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Splurge or Steal Perfumes

Cheap ‘n’ Chic Alternatives to Luxury Fragrances

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Smelling fabulous is a luxury that everyone should be able to enjoy. When you want to smell expensive, without spending big bucks, consult our handy guide to the leading luxury fragrances, and their less-costly doppelgangers.

Splurge: Chanel No. 5

Chanel No. 5 Perfume
Amazon.com

In 1921, Coco Chanel asked perfumer Ernest Beaux to create something that "smells like woman." The resulting elixir would become the world's most iconic fragrance, beloved by legions of women including Marilyn Monroe, who famously stated she wore nothing else to bed. A blend of luxurious florals and warm base notes, including ylang-ylang, rose, iris, neroli and vanilla, No. 5 is an elegant, womanly scent that transitions well from day to nighttime wear.

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Steal: Women's Realities Sweet Desire Perfume by Liz Claiborne

Women's Realities Sweet Desire Perfume by Liz Claiborne
Amazon.com

Sometimes a woman wants to smell like a woman, but spend like a woman-on-a-budget. This accessible Liz Claiborne scent features many of the same fragrance notes as No. 5, including ylang-ylang, rose and vanilla, for a refined-yet-slightly-naughty effect. The result is a fair approximation of Coco’s masterpiece, at a far less intimidating price.

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Splurge: Shalimar by Guerlain

Shalimar Perfume by Guerlain
Amazon.com

Shalimar was inspired by the Indian Gardens of Shalimar, where emperor Shah Jahan met the woman who inspired him to build the Taj Mahal. This perfume is suitably exotic, blending fragrant florals with sensual notes of patchouli and amber to create a powerful love potion. Shalimar’s recognizable scent has captivated women and their admirers for almost a century now.

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Steal: Curious by Britney Spears

Curious Perfume by Britney Spears
Amazon.com

This perfume was inspired by the gardens of the singer's home state of Louisiana, rather than India, but its appeal is similarly warm and voluptuous. Vanilla-infused musk gives the scent its sexy glamour, with magnolia, pear and lotus flower adding sweetness. An instant best-seller, and a nice modern take on a classic.

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Splurge: Joy by Jean Patou

Joy Perfume by Jean Patou
Amazon.com

Jean Patou created this intensely floral fragrance to cheer up his wealthy American customers during the Great Depression. One of the world's costliest perfumes, a single ounce of Joy contains 10,600 jasmine flowers and 336 may roses. Notes of green and musk subdue the flower profusion, giving this scent a luxurious, grown-up feel.

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Steal: Sand & Sable Perfume for Women by Coty

Sand & Sable Perfume for Women by Coty
Amazon.com

This drugstore brand blends gardenia and green notes over a base of musk, for a fragrance that straddles the line between freshness and maturity. A decent substitute and great value for the money.

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Splurge: Opium by Yves Saint Laurent

Opium Perfume by Yves Saint Laurent
Amazon.com

Opium has enslaved many a woman with its hypnotic charms. Its alluring cocktail of spicy, sweet, woody and floral notes includes cinnamon, patchouli, cedar, jasmine and myrrh. Exotic and seductive, it is ideally suited for nighttime and romance.

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Steal: Joop! Jette Night by Joop!

Joop! Jette Night Perfume by Joop!
Amazon.com

This scent uses many ingredients found in Opium, to achieve a similar effect.  Jasmine, vanilla, cedar and sandalwood deliver warmth and mystery, with a musky base adding sex appeal. A good, affordable analogue to its more-addictive cousin.

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Splurge: J'Adore by Dior

J'Adore Perfume by Dior
Amazon.com

Women have been falling for J'Adore since it launched in the early 1990s. A classic fruity floral, it melds the lush scents of orchid and violet with the sweetness of orange, vanilla and cassis. The effect is young and flirtatiously feminine, with just a hint of adult mystery.

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Steal: Colors for Women by Benetton

Colors Perfume for Women by Benetton
Amazon.com

This fruity-floral scent from Benetton mimics J’Adore’s ingredient list, but gives it a global spin befitting the clothing retailer's brand. Egyptian rose and French hyacinth mix with Israeli basil, pineapple, jasmine, tonka bean and vanilla, to create a fresh, sweet and feminine fragrance. A steal at the price.

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Splurge: Gucci by Gucci for Women

Splurge: Gucci by Gucci Perfume for Women
Amazon.com

Everything about this top-selling fragrance says modern, from its alluring scent to its bold black-and-gold bottle accessorized by a horse-bit charm. Blending juicy guava and pear with florals and sexy patchouli, this perfume is young, fresh and dangerously flirtatious.

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Steal: Believe by Britney Spears

Believe Perfume by Britney Spears
Amazon.com

Say what you like about Britney’s life choices, the woman has a way with fragrance. The princess of pop gets a second mention in our Steal category for this gorgeously girly scent. Blending yummy guava and tangerine with sweet honeysuckle, amber and pralines, this perfume is a master class in flirting, at beginner's prices.

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