Fashion may be a visual art form, that often attracts attention with big and bold designs, but it is sometimes smaller and even invisible details such as perfume that perfectly complement it.
As Coco Chanel once put it: “No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable ultimate accessory of fashion.” And if there is one person who knew a thing or two about perfume, that’s Chanel. After all, she launched the most iconic fragrance of all time––the inimitable Chanel N5.
And while scent is something very personal, there are certain fragrances that despite being created decades ago still, to this day, speak to women and men around the globe. In fact, some brands such as Penhaligon and Acqua di Parma haven’t even changed the ingredients of their most notable perfumes, which is probably the most obvious sign that their scents really transcend time and trends.
Other timeless fragrances such as Calvin Klein’s One, created in the 90s, is not just a beauty product. As the first unisex fragrance, it also left its mark on the cultural landscape of that decade signaling a change in people’s perception of sexuality and its expression through fashion and beauty.
Related: Why Perfume is Making a Comeback
Here, we rounded up the most iconic scents that you have to try at least once in your life.
Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum
When Coco Chanel asked perfumer Ernest Beaux to create her first fragrance in 1921, Beaux came up with over 80 scent versions. The one Chanel loved the most, number five, featured rose, jasmine, citrus top notes, as well as aldehydes—a first for its time. Almost a century later, the composition of the fragrance has barely changed and needless to say, Chanel N5 is still very much one of the most popular fragrances around the world.
To buy: from $80, chanel.com
Yves Saint Laurent Opium Eau de Parfum Spray
An exotic blend of patchouli, myrrh, and vanilla, inspired by China and the Orient, made this fragrance an instant success back in 1977. And it remains so to this day. Yves Saint Laurent himself played a major role in every step of the process—from the scent development to the advertising campaign which has become iconic in its own right. It features model Jerry Hall lounging on a sofa, shot by Helmut Newton.
To buy: from $67, sephora.com
Thierry Mugler Angel
When Mugler created his first fragrance back in 1993, he really thought out-of-the-box—both in terms of the scent and its star-shaped bottle. With notes of patchouli layered over delicious chocolate, honey, caramel, and vanilla, the fragrance instantly captivated women everywhere. And the best thing about it? The bottle is actually refillable.
To buy: from $120, sephora.com
Calvin Klein CK One
CK One was the first fragrance to be marketed as “unisex” and that in itself made history back in the 90s. The fresh fruity scent of papaya and pineapple blended with notes of rose, musk, and bergamot, make for a light yet sensuous scent.
To buy: $64, sephora.com
Christian Dior Miss Dior Eau de Parfum
In 1947, the same year that Christian Dior debuted his groundbreaking New Look, the designer also introduced his first fragrance—Miss Dior, which was sprayed daily in the House’s boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. With classic notes of Sicilian Mandarin, Grasse Rose, and Patchouli, Miss Dior continues to be a favorite of women of all ages.
To buy: $100, dior.com
Inspired by the love of Emperor Shah Jahan for Princess Mumtaz Mahal, who built the Gardens of Shalimar and the Taj Mahal in her honor, designer Jacques Guerlain created Shalimar back in 1925. According to the brand, the fragrance “ symbolizes the promise of eternal love forevermore. It is a fragrance of desire.” The sensual fragrance features notes of iris, jasmine, and rose, blended with bergamot and vanilla.
To buy: $107, sephora.com
Givenchy L’Interdit Eau de Perfume
Created exclusively for Audrey Hepburn in the 50s, L’Interdit symbolizes the friendship between the American actress (who also became the face of its advertising campaign in 1958) and designer Hubert de Givenchy. In 2018, the parent company of Givenchy, LVMH, re-launched the fragrance featuring notes of orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, patchouli, and vetiver.
To buy: $110, neimanmarcus.com
Robert Piguet Fracas
Unabashedly sexy, Fracas is a favorite of celebs such as Madonna and Kim Basinger. Created in 1948 by Germaine Cellier, it oozes timeless femininity and sensuality. It opens with notes of bergamot and mandarin, followed by heart notes of tuberose, jasmine, lily of the valley, and white iris. Its base notes include sandalwood, musk, and cedar.
To buy: $110, neimanmarcus.com
Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps
When Nina Ricci’s classic L’Air du Temps was launched in 1948, the world was still reeling from the horrors of WWII. The fragrance, and its bottle that features two doves, was seen as a symbol of much needed optimism and lightness after the difficult war years. The spicy floral aroma of carnation is at the center of this scent aided by bergamot and rosewood.
To buy: $77, macys.com