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The Scent of Success: Nine Legendary Fragrances

Sometimes perfume does more than just make us smell good. Sometimes a mere whiff of the right scent can transport us back in time to the first spray against our wrists, or to when we were kids and our moms bent down to hug us, cloaking us in a scent. Iconic perfumes such as these, made that way either through our own nostalgia or their scents' timelessness, are cultural mainstays. Trendy fragrances may come and go, but these will always have a place in our hearts and minds.

Chanel No. 5

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Chanel came into existence in 1921, quickly becoming popular after its market release a year later and achieving bestselling status soon after. To date, it’s still the number one selling fragrance in the world. The Independent estimated in a 2008 story that around the world, a bottle is sold almost every minute. ($87, Chanel)

Joy by Jean Patou

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According to Jean Patou’s website, this sweet mix of Bulgarian rose, tuberose, and jasmine was created to breathe life back into American consumers after the Wall Street crash of 1929. For having such a humble origins story, it’s got quite a hefty price tag. ($170, Neiman Marcus)

Love’s Baby Soft

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If you came of age in the 1970s or ’80s, you likely remember Love’s Baby Soft as a first foray into the world of cologne. That powdery, subtly floral scent was a starting-off point for many young girls as they matured toward more grown-up brands. ($14.17, Amazon)

Shalimar by Guerlain

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Not surprisingly, this sensual, musky combination of bergamot, vanilla, and floral notes was inspired by a passionate love story in India—hence its claim to being the first Oriental fragrance ever created, as well as the “perfume of temptation.” ($58.04, Amazon)

Exclamation by Coty for Women

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Just as Love’s Baby Soft was one of the “it” scents for teenagers back in the ’70s and ’80s, Exclamation’s apricot and amber infusion was a must-have for girls growing up in the ’90s. In fact, if you look at reviews for the perfume online, some women are still wearing it ten years later. ($10.99, Amazon)


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Like Guerlain, Yves Saint Laurent flirted with the Orient in Opium, blending heady notes of coriander and sandalwood with tangerine and carnation. With its spicy, almost overwhelmingly heavy scent, this fragrance isn’t for everyone, but it’s beloved by many. ($23.91, FragranceX)


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Charlie came onto the market in 1973 with a memorable ad campaign featuring women wearing business suits—a unique angle in perfume advertisements back then. Revlon geared its new fragrance toward the under-thirty set, who in those days were starting to really embrace independence and eschew male hierarchy. ($9.71, Amazon)


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Quite a few Calvin Klein scents have become iconic over the years, but Obsession was truly revolutionary when it hit the stores in 1985. To this day, women swear by its earthy, evocative scent. ($61.20, Walgreens)

Wind Song

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“I can’t seem to forget you; your Wind Song stays on my mind” was the jingle for this Prince Matchabelli fragrance. Based on the five-star rating on Amazon for this musky, sweetly feminine perfume, maybe the jingle wasn’t far from the truth. ($8.93, Amazon)

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