I think we all agree that the woman who is ‘bien dans sa peau’ is the woman that we would all like to be. Reading and re-reading all the thoughtful and heartfelt comments on this topic got me to thinking about the practical side of beauty. What simple steps can we take to enhance our beauty? How can we not only feel like a French girl but look like one too? I am not talking about miracles but small things that make us not only look better but feel better.
I would like to clarify that I am no style expert but I have always had a love of fashion and an interest in beauty and even more than that, I am a keen observer. I have watched and watched those women in Paris – in the cafes, on the streets, in the boutiques and the department stores. I have had long discussions with French girlfriends about fashion, about style and about beauty. Over many years I have come to my own conclusions when it comes to French women and how they dress. Real French girls out there reading, please feel free to interject and throw more light on this subject…
I think to dress like a French girl is all about simplicity.
The women dress elegantly and simply with a focus on what suits them rather than what is in fashion. Fabrics tends to be plain in colour and dressing ‘appropriately’ for one’s age takes a backseat when both the cut and the cloth are simple and elegant. A women of 60 can be beautiful in a simple white shirt and black trousers as can a young girl of 20 – they will each personalize the outfit but the basics can be much the same. I have noticed French women wear a great deal of black and white – maybe the whole Chanel thing is burned into their subconscious from an early age. Colour is often introduced by way of accessory and this is where personality comes in – an individual handbag or fabulous of the moment shoes. Jewellery serves the same purpose in identifying personal style and the French girl follows the ‘less is more’ approach (except when it comes to pearls). And eyewear – French women wear the latest in sun shades and reading glasses; no old lady eyeglasses for them whatever the prescription. One day in Paris I was walking behind a woman and at the same time trying to take in what she was wearing and how she had put together her outfit. I don’t remember her age but I do remember what she was wearing – all black coat buttoned up, black suede three-quarter boots and a purple handbag hanging over her shoulder. It was the flash of purple quilting that caught my eye and her black lace tights peeping out over the top of her boots. There was nothing avant garde about her black coat but the unpredictability of the purple and the sexiness of the tights gave her that edge. The other thing that I noticed was her gorgeous hair…
French women have good hair.
By good hair I mean well cut and well groomed. The length and colour are secondary when it comes to cutting. I am always amazed how many hairdressers there are in France, in every arrondissement in Paris and in every village in the countryside – hair is a number one priority. I think French women favour geometrical cuts and the sleek look; layers are straighter – chunkier – and have that ‘I just got out of bed look’. Coloured hair seems to be less obvious in Paris and more natural in application. (I am not talking about the south now as hair colour takes an entirely different direction down here and not an example to follow…) But colour is not obligatory and grey is not a dirty word - I have seen many a grey headed woman in Paris looking beautiful because her hair is expertly cut and well groomed. For the French hair is about the individual woman not about her age and the care and maintenance of hair is routine – not a cure to be taken once or twice a year. I have learned this from French women – look after the hair and the rest will follow.
What about make up, beauty treatments and shots (as one adorable reader called them, Vitamin B – B for Botox)? Like the hair, French make -up is all about looking natural and looking natural starts with good skin. Skin care is a huge part of the French beauty routine and along with the hairdresser and the lingerie shop, the beauty therapist is the next most popular shop and stop in every corner of France. Skin care works only if it is regular and that is where French women are particular and disciplined – regular appointments and follow up at home – not a ‘once a year treatment day at the Spa because someone has given you a gift voucher’ approach. Good skin means no sun, glowing skin takes time and effort and most importantly the effects are cumulative – neglected skin is a hard act to reverse. And as for dry and flaky skin, rough elbows, unpolished toenails or unkept fingernails ….quel horreur.
French girls appear to wear little or no make up (that is the secret to their beauty, ‘le no make-up look’) but I know this is not true. French women love to wear make up and this is evident by the amount of pharmacies and department stores loaded up with maquillage. Again it is all about simplicity – never too much of anything, just enough to enhance what nature has provided. A couple of rules: Lots of eye make-up with a light coloured lipstick and the reverse when wearing red or dark lipstick – very little eye make-up. Simple and obvious guidelines that work for every woman. Red lips are by far the easiest and quickest French beauty tip to emulate but the one that packs the most punch.
As for the shots…believe me, French women have them but not to the same degree of paralysis that has become popular in other parts of the world. I don’t think for a minute that they are not freezing and plumping their faces but the difference is that they are maintaining their looks not re-inventing them. A quest for youth is a dangerous pursuit because it leads only to disappointment and disillusionment; looking after what nature gave us and safeguarding it for the future is a more sensible and achievable way of facing our maturity.
French women tend to be slight and rigorously look after their weight – I am often heard say, ‘real French girls don’t eat croissants’ and I think this is true to a degree. I have noticed that French women eat very small portions of everything and do not snack. This is the key; portion control and moderation when it comes to food. French women not only watch their weight but look after their posture – exercise like everything else is moderate but regular. French women know that a slim and well aligned body is one of the best anti-aging secrets of all.
Do I follow all these observations of mine? The answer is I try my best and some things are easier done than others. As I have aged I realize the value of sleep – nothing rejuvenates like a good eight hours – and water; two litres a day without fail.
How to dress like a French girl? Follow their lead – make time and keep it simple. xv