So In Love Eau de Parfum by Victoria’s Secret Review
This is roses all the way down, and it is gorgeous.
Mature, lush, and a bit vintage, So In Love is quite unique for a Victoria’s Secret perfume. Classy and classic, this is a signature scent for a self-possessed and confident woman who knows what she likes — as long as what she likes is roses. And with roses like these, how can she not? They’re real, authentic, fresh red roses that shapeshift through a dozen different forms before settling into a gentle musky skin scent the next day.
At first spritz, the perfumer’s alcohol puff is strong but quick in this one. Once it clears up after a few seconds, what emerges is the soapiest soap scent I have ever smelled. Truly, this is the photorealistic scent of an off-white French-milled old-fashioned bar of rose soap, fresh out of the box.
These first few minutes, the utter soapiness is overwhelming. A few minutes in, I can smell more of what is beneath it: rose and carnations, the latter becoming more dominant with each minute. Still, even with the rising vegetal spiciness of the deep red carnations, this is a comforting and old-fashioned soap scent, quite clean, thoroughly solid, and grounded in full-bodied and authentic floral notes.
Another few minutes, and I sense a sharpish hint of ylang-ylang and honey. The opening burst of ylang-ylang gives this an almost-mentholic crisp, heavy edge, cutting through some of the overwhelming soap. It gradually becomes apparent that some of the indolic body behind the ylang-ylang is actually coming from jasmine, who is hiding away behind her flashier, showier cousin. The ylang-ylang boasts her sharp yellow floral twang, unapologetically twisty, sweetened around the edges by just a faint hint of honey, which carries its own nose-turning twistiness.
The rose and carnation battle for dominance in the first half hour of So In Love. For a brief time, it seems the carnation is winning: it lends a bright red floral vegetal quasi-spiciness, almost reminiscent of something like geranium.
People often use the words soapy and powdery seemingly interchangeably, so I’d like to emphasize that this hardly feels powdery to me at all, at least in the opening. This is solid floral bar soap in an elegant bathroom, and with time the details of the rest of the bathroom fill in, progressively becoming tinges more powdery as the scents of other products enter the periphery. Still, the powder is never a main accord at play here, mercifully keeping to the very edges, flitting in and out of sight.
The powder is that typical perfume powder note that people call violet leaf, which is hardly green in any way, but rather provides a subtle, largely unflavored powdery texture to the background. This is not powdery in an artificial, plastic way, like a makeup palette; the texture is merely a little bit propped up with fluffy white powder, like there are some small jars of various largely unscented powders in this lady’s bathroom cabinet. The powder intertwines with the rose in a subtle well-blended hug which settles into center stage about an hour into the fragrance.
At this point, either I’ve gotten used to it, or the overwhelming soapy impression is backing off, letting the florals play out with hints of powder and bar soap shavings in the background. This is no longer a photorealistic bar of soap, but something that feels much stronger, almost spicier, more intoxicating and floral: this is the perfume they’re about to pour into the latest batch during the soap-making process. There’s a faint scent of soap and powder in the background, but right now this is about our flowers and the potent, spirituous love they carry.
It gushes with a touch of fierce, mad power: this is someone who does anything necessary to get to their love, good or evil. It makes me think for an instant of potions of love and desperation, and the madwomen concocting them in their elegant powdery bathrooms.
The story I’m telling myself is that of a wretched, tormented woman, perhaps in her thirties or forties or fifties, sickened by intoxicating limerence, desperate for the object of her affections to notice her with a frightening ardent passion. This is the hapless lover’s second wind, the return of the sickeningly intense twists of passion she thought she had left behind in middle school, decades ago, twisting a knife in her gut.
She can scarcely eat or sleep for mania or misery, and she stares into her mirror late at night, making eye contact with that bleary crazed face staring back at her. Her eyes flit to the rows of perfumes and powders, eye creams and lipstick, the accumulated paraphernalia of decades of trying to be perfectly immortal, young and infinitely desirable. The scent of roses wafts along the cool summer breeze through her cracked-open bathroom window along with a single moonbeam. She turns on the sink and lets the water run, filling and overflowing her hands. The reflection of the full moon appears there, nearly slipping between her fingers, and suddenly everything is silver and honey-sweet and red, red, red.
