Curve Chill for Women Eau de Toilette by Liz Claiborne Review

Collage of Curve Chill for Women by Liz Claiborne and its notes, including sweet pea, peony, freesia, ginger, lemon, and tea.

This is not the perfume I expected it to be.

Curve Chill doesn’t strike me as chill. It isn’t cool or laid back or relaxed. Save for the first few minutes, it isn’t really fresh in a green, lemony way. The tea here is atrociously fake, and the ginger is hardly there at all.

And yet… I’m fascinated with this offering from Liz Claiborne. Even in its weakest moments, Curve Chill brought something new to the designer scent table.

I’ll admit I picked up Curve Chill for the promise of ginger. I love ginger. I’m a ginger fiend. Tea, too, looked promising. On both those fronts I was disappointed, but I discovered something lovely I never would have tried had this been more widely marketed as a sweet musky pink floral fragrance — which, spoiler alert, is exactly what it is.

Our journey begins with an unexpected note dominating a whiff from the bottle. It smells almost fruity, with depth and texture that’s smooth, sweet, and just a bit heady.

A cluster of deep magenta lathyrus flowers, also called sweet peas.

It takes me a moment to realize it’s the sweet pea, that virtuous ingenue of a floral note. She’s clean and saccharine, magenta-pink and surprisingly rich and luscious with a texture that feels like fruit. Light and guileless, there’s no dirty indoles here or anywhere in the floral body of Curve Chill. These are extraordinarily polite flowers, sweet, powdery, and pink.

On the skin, though, the sweet pea doesn’t come through much — at least, not yet.

The approximation of ginger I feel from the opening onwards is an amalgamation of honeyed sweetness and a peppery spice. I’m surprised how harsh it smells coming out of the vial, in a gray peppery perfume-y way.

The lemon adds a brief burst of freshness to the opening. It doesn’t feel at all distinctively lemon-y, but adds a fresh, green, almost-grassy punch to the confusing pepper and honey candy of the opening.

A small wooden spice shovel overflowing with dried black peppercorns.

The harshness settles down in just a few minutes, but a prominent thread of sweet yellow honey and spices remains. It’s a sharp spice, something like black pepper, and maybe a dash of cardamom, thrown in to approximate the piquancy of ginger. The pepper is ground into a very fine charcoal-colored powder. I almost think something about it is like cinnamon in its warmth and fine powdered texture.

While you’re still reeling from the rather harsh gray-green lemon-pepper-vetiver-grass opening, Curve Chill throws you another curveball in the form of that honeyish note.

A glass jar of liquid honey wound with twine.

This is another total surprise. It’s a very yellow sort of honey, clean and bright and processed. It makes me think of the sorts of honey candy sold in farm stores, hard candies and lollipops made of honey and sugar. This isn’t pure white sugar, nor is it actual authentic honey; it’s a candy sweetness with a flavor inspired by honey, cleaned up and made brighter, more yellow.

The body of this fragrance is rather powdery and almost soapy. It’s a rather dry sort of floral powder, like tiny curls of shaved peony soap. Within an hour, it’s sweetened and filled in by innocent touches of sweet pea and freesia. This floral sweetness adds some of the honey-like nuance to the sugar and peony powder.

The sweet pea that sang from the vial is finally here in full force, batting her eyelashes in her cerise poodle skirt. She’s innocent and sweet but subtly flirty, with more personality and depth than the polite peony has. There’s an almost-fruity smooth texture to the scent, and a sweetness I recognize as contributing to my perception of something like honey candy.

Three stalks of dark pink and white freesia flowers.

There’s hints of freesia, too, around the edges. White, tidy, and lily-like, it makes me think of a lotion of makeup cream sort of smell. It’s the faintest of the flowers, hiding at the very tail end of every breath.

The flowers don’t fully bloom until one to two hours in. From ten minutes to about an hour in, Curve Chill is dominated by a very familiar and yet hard-to-place accord. It feels artificially fresh in a mealy way, a waxy way, a way that fills your mouth, with an edge of something almost cinnamon-y.

I finally figured out what it was — an extraordinarily candle-like tea note.

A yellow wax tea light candle with a single lit wick.

This isn’t tea, it’s a tea-scented Yankee candle. It makes me think of white tea more than green, light and aromatic in a delicate teal sort of way. The candle is a light-green teal-to-sage color and is called something like White Tea Zen Garden. I can’t yet pinpoint what exactly it is, but there’s an aroma molecule here that makes this smell exactly like a soy wax candle’s approximation of tea, clean and fresh, too opaque, projecting far louder than any tea ever would, too uniform in its texture. It’s nothing like any tea I’ve ever smelled, but is enough like this cultural idea of a tea-scented thing to eventually be recognizable.

