Fancy Eau de Parfum by Jessica Simpson Review
First things first: Fancy isn’t fancy by any definition.
It doesn’t feel expensive, or clever, or complex.
It’s a simple, cheap gourmand celebrity perfume. But it’s a solid one. If you like cheap sweet-fruit-and-baked-goods scents, Fancy might be just the fragrance for you.
In the vial, this is pleasantly juicy. It’s not fruity in an overwhelming, glaring drugstore-body-spray way, but there’s something sparkly and fruity here alongside a warm sweetness. I’m not usually one for sweet fruit-juicy scents, but the balance of this in the bottle appeals to me.
There’s clean-and-fresh pear juice, green and only slightly mushy in texture. It’s countered by an apricot-red-berries blend that’s sweeter, softer, a little meltier on the tongue. There aren’t any specific red berries in particular, just a vague haze of something small and sweet and red, ripe and bursting from its tight skin like a grape. The whole mix has just a tinge of citrus-like sparkle to it and is backlit by a colossal searchlight of clean perfume-y sweetness.
None of it is at all realistic, of course, but it’s not so far gone to the artificial side as to feel plasticky and inedible. It’s a very perfume-y-smelling fruit note mix, but it still kind of makes your mouth water.
On the skin, those fruit juices instantly go shampoo-ey. What was delightfully juicy, sparkly, and fresh in the bottle has become a messy pile of artificial fruit flavors with no juiciness, sparkle, or freshness in sight. Their artificial, plasticky, too-clean nuances becomes rapidly more apparent as they blend together into an oversweetened bubbly pink goop. In the background, that doll’s head perfume-y pink sweetness continues to crystallize. It blends beautifully with the simple artificial fruity notes, a mess of pure pink fruity sugary desserts made out of plastic for Barbie dolls.
Behind all this, a supporting sweet accord materializes. It feels more like a real thing than anything else in the opening of Fancy, sweet and granular like coarse brown sugar. The individual granules of sugar are all sticking together, saturated with moisture that makes them difficult to carve out of the bottom of the sugar bowl with a long silver spoon.
This clumpy brown sugar, the pink dollhouse plastic note, and the rest of the melange of sweet notes quickly take the center stage in Fancy. Just five minutes in, the defining greenish mushy edge of pear has all but burned off, leaving a sticky mess of quickly fading artificial-fruit-flavorings and a mix of different sugary notes.
If you ignore the fruity first five minutes and the caramel-brown-sugar nuance, Fancy by Jessica Simpson is extremely similar to Curve Crush by Liz Claiborne, to the point that I would call Curve Crush a dupe, except for the fact it came first (2003, compared to Fancy’s 2008). Though it’s a bit sweeter and less creamy than Curve Crush, Fancy has the same exact heart of milky vanilla sugar, with a hint of too-sweet plastic fruits borrowed from another hit 2003 sweet fragrance, Burberry’s hit Burberry Brit.
There’s a perfume-y artificiality to all three of these scents: none of them really smell like real things, but like lotions or bath products or headache-inducing fumes approximating the smells of real things, spiking their sweetness in the process. In a way, Fancy feels like a rather unoriginal celebrity lovechild of Curve Crush and Burberry Brit, born five years after those two stanchions of sweetness first burst onto the scene.
Nonetheless, much of creativity is just combining ideas that came before you, and the sweet lactonic base of Curve Crush and the pink plastic fruit top of Burberry Brit are, indeed, two ideas that blend well together in this fragrance. Thus, though most of the components of Fancy are things I’ve seen before, the combination does make sense.
At first whiff, Fancy delivers a heady dose of sweet artificial fruit notes, predominated by pear. These are backed up by a creamy, sweet body of milk with almond, caramel, and vanilla stirred in. Things are chaotic and sticky for the first few minutes, as those very youthful two-dimensional fruit notes shriek and evaporate into thin air.
From fifteen minutes onward, however, Fancy finally starts to settle into what it’s really all about. The plasticky fruits are a distraction, an obligatory flourish. What really takes up the most time and space in Jessica Simpson’s Fancy is its rich sugary gourmand base.