Twigs snap outside in the howling wind, and our heroine delves into the world of witchcraft.
Some ten minutes into the first hour, a hint of something deeper beyond the honeyed, spiced florals becomes apparent, something just a little bit bitter and woody, making me think of blond woods, of teak, with its slight sour edge… is it cognac? There is a hint of alcohol on the tail that feels more intentional than a simple blending blunder. This isn’t a bang-on photorealistic or gourmand cognac at any means, but I can only surmise that the arrangement of rich, almost spicy, faintly sour woody notes and alcohol at the bottom of So In Love should be generalized to something like cognac.
The jasmine indoles at this stage are kind of a lot. As I breathe deep to catch that hint of sour woody alcohol at the very deepest point of the whiff, I have to battle through such a dense cloud of indoles that, combined with the soap and powder scents, it suggests, to me, the… human scents of a bathroom. Now, this is no Paloma Picasso by Paloma Picasso, with a full-bodied animalic side underneath the clean carnation soap, but it does have just a touch of the headier and wilder in it through the sheer quantity of jasmine indoles that seem to lean, at times, almost fecal. It’s just a hint, but it lends a welcome balance to the cleanliness, soap, and emerging powder at the surface.
This takes time and maturity to appreciate. I know I appreciate this scent much more than I did in my early fragrance-wearing days, stealing whiffs from my mom’s little 5ml bottle. (The bottle, by the way, is rather darling, a restrained clear crystal-inspired composition carrying the same elegance and class as the perfume within.) Even just a year ago, I wrote this off as a bar soap scent and nothing more, scrubbing it off in the shower. I’m only just now getting to enjoy the full experience of So In Love.
One spritz is plenty. Even after nearly two decades in the bottle, the effect of this one is rather strong, doubtless in part due to its sharp, loud, soapy floral components, and in part due to its concentration and composition. A little bit goes a long way, and too much can quickly get stuffy and overwhelming. This is classy, professional, and a little romantic to some, but a sure-fire crowd-pleaser it is not. It’s heady and intoxicating in a way that might make you feel sick if you don’t have the stomach to handle it.
This is not remotely delicate or cute, as the name might suggest to some, nor is it aggressively sweet, fresh, or floral-musky, as so many 2000s designer women’s fragrances are, optimized to please crowds and sell lacy underwear. Rather, it is heady and strong in that spiced-carnation-red-rose way, with powder and soap nuances that will feel too mature to some and familiar and comforting to others.
As So In Love develops, the rose stays at the center of the scent — the scenter, if you will — while the rest of the notes gradually disappear. Indeed, this is a third of the way to a soapy rose soliflor just an hour in. At this point, with the spiciness and tang of carnations and ylang-ylang and the aggressive shower of jasmine indoles fade away, the honeyed edge of the rose unexpectedly has its time to shine.
In the opening, only a vague sweetness with twisty, almost-floral nuances was recognizable as something like honey. An hour or two in, however, there’s a clear honey note at the end of an inhale of So In Love, sweeping up the very last vegetal- and woody-spicy facets of the carnations of cognac into a deep, intoxicatingly floral honey, liquid, smooth, and amber-colored.
This is not nearly as sugary or candy-sweet as a honey note can be. Rather, it focuses on the floral, indolic, heady spicy facets honey can have, and uses this to bring together the leftover scraps of carnation, cognac, and jasmine. The result is a barely-sweet wildflower honey, not cloyingly sugary or gourmand in the least, an unfiltered product full of pollen and discarded flower parts.
This is the wild and slightly feral thing hiding in the heart of So In Love, the madness and ancient magic of infatuation. It’s interlaced with sweetness, but it also holds a terrifying power as old as the world. It’s sweet in a way that bites, the product of the hard work of so many forgotten worker bees. It’s a precious store of far more than they need, and yet they keep making more, because what else do they know except working their whole lives to hoard ever-more this rich and beautiful thing?
Isn’t that, after all, why lovers are called honey in so many languages?
So it is this honeyed rose that settles into the center of So In Love after one to two hours.
