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How To Pair Fragrances With Your Outfits

Does the idea that a fragrance can pair with an ensemble seem strange to you? Well, it’s true. Today, we’ll explain exactly what we mean, as we illustrate how considering time, place, and desired atmosphere can create superior fragrance and outfit combinations.

1. Consider the Season

One of the simplest ways to create harmony between your clothes and your scent is to ensure that each is seasonally appropriate.

For clothing, this involves selecting fabrics, weights, cuts, and colors that are largely suited to a season’s weather and temperature, so think lightweight linen, sport coats, and cotton shirts, and bright or pastel colors in warm weather or plush, double-breasted suits, flannels, and lined gloves in cold weather.

Determining What Makes a Fragrance Seasonally Appropriate

Fragrances follow somewhat similar rules, with what seems appropriate and what makes sense for each season. For instance, on a hot and sunny day at the beach, decadent, rich scents like vanilla or bourbon could come off as cloying or unpleasant, just like a heavy flannel overshirt or shearling-lined boots, even though they be perfect on a cold day in front of a roaring fire. And while zesty, fruity, or even ice cream-inspired fragrances would be ideal for the beach day, they might feel incongruous on a crisp fall day. Rather like crunching through leaves in Madras shorts and a polo.

It is very important to try first your chosen fragrance to know if it would last long on youIt is very important to try first your chosen fragrance to know if it would last long on you
Suit your fragrance to the season and occasion.

Of course, what you consider a seasonal fragrance might vary with your culture. In North America, citrus smells are usually associated with warm weather but because fruits are usually exchanged as holiday gifts in many parts of the world, there they can be associated with cold weather. Ultimately, ensuring seasonality in your scents helps you savor each season like the Italian concept scorpacciata.

Learn how to savor the seasons!

Examples of Seasonal Ensemble and Fragrance Pairings

Let’s run down what we’ve learned with some examples. Seersucker fabric, lighter tones, and a pastel paisley tie would indicate a spring ensemble, so we could put more spring in our step with the scent evocative of a fresh garden, such as a crisp chypre fragrance like Loafer with its bright orange, clove, and nutmeg notes; or the aptly-named Giardino di Boboli by Roberto Ugolini with its prominent floral notes like geranium, rose, and jasmine. Bundled up in the snowfield, however, flowers would be the last thing on Raphael’s mind, so perhaps a scent with warm elements like the smoky and spicy notes of 4 Rosso might take the bite out of the chill. 

Just like clothes, of course, some scents are exceptional year-round, like Oxford with its classic masculine base notes of cedar, sandalwood, and patchouli; or Blue Suede Shoes with it’s versatile and universally appealing notes of bergamot, ambergris, and vetiver.

Learn our favorite summer scents

2. Consider the Time of Day

Now that you understand how to account for the time of year in your fragrance and clothing choices, consider also the time of day. Just like some garments and fragrances are evocative of certain seasons and climates, the same can be said for day and night.

We're all fans of Creed Fragrances!We're all fans of Creed Fragrances!
Time is an important factor when it comes to fragrances

Like many of the concepts we’ll be discussing today, this distinction doesn’t have many hard and fast rules. Some scents immediately put you in mind of a sunny day, like green, fruity, or ozonic smells. In contrast, others are more typical of the evening like spicy or smoky scents. But, some rich and decadent fruit scents like blood orange may be more suitable for the evening, while spices like pink pepper or saffron can easily be associated with the daytime. It can, therefore, be helpful to frame the distinction as what can be worn to the office and what should be worn on an evening out.

Fragrances Most Appropriate for Day Wear

At the office, fragrances should generally be more subdued and unassuming, with typical simple scents that won’t overwhelm the senses or prove distracting. As an example, a no-nonsense business attire ensemble with its traditional and dignified air would pair beautifully with the conventional woody notes in Oxford or the delicate spices in Derby.

Never apply too much fragrance again!

Photo of Oxford with Decorative ElementsPhoto of Oxford with Decorative Elements

Roberto Ugolini – Oxford

The Oxford cologne is mature, understated, and subtle. It is equally at home for business or social occasions

Fragrances Most APpropriate for Evening Wear

Conversely, if you’re stepping out for the evening, just like you’d incorporate accessories with flare and personality, you can favor a more intense, intimate scent to reflect the intimacy and privacy typical of nighttime. The smoky mysterious tinges of angelica, Damask rose, and bourbon vanilla that are all found in 4 Rosso would be a great option, as would the intense citrines like mandarin, orange, or creamy vanilla notes of Marzocco, which is especially suited to warm weather evenings.

