Wednesday, 12 August 2009

How to Look French Naked.

Evening in Normandy. Sick of staring at the beach in a melancholy fashion, and sighing occasionally, the CFO and I are watching cheap, derivative French television programmes.

First, "L'amour est dans le pré" where a variety of farmers with the social skills of mountain goats enlist a production company to try and find them spouses. There is some extremely ill-advised knitwear on show and a number of skull deformities reminiscent of a Flaubert short story. Predictably the success rate is approximately zero, and I learn that French agricultural types are surprisingly fussy. Possession of the requisite number of limbs and sufficient upper body strength to assist in inseminating sows is not enough for them, oh no. The successful candidate must also have a working knowledge of three European languages and tantric sex and enjoy reading aloud from Goethe on the long winter evenings. The unedifying scene at the end of the programme where all the inexplicably still single agriculteurs gather to get drunk and generate sparks with their acrylic jumpers is particularly poignant.

Next, to my delight, we move on to the French version of How to Look Good Naked. It is like a gift wrapped present to delight me on a Monday night. From the very first minutes, the differences with the UK version are apparent. The UK candidates are usually properly ordinary looking and the programme is based on Gok Wan jollying them along like a demented self-esteem cheerleader and making them wear a reasonably fitting bra. After that, they cover them in fake tan and make them pose with a sheet draped around them. It's an all girls together, self-acceptance feel good type of programme. In the first French episode I watch, the sad, body dysmorphic subject looks rather like a slightly rounder, very large breasted Naomi Campbell. She is absolutely gorgeous, with those turny uppy corner feline eyes and an amazing, angular face. She does not like her breasts. They turn too many heads. The French Gok sweeps in, narrows his eyes and purses his lips, and appraises her.

"Ah, yes. I see. You do have quelques défauts [a few flaws]. You have a belly, and large hips. And these breasts, though they are very desirable, are very very large. However, with my help I will teach you to cover up your défauts".

The next half hour is a catalogue of how to walk with a sultry swing so your unacceptably large arse is not visible and a paen to the power of very shiny accessories to redirect attention. However the real star of the show, and the two that follow is the "Gaine". The Gaine is like magic pants, but far, far more terrifying. Indeed at one point in some attempt at clarification the screen carries small print stating "culotte magique = gaine", presumably indicating that the Académie Française has not accepted culotte magique as correct French usage. The French Gok holds up a Gaine like it is the Holy Grail and waves it in the poor woman's face. The gaine is a vast expanse of slightly shiny beige elastic. It shimmers menacingly at the camera.

"This is what you need! With a gaine you will lose, ooh, at least two dress sizes around your very large hips!"

The lingerie shop woman, in severe glasses and a tailored black suit nods her agreement, and marches the poor Naomi Campbell lady into a changing room. We see a titantic struggle ensuing behind the gauzy curtain as the French Gok stalks around playing with various undergarments. The curtain is drawn back and Naomi hobbles out, barely able to move due to the constricting magic of spandex.

There is much oohing and aahing at her terrifyingly firm midsection. Gok pulls up her top to admire the miracle of engineering at work. An involuntary gasp escapes me - the woman is entirely covered in beige spandex. There is no skin visible between shoulder and mid thigh. Gok and the lingerie dominatrix admire their handiwork. They make her go back and put a negligée on top of the gaine to admire her new line.

"But, but.. Surely she wouldn't actually wear that IN BED???" the CFO says in horror.

"Quite possibly" I say, seduced by the magic of the gaine. "It might cure CANCER, or even better, CELLULITE".

In the next episode, this time with a beautifully blonde, probably UK size 12 at the absolute outside, who is bemoaning her over rounded buttocks, the Gaine once more demonstrates its redemptive magic.

I turn, with slightly appalled delight to the CFO.

"Does this not all seem slightly, um, un PC? All this talk of défauts? Aren't they supposed to be learning to love their bodies?"

"This is France" says the CFO complacently "Here we teach them to hide their unacceptable flaws in a gaine. Or conceal them behind a sparkly handbag. I'm surprised they don't give out gaines at the border".

Fresh from this revelation, I looked at my underwear drawer with a slightly jaundiced eye this morning. Where is the voluminous shiny beige corsetry? How long before I give in to the siren song of the gaine? Thankfully, there are only two days left of our holiday.


Helena Halme said...

Where does the stuff go? I mean the excess body mass between the size 12 and 10. This has always been my problem. Trust my luck, if I tried a gaine it would pop out at the back of the knee or under arms. Embarrassing would not cover it, nor would the gaine.

