The only fashion blog I ever read is Alyson Walsh’s That's Not My Age. It’s beautifully written, full of amazing grown up women and features clothes I might actually wear, were I ever to branch out from these grey & Other Stories boyfriend jeans, which, let’s face it, will never happen. I bought two pairs for a reason. But if I did ever branch out, it would be Alyson I would turn to. Actually, I already have: I bought two of the most brilliant Uniqlo plain cashmere mix sweatshirts on her say so and they were 1. Very cheap and 2. Perfect. I'm currently staring at these sandals and wondering if I could pull them off (no) (maybe) (not with these nails).
I mean, look. Here she is wearing a bloody JUMPSUIT and looking amazing and managing to make me think "actually, yes. That is not in fact insane at all and maybe I could wear something like that."
It is for this reason that I turned to her for advice on FRENCH CHIC and why the fuck I will never have it. I asked her some stupid questions and she, poor woman, did her best to answer them (you can read my guest post for Alyson here).
We are all sick of seeing pictures of Emmanuelle Alt, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Carine Roitfeld and, well, I'm not sick of seeing pictures of Catherine Deneuve, I could look at her forever, but could you give me your verdict on these alternative French style icons?
Arielle Dombasle, wife of pop philosopher Bernard Henri Lévy
Maïté, legendary cook
La Laitière, producer of delicious yoghurts and crème caramels
Yes, this is a Vermeer or something. NEVERMIND.
Véronique et Davina (France's answer to Jane Fonda. Side note: I discovered that one of them had become a buddhist nun whilst looking for this picture! Amazing.)
A: Interesting bunch. With icons like these we can all pretend to be French. The thing is, not all French women look like Carine/Emmanuelle/ Charlotte and not all English women look like Kate Moss/Sarah Harris/Jane Birkin. It’s all a bit of a cliché. C’est la vie.
PS I’m not sick of seeing pictures of Emmanuelle Alt
Is there any way for a non-French person to wear a scarf and not look like a Home Counties matron on gymkhana day or pottery teacher?
A: Yes. Avoid chintzy fabrics and dip-dyed felt and go for a neckerchief style instead. Just fold the scarf in half and keep folding until you have a neat band, tie in a knot at the side of the neck and leave the two longer ends. Or wrap around twice for more of a choker effect – though you might want to wait until after the summer to try that. Another option is to go for a long, skinny scarf a la Jamie Hince, he’s my scarf style icon, by the way…
Do French women even have a proper poitrine? Can you do French style above a B-cup and if so, how (with particular reference to shirts)? You're a fan of French bras, aren't you - any recs for the ample chested?
What bra size is Catherine Deneuve? I expect you to know that… Also, Brigitte Bardot must be above a B-cup? I’m a fan of men’s shirts in pale blue and white but That’s Not My Age readers with ample bosoms have told me they prefer more fitted styles in navy. French bras for the ample chested: Panache and Fantasie sound French and definitely come in larger sizes, I can also recommend Laure Sokol’s lingerie shop in Le Marais (Rue François Miron 84, 75004).
What flat shoes can you wear and still look acceptably French? My best French chum wears Church's brogues and looks amazing, but she has tiny feet and when I tried on a pair I looked like a police officer.
Looking like a police officer is fine as long as it’s Laure from Engrenages (Spiral). Loafers, ballet pumps, Church’s brogues all look acceptably French. I’m not French but I’ve got big feet and I wear them. Just add a pair of cropped wide leg trousers to make your feet look smaller – or wear them with Capri pants and a looser top, something bigger on the top half will balance the proportions whatever your hoof size.
Should we even be trying to look French any more - is it not all about Scandiwoman now? What enduring French style elements are worth hanging on to?
The Fabulous Femme needs to keep on her Vivier-clad-toes, there’s some cool competition blowing in from northern Europe. The Scandinista has her own laid-back style, her own fashion week (Stockholm) and an array of fabulous homegrown brands to choose from (Acne, COS, Day Birger Mikkelsen, Ann Sofie-Back). French style is quite classic and French women tend to stick to the basics, which to be honest can look a bit boring. I’d say the French style element that’s worth hanging onto is only washing your hair once or twice a week. This’ll make replicating the nonchalant, slightly ‘undone’ look much easier. Hair is gently tousled, the shirt or silk blouse has one too many buttons undone. It looks effortless and sexy but it’s all carefully contrived.
Alyson’s book, Style Forever, is fantastic too, full of wit and good advice, and is available from all good bookshops and also the bad bastard bookshop on the computer.