Refreshingly, this sweet base is shaped by caramel and those milky notes to make it smoother and more soothing than many straight vanilla-sugar or playdough-like almond sweet scents. The sweetness is most overwhelming, confusing, and slightly cloying in the fruity opening, and is pared down as the fruits gradually evaporate, leaving a still-quite-sweet-but-quieter-and-more-comforting base. The sugar from the caramel and the cream from those lactonic notes ease the transition as the fruits bow out and the quieter sweet tail of this fragrance begins.
Fancy is slightly less lactonic than Curve Crush, and lacks the spices which give that one its distinctive horchata aroma, replacing these facets with a heavier dose of doll’s head, pink Barbie convertible over-sweet plastic fruits, à la Burberry Brit. I picked out pear straight away, but it’s muddled with other nondescript fruity notes that are even sweeter: generic red berries and a faint suggestion of apricot.
Fancy thankfully forgoes the obligatory opening blast of floral perfume-y musk I found so headache-inducing in Curve Crush, so this is one improvement on the theme. Instead, the first few minutes of Fancy feel especially tightly structured and clean, like a shampoo or body lotion.
The body of Fancy is more shampoo- or bath-product-like than Curve Crush or Burberry Brit, polished in a way that would fit in a lotion or skin cream, with all the neat, sweet structure of one. There are no loose ends, no hints of adventure to explore: Fancy is all marketable sweets, packed tightly together in a whole that feels sweet and clean, the epitome of a safe choice.
People say Fancy is all about caramel, but at first I wasn’t picking up anything I’d describe as true caramel unless I really searched for it. It’s hidden in there, sweetening the sugary milk base, not quite visible to me until some of the fake plastic fruit burns off. There’s a caramel-brown color and timbre to the sugary notes, sure, but it often lacks the tacky pull, the almost-scratchy sticky sweetness of golden caramel candy. Where that scent of caramel does come through, I’m wondering how much of the heavy lifting is being done by those soft milky lactonic notes.
Perhaps that supporting sweet note of brown sugar I’m picking up is supposed to be caramel, but the temperature just isn’t right for it to properly melt and caramelize on my skin, leaving it clumped in sticky granules at the bottom of the shampoo-ey plastic fruit pile. Still, I’d say the brown sugar texture suits the fragrance well, and that it doesn’t need any more stickiness in the mix. There’s a depth and richness to it unlike many other sugar notes. Perhaps there’s even some muscovado sugar here, partially unrefined with a hint of molasses still in.
In any case, that mixture of milk and brown sugar does approximate caramel well enough, especially as time goes on and Fancy warms up on the skin. Though I couldn’t find anything near caramel here at first, fifteen to thirty minutes in I can accept that the milk-and-sugar mix is slowly melting into an increasingly golden and caramel-like mixture.
Tamed by clean, perfume-y, shampoo-ey sweetness, it would take a heap more straight sugar to really make this feel realistic, but this is a designer perfume and not a niche photorealism stunt, after all. The blending is balanced, giving the impression of warm golden caramel without overwhelming the wearer with stickiness that gets stuck in your teeth and scratches at the back of your throat like honey or milk chocolate.
From about half an hour in onward, a warm almond-vanilla accord becomes more and more prominent. Though it does threaten to become playdough-like in some moments, the golden-brown and lactonic facets of the milk and caramel notes hold everything in place, a sugary system of checks and balances keeping the almond from declaring dictatorial rule. Each component of the sweet and melty mix holds the others in check, maintaining a pleasant balance that helps the signature of Fancy make its mark.
Three hours in, Fancy and Curve Crush are all but identical, with some of the plastic fruits in the former and the spices in the latter fading away, leaving the saccharine lactonic base.
I’m surprised more reviewers haven’t picked out what feels like a very milky note tying it all together here. Maybe I’m simply splitting hairs, and what I’m perceiving as distinctly milky is really just a component of the caramel accord. Even though this is likely a trick of the caramel shaping the vanilla and almond, and it thankfully keeps the almond-vanilla in a decently realistic (albeit over-sweet) and non-playdough-y zone.
Sweet caramel and milk, with hints of flower petals — I mostly get a suggestion of gardenia — make up the heart of this scent. It’s comforting, though still plastic-y and perfume-y in a way reminiscent of a celebrity scented lotion in the Marshall’s discount bin rather than anything real. But this is, after all, a celebrity designer perfume (and one that comes in lotion form to boot). Of course it smells like its genre, especially when this is one of the early 2000s launches that defined it.
