Feb 17, 2012

"Fou" on French Style --the American Way That Is!

Well, it would appear that the American woman's obsession with becoming French has finally waned-- has it? Oh I do hope so! Because ever since French Women Don't Get Fat first soared to the top of the bestseller lists in 2004, we've been steadily besieged by guidebooks and Gallic gurus all determined to instruct us on how to be French: how to be sexy like the French, thin like the French, stylish like the French. But I can't think of anything less French than buying a book on how to be sexy, thin and stylish. Or to quote Leigh Taylor-Young in I Love You Alice B. Toklas, "It's very unhip to say that you're hip, Harold." 

It was all so transparently commercial and commodified but amazingly American women appeared to gobble it up like crème brûlée. Well, non! Let me amend that last observation. When I say "American women" I primarily mean "uptight, prissy (but doesn't want to think she is) white women residing in urban areas of the Northeastern United States". You know the type: a tight ponytail, that boring Longchamp tote bag, frequently can be found at networking mixers, pub crawls, booze cruises and Susan G. Komen charity walks. I'm talking about the type of gal who overly self-identifies with Carrie Bradshaw but doesn't have the guts to wear a tutu on the street, that daring miss who kissed a girl once in college 10 years ago and is still talking about it...I'm sorry, but when it comes to bisexuality I say go full-on Emmanuelle or don't do it at all. And when I say Emmanuelle, I refer of course to the first and the best: the hauntingly provocative Sylvia Kristel. Now there's someone worth taking a style tip or two from. She may not have been dressed often, but when she was--impeccable!

Sylvia Kristel wearing...well, a lot of clothes for her.

But where was I? Oh yes, the aforementioned Nervous Nellies of the Northeast! What can I say, the whole French craze was just so much velvet and what did it accomplish? It's made a legion of fashion-fearfuls obsessed with tying scarves. Don't get me wrong, there are many aspects of French culture I adore, like butter and socialism, and I've a splash or two of French blood in my veins, but we have been served up such a superficial view of that society. And I have to ask all those women who appointed Mireille Guiliano God when they read French Women Don't Get Fat, "Do you speak French? Can you tell me who Robespierre was? What about Jean Renoir? If I say to you 'Senegal' and 'Ousmane Sembène' does that ring any bells?" Hmmm, I thought so. 

My regular readers all know that I am obsessed with making collages on the fashion/art website Polyvore and it was a recent collage I made that inspired this post:


I frequently get my ideas from movies and for this one I decided to do a salute to French actresses that I love-- but note, I call it "Every woman is an actress." and thus every woman is an inspiration, a model for beauty and style if she just embraces and cultivates the essential self within. So in short, don't aspire to be French. Aspire to be you!

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Namrataa, a true "you" if there ever was one. 

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