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Essay: A Body of Scent

by Lee C. Wallick on 10 November 2010

Writer Lee C. Wallick discusses our invisible attire of scent.

Writer Lee C. Wallick discusses our invisible attire of scent.

Our bodies create scent. Fashionable or not, it's a fact. True, sometimes they are less desirable but at the same time they can very much be utterly base and animalistic-ally alluring. Although, before we proceed, let us not get confused by pheromones, the famous chemicals we secrete, as they are by nature odourless. What we are initially dealing with is skin. Huge amounts of (money) research and development are thrust towards creating skin-like fragrances and perfumes. Most of which is mainly trying to tap into our experiences of skin-on-skin action, whether that be with our mother as a child or with a lover. It makes little difference. But very rarely do we actually experience the true scent of our bodies. A) because there isn’t just one 'skin scent'. We’re all different – our individual scent is a reflection of our DNA and B) because we are involved in the rituals of bathing, clothing and perfuming our bodies.

Fragrance is the seemingly invisible side of fashion that makes so much of the industry go-round.

What we mainly regard as 'clean' is in fact the white musk-y residues left behind by bars of soaps, shower gels and the like. Then the body beautifying begins with various unguents, slathered up, down, here and there. Perhaps even the medicinal, astringent smell of figure-fixing cream creeps in there. It depends on your type, whether you go for the vertically integrated body lotion to perfume pump of a favourite fragrance or mix-it-up all over the shop. Either way or even if you opt for 'unscented' (it's still scented) the body is now working in layers of molecules. All this before getting properly dressed. Which brings us to the clothes we choose to wear and the summary element of our wardrobe, a perfume, we ultimately dab and drape over ourselves. That one element that can make an entrance grander and impression last longer than a ballgown with bells on.

Fragrance is the seemingly invisible side of fashion that makes so much of the industry go-round. There are rather many a fashion house that wouldn’t have a stitch to sew weren't it for their precious, blockbuster fragrances. And yet when we can't afford the clothes to physically wear on our bodies, a few presses of an atomiser at least can make us feel part of the mood, the ethos of a designer. We can even go so far as to say we're wearing so-and-so. We can get wrapped in different characters we want to portray. We can complete a look. Never mind if we cannot see it, scent is absolutely part of what makes a body fashionable... by nature or by design.

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