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Nothing sparks an emotional memory quite like catching a whiff of your favorite high school fragrance—maybe inhaling Gap Dream sends you down a rabbit hole of body glitter, butterfly clips, and Spice Girls singles, or smelling Polo Sport on a stranger gives you instant flashbacks to Blockbuster runs in your best friend's car. But while it's fun to time travel via scent occasionally, we don't want to live in a permanent cloud of CK-One-induced nostalgia.
That's why we tapped Boerum Hill fragrance boutique Twisted Lilyy to recommend modern, niche perfumes that echo some of the Clinton era's best-selling scents. Here, assistant manager and fragrance specialist Anna Young fills us in on what to wear if you were a total Tommy Girl, a Cool Water kind of guy, or a Bath and Body Works addict. Crack open a Surge and cue up Jock Jams, Volume 1—we're about to take a trip to the '90s.
If You Wore: Clinique Happy
Try: Allegria by Rouge Bunny Rouge
"Allegria by Rouge Bunny Rouge is a serious punch of citrus rounded out by some juicy fruits and creamy florals," Anna says. "Zingy but grounded, and still radiating those sizzling bursts of tart, smart and cheeky. I received Clinique Happy, my-first ever fragrance, for my tenth birthday, along with Big Willie Style and Aqua CD's. Allegria still packs the pow-ah that merits putting on 'Barbie Girl' in the morning as you get dressed in your resurgent mid-decade Calvin-Klein-meets-Gap minimalist workwear."
If You Wore: Issey Miyake L'eau d'Issey
Try: Balmy Days and Sundays by Ineke
"Balmy Days and Sundays by Ineke offers the same sheer joys of aquatic florals that L'eau d'Issey seekers crave. A touch greener with a bit of grass, Balmy Days is fresh, buoyant and definitively clean with a satisfying edge of sweetness," Anna tells Racked. "Remember that conical bottle from the old L'eau? Well Balmy Days is like smelling a blade of grass in just that shape, adorned with dew drops."
If You Wore: Tommy Girl
Try: Lovely Day by Ramon Monegal
"Lovely Day by Ramon Monegal is more grown-up than Tommy Girl—we've all presumably become women since we wore T.G., and what's wrong with a little dose of sophistication? Black currant, jasmine, rose, cedar and iris are ingredients that the pair has in common but the additional cassis and licorice add a slightly darker twist."
If You Wore: CK One
Try: Still Life by Olfactive Studio
"This Paris company specializes in androgynous, sophisticated scents," the Twisted Lily assistant manager says of Olfactive Studio. "Still Life is fresh and fruited from the brilliant Yuzu, but a richer deep lies beneath—a spiced and resinous river of rum. Kind of like those half-naked models in the CK One ads—angular Calvin clean, but with their feral naturals hanging all out and about."
If You Wore: Coty's Vanilla Fields
Try: Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens
"Why just own the pasture when you can wear a whole forest? This fragrance is sweet but complex, with licorice and coconut (carried over from Coty's Fields), but beeswax, bitter almond and guaiac wood move this creamy critter into more elusive territory," Anna says of the Serge Lutens classic. "Un Bois Vanille is definitely not all out in the open. Try it on and let your woodland fairytale evolve."
If You Wore: Thierry Mugler Angel
Try: Divin Enfant by Etat Libre d'Orange
"Funny how a perfume named Divine Infant (aka Hay-Zeus himself) should be compared to Angel—but then they're both somehow not from Earth," the fragrance pro says. "Angel is a hard one to match—I can think of no other fragrance that actually replicates half the produce section and still manages to smell like nothing our little '90s minds had ever smelled before. But Divin Enfant comes close; marshmallow, rose, mocha and leather are key to this modern, beguiling gourmand, and whether you believe in crop circles or the new testament, Divin Enfant is your bridge to the sky."
If You Wore: Gap Dream
Try: Un Bateau Pour Capri by Eau d'Italie
"While it's called Dream, there was nothing nocturnal or subconscious about Gap's fragrance. Un Bateau Pour Capri is a searingly fresh floral, a clean dream just like it's old affiliate."
If You Wore: Gucci Rush
Try: 1804 George Sand by Histoires de Parfums
"Ironic that a brand steeped in history could provide the equivalent for the modernista that is Rush," says Anna. "In an orange-red cassette tape, the Gucci juice looked like Milla Jovovich's hair in The Fifth Element and felt like Leeloo's little humanoid heart pounding through the film, amped up and ready to go. George Sand was also raring from the off. Pineapple tops a smooth pillow of white florals, and a creamy base of patchouli will make your admirers say, as Turgenev did of Sand, 'What a brave man she was, and what a good woman.' You can tell them to skip the past tense, since you live for the present, for that indescribable…rush."
