Home > Finding my Signature Scent: An Evolving Journey

Finding my Signature Scent: An Evolving Journey

A small sampling of my perfume collection

As a kid, I hated perfume. I found it too strong and cloying, and just didn’t understand why anyone would want to smell like Sears. I was very sophisticated.

Thankfully, I grew up and discovered perfumes I actually liked thanks to my mother and grandmother. Mum loves Opium, L’Air du Temps and White Linen, while my Granny swore by Loulou and Anais Anais. The first bottle of perfume I ever received was Anais Anais from my Granny, and it still remains a favourite. To note, my paternal grandmother wore Penhaligon’s Violetta, which is also a huge favourite of mine.

As a teen, I wore a lot of garbage scents from the drugstore like Malibu Musk (wow) and funky-smelling Impulse body sprays. My friends were all obsessed with Exclamation, which I hated. To this day, it remains one of the most terrible perfumes I have ever smelled – an olfactory assault of peach, Welch’s grape juice and sparkly stripper. Anyways, my Malibu Musk sat on my dresser along with Love’s Baby Soft, Love’s Fresh Lemon and my cherished bottle of Anais Anais. As time went on, my tastes evolved and the perfumes got marginally better. I soon graduated to Tommy Girl, Body Shop’s White Musk and CK One (still a fave, btw).

738a09ee8df8ede57068686f0424ca67When I started working at Holt Renfrew, I was introduced to some really fine fragrances. I was surprised to find that I liked spicy, heavy scents. I bought Gucci Rush and perfumes by Chanel, Creed and Guerlain. I loved these. They were sophisticated and complex, and stood out against the scourge of terrible celebrity fragrances that were starting to crowd perfume counters. I no longer wanted to smell like Jolly Ranchers and marshmallows. I wanted to smell “expensive”.

I also wanted to find perfumes that were distinctly Dominique and original – a signature scent that would be associated with only me. I started testing various fragrances but it was hard. I would read perfume ads and get confused. What exactly is myrrh and chypre? Oud wood and tonka bean?? I found perfume ads bewildering – so I spent a few days hitting the perfume counters around the city, including Scentiment – a now defunct perfume shop that was my favourite of mine *tear*.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Try up to three scents at a time. More than that, and you’ll overwork your nosey and won’t get a true read on what you like.
  2. Understand the scents: smoky can smell like campfire or cedar chips; citrusy means lemony, orangey, etc.; green can be likened to fresh cut grass or a wheat grass shot; floral: roses, gardenia, violets, etc.
  3. Wait and see how the perfume smells after a few hours. Case in point? My Viktor and Rolf Bonbon smells like a candy shop when first applied, then dries down (mellows) to something delicate and lovely.  This perfume is interesting too as I get the bulk of my compliments from men when I wear it.
  4. Know why some perfumes cost more (finer ingredients, hard-to-find ingredients, complexity) and why some cost less (Paris Hilton’s name on the bottle).
  5. Most important of all, follow your instincts! There are some perfumes that are classic cult favourites that are widely reviled at the same time. Dior’s Poison is a classic example. I would liken this perfume to “a woman you greatly respect but do not like at all” – amazingly on point quote from a Make-up Alley review.

After all of this research, I found that I love heavy, spicy perfumes, along with florals (usually singular notes of either rose or violet). While I have yet to settle on just a few, at least I know what I really like.  Here are some of my personal favourites:

Well, there you go.  If you are looking for your own signature scent, have fun with it and follow your nose!!



Dominique Baker
Dominique Baker

Dominique is a Canadian-based fashion and beauty influencer with a strong voice in Ottawa’s black community. Since launching her blog Style Domination in 2015, she has amassed a global fanbase. Dominique shares her life through beautiful imagery and compelling story-telling that speaks to her fans on a personal level. She’s been featured in The Guardian, Flare, The Kit and Cityline. She also hosts events for Dress for Success, the Gem Conference, and has been named a United Way Person 2 Know for the past three years.

Find me on: Web | Instagram


  1. Renee
    February 8, 2015 / 10:56 pm

    Remember Ck One? Lol. Everyone wore that one.

    My personal fav is Chanel Mademoiselle. I’ve also tried J’adore.

    • February 9, 2015 / 1:19 am

      Haha! I still love it!! It reminds me of the good ol’ days of clubbing at RJ’s and On Tap! Love Mademoiselle and J’Adore…both in my perfume collection.

  2. February 10, 2015 / 3:59 am

    I can attest that every thing said in this post is true, right down the bottles of Love’s Baby Soft on the dresser. Nice post!

  3. February 10, 2015 / 2:08 pm

    Haha – Thanks Erika! You and Alice would know best!! Remember all of those Gap perfumes we had, a Body Shop Peach oil, Dewberry and White Musk? LOL! The peach stuff was gooo-oood!

    • February 11, 2015 / 1:51 am

      Gap perfume was one of my first perfumes too! “So Pink” – now my stomach turns thinking about it! My first “real” perfume at around 11 was Baby Doll by (then) YSL. I thought It made me smell like a princess 🙂
      Love this by the way! I feel like uncovering my fragrance journey as well.

      • February 11, 2015 / 2:02 am

        Awww Emm!!! I am loving all of the response I am getting from this post! Wow – Baby Doll is a GREAT first “real” perfume to have! God – my sisters and I absolutely killed Gap Heaven. It’s so funny that you say that it makes your stomach churn now because that it the exact reaction my sisters and I have when we talk about it too! LOL! Ugh.

  4. February 10, 2015 / 7:57 pm

    Thanks for writing; enjoyed this post and reading about your personal perfume journey! I’ve been wanting to explore more grown-up fragrances lately, and you offer great and salient advice. Looking forward to reading more from your blog!

    • February 10, 2015 / 9:49 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Abby!! I’ll be posting more on perfumes, so keep checking in!

  5. Lody Nesrallah
    February 11, 2015 / 1:08 am

    Loved walking down memory lane with your perfume tale…ha ha! oh ya, those cheap musk and others alike certainly lined my dresser and probably everyone else’s ! But interesting facts to know about distintive combinations of ingredients; I definitely echo the ” spray & wait” rule! Surprisingly, certain perfumes grew on me over the years when adapting that rule; of course we are now being denied any pretty smell when exiting your home, thus leading me to scour the perfume counter at Holts ( so long HR) for light, citrusy body lotion and eau du cologne; however I am never denied my evening sweet smells no matter where I go! Thankfully! Boucheron Saphire was absorbed beautifully by my skin and can no longer find it anywhere,,,Dominique, have you seen it at all? I’ve only seen Jaipu which my skin rejects,,,oh well,,,but I have inherited a back-up collection by Hermes, Chloe and Sisley which should last for unsure how long….but a few years! What is typically the shelf line of sealed bottles?

  6. February 17, 2015 / 11:59 am

    I Love Jo Malone, especially the light fruity scents like Peony & Blush Suede. It’s very light. And not everyone wears it, but people always say to me “you smell good, what perfume are you wearing?” Though a lot of people don’t care for Jo Malone because they can’t smell it. That’s what I like about Jo Malone, I don’t always smell it but apparently everyone else does. 🙂

  7. Priscilla
    March 20, 2015 / 12:32 pm

    Exclamation! Ha! That brings back some memories from high school! So glad we evolved…even if it took some time!

    • March 20, 2015 / 5:08 pm

      LOL! My friends used to drown themselves in it. I wonder if it’s still available…

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