Thursday, 16 June 2016

That's Not My French Style

Something different today.

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).

1. Icons
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

2. Scarves 
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…

3. Breasts
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).

4. Footwear
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.

5. Philosophical
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.


Crazy Mom! said...

I routinely read a celebrity style blog called Tom & Lorenzo -

It's pretty hilarious how often celebs get is WRONG and we can point and laugh. The bloggers also occasionally divert into dissecting old movie musicals (search for Musical Monday to find) with great hilarity. Also their send-up of the costumes for the Miss Universe contest are snortingly funny.
My still is more about accessories and what doesn't look totally embarrassing on an old fat broad like me. And a B-cup? HAHAHAHAHA. Try G.


Patience_Crabstick said...

I've read Alyson's book and I liked it. Unfortunately, I seem to be impaired when it comes to putting together outfits. There is always something horrifically wrong, usually the shoes.

Miss C said...

I am also a huge fan of Alyson's blog. My other favourite (apart from this waffling one of course!) is, a very funny and stylish lady.

Best wishes from Down Under

Anonymous said...

Saw this today, looks like it could be a great read:

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle, several evenings a week I find myself at a bit of a loose end as I wait for my daughter while she partakes in sporting activities. It's an hour three times a week and so far all year I have taken myself into the nearest café for cake, tea, coffee, some peace and quiet to read and just "be" without working or doing something for someone else. Today for some reason I was feeling virtuous and determined to do something about my expanding girth so (inexplicably, now that I come to think of it) I somehow entered a dance school up the street from the the café to enquire if there would be any class I could join and therefore attend three times a week while waiting for my daughter. First of all the receptionist said no, there was nothing that would match that time. She then proceeded to open a leaflet and I could clearly see "FUNKY/CONTEMPORARY" at the exact time three times a week. I pointed this out to her and asked if those classes were for children or something because she hadn't mentioned them. She looked me up and down (more than once, the beady-eyed b*tch) and hesitated before saying that no, actually they were for adults, but for young, fit adults and she didn't think I would be able to keep up. I'm sure my face fell and I almost burst into tears. I mumbled something pathetic and left the place, never to return, catching my rotund reflection in every damn window as I made my way to the café for my usual piece of cake. I'm not even that old or overweight. She was actually OLDER than me, for God's sake! What should I do, Waffle? Walk on the other side of the street for ever more amen or sign up for the god damn FUNKY/ CONTEMPORARY and show her she's wrong? I should probably have a good cry, actually. I know it's ridiculous to be hurt by something a complete stranger says but the fact is she was so dismissive and discouraging.:(

Karen said...

Dear Crazy Mom,
I also wear a G size bra. After years of reading fashion blogs and 'how tos' on French style, I so desperately wanted to wear pretty, sexy, and lacy underwear but could never find the large sizes. Now I want to shout it from the rooftops (almost) to every large breasted female out there: I have found the holy grail of bras! These are beautiful lace, (with matching panties!) and are so comfortable. They keep 'the girls' supported, but are sexy too. And a wonderful thing about the lace styles are that they are not only cooler for middle age ladies like myself, but they give the illusion of a smaller bust. Also, have you seen the new stretch lace retro style panties from Hanky Panky? They have a wider waistband that sits a bit higher up and are sooooo beautiful and comfortable. I order mine from Bare Necessities, on-line, but am not sure if they ship internationally. Good luck!

Fantasie Zoe side support bra

Wacoal retro chic bra

Simone Perele Caresse Full Coverage Bra

cruella said...

Anon, sorry that you hade do meet with such a lousy attitude. Judging from myself, equipped with two left feet and no sense of coordination at all, I suppose you do feel comfortable dancing? Otherwise you would never have ventured in, right? In that case: GO FOR IT! Keeping up is YOUR problem, not any snooty receptionist's.

Best of luck, I think it's a brilliant idea.

Anonymous said...

You're very kind, Cruella, thanks very much for the encouragement! :)
I most definitely have two left feet and my sense of coordination is not great, but in spite of that, I have found zumba (salsa/aerobics) to be really enjoyable. I don't know what possessed me to go into that dance school but I think the next time I'm overcome with an urge to better my physical self I'll go somewhere a bit more welcoming. The thought of having to deal with that unpleasant receptionist 3 times a week is too much. Life is too short and I have enough stress to deal with as it is.

cruella said...

I can certainly understand that - I hope you find a more welcoming place because, despite what I said about my abilities in the field, dancing is a GREAT workout and mood enhancer - even more important:-)

Anonymous said...

Exactly, I need all the mood enhancing I can get! ;)

Waffle said...

I read this dance harpy thing and was outraged and then forgot to comment. Definitely find somewhere else that isn't staffed by this gorgon and definitely dance. Did you see Miranda Sawyer's thing about middle age this weekend? She said that she realised belatedly (when she took up running) that the reason she felt so good dancing in her 20s at raves and so on wasn't because of drugs but endorphins. DANCE ENDORPHINS. Which seemed very jolly to me.

Anonymous said...

You're very kind, Waffle :) Thank you. I hadn't seen that about Miranda Sawyer, but I'll look it up. It absolutely makes sense. I'll look it up and talk myself into dancing again! ;)

Sarah R said...

You should totally buy those sandles, they are lovely.

Great TBTBM on Tues. My first and I really enjoyed it.

Jane in SF said...

Love your Guardian teenagers article! Funny, spot-on and flowing.

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