Even in the first few hours, this fragrance really has a remarkable evolution for what I might expect of a Victoria’s Secret scent, not at all linear. First it has its deceptive photorealistic hand-milled French bar soap phase. Then, the full spicy body of carnation comes out to play, competing with the rose for a time for dominance as the soapiness fades. The tangy yellow ylang-ylang connects the carnation to a cascade of indolic jasmine, which provides a dense body to the fragrance that, for a time, teeters faintly on the edge of animalic. A smattering of sour, woody, spicy, boozy notes at the very back of the throat approximate something like cognac. Hints of violet leaf powder flit subtly in and out of the background, lacing around the rose in delicate shapes, coming into the center for just a few minutes, but this is never a predominantly powdery scent. As the carnation, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and cognac fade away almost entirely, wildflower honey takes over, holding the memory of these disappearing notes like a mockingbird singing the forgotten songs of the extinct moa.
At this stage, the honeyed rose is never edible, gourmand, or at all dessert-like. On paper, the combination might suggest something like loukhoum, and at moments So In Love dances in that direction, but inevitably the honey is too untamed and the rose too full of tiny off-white soap shavings to eat.
Slowly, the rose gets more pure as the myriad hints of spices, woods, indoles, and faint wild sweetness fade away hour by hour.
About two hours in, there’s a subtle shift: a deeper, smoother sort of woodiness has emerged in the background. It feels like rich, amber-colored oak, less scratchy and sour than the first time around. Is this… the second coming of the cognac note? This one is slightly more convincing: a smooth aging oak barrel with amber-colored liquid honey poured all over it, with rose petals resting on top. There’s an almost smoky nuance hidden deep within it, something very grown up and just a touch masculine. There’s not as much an actual alcoholic feel to it this time around (not that this cognac note was ever realistically booze-y). Rather, this is the oak barrel the cognac was aged in before it was all poured out into elegant wide-rimmed crystalline glasses.
Perhaps this is something of the object of our rose-maddened witch’s affections, a gentleman in a suit and tie contemplatively swirling a glass of fine brandy with an oaky wooden character topped with honey-sweet notes, thinking back to that mysterious honey-rose scent he smelled at the office today…
Approaching the third hour, some very faint vanillic amber influences shine through the oak barrel of cognac. It’s nothing too sweet, but on the background of wood and roses, a subtle vanilla amber sings beautifully. It feels like a touch of ambrette to me, warm and cuddly in that wonderfully soft musk-mallow way. This suggestion of warm ambrette in the cognac oak barrel is quite faint, detectible only in the subtlest of whispers, and perhaps only brought out by a great deal of heat and humidity. It blends with the abstruse sweetness of honey surprisingly well, fading in and out as perhaps a nuance of the cognac, perhaps of the honey, and perhaps merely a mirage.
The rest of this fragrance is utterly free of anything ambery or resinous, but these hints of amber warmth are rare and welcome visitors rather than something obligatory and discordant plopped into the dry down. They come and go as they please, bringing out the sweetness of the honey and rose which are gradually getting simpler and less textured as time goes on.
Still, the honey retains a dash of wildness and spice throughout the drydown, elegantly holding its own as it gradually fades out, walking with the rose hand in hand. The rose, once a deep and spicy red, is becoming a paler pink with each passing minute. The suggestion of spiced rose-carnation soap floats once more into the frame, like a dream of something that happened so long ago, and yet feels like it was yesterday.
But there’s nothing lackluster about the fading of this fragrance. So In Love retains a great deal of dignity to the very end. Three to four hours in, it settles into the recognizable heart of the fragrance, rose with hints of spiced carnation and cognac and soap.
The character of this rose is too obscured by other notes, exquisitely blended in, for close analysis until about three to four hours in. At first, it falls just left of stately. It has a wild streak, but overall brings to mind unhurried elegance, fancy bars of soap, and people one could only refer to as lady-like. It isn’t like the green and vernal sort dewy rose in Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau.
Oddly enough, a green note seems to appear in the fourth hour for me and become more prominent as time goes on. It feels a little like L’Ombre Dans L’Eau with Benjamin Button’s disease, aging backwards and finishing as a green, young, almost tomato-leafy rose, with a distinct vegetal freshness that wasn’t there before.
With it, a certain woodiness rises too, never becoming overwhelmingly prominent, and backing back down by six hours in, but having a bit of a moment in between, a gentle rise and fall of delicate dark rosewood stems.
