These 13 Perfumes Will Make You Smell Like a Chic Parisian
As a beauty editor with an affinity for all things scented, I am a strong believer that perfume is not something defined by notes but rather personality. I identify perfumes by the feelings they evoke. It might sound a little odd, but before I settle on a new fragrance, I consider what sort of person the perfume might be and what sort of person I can imagine wearing it. To me, fragrance is a form of escapism that helps to better how I feel about myself on any given day.
Over the years, I have experimented with a range of fragrance personalities. During the winter months, for example, when I need a boost, I often find myself reaching for what I like to call offence-on-the-senses scents—ones that smell sumptuously deep, warm and strong, evoking a sense of power. Come summer, I tend to lean towards lightweight, care-free scents that ooze that sort of laid-back, cool-girl personality I wish I had. And while my fragrance personalities very much change with the seasons, as well as my mindset and style, there is one particular fragrance personality I find myself drawn to all year long—something I call the French-girl perfume.
A French-girl perfume does not lean towards any particular olfactory family or note but instead embodies a deeper sense of cool effortlessness. Much like French-girl makeup, skincare and fashion choices, French-girl perfumes are minimalist but punchy, effortless but luxurious, and seem so perfectly natural that they leave the recipient of the scent wondering if you just smell that good. And this is something I want to embody all the time.
If you too would like to embrace the effortlessly chic scent personality of the French girl, keep scrolling to shop the 13 perfumes that will leave you smelling (and feeling) as though you’re meandering the streets of Paris as a local.
Key notes: orange blossom, magnolia, vanilla. I’ll be honest. Most perfumes that embody that sense of French-girl chicness come with luxury price tags. This, however, does not—and it’s good. Created by French pharmacy powerhouse Nuxe, this fragrance captures the rich smell of the brand’s cult dry body oil. And I mean rich in every sense of the word—strong, sure, but also expensive.It’s warm and floral but not in a comforting sort of way. It’s the fragrance equivalent of rich and unbothered.
Key notes: orange blossom, tuberose, jasmine, white rose, floral musk, cumin, hibiscus. This fragrance is regarded to be one of the most iconically understated perfumes of all time. It doesn’t receive a whole load of hype, but among fragrance buffs, it’s an icon. It’s fresh and floral but in a sort of way that oozes sun-kissed glow and warmth.
Key notes: Damascena rose, orange, violet, magnolia blossom, musk accord, cedar. If we’re going to talk about notes, it’s rose that reigns supreme throughout French-girl perfumes. It’s not the powdered, heady sort of rose you might be used to though. This fragrance, for instance, turns a traditional rose scent into one that screams springtime freshness. It’s cool, head-clearing and undeniably chic.
Key notes: iris, musk, incense. If I could only pick out one fragrance that I think embodies the French-girl aesthetic best, it would be this from Dior. The brand describes it as “the olfactory incarnation of a white shirt that can be worn by man or woman,” and I can totally relate. It’s fresh, skin-like and a little bit floral, but it also has a deeper edge to it that sets it apart from others of its kind. While fresh, musky scents have a tendency to be subtle on the skin, Bois d’Argent has a bit of a fire to it that elevates its chicness tenfold.
Key notes: bergamot, lemon, narcissus, orange blossom absolute, neroli, white musk. The first time I ever smelled this perfume, I was in Paris. I was eating dinner at LouLou, and from the moment I sat down, I clocked a citrusy, musky perfume filling the air. It soon became apparent that it was coming from a very chic French lady at the table next to me. Thankfully, the friend I was eating with spoke French and asked after her perfume at my request. She told me that it was Indélébile and that it’s the only perfume she wears because it works for every occasion. How very French, I thought, to own just one perfume and make it work for everything. Since then, I too have invested in a bottle of Indélébile, and I am complimented on it all the time.
Key notes: juniper berries, tonka bean, cedar tree, jasmine. If you’d have asked me just two years ago to name my favourite perfume, I wouldn’t have been able to—there are just too many great ones out there. However, since Diptyque launched Orphéon last year, it’s become my most-worn scent and is easily my favourite perfume in existence. Inspired by the Parisian jazz clubs in the 1960s, it’s only natural that it oozes French-girl chic. Don’t be put off by the jazz-club description, though. While there’s no denying the fragrance is warm and a little woody, most of all, it’s light and powdery—more reminiscent of a makeup compact than a leather-clad smoking lounge.
Key notes: white musk, jasmine, neroli, honeyed ginger liqueur. Another more affordable fragrance from a French pharmaceutical brand, Caudalie Thé des Vignes is French through and through. Its light, floral freshness makes it ideal for springtime, while a sweet warmth allows it to work for other seasons, too. The thing I love most about this scent is that its subtlety makes it versatile enough to work just as well when spritzed over a white T-shirt in the day as it does paired with a little black dress come evening.
Key notes: Damask rose, lemon, mandarin, pink peppercorn, patchouli. It doesn’t get much more French than a Chanel perfume inspired by the streets of Paris, does it? If I had to assign a personality to Chanel’s latest fragrance launch, Paris-Paris, I’d say it’s the sort of French girl who lives in the city; wears denim, Breton stripes and a red lip; and wakes up early on a Saturday morning to pick up her fresh blooms from the flower market. You’ll have to forgive my stereotyping, but when it comes to this fragrance, it rings true.
Key notes: angelica flower, vanilla, pink pepper, cedar. While most of the other perfumes on this list embody a fresh sense of wearability, Angélique Noire is deep, dark and sexy. That’s not to say it isn’t versatile, though. Without being overbearing or heady, it has a sharpness to it (balanced out by soft sweetness) that leaves you wanting to go back for more. Its bitterness makes it crisp enough to act as a power booster morning, noon and night.
Key notes: green leaves, freesia, sambac jasmine, tuberose, Grasse rose, peach, cedar, oakmoss. Not all that different to Chanel Paris-Paris in that it’s also inspired by Parisian flora, Flower Market embodies the same springtime joy of perusing a Parisian flower market on a sunny day but is less sparkling than its Chanel sister. Instead, it has a crispness to it that tickles the nose and makes you want to throw your windows wide open and clean the house.
Key notes: cedrat essence, cassis bourgeon absolute, organic rose essence, neroli essence, cedar essence, mimosa absolute. Speaking of crispness, Chloé Naturelle is perhaps one of the most uplifting and chicest perfumes you will ever smell. Summing up the laid-back coolness of the Chloé girl and marrying it up with the pulled-together French aesthetic, this perfume is green and earthy in a sort of way that makes you feel as though you can take on anything.
Key notes: ginger, tuberose, sandalwood. Most perfumes that possess French-girl personality are niche and hard to come by, I’ll admit, but I consider Twilly d’Hermès an underrated star in the mainstream fragrance game. Its wearability might be down to the fact it’s so readily available, but it also lends itself to the fuss-free nature of French-girl beauty. Zingy, effervescent and a little bit spicy, it’s a real mood booster that can be spritzed whenever your heart so desires.
Key notes: orange blossom water, Moroccan neroli, bergamot, petitgrain, musk. If you’re after a perfume that really stands out from the crowd, Sana Jardin Berber Blonde could be just the ticket. It’s rich, warm and floral but has an earthiness to it—bringing you down for the intensity of the top notes, leaving you feeling grounded and at peace. A couple of mists of Berber Blonde on your neck when you’re wearing your most understated but comfortable outfit leave you feeling like a million dollars (or euros).
Next up, if you’re a fan of Le Labo 33, you’ll want to know about these perfumes.
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