FULFILLING FANTA-sies is what it's all about. Nobody really needs perfume, let alone the hundreds currently on the market.
Woodward & Lothrop: Bijan, Eternity and Chanel fragrances.
The most popular fragrances for gifts tend to be the classics, not simply because of their enduring appeal, but because novice fragrance buyers -- especially men -- are more likely to recognize the Chanel name before something new like Realities (by Liz Claiborne).
A couple of the oldest favorites are Joy, which was launched in
1930, and Chanel No. 5, which debuted in 1921.
First on the block
Some women still like to be known by their scent, as Barbara Bush is by White Shoulders and Marilyn Monroe was by Chanel No. 5, but increasingly women are switching around and many prefer to wear scents that are intriguing rather than instantly identifiable.
For women who prefer the very latest, some names to consider are Escada and Scaasi (at Saks Fifth Avenue), Realities, Safari, Van Gogh (at Field's of Pikesville) and Presence (at JC Penney). The newest trend industrywide is away from heavier notes toward lighter, greener fragrances, which perhaps not incidentally coincides with the ecological trends in fashion.
"Fresh fragrances with citrus or a bit of a bite seem to be doing best -- such as Realities and Calyx," says Mary Wanncowicz-Beccio, a fragrance supervisor at Macy's, Owings Mills.
Tip: Celebrity-endorsed fragrances don't tend to stay around very long.
Just to be different
If you're looking for something a little different, it's worth checking out favorite specialty stores.
Nan Duskin carries Hermes as well as Antonia's Flowers, a freesia-based fragrance developed by a New England florist and available on a very limited basis around the country. Also available at only a few stores, such as Field's of Pikesville, are the 15 different fragrances of Annick Goutal.
The environmentally-friendly Body Shop carries 28 different scents, which can range from $4 to $17 depending on the container you chose.
For the history buff, consider ordering Greta Garbo's favorite perfume at Caswell-Massey, where Sarah Bernhardt used to have her night cream made specially for her. Talbot's, Benetton, Victoria's Secret, Laura Ashley and Amanda Fielding all carry their own fragrances.