On the one hand, I get why women, particularly American women, are so fascinated by the "French way" of doing things. France, and Paris in particular, has always seemed glamourous, cosmopolitan, the center of universe when it comes to fashion. Honestly, where would our fashion vocabulary be without the word chic?
This isn't me doing some American thing where I call French people cheese eating surrender monkeys, and I'm not even implying that there's something wrong with French style. Like a lot of women, I love Brigitte Bardot's style, and Catherine Deneuve's; one of my favorite bloggers is the stunning Miss Pandora, who is very French and very stylish. I think the issue is less with French style than with how it's perceived. Paris fashion week just passed, and all of the "How to ______ like a French girl" articles are getting under my skin a little bit.
What frustrates me about it is that in order to be chic like a French women (according to the things that I've read), you have to spend a lot of time and effort looking like you rolled out of bed 10 minutes before you left the house. It's one thing not to want to spend a lot of time or effort on your appearance; it's another thing to have this carefully crafted sense of artlessness that you have to constantly work to maintain.
Let's start with body image. There is literally a book called French Women Don't Get Fat, which kind of makes you wonder what life must be like for French women who do get fat. According to this BBC article, it's pretty tough. Part of this has to do, I think, with the notion that it should be easy to stay slim - eat small portions of rich foods, include lots of produce in your diet, walk for exercise. In reality, the dieting industry in France is huge, and in a culture that's synonymous with excellent food, you don't have to indulge that much to end up gaining weight. Since so few people will admit the effort that goes into maintaining a slim physique, being overweight seems to carry an extra sense of shame.
French style and beauty seems to involve the same principle. You see the word "effortless" again and again, but what does that even mean? I'm sure there are women out there that really can just roll out of bed looking fabulous, but I haven't met either of them. Even some of the articles admit that there's a lot of prep work involved in looking effortless - getting a great haircut, buying expensive products for your skin, making sure you stay thin so your classic and chic wardrobe hangs off of you just so.
My issue with that, really, is just that I don't think there's anything wrong with looking like you're trying. This whole effortless schtick is so unrealistic, and weirdly Machivellian. What's wrong with looking like you spent some time thinking about what you were going to wear today? Or looking like you took some time to do your hair and makeup? I like my brush, thankyouverymuch, and I don't particularly want to look like I've got a crazy case of bedhead.
Emmanuelle Alt is very stylish and cool, but I find her style a little bit boring.
I don't know. I'm probably just being silly about the whole thing, but there are just so many articles about it. Google "how to dress like a French girl" - there are 65 million+ results, and it seems like most of them come down to looking like you don't really care about what you look like.
In a weird way, it's kind of reflective of our society. Does anyone remember the backlash against Anne Hathaway in the run-up to the Oscars? People absolutely hated her for a while, mostly because they felt like she was trying too hard to make them like her. Why do we instinctively recoil when someone seems too eager to please? And in terms of fashion and beauty, I think we might have a tendency to assume that any effort that a women makes to look good is made on behalf of others. We don't want people to think that we care too much about what they think; hence, "effortlessness."
I think Dita von Teese actually had some words of wisdom about this. I can't find the quote right now, but she was talking about the beauty standard of the California golden girl - tall, slim, and tan, with long blonde hair, rocking the natural look and a pair of cutoffs. She felt like she couldn't live up to that standard, but she could craft her own kind of beauty. It's distinctly not natural, but it's beautiful all the same.
How to dress for a date like a Parisienne
Jeans and a leather jacket. And your lips need to be red from making out with someone else beforehand, not because you put on lipstick or anything fancy like that.
The problem with French girl style, according to a Chanel muse
The problem with it is that it's too perfect, and they don't take enough risks.
How to Instagram like a French girl
Include the Eiffel Tower and a Chanel bag in as many shots as possible.
French women don't get wasted
Not only do they not get fat, they don't get too drunk either. And they spend their time at parties discussing the history and architecture of the buildings where they're sipping bubbly.
How to be Parisian wherever you are
The phrase "always be fuckable" appeared in this article. Most of the time my attitude is more "don't fuck with me." Clearly the only part of being French that I'm cut out for is the cheese.