Somewhere in the middle of the sweet and peppery notes, I sense an idea of what might be a candied sort of ginger. It’s not remotely edible, drowning in peony soap flakes as it is, but there’s something like ginger candy in here. It’s unconvincing, artificial, too clean, too sweet, but the suggestion of sweet-and-spicy is there, even if it doesn’t quite feel like the right sweet-and-spicy to convey actual candied ginger. The warm powdery aura of peonies adds a fine dusting of confectioner’s sugar to the illusion.

A very large branched light brown ginger root with several light yellow flowers.

Somewhere in the very depth of this is a hint of actual ginger. I’m pleasantly surprised by its quality. It’s warm and smooth and actually decently authentic, something I hadn’t expected at all based on everything else about Curve Chill. In its realism, it reminds me somewhat of the delectable ginger note in Serge Lutens’ Five O-Clock Au Gingembre, though that one is more of a baked gingerbread.

I pick up ginger the most in fleeting moments of heat, when everything about the peony-pepper-sugar amalgamation seems to melt together into a more cohesive whole. At its very base seems to sing a warm and piquant hint of actual ginger. It’s lovely, but it’s so faint you have to really go digging for it and hope a warm breeze brings it to the surface.

The overall aura of sweet floral soap powder, honey-ginger lollipops, and tea-scented Yankee candles has the potential to be headache-inducing for some. It’s consistently sweet and peony-soft in a perfume-y, soapy, candle-y way that can get old fast for some. Its components blend into one another smoothly, but the individual accords feel messy. The ginger accord feels mostly fake and the tea is scarcely recognizable. Only loosely representing the notes they’re supposed to, these can confuse the brain, giving you a headache as you try to figure out what exactly is going on.

Three soft pink round peony flowers with forest green curling leaves.

The floral accord, surprisingly, is the best part of the fragrance. Though the diffuse and rather dull pink peony dominates the first hour, the flourish of fruity sweet pea through the heart of Curve Chill is cute and well-executed. It’s sweet in a youthful and pink way, innocent but juicy and full-bodied, a gorgeous girl with a sweet tooth and a crown of pink flowers.

There’s some muskiness clinging to those flowers. It comes out starting in the second or third hour, smoothing out the entire composition. Unlike in many 2000s designer scents, the musk here actually feels like an intentional choice instead of an obligatory afterthought. It blends smoothly with the clean and innocent sweet flowers, plending some body and dimensionality to what might otherwise become a flat sweet scent.

A soft pink flower.

This is still a very youthful sweet pea, but it’s well-blended and artfully composed. It’s beautiful, sweet, and still feels like it has some substance to it. I’m not usually a sweet florals person at all, but this is really pretty, even if it’s not at all my typical style.

The sweet pea is rounded out and highlighted by a lingering hint of that fiery ginger. Light a backlight illuminating sweet pea, is adds just a hint of warmth that makes the accord really come alive, thus ducking the vapid, empty politeness that can sometimes doom sweet pink florals.

After the peppery scratchiness of the opening, the honey-candy, fake ginger, generic peony soap, and tea Yankee candles, the inventiveness and quality of the sweet pea note here is all the more welcome.

A ribbed glass jar filled with sugar cubes, with more sugar cubes stacked neatly beside it.

Three hours in, the sweet pea theme continues to deepen and get muskier. It’s a delightful mix of softness, sweetness, and animalic-leaning white musk that makes me think of the squishiness of marshmallows (though this doesn’t smell like marshmallows at all).

The animalic nature of the musk brings out the deep, wild side of the sweet pea that makes me think of honey. It’s richer now, more multi-dimensional. The rare streak of realistic ginger is slowly getting warmer in the background. The more artificial and headachey elements to the honey candy scent have fallen away, leaving a heady honeyed sweetness that blends beautifully with the flowers and soft layers of musk. The soapiness of the peony is all but gone, leaving only a wild and pollen-like floral powder lingering at the edge of the honeyed sweet pea.

A large bouquet of many kinds of flowers in various shades of pink, including roses, peonies, and chrysanthemums.

Though it is quite sweet — much sweeter than anything I’d typically choose to wear — the floral accord never feels cloying to me. As time goes on, it mellows out slightly, getting softer and muskier, but a sugar-honey-caramel sweet note remains artfully blended in through the innocent pink facets of the sweet pea. The balancing act here is a masterclass. While the opening phases lacked cohesion, the drydown of Curve Chill holds together beautifully, an interlocked system of checks and balances keeping it a gradually fading mix of musky, warm, and pink-flower-sweet.

Though the note pyramid doesn’t seem that complicated on the surface, there’s a lot going on here as Curve Chill moves from phase to phase. I can see why it took three perfumers to out this together. In the rosy glow of the sweet pea phase, I commend their efforts. Though unassuming on the surface, Curve Chill was ambitious, something new for its time. And though I think parts of this — namely, all of the top notes — are poorly executed, the sweet musky melody in the heart is so unexpectedly lovely for me to almost forgive all that. Jean-Marc Chaillan, Laurent Le Guernec, and Loc Dong made a real impact on the industry with this one, even if you rarely see it today, and I appreciate everything they put into it.