Photo of Kitten Heel with Decorative ElementsPhoto of Kitten Heel with Decorative Elements

Failing to account for multiple factors like time and season is definitely a fragrance mistake that menswear experts avoid, but you can avoid this and similar mistakes by reading our dedicated guide. Of course, there’s a difference between what you’d wear in the evening on a night out with friends and to a black tie reception or during the day when at work versus running errands, which brings us to our next point:

3. Consider the Expected Formality

For those new to classic style, it can be difficult to recognize at first what marks a garment or an accessory as more or less formal. Fortunately, we have extensive resources explaining this distinction.

In many ways, the formality of scents is less clear-cut than with clothes and is one more way that colognes can be confusing: we explain all of these confusing aspects in a special guide. But, in general, fun, vivacious, airy scents are considered more casual, while intense, rarified, and intimate scents tend to be more formal.

Identifying Formal and Casual Scents

High Heel White—with its fresh, powdery, floral iris and Lily of the Valley and woody amber and frankincense—is a great example of a typical formal fragrance. We find it pairs extremely well with both daytime attire, such as for an elegant garden party, and evening attire, like a formal fit. While Azzurro, with its crisp, light, sweet scents of strawberry, grapefruit, and coconut, typifies casual scents and, while perfect for a stroll along the beach, would be out of place for a night out at the opera.

How to “Dress Up or Down” a Fragrance

Some scents, however, exist in a formal liminal space in which they, like a navy suit or an ebony pair of shoes, can be dressed down or up based on the other elements in your ensemble. Let’s consider Kitten Heel, a unisex fragrance with fruity and floral notes, underpinned by tonka bean and vanilla. Jack, a member of our team, loves this fragrance because of its versatility, considering its formality.

Photo of sample size fragrance bottlesPhoto of sample size fragrance bottles
Sample sizes of the entire Roberto Ugolini line are available at our store.

With a combination ensemble, the casual nature of the clothes seems to heighten the sweet, fruity notes of the fragrance, while a more elevated but still bold, formal look heightens its more upscale components. Obviously, this indicates that the formality of scent is heavily informed by individual associations and even personal perception, so, in some cases, what smells formal to you might come off as more casual to others. That’s why it actually helps to wear and pair fragrances to see what does and does not suit you or the occasion.

That’s why we offer a sample pack that lets you sample all of what Roberto Ugolini has to offer.

4. Consider the Situation and Desired Atmosphere

One of our best suggestions for understanding formality when pairing clothes and fragrances is to determine what kind of mood or atmosphere is appropriate for your event or destination.

When it comes to establishing a desired mood or atmosphere for your activities or events, both your attire and fragrance can play a part, but that part can be either very obvious or subtle. For instance, if you’re setting off on a yachting excursion, you could lean into that concept by wearing a navy blazer, a typical emblem of maritime sport, and pairing that outfit with a distinctly nautical fragrance, like something with obvious sea salt notes.

Kyle showing different brands of perfumeKyle showing different brands of perfume
Consider seasonality, time, and formality when choosing what fragrance to wear.

In most cases, however, your clothing and scent choices won’t be readily apparent, so you’ll need to use the previously discussed factors of seasonality, time, and formality to determine what suits the event.

Fragrances when Dressing for a Day Out

Let’s say you’re going shopping with a friend on a warm sunny day in a fun and casual ensemble: the floral and ozonic scents of Giardino di Boboli will not only have a lightness typical of day wear, but will match the season through the use of florals. Typical of warm and hot weather, wearing this fragrance is like wearing a green jacket evocative of the smell of green growing things.

Giardino di Boboli by Roberto UgoliniGiardino di Boboli by Roberto Ugolini

Fragrances when Dressing for Work

Conversely, if you’re meeting your superiors at a traditional white-collar office and have dressed in a conservative power suit, smells that are fun and unexpected, like champagne or ice cream, won’t match the formality of a boardroom meeting, nor are they in keeping with the business-like attitude you’re conveying with your wardrobe.

Instead, a very traditional scent like one that relies on precious woods like Oxford, for example, will match the situation and the perception you wish to cultivate—both from your clothes and your fragrance.

Fragrances when Dressing for a Date

Finally, on a romantic evening date, you’re likely to be wearing plush, decadent attire to convey a sense of solidity, attraction, and elegance. A light or breezy fragrance might come off as flighty and unserious, not a good look or smell when seeking a romantic partner. But, an intense and intimate fragrance like 17 Rosso or Derby features intoxicating and exotic fragrances. They give you an air of mystery and allure.

When applying scent it must conform with the right occasion you are going for.When applying scent it must conform with the right occasion you are going for.
When applying scent it must conform with the right occasion you are going for.

So, just like when you’re assembling your outfits, you should settle on a fragrance that reflects everything you hope to achieve with your clothes and what you hope to achieve during your event. Be that having a fun day with a friend, landing a big promotion, or securing that second date.