The floral accents are actually quite nicely done here. They don’t feel soapy or too overbearingly artificial on me. Nor do they take away from the gourmand sweet assets of Fancy so much as to render it inedible.
The gardenia stays in its lane. This doesn’t become a floral perfume. Instead, it’s dusted by the lilting, faint, white-almost-green, soft-almost-powdery scent of gardenia petals. They provide a refreshing reprieve from the straightforward sugary sweetness of the rest of the scent. It’s still another sweetish accord, so it’s not an entirely fresh breath of air, but there’s a lightness and natural freshness to it that keeps things from getting too cloying and candy-like.
I don’t terribly mind this phase of Fancy: it’s uninteresting, artificial, and safe, but the base notes’ sweetness without the plastic fruit overload on top is not too cloying when you get used to it. The hint of white florals adds a nice soft touch, and the artificial qualities of the scent don’t get too headache-y for me at this stage.
The performance of Fancy is definitely weaker than that of something like Burberry Brit, and even slightly weaker than that of Curve Crush. Within three hours, Fancy’s fruity top notes evaporate entirely, leaving you with a faint trail of white florals and caramel-sweetened milk lotion. I can still smell this trail of base notes on my skin for another good nine hours.
I’m relieved that the overwhelming fruity top notes evaporate so quickly, as the base is my favorite part of this scent, but this might not be the case for you if you really love those strong, sweet faux fruits.
In the last four to six hours or so, the milk and gauzy artificial sweet sheen tap out, leaving a very faint caramel-almond haze that’s actually quite delicious. This is where I can understand the “burnt sugar cookie” comparison. The late drydown is a bona fide almond-caramel-cookie gourmand, with no fruit and berries, petals or milk anywhere in sight. The warm, liquid, melty notes have cooled down and coalesced, and the result of this simple delight of a baked good.
The cookies are topped with a dusting of powdered sugar and almonds. This late in the evolution of the scent, the almond accord has lost its playdough-y edge; all that’s left is subtle, gentle buttery nuttiness blending with the burnt sugar and hints of caramel. It feels delicious and well blended, a hint of almond extract enhancing a recipe rather than a huff of the stuff straight from the bottle.
At this point the pink plastic perfuminess of the opening has finally calmed down, creating a gourmand scent that is much more realistic and edible than at previous points.
This phase of Fancy is by far my favorite. It’s nothing like anything in its 2003 parents, Curve Crush and Burberry Brit. By some miracle, the almond becomes prominent without becoming playdough-y, and that wonderful caramel keeps everything in balance, just a bit salty and just a bit burnt to counter the almond-vanilla sweetness.
Somewhere deep in Fancy there’s a suggestion of sandalwood. As far as sandalwood goes, it’s very faint, adding an additional softly spiced gourmand texture to the scent more than anything. There’s an almost ginger-like warm spice quality to it, another grounding and warming touch that makes this phase the most realistic and gentle.
If the rest of Fancy were simply a slightly amplified linear version of this late stage, I’d quite enjoy it and find it a simple but well-executed comfort scent. As it were, the mess of too-sweet pink-scented-doll fruits in the opening and the too-clean artificial lotion quality of the body of Fancy keeps me from really adoring her most of the way through.
Still, these are not objectively bad things. Pretty pink doll’s head and lotion is a style that is comforting and flattering for many people. This is an admittedly well-executed collision of those worlds: shampoo fruity scent, doll’s head plastic sweet scent, milky perfume-y caramel, and heavenly realistic brunt-sugar-cookie gourmand. Pulling that off in a well-balanced way takes mastery, and there’s no doubt that nose Alexis Dadier was up to the job.
The balance here is impressive, and the evolution is solid. Despite initially feeling like an uninspired copycat early 2000s sweet scent, Fancy does bring its own distinct thing to the table, particularly in that gorgeous gourmand drydown. I can see how this became a classic early 2000s sugary-fruity perfume.