If You Wore: Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
Try: Amaranthine by Penhaligon's
"A gentler carnation than the one found in its '90s counterpart—and surprise guest stars banana leaf and green tea—add a touch of the tropics with subtle warmth," Anna says of Amaranthine. "Still, woods, floral, powder and spice makes this a brave yet approachable substitute."
If You Wore: Jean Paul Gaultier Classique
Try: What We Do in Paris Is Secret by A Lab on Fire
"The classic JPG babe—headless though she may be—delivered one of the sexiest pre-millennial scents onto the bods of millions. Swap the plum for litchi, the orange blossom for bergamot and upgrade from regular rose to Tuberose and you've got a grown up Classique," Anna points out. "Hopefully your sex life has matured too, but if not try What We Do in Paris is Secret—it'll help."
If You Wore: Bath and Body Works Cucumber Melon Fragrance Mist
Try: U4EAHH! by Yosh
"U4EAHH! by Yosh is the name of the game for those B&BWorks fans looking to upgrade. It's a blast of the fresh and familiar (cucumber and pear), but shaken up with a dose of pomegranate, aloe wood and water lily."
If You Wore: Love's Baby Soft
Try: Musc by Lorenzo Villoresi
"Boy, what an upgrade! This musc is not nearly as sweet as Love's but man does it hit the spot. Fuzzy and ethereal—with rose, geranium and lavender in common with its counterpart—Villoresi's Musc is less 'Pass me the pacifier,' and more 'I Vant to be alone. (But follow me to the terrace and let's make out under the stars.)'"
If You Wore: Polo Sport
Try: Wilde by Jardins d'Ecrivains
"Wilde by Jardins d'Ecrivains is slightly less spicy than Polo Sport but oh-so-fresh, and you'll still get a pinch of piquant from the carnation in this 'lil puppy," Anna tells Racked. "The fragrance (named after Oscar) will renew and reinvigorate you schoolboy dreams—this is definitely an homage to the writer's Oxford days; sweet like first loves and dewy like your adolescent eyes grew at the sight of your next big crush."
If You Wore: Drakkar Noir
Try: Sir by D.S. & Durga
"Did you feel grown-up wielding that black bottle of Drakkar, almost like the ooze of spice it emitted would permit you to forge new and formidable pathways into manhood? Well Sir is a scent that confirms you arrived, but it doesn't need to show off; it's seasoned, mature and self-assured. Wear this and you'll be addressed accordingly."
If You Wore: Hugo
Try: Paratus by Montgomery Taylor
"Dark green yet deeply refreshing, something about Paratus whispers, 'I just got off my yacht, but I own this beach and the view, too.' A classic cologne, so understated and well-balanced it can only mean that you're a lean, clean, man-machine," Anna says. "Now take off that sailing garb, and get back to what you do best—just being beautiful you."
If You Wore: Cool Water
Try: Fougeres Marine by Montale
"You're riding your high, gliding and shining, a god of the arc, a modern day Poseidon freshly showered in salt water. Fougeres Marine is a creamy, brilliant lapis. Grab your board and ride this Montale wave onto the shores of your future."
If You Wore: Curve
Try: Batucada by L'Artisan Parfumeur
"Curve is for the guy who likes a little fruit in his coup—but you probably wore this before you drove and were still eating the fruit cups your mom packed for lunch," Anna says of the '90s staple. "Rest assured, Batucada is an upgrade for the discerning dude who likes a touch of the tropics. Mint and vetiver cut through lime and coconut cream, leaving you ready to spread some sunshine wherever you roam."
If You Wore: Joop!
Try: The Afternoon of a Faun by Etat Libre d'Orange
"Hot pink and an eight pack definitely go together, as Joop! proved, despite its Chippendales associations," Anna tells us. "No doubt Nijinsky—the balletic iconoclast who inspired Afternoon—would agree. This sexy satyr packs all the smooth spice and floral suppleness of Joop! but it's on a higher playing field. No bachelorette parties for this slinky babe, he takes center stage wherever he goes, but always makes sure to share the spotlight—especially with the object of his desire. Feel the heat, hear no Velcro, and dance."