Several people have asked for a post on perfume layering. I am undoubtedly not the best person to write such a post, so am counting on reader assistance here — please share advice or favorite layering combinations in the comments!
What is perfume layering
A quick Google search will show you that many consumers and perfume companies define layering as using more than one form of the same scent, that is, using the perfume over the matching body lotion or dusting powder, or what have you. What your typical perfumista means by the term is quite different, and involves applying more than one perfume at the same time to create an entirely new fragrance.
A few brands that encourage layering
Jo Malone has long espoused the idea of layering (they call it "fragrance combining"), and there are a number of suggested combinations on the brand's website. I can vouch for Vintage Gardenia + Pomegranate Noir.
Creative Scentualization has a line called Perfumer's Palette that includes 33 accords meant to be used as top, middle and base notes — a layering playground.
Susanne Lang's Layers collection is sold separately or in layering sets, but the range of fragrances is not so extensive as it once was. Lang's cheaper line, Sula (see image above), includes six fragrances that can be layered or worn alone.
Donna Karan's Essence collection comprises four basic fragrances, lavender, wenge, labdanum and jasmine, meant to be worn alone or layered. They are sold separately in oil or Eau de Toilette form, or in a set of all four oils for $185.
How to layer
I've been asked how one ought to layer, that is, are there rules about which fragrance you ought to apply first, etc? If there are rules, I don't know what they are, and gosh, there are enough rules in life, aren't there? I say just experiment and see what works.
I do find that if you are layering two fragrances of radically different strength, like say, the big bully Yves Saint Laurent M7 over the lightweight L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons (not recommending that, by the way, although for all I know it is lovely), it works best if you decant the stronger scent so that you can apply just the teensiest little dab. If you're too lazy to decant, spray onto a fingertip and wipe off the excess before applying.
My own favorite layering combinations
In the summer, I layer almost anything over Hermès Jardin Sur Le Nil body lotion. It adds the sheerest little backdrop of citrusy incense, and works well with so many other scents I couldn't possibly name them all. Bains du Marais Eau de Soin in Fleurs d'Oranger is another perfect summer canvas: it adds a bit of floral sweetness to anything that needs it.
A basic vanilla lotion will sweeten your favorite dry woody fragrances, and I dream of finding a really rich cardamom lotion (suggestions? does such a thing exist?) for days when Fendi Theorema isn't spicy enough.
Sheer floral scents can be given added depth and complexity with a light spritz of Diptyque Tam Dao, Comme des Garçons Avignon or Terre d'Hermès (which, by the way, also goes beautifully with Kelly Caleche). If you want to keep the sheerness but add a little buzz of incense, try L'Artisan Passage d'Enfer. Another great incense layering agent (and a bargain to boot) is Crazylibellule & The Poppies Encens Mystic.
When I want something to be greener than it is (and I often do), I add a dab of the (tragically discontinued) Gobin Daude Sous Le Buis. When my stash of Sous Le Buis runs out, I'm planning to kill myself.
CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves + Gathering Apples makes a lovely fall combination, and it might be the only apple scent I can tolerate. Over at Perfume Posse, they are very fond of using Burning Leaves or CB Musk as layering agents.
Many people like to layer other fragrances over basic musks. I do this sometimes with Body Time Egyptian Musk, and as that one is such a thick oil, it has the added bonus of extending the lasting power of whatever I layer on top of it.
A final note: not everything smells good together. If need be, consult How to remove fragrance from skin.
Update: see also, More ideas for fragrance layering: vanilla scented lotions