Weekends, I work at a shop that brings in a diverse clientele, from students and artists to society matrons and tourists. A few weeks ago, late in the afternoon when the store was quiet, a woman came in looking for Chinese lanterns. She was tall and lumpy and didn’t wear makeup. She wore a strange hat that curved around her face, a satin baseball jacket embroidered with flowers, and striped pants that had seen better days. She carried a Prada handbag worth more than my car.1

Was the woman conventionally pretty? No. But she was riveting. Besides owning her own style, she was kind and authentic. (I later discovered she’s a famous photographer. You’ve probably seen her work on album covers.2)

Why am I telling this story? Because it made me realize how banal beauty can be. Look at the covers of celebrity magazines. The actresses look almost exactly the same. Thanks to dieting, plastic surgery, stylists, and personal trainers, Hollywood is an assembly line of interchangeable starlets. Worse, a lot of women on the street spend a lot of money to to achieve this kind of banality.

I was reminded of that afternoon when I stopped by Nordstrom to hunt down a particular nail polish. I was wearing an old plaid jacket originally from an Oklahoman western wear store in the 1960s (I bought it at Goodwill). My hair was extra frizzy from the rain, and I wore no makeup except for a haphazard application of lipstick. All around me were women with clever dye jobs and plaster-smooth skin and eye makeup crafted from multiple hues. I was kind of concerned the security guard would put a tail on me.

Yes, the sales associates and most of customers were lovely. But were they beautiful? To me, simply passing them in the aisles without knowing their personalities, they were boring.

And now I come to Trish McEvoy 100, a sample of which was pressed into my hand by the never-banal perfume guy, Brice Terrible. Perfumer Honorine Blanc developed 100, and its notes include lychee, blackberry leaves, “luminous” incense, jasmine, rose centifolia, cypriol, tonka bean, creamy leather, cedarwood, helvetolide (musk) and ambrox.

The McEvoy website says, “Inspired by the empowering numerology of 100, the newest fragrance by Trish McEvoy stands for having the self-confidence to trust your instincts and follow your dreams — a belief from the heart of Trish McEvoy.” This is promising. It suggests 100 will stand apart from its risk-averse siblings on the department store shelves. Maybe it will aim for a different type of beauty.

Initially, 100 smells of watered-down tangerine juice and bergamot on a base of vague florals that I bet one of the big perfume companies sells as Generic Floral Melange®. A hint of orange blossom reminds us that 100 will stay clean and safe. So far, I’m not bowled over.

Then, a soft suede creeps into the composition. At first, it’s nearly sheer. It casts a veil over the citrus-floral mix, with the tingle of bergamot balancing its velvet. After fifteen minutes or so, the suede starts to thicken and sweeten, and the fragrance’s soprano register intensifies, too, for a quiet tension. Here’s where I like 100 best.

The suede stays creamy, and, overall, 100 remains light and ladylike, with no hard angles or challenging heft, despite the incense, cypriol and cedar listed in its notes. 100 could go to church or to the therapist’s office when another department store leather, Bottega Veneta, for instance, might be too assertive. 100 lasts a good five hours on my skin and wafts a respectful sillage.

So, 100 is nice — lovely, even. But, to come back to our central question, is it beautiful? Not to me. For the money, I’d snatch up one of the remaining Serge Lutens Daim Blond export bottles out there and enjoy my suede with a hit of quirk.

For those of you who have braved this long post all the way to the end, how do you define beauty?

Trish McEvoy 100 Eau de Parfum is $210 for 100 ml and is available in higher-end department stores.

1. Not that this is such a feat. A shopping cart full of bottles with deposits might be worth more than my pickup.

2. Sorry for being coy. Since I can’t ask her first, I’d rather not name her here.

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