This woodiness feels darker, scratchier, and just a touch more pungent than the smooth honeyed cognac oak barrel. The temperament of the rose, along with this mild woody sour streak, reminds me a bit of Atelier Cologne’s Rose Anonyme, with its patchouli, papyrus, and oud. So In Love lacks the dark stinking oud and earthy facets of that scent, but there is still something here that feels just a tiny bit herbal or mentholic or something, like some odd jungle plant with long and flat green leaves, and just a hint of a deep, dark, dirty sort of wood that suggests, to me, the tiniest touch of oud. It comes and goes within one to two hours, always staying below the surface, lending a slightly coarser texture to some moments of the vegetal tomato-leafy rose and then disappearing again, leaving her to her own fresh and green devices.
It’s an odd and lovely place for the fragrance to pause for a while. The rose, finally all alone, casts off all her powder-soap-and-perfume pretenses and becomes truly young again, woody and green, authentically fresh not in a trying-really-hard, no-makeup-makeup way, but just in her own simple natural contours. She is glorious under the morning dewdrops and under the moonlight. She is herself.
Some seven hours in, this green phase has reached and passed its zenith. Faint hints of powder and of honey re-emerge. The honey this time is simpler, more innocent and sweet, more towards loukhoum than in its prior, spicier, wilder incarnation. Indeed, I think of Loukhoum by Keiko Mecheri as rather similar to this stage in some ways, though where that one is cloyingly sickly-sweet, So In Love is musky and balanced.
This final balance of musky and sweet is romantic and happy and just a little bit edible. Our rose woman has found peace in her own happy ending — not with the oaken-cognac-barrel man, but in coming to peace with herself, throwing out all her retinol creams, and settling in to enjoy all the simple sensual pleasures of life fully on her own. A small plate of honeyed-rose loukhoum Turkish delight rests on her nightstand, and sunlight is streaming in through the open curtains.
By ten to twelve hours in, So In Love has fully settled into this comfortable final phase: a long tail of musky honeyed rose, floating between almost-edible loukhoum, rich sensual muskiness, and a dash of powder. It’s happy and immensely comforting, just a touch sweet, familiar like a warm hug. This is the final form of So In Love that remains as a substantial skin scent for another twelve hours (at least).
So In Love makes me appreciate the range that a single rose note can have. This rose develops from soapy to complex and spicy to indolic to faintly woody to powdery to animalic-sweet to rich-woody to stately to green and fresh with hints of stem wood with faintly gourmand nuances.
Now that’s evolution! And the nuance and range that has kept people fascinated by roses for millennia.
The blending here is masterful. The sheer amount of distinct phases So In Love passes through is exquisite, like a hallway filled with diverse and fascinating paintings, all quite different and all breathtaking. The smoothness of each of a dozen transitions, too, is something to be admired.
Indeed, this is a bit of a masterpiece, something I never would have expected, I’ll admit, from a Victoria’s Secret scent.
Something tells me that some marketing executive who couldn’t pick the smell of a rose out of a lineup decided VS needed a distinct rose fragrance offering because roses are such a staple of romance in culture, aren’t they? Wouldn’t this make a great gift for husbands to give their wives?
So I imagine he calls up Annie Buzantian and asks her to compose something of rose, but Buzantian misunderstands which brand asked for it, or perhaps she simply doesn’t care, creating the art that calls to her rather than trying to fit the established canon and aesthetic of a brand.
The result? This innovative, elegant, classy, and entirely un-Victoria’s-Secret-esque perfume. I can see why it was so swiftly discontinued.
Or maybe So In Love was an intentional attempt at a retro pinup girl sort of scent, with its marked rose-soapiness and loud spicy carnations. Not even the bravest Victoria’s Secret marketing executive would ever dream of commissioning something like a chypre, so their options for a classy retro scent were limited; rose-carnation-soap it is.
The trouble, of course, is that we tend to be far less kind to scents from the past than to clothes or jewelry. While these seem to come back in the cyclical cycle of fashion, each aging fragrance trend seems to be relegated to the dismissive world of “grandma” or “old lady” scents. Perhaps this is because we have records of visual fashion, stylish old photos to look back on and become inspired by, while fragrances exist in a bit of a vacuum, un-recordable, detached from the delicious context that surrounds them as they age and turn sour in their bottles.