That final phase of musk and almost-amber honeyed sweetness makes up an impressively, almost startlingly long tail. While Curve Chill has made all her major moves by three hours in, a not-insignificant skin scent sticks around at least an additional nine hours. While it doesn’t really feel like sweet pea anymore in the end, the tenacity of this floral-based accord is really quite impressive.

A pair of red lips.

While the sweet pea starts out innocent and, well, sweet, in both senses of the word, by some six hours in, it loses the pea, leaving just the sweet. With no more girlish cerise flowers in the mix, the honeyed sugar and musk feels sultrier, huskier, sexier. It’s an intimate skin scent that’s rapidly losing its fine details, but remains distinctly its own until the very end. Things get more generic and uninteresting once sweet pea goes to sleep, but the diffuse, silky-soft musk and lingering sweetness make for a still-delightful late drydown.

A green and white origami paper box containing many small bundles of dried vetiver grass tied with strips of cloth and twine.

In cooler weather, hints of ginger and woods peek through the floral side of the perfume more, and the sweet pea doesn’t bloom as completely, remaining restrained by the soapy pink peony. The sweetness with whispers of ginger-vetiver crispness here makes me think of bees flying along in search of pollen, low to the ground, surrounded by grass and roots and the odd flower. It feels fresher, greener, and cooler in temperature, and it’s just as lovely as the headier deep floral that unfurls in the summer sun. I can’t decide which way I like wearing it more.

Curve Chill reminds me of Hermès’ Twilly Eau Ginger, both in its broad strokes and especially in its peony-dominant phase in the first hour. Once the sweet pea comes out to play, though, Eau Ginger is left behind. When it comes to innocent and inoffensive pink florals that somehow manage to be engrossing and complex, Curve Chill is in a league of its own.

I’d say this feels like a dupe of Twilly Eau Ginger in the first hour, but Curve Chill did come first, and by a significant margin — 2006 compared to Eau Ginger’s 2021. Just like Curve Crush preceded, but seems to have heavily inspired, Jessica Simpson’s Fancy, Curve Chill seems to be a main source of inspiration for Eau Ginger.

A vintage floral and gilded white teacup full of brown tea with a matching saucer and gold spoon.

It seems like we should be putting some more respect on Liz Claiborne’s name, considering the number of her early-2000s that seem to have been recycled into beloved designer classics. Maybe none of her perfumes are iconic household names, but they’ve stood the test of time and have inspired a number of more well-known numbers.

Curve Chill is one of those underrated ahead-of-its-time designer scents that could make a great signature. It’s got the generally likable and relatively inexpensive nature of a designer scent while being somewhat unique in today’s market.

This is a surprisingly complex fragrance with a gorgeous high-quality musky-floral center. It’s a nice light scent, appropriate for the heat of summer, though it holds its own in cooler weather as well. Appropriate for general day wear, it makes for an inoffensive office scent that holds up both outside in the sun and in an air-conditioned room.

A laptop, phone, and apple.

This isn’t an essential ginger scent for the ginger lover by any means, nor is it a noteworthy tea scent. Instead, it’s a deep pink floral scent that descends into silky, gravelly-voiced layers of sensual musk. It’s innocent with a strong flirty streak under all its pretty pink skirts. Curve Chill bats her eyelashes like nobody’s business while somehow feeling entirely appropriate for the office or grocery store.

I’d recommend Curve Chill to lovers of innocent pink florals looking for something different, to people who love the smell of local sugary yellow honey candy at the farm store, to enjoyers of a good, unique approach to the designer musk. It’s not at all what I’d expected — a cool and, well, chill scent that’s heavy on the ginger and tea — but it’s entirely lovely in its own right.

Half of a bright yellow lemon.

The first couple of hours of Curve Chill feel like clumsy, incohesive missteps to me, especially the harsh grassy lemon opening and glaring waxy artificial white-tea-candle. The blooming sweet drydown, however, is entirely worth it.

I am not, by any definition, a floral lover, but I like this. It’s not my typical style and I am thrown off by that mess of a first act, so I don’t forsee myself breaking this out often, but it is tempting.

A dress form wearing a white buttoned sweater and a flowy black poodle skirt with a picture of a flouncy brown poodle.

This scent just makes me smile. It makes me think of a girl I had a huge crush on one summer in high school. She used to call me sweet pea. It always felt so endearing but so wrong when assigned to me: I’m not pink enough, not giggly enough, not graceful and ingenuous and artfully flirty enough to be a sweet pea. But this perfume makes me feel like I might be.

This is an oddball for sure, but there’s something original here. Try before you buy: Curve Chill is really quirky for a sweet floral designer scent. But if you’re into that, she just might be for you.



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