotion is far more wearable and I think a lot of the people who found it interesting but way to weird could enjoy it that way.

    • Lotta, that’s a great idea. And you described Womanity perfectly. I sprayed it when it first came out and didn’t like it, but I bet a bit of the lotion would be nice.

  5. Hi Ann, Glad you found a way to enjoy PoaL! That price tag is scary though. Only body product fail I can think of at the moment is Calyx. I love the fragrance itself but in the body products it is much thinner and more metallic, ugh. Guess its money saved right? Xx

    • Hi, lady! So nice to see you! I’ve only tried the Calyx shower gel, and it was just OK, but sorry to hear the lotion is not up to snuff. You’re right; $$$ saved for something else we DO love!

      • Calyx lotion IS metallic, innit! I love the fragrance and love the shower gel but something about that lotion…ugh.


  6. Ditto Angel and Alien! The Muglers are so strong, that a lot of the time, the body products in small amounts are far more wearable than the actual perfumes. Or you can spritz one spray and walk through it, that works too. Some of the very strong Gaultiers are easier in other forms as well.

    • Oh, yes! And with the Angel, one small dab of lotion/cream is a gracious plenty, I think. I know some folks who douse themselves in Angel and I’ve tried to steer them toward the body products instead.

  7. Tresor. The juice itself is nasty, but the body lotion is really beautiful.

    • Hi, Debbie! I haven’t tried the Tresor in ages but had a friend who wore it fairly well. Good to know about the lotion — will give it a go next time I’m by the Lancome counter. Thanks!

  8. PoaL took me a few tries to fall in love with. I’m not a rose lover to begin with and thought it way too overwhelming until the late dry down. Then, I dropped a 2 ml sample on my bathroom floor. I tried to clean it up but nonetheless the bathroom still smelled zoo good for the next week or so (really–it lasted that long!). I got addicted to it and ordered a 5 ml decant. This, plus the little decant in the FM discovery set, will last me the rest of my perfumista life, as I spray so little of it at a time!

    Other hard hitters I love only in small doses are the aforementioned Angel, Carnal Flower, Mahora/Mayotte and Fracas (most BWF’s really). I find a lot of scented body lotions are actually stronger than the perfumes themselves, so I usually go the “spray on a cotton ball and dab” route instead. Lady Primrose Celadon is a very green scent and I sometimes works to “cut” the BWF’s in the Spring and Summer.

    • Howdy, Sherri! Whoa — you fell in love with PoaL the hard way — on the bathroom floor! But I guess that’s one way to fully experience its beauty. What did your family think?
      BTW, I like your idea of “spray on a cotton ball and dab”; will definitely have to try that.

  9. I find a good many lotions and body washes much stronger than the perfume itself. Vera Wang’s 1st perfume that she released, I had bought the gift set. While I do enjoy the perfume immensely, the body wash and lotion, even by themselves, are overwhelming. My mother actually really liked Vera Wang for her and took the body products off my hands. Sheer Veil does the same thing for me. Frapin’s 1270 doesn’t have matching bath stuff but one small spray can be too much. It’s apricot and booze on me and in hot weather, it’s not pretty.

    • Oh, that’s interesting — I wouldn’t have guessed that, especially about the Vera. Glad they worked for your mom at least. Apricot and booze in hot weather — ouch!

  10. I do really like Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile edp, and own a bottle, but then I got the shower creme and the body oil, which I moisturizer with when wet and pat dry. I find there are days when u crave the gentle veil of scent and the perfume just doesn’t have the same effect..

    The womanity comment also made me remember several years ago I was given some L. Arden Provocative Woman. I didn’t like the perfume but the shower gel and lotion were quite nice. Unlike the Chopard Wish shower gel that did nothing to try to convince me to like it as it tried to suffocate me with its noxious fumes in my tiny bathroom :-/

    • Oh, no, Lynley! Deadly shower gel sounds awful. But happy that the whole Iris Nobile line works so well for you. I didn’t know they made it in a body oil — very cool.