Sure, there are moments in here that feel particularly artificial and cheap, especially that cloying fruity opening. But there’s also a comforting texture to the rich caramel-almond sweetness. It makes me feel happy in the way very simple dessert scents would make me so very happy as a little girl. It reminded me of how much I coveted Demeter’s Lemon Meringue in ninth grade, sweet and fruity, creamy and rich.
When I was still in the early stages of figuring myself out, trying to sort out what smells I liked the most, sweet baking smells and fruits were easy choices. They were simple and accessible, pleasurable and comforting. Fancy delivers on that youthful need for simple sweetness with a composition that’s well-blended and complex enough to hold its own with adults (albeit adults with an unapologetic sweet tooth).
Fancy is a designer scent through and through. It’s straightforward, with no cleverness or slight of hand. What you see is what you get: a fluffy white vanilla-almond cake drizzled with caramel, covered in burnt sugar cookie crumbles, strewn with flower petals, dotted with red berries, apricots and pears, and served with a tall glass of warm milk. It’s decadent, indulgent, and rich, yet simple in a way that’s sure to appeal to carefree young women who like to enjoy the simple, delicious things in life.
Now, this isn’t a fancy, expensive, niche, Xerjoff-style interpretation on that theme. It isn’t decadently photorealistic, rich and incredibly dense. No, Fancy with a capital F doesn’t feel fancy with a capital F. It doesn’t really feel fancy at all. This is a cheap, simple, accessible take on a warm caramel-gourmand theme. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a stunning detailed niche gourmand. The overall effect is much less literal and more generally designer-perfume-y, dusted with florals and a light hint of powder, glazed over with a pink plastic sugar.
Straightforward and inexpensive, this is a classic because it delivers what a lot of people really want: a simple gourmand scent with a clean fruity opening. For some people (including myself), this sort of scent can get headachey, but I also can’t deny its potential to deliver pure, simple pleasure, especially if you’re someone who enjoys those fruity notes that lean towards shampoo-ey and artificial.
This feels like the sort of scent many boyfriends and husbands might enjoy on their female partners. It seems to fill the exact stereotypical niche of “boyfriend fragrances.” I joke about this a lot: so often, a woman who’s into perfume geeks out over the richest, most complex indolic floral number, the darkest, deepest earthy oakmoss, the unique bitter galbanum scent. She delves into her vintages with the attention of an up-and-coming detective eager to prove her salt. She hunts down all the odd and interesting corners of each scent and comes away with an eclectic collection of rich, rare, lush favorites.
And her boyfriend points to the designer vanilla-sugar scent and says, “I like that one.”
So yes. While I won’t insinuate that all men are alike, Jessica Simpson’s Fancy is one of the most bang-on, inexpensive simple-sweet-fruity-gourmand scents the average man seems to passively enjoy smelling on a date. It’s an extraordinarily safe choice for any number of daily activities. It might be more sugary than most perfumes at the office, but it won’t be inappropriate, per se, just a youthful window into your sweet personality. Be mindful of headaches and don’t overspray, but otherwise, Fancy is the definition of a saccharine safe choice fragrance.
(Right as I finished writing this review, my boyfriend came home and said I smell nice and asked what I was wearing. I feel incredibly justified in my above statements.)
For a more original, comforting, spicy take on this theme without the fruit, try Curve Crush by Liz Claiborne, but beware of the lackluster florals and perfume-y artificial overtone that is perhaps even stronger than that of Fancy.
If you enjoy the pink-plastic-toys sweetness and sugared green pears of Burberry Brit but long for a base that feels slightly more complex and less overpoweringly sweet than the vanilla sugar in that one, Fancy might be a great fit for you. It throws a pleasant milky-golden-caramel cast over the pink-sugar mix of Brit, resulting in a more tempered and balanced composition and ending with a gorgeous baked-good gourmand.
The journey Fancy takes is full of simple and sweet things. Artificial sweet fruit and berry flavors, pink plastic Barbie doll clothes, rich brown sugar and caramel, and, finally, a perfect tray of amber sugar cookies. It’s not fancy or sophisticated. It’s not supposed to be. For all the attempted refinement of the name and baroque flourishes on the bottle, Fancy is fun and carefree in its simple, cute, unapologetically sugary way. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is a very safe, inexpensive way to get your fix.