17 Jul 2010

The Ongoing Quest for Style

In my on-going quest for a style of my own I am, once again, trawling through photos of everyone else in an effort to find something I can copy. Crazy huh?

I have a whole love-hate relationship with the French that I think a lot of people in the UK probably share. We have a cultural history of fighting with the French, centuries of inbuilt distrust and sneering has been passed down through the generations. My favourite method of physical swearing (sticking up two fingers) first came about as a taunt to the French*, we like to think of them as rude and arrogant (and forget that we display the same traits more often than not). None of this is verbalised, obviously, but it is felt.**

But I love France. I love their culture, their attitude towards work and the Mediterranean outlook on socialising. I find their relationship to cheese a little strange given the obsessiveness they exhibit over it but as I love cheese too I'm willing to take that in my stride. I absolutely adore their fashion and their furniture. And the biggest compliment I've ever had was when I was asked if I was French. Because there's one thing you have to give the French women, they know how to dress.

It was with this view in mind that I decided that emulating the quintessential French woman's sense of fashion might be a place to start. I can incorporate my love of times gone by into the look. Eagerly I opened google and put in french fashion. And found almost nothing to help.

Because the quintessential French woman's sense of fashion is unique and indescribable and doesn't just come from the clothes she wears but from that certain je ne sais quoi*** she has about her. In an effort to understand this I started looking at books about French women and their sense of fashion and came up with a trooper.

I don't normally review books as I go through so many of them (see the reading list linked above) but this was eye opening and I thought that if there was anyone else out there interested in the French style then it might be useful to share some information.

Realistically, what makes French women look good is that they're wearing classic pieces, tailored classic pieces. And then they accessorise and accessorise well. That's it, that's the big secret.

But they also live in a culture where being beautiful is more important than living. Seriously. Lingerie has a whole other meaning to them and must be matching. Fidelity is unexpected, women are in direct competition. Always. And you are expected to be clever, for you cannot be beautiful without intellect.

The author, Helena Frith Powell, is an Englishwoman who moved to France with her husband and their children and then began to realise how out of place she felt purely because of the way she dressed and thought about herself. In an effort to understand the differences she interviewed gaggles of French women about everything, talked to friends in the UK about the English woman and her habits and compared the two. It's a fascinating look at the behaviours and lifestyles of women in two very different cultures and I devoured it overnight. I'll definitely be taking away some of the things I've learned and applying them to my life and I'll definitely be starting the simple exercises she describes in one chapter in an effort to tone up a little. But I'll be keeping my sense of humour, thankyouverymuch, and my faith that not every woman I know is attempting to steal my lover.

* Our long bows were better than their short bows, and having a greater range meant our armies could kill more French whilst being out of range to their arrows. In retaliation I'm told the French cut off the first and second fingers on every British archer they could find to ensure they could never draw a bow again. The Brits taunted the French on the battlefield by waving those two fingers at them at every opportunity.

** Please note, cultural prejudices aside, the Brits don't actually go around hating the French or the Germans. We just like having someone to blast when it comes to football (that's soccer for all you Yanks, although how you can call a sport where the ball barely touches the foot football, and a game where you kick a ball with your foot 99% of the time not football is incomprehensible to me and my compatriots).

*** direct translation: I don't know what  

Thanks for stopping by,


  1. Very helpful insight, thanks!
    I enjoy your blog and envy your location.

  2. Thank you :)

    Yes, Wales is amazing and I'm constantly thankful I live here. Looks like you'll be in the area soon though? I hope you have a great time. Have you been to Wales before? Please bring an umbrella and/ or waterproofs with you, when it rains it really rains!


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