  11. You know I am the poster girl for scented body products – especially the Malles, Rosines and my beloved Amouages. I really couldn’t appreciate Epic until I backed into it, courtesy the body products. Now I am its Most Fervent Fan. I think there are a lot of scents, some more complex than others, some just plain ol’ STRONG, that are better experienced via the ancillary products – that is especially true when you go into higher quality ingredients. Carnal Flower body butter is a perfect representation of the scent, as are the Amouages. Others, like Calyx (discussed above) don’t translate as well. Maybe it’s the notes?


    • Yes, you are, indeed, and Queen Enabler, too! 😉 I’ve not tried the Epic, and probably not likely to in my lifetime. But I’m thinking I have enough to wish for as it is. I think you’re right about the notes, also the quality of ingredients. A mass-market firm might not be as likely to try to perfect its body products like the big-budget folks such as Amouage, FM, etc.

  12. Hi Ann. I love Portrait of a Lady but can’t imagine spraying it, it’s so potent on my skin. Dabbed, though, it’s quite beautiful. Didn’t even realize this one was avaialable in the body cream. It seems like whenever I look at the Frederic Malle products through the Barney’s website, the product line-up is different. Sometimes the Carnal Flower body butter is available, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes a fragrance is available as a 50-ml bottle instead of 100-ml, sometimes it isn’t. I wish they’d be more consistent.

    • Hi, lady, glad to see another “dabber,” or in my case “a pin prick” of perfume. I’ve noticed that about Barney’s as well; not sure what’s up with that. I do know that a couple of years back I spoke with someone at FM’s NYC store and they mentioned that at that time they were low on stock of CF body butter because of something about the tuberose crop/harvest, etc. So perhaps availability is tied to supply of raw ingredients? Who knows …

  13. This turned into a TL;DR post, sorry

    Usually I dab lightly because I’ve lived with sensitive people, so I worry about being too ‘loud’. Samples last me a long time.

    Never tried Portrait of a Lady, have not had much Malle luck. Much more interested in Amouage! Also interested in Byredo though the scents I wanted are not available as butters/creams yet….
    I love OJ Woman and am thrilled to know that there are samples of body cream available! Definitely adding to my wishlist…

    I love POTL body cream actually, it’s the only perfume-y one I have. Cuddly warm and clearer, less ‘fuzzy’ for when the spray might feel choking. Usually I use unscented lotion/oil/butter or vanilla shea butter or a lemony body oil. Pretty simple, though I came into fragrance through body products. Still have a spray and lotion I mixed myself, woods and pumpkin pie and plum.

    Though I also love Black Cashmere as a lotion, sometimes it is too strong for others around me (love the perfume too but whoa). Original Gucci came in lotion and solid perfume which were both softer and more clean-musky, less cumin-y to me. Loved layering or wearing alone.

    Perlier Vaniglia is one I never found in pure fragrance but the bubble bath led me to stake out TJ Max in vain for years, then resort to Ebay. I found Vaniglia body butter and *love* it (despite high shipping charges), might be my favorite vanilla. It is cooler than most vanillas, no spice or wood at all, and milky and sweet and clean.

    Ecco Bella did vanilla body wash, lotion, and perfume and they were all different–the spray fragrance was very deep, dark, and bourbon-y (like the drink and the vanilla mixed together), the lotion was kind of sweet and maybe a touch woody/balsamy but mostly just like great vanilla. The body wash was a teensy bit herbal and not as creamy-rich-foody as the lotion. Tied for favorite vanilla as a group I think.

    Also love Natio Body Butter in Jasmine Attar, which I think does not have ‘fragrance’ except for jasmine oil and some other natural extracts. Clearance at TJ Max under 10$, found an unswiped jar after sniffing the mauled one. I really love it and feel like more people should share the love too–and I say this as a converted jasmine-phobe who came to it through jasmine green tea (pearls then yin hao) and then appreciated the perfumes (The Pour Un Ete).

    Kiehls Lychee something lotion is an amazing dupe of Ginestet Botrytis and I would love to layer them on a really cold day.

    Fail: Caron Bellodgia lotion. Wanted to love love love it but smells sour and off, and the perfume is not great on me–people said it smells strong and old-lady (not my words). Sigh. Cannot think of another big fail like this…

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