Another wonderful post, you keep me entertained and I'm not even on the continent.

justarabbit said...

I think the gaine is the real secret to the French woman's diet. Have you ever tried to eat a full steak frites with one of those on? There's not enough room left for the steak, let alone the frites. Perhaps a collapsed stomach, lungs and intestines is where the stuff goes, to answer Helena's question.

Helena said...

They ONCE got a woman to wear spanx on the British version. But she was enormous, and it was only "to give her silhouette a smooth line".
Then again, they also made a woman with facial scars cry by hosing her down to get rid of her make-up. They are evil too, even if they say they didn't know.

I still think the programme's proper weird and I've only seen it four times.

Also, I can't imagine a full body gaine. Although my Nan used to have something similar on her washing line in beige. *shudder*
Don't do it sister. The whole thing is wrong, wrong, wrong.

London City Mum said...

This is priceless! It sort of puts you off even entertaining the idea of an affair, doesn't it? How much steam and passion would go out the window if you had to perform acrobatics just to extract yourself from the damn thing? Never mind dampening of any enthusiasm...

Considering I found those DVT stockings they gave you to wear after giving birth a nightmare to get on (not to mention if you had to wear them when pregnant and needed the entire household to help fit them on a single leg due to 'bump' interference), I shudder to think what wearing the equivalent of an elasticated body-tube must feel like.

Rubber, anyone?

Layla said...

I just wrote a long comment, and the Interweb ATE IT.


Am going onto the roof terrace to look for shooting stars....

Sinda said...

I think your very flattering portrait of the Gaine will have their PR people knocking themselves over in an effort to be the first to gift you with one. Can't wait for the pictures.

Iheartfashion said...

I'm not familiar with either the gaine or magic pants. Is it a girdle? Please explain!
And I would love to see the French version of this show. Enough with the body-positive messages!

Grit said...

being a lardy lass from the midlands i simply knew i should come to the continent for the real beauty tips. ... so, to disguise the enormously fat arse which follows me everywhere, i need a sparkly handbag and shiny accessories. i shall try them immediately. spanx did fuck all.

Jon in France said...

I just love TV, a constant reminder that there are so many other things I should be doing instead that would be so much more rewarding.

Mind you, Star Ac is back on in about 8 weeks...

redfox said...

Superb! What I love best about this is that there is no awareness or confusion over the fact that, apparently, entirely sheathed in gaine = naked.

redfox said...

Which is to say:

How to look French naked: by no means ever allow yourself to be seen naked.

Margarita said...

Hilariously weird... I love the British version of How to Look Good Naked, Gok always seems to make the woman feel so confident and happy with themselves.

This french show? Ridiculously french.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ God's Princess said...

This is a quite humorous post :-)

I've just happened to write a series on French women on my blog. You can find them here;

Z said...

I'm with Helena H - surely the flab just gets pushed up and up and comes out at the neck or something? I mean, I've got a pair of spanx to assist with a dress with particularly slinky hips, but fortunately there's a loose waist so the overhang isn't visible, though no one would be allowed to put an affectionate hand on my waist, but the ones that start at the calf and end at the bust must have at least a stonesworth of displaced fat to deposit in the cleavage and round the ears.

Jaywalker said...

Helena Halme - It would definitely go on my chin. Squeezed all the way up there by the power of spandex.

justarabbit - the smallest of movements would become exhausting. Also, if Parisiennes are wearing them that explains their permanent state of fury.

Helena - really? That sounds grotesque. Though in French version they would be pleading with her to put more on, I imagine.

LCM - I have tried Spanx (pre tummy tuck). They are the most mood depressing garment ever, and as for passion, no way. Even with the bizarre split crotch.

Layla - the interweb is hungry. It has missed you! Welcome back.

Sinda - hmm, I am still waiting for Dr MadeUpItalianName to send me his miracle pants.

Iheart - I don't actually know. I think it might be a girdle. Is that a giant tube of beige elastic?

Grit - yes. You need a sparkly handbag. And ideally to look like a supermodel to start with.

Jon - get thee behind me. Noooon! I have managed not to get drawn into Koh-Lanta this year though, which is a fucking miracle. Thank apocalypse!

redfox - slight refinement: do not ever, under any circumstances be naked unless you are Laetitia Casta.

Margarita - tout à fait French. Made me laugh and laugh.

Z - yes. ears or chin. It would be very very alarming.

Dig said...

Excellent summary of one of my favourite nights in front of the TV. Maybe next season the French Gok could do a visit to the farm...

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