Although it is hard to imagine, there was a time when personal hygiene was not what it is today. Lack of electricity and hot water made bathing a luxury that people could not afford to do on a regular basis. Wardrobes were not as extensive as they are today and people wore the same thing for days or weeks on end. Washing machines had yet to be invented, so even when the garments were washed, it was through a rudimentary system that did not result in clothing that smelled ‘spring fresh.’
Apparently, despite the fact that everyone probably did not smell so fresh and clean, there was still an expectation that women in particular should not smell unpleasant. Different ointments and mixtures of herbs and fragrances were mixed together and used by women to hide any disturbing body odors. Rather than just masking the bad smell, these early stage perfumes actually gave off a nice smell.
Over time, the chemistry behind the creation of perfumes changed and evolved and developed with advances in science. Manufacturing companies began to mass produce perfume in all different scents. As time continued to pass, celebrities and major designers began to commission perfumes named after themselves. The type of perfume worn by women became a particular status symbol.
The belief and expectation that women are meant to smell nice has persisted until today. Without that commonly accepted practice, the perfume industry would not be as booming as it is with new fragrances being introduced constantly. Now, putting on perfume is, for many women, just part of their daily beauty routine. It is often the last step in the process; after the shower and the putting on deodorant and getting dressed and applying make-up. The last thing to do before heading out the door is a spritz of perfume. It is the final touch before the woman is ready to start her day and face the world.
For many women, the act of putting on perfume is not noteworthy. As mentioned, it is just another step in the beauty regimen. But, or those who take a moment to think about why they are putting it on, they may be transported back to a time long ago, a time when women were expected to smell a certain way and to act a certain way. Somehow, although women`s traditional roles have changed over time, the fact that women are expected to smell a certain way has not changed.
The women`s liberation movement and the advent of feminism removed a lot of barriers to women in terms of their role in the world outside the home as well as their role inside the home. It is no longer a given that men go out and earn a living and bring home the food while the women remain at home taking care of the children and preparing the food. It is no longer a given that women must wear stockings and high heels every time they leave the house. In fact, it is quite common to see women dressed casually in yoga pants and a sweatshirt while out and about.
It does seem, however, that no matter what a woman is wearing or no matter what she is doing, she is still trying to meet the expectation of smelling nice.