So In Love is mature, sophisticated, a bit of a relic of a bygone era. It’s a classy, retro, beautifully balanced rose scent that takes a sightseeing tour through the many different things a rose perfume can be. If you don’t typically think of yourself as a florals person you need to be a little bit brave to try this one out. It’s loud, unapologetically vintage, and bucks all modern sugary-sweet perfume trends. But if you’re willing to take that bold step, you will find yourself richly rewarded by the gorgeous natural rose in her boudoir, trying on all sorts of gorgeous clothes.
So many VS offerings cater to modern sweet and fresh trends and — I’ll say it — to the male gaze. Executives at companies like Victoria’s Secret know that men tend to like sugary-sweet scents, so that’s what they produce en masse, triangulating the man’s ideal woman between long-legged impossibly tan models in pink lace and clouds of vanilla sugar. So In Love, on the other hand, is a concoction distinctly of the female gaze, created by women who love roses for women who love roses.
Numerous Fragrantica reviewers mentioned that their boyfriends didn’t care for this one, and I’ve had similar experiences with other scents. Many men may love the idea of a rose, but in practice, floral or powdery scents are simply too much, not at all what they wanted, why isn’t this sugary? So In Love is something a woman wears for herself when she isn’t afraid of smelling like an “old lady” for wearing — heaven forbid — a predominantly floral scent, and discovers what it is that has always fascinated people about roses: their versatility and familiarity and twisty, slightly sour magic.
This would have been a real hit in the 1800s, I think, when being able to smell like you shower every day was a flex. Especially in the first few hours, the soapiness conveys to me an unabashed stately sort of pride in cleanliness, which makes me think of nobility and high society in a time before cars.
Give So In Love a sweaty sensual underbelly of civet, hyrax, or castoreum and she would make a compelling flanker for Paloma Picasso. As it were, she is a remarkable rose fragrance that stands her own ground, a good fit for someone who loves the clean spicy rose-carnation soap in the opening of Paloma but doesn’t care for its feral animalic side. There’s a hint of something wild here in the uninhibited, grounded floral notes, but nothing as untamed in its animal sensuality as Paloma.
The longevity and performance of So In Love are phenomenal, lasting some twenty-four to thirty-six hours and being rather loud almost the entire time. You could take a shower while wearing this and still have a faint skin scent left over. On me, it lasts around thirty-six hours including a lengthy hot shower and a night of sleep. That’s almost frightening performance.
It seems So In Love has a little bit of amortentia to it, that fictional love potion that smells like whatever your individual favorite scents are. On Fragrantica, a dozen individuals each list a different prominent note they notice that they’re surprised no one else mentioned: oud, civet, watermelon… I don’t get any of these (except perhaps the faintest hint of something that feels like oud around hour four) but I think it’s a mark of something remarkable when so many people ardently insist they smell some other note they love that isn’t listed. It seems So In Love shapeshifts to best suit the wearer, tailoring its edges to your interpretation.
Given its uniqueness, distinctive retro vibe, and incredible strength and longevity, So In Love is quite signature-scent-worthy for the right wearer. It’s versatile enough to fit every setting from the office to a date night to a trip to the supermarket. It’s polished and put-together, not in a delicate, silk-scarf-wearing, Hermès way, but in an unapologetic way that is confident in its loving embrace of good old-fashioned pleasures.
For all the pink-and-crystal-and-love marketing surrounding it, this isn’t a scent you wear to win someone over. It isn’t seductive or particularly flirty; instead, it is straightforward and complex, unapologetic about its desires, self-assured. This is something you wear for yourself.
The woman wearing So In Love chooses it because she likes it, not to impress or seduce anyone. It’s comforting in its familiarity, lush contours, and especially in its gentle musky drydown, but it isn’t sugar-coated or trying hard to please a crowd. No, even in the phases that make me think of maddening limerence and witchcraft, So In Love is magical in its uniqueness and refusal to cave to contemporary scent trends.
That being said, it isn’t at all offensive or even deeply controversial. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but people certainly won’t cover their noses or grimace as you walk by (except if you’ve applied too much, which, with this one, is very easy to do). No, this isn’t contentious in the way something like a chypre or some odd hyper-realistic niche scent might be. It’s still generally pleasant and very appropriate to wear around others throughout your day-to-day life.
All in all, stunning and endlessly surprising.