Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Liz Claiborne Realities

One of the biggest mistakes ever made was the reformulation of Liz Claiborne Realities (1990). That was one fine juice, even if geared towards the masses. In a frugal time, I'm not one to complain about having any pretty perfume to wear at all. Realities was the spirit of the '90s in a bottle - calming with camomile, soothing with sandalwood - with a youthful, optimistic heart of peachy rose, jasmine and white lily. The original Realities smelled like Lancôme Trésor (1991) which came right after it. Whereas Tresor carried within it the unmistakable scent of the 1988 blockbuster hit, Calvin Klein Eternity (fresh yet rich and powerful), Liz Claiborne Realities smelled like Tresor made for a time which was yet about to come: a simpler, more carefree, tranquil time than the recession we'd brave through. Tresor still reeked of the excessive '80s but Realities streamlined and took the severe waistline out of the outfit. Realities put us into simpler clothes we can breathe in, work and enjoy life in without being artifically self-conscious. We became more forgiving of each other and ourselves through feeling freer. "Reality is the best fantasy of all" sounded like a perfume advertisement with the down-to-earth desires of real women in mind.

Like Tresor, Realities was a warm but crisp Floral Oriental with a rich, flowery, peachy character substantiated by a sillage-driven woody, musky base. Realities I would say is the less frilly of the two, decidedly less flowery and traditionally romantic, instead more creamy smooth, paving the way for the suede-like Donna Karan Cashmere Mist (1994) to soon follow. I still adore this original fragrance by Liz Claiborne and wish it had never turned into a generic pink juice smelling of some vague fruity floral aqueous nothing. Realities had soul when it was housed in a cubic (parfum) bottle with a teal ribbon tying yet another small gold cube around its neck, giving it an exotic "World" flavor. We sensed in its time the reality of the interconnectedness of all people, and focused more on thankfulness for the mundane things we once took for granted. Reality in its sobriety was an adventure, and we found ways to make challenging times meaningful, to let hard times propel our spirituality, unlearning the aggressive, narcissistic habits of the '80s and instead learning to meditate, eat healthier and use therapeutic self-help tools for coping with stress. On the aromatherapy front, we fell in love with vanilla (and Realities has some in its base along with amber).

Ironically, Realities still smelled like a high tech, corporate creation and not at all like a grass roots creation, but what it contained was a classic Liz Claiborne message that we women were good enough as we were, without haughty embellishments and bitchy attitudes that only worked to stereotype us. Realities conceptually is a fragrance that truly carries feminist weight, and I hope we never forget this contribution to the fragrance world. Although this scent is discontinued, it's still fairly easy to find online. Also, if you can still find them, the miniature pure parfums are a great deal. However, Realities is a strong scent, and honestly, I think the EDT is strong enough. One thing Realities carried over from the '80s sensibility is power. It has the audacity of Christian Dior Poison in some ways, even for such a subdued composition. Strength is not a bad thing, either, considering how little you need to use at a time (like a dab, and the parfum actually comes with a dabber cap). Who knew a strong scent such as parfum was prized for being economical?