Should You Consider Material?

Some online resources will encourage you to factor in the materials in your garments when selecting fragrances or perfumes. So, for instance, if you’re wearing light and breezy cotton, wear a light and breezy fragrance.

Consistency is the key when you are wearing your perfume.Consistency is the key when you are wearing your perfume.
Materials are part of a larger consideration of seasonality and formality. 

In our opinion, however, this advice is somewhat superficial. After all, a cotton sports shirt will require a very different fragrance from a cotton evening shirt. So, while material can play a role when selecting your fragrance, we’ll often do so as part of a larger consideration of seasonality and formality.

What Are Your Personal Associations?

Season, time, formality, and desired atmosphere are all quite important, but at the end of the day, we’re talking about your outfit and fragrance, so don’t neglect your own personality and associations when selecting a fragrance.

As an example, one of our writers, Eb, closely associates Italy with the aroma of myrrh—maybe because he visits so many historic churches while there. So, oftentimes, when he’s wearing an Italian-inspired outfit, Derby is his top pick, with its prominent myrrh middle notes to remind him of his time in the bel paese.

Selecting scent associations that have meaning for you and deliberately associating them with certain outfits is an excellent way to add a unique touch and personality to your entire look and will help you cultivate a signature look and signature scent. So, your entire personal style becomes a feast for the senses.

Conclusion

Properly paired, the perfect fragrance will elevate any ensemble, and we’re sure that with what you’ve learned today, you’re ready to create your own startlingly-scented style sensations.

Let us know in the comments how you like to pair your outfits and fragrances.

Outfit Rundown

So, today, I decided to wear Oxford from Roberto Ugolini to pair with my outfit. Today, I’m wearing a navy pinstripe suit, gray turtleneck, and printed geometric pattern pocket square from Fort Belvedere, as well as some Fort Belvedere socks and brown dress shoes. I really liked the fragrance and how it complimented the outfit—felt put together, sophisticated, but not too over the top, which is what I was going for today. And please remember, you can find this pocket square and many others, as well as this fragrance and a host of other accessories, at the Fort Belvedere shop.

FAQ

Why is it important to pair fragrances with my outfit?

A: Just like a well-tailored suit or the perfect pair of shoes, a fragrance can significantly enhance your overall appearance and presence. It complements your style and helps express your personality.

What type of fragrance should I wear with formal attire?

A: For formal events, opt for refined, subtle scents that evoke sophistication. Woody or oriental fragrances with notes of sandalwood or musk are ideal choices for suits and black-tie ensembles.

Can I wear strong fragrances with casual outfits?

Casual outfits pair best with fresh or aromatic fragrances. Citrus, lavender, and light floral scents work well with a relaxed look and are not overwhelming for daytime wear.

Should the season influence my fragrance choice?

Absolutely. In the warmer months, lighter scents such as aquatic or citrus are recommended, while in colder seasons, you might prefer bolder, spicy or woody fragrances to stand out against the chill.

Is it appropriate to wear different fragrances throughout the day?

Yes, it’s common to switch fragrances from day to night. A light, unobtrusive scent is suitable for the workplace, whereas an evening gathering calls for something with more depth and character.

How much fragrance should I apply when dressing up?

Less is often more with fragrance. Apply just enough to be noticed when someone is close to you. Over-application can be overpowering, so start with one or two spritzes and adjust according to the strength of the scent.

When is the best time to apply my fragrance?

The best time to apply your fragrance is after you shower, when your pores are open and can absorb the scent better. This helps the fragrance last longer throughout the day.

Where should I apply my fragrance?

Apply your fragrance to pulse points where the skin is warm and will help diffuse the scent. These include your wrists, neck, behind the ears, and inner elbows.

Can I apply fragrance to my clothes?

While some people do apply fragrance to their clothes, it’s generally not recommended as the scent can react differently on fabric, and in some cases, it may even stain your clothing. It’s best to stick to applying directly to your skin.

How often should I reapply my fragrance?

This depends on the strength of the fragrance. Stronger scents might only need one application in the morning, while lighter ones might need to be reapplied every few hours. Always carry a small bottle or sample vial for touch-ups if necessary.

Can I layer different fragrances?

Yes, layering fragrances can create a unique scent profile. However, it’s important to understand the notes in each fragrance to ensure they complement each other. Start with a single spray of each and adjust according to your preference.

Do fragrances come in different concentrations?
Yes, they do. From most to least concentrated, the progression is Parfum, Eau de Parfum (EDP), Eau de Toilette (EDT), Eau de Cologne, and Eau Fraiche. In general, the more concentrated a fragrance is, the more durable and intense it will be. Always check the bottle for the actual percentage of aromatic in each fragrance.

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