The Chic French Madame

18.-CarineRoitfeld-yellow-skirtHere on the Riviera everyone, bar cleaning ladies, is slim or downright thin. The cliché about French women not getting fat is true, they do actually eat, but not that much, in fact they eat miniscule amounts, which of course is the key to slenderness. Yes eat butter, cheese and chocolate, but just in minimal amounts. It is very annoying, but true, generally French women do look miles better than their Irish counterparts. Of course this leads to a certain sameiness and a lack of variety and eccentricity; sometimes scruffiness and slightly outré clothes add to the spice of life and can look great.
One thing the French – at least the Riviera French don’t do – is takeaways. There is one MacDonald’s in Monaco, in the new reclaimed area Fontevielle. Its opening was a cause of uproar and many oooh la la’s and what is le monde coming tos. The place has been a success with children but you NEVER see anyone eating any of the food outside the premises, and certainly not walking along the street – the French do not graze. You also don’t see filthy wrapping paper strewn everywhere.
One very smart French woman I met was puzzled when, on a first trip to the USA she saw signs in shop windows stating ‘no food allowed’ –she wondered why on earth was the sign necessary, in the name of Dieu, who on earth would eat while shopping, especially for clothes. She was aghast when she discovered the American (and now Irish) habit for grazing all day while wandering around shopping malls. In Ireland it is practically impossible to go into any newsagents or grocery shop without being bombarded with row upon row of chocolates, sweeties and crisps. Again, this just does not happen in France. If you are disgusting enough to have need of a tabac, tabac is what you will find, along with some chewing gum to try and mask your stinky breath. Newsagents sell newspapers and magazines – not confectionary.
Another noticeable thing here is that food is just not as sweet as it is at home. Biscuits are plainer and sugar does not appear to be randomly added to all foodstuffs (compare and contrast with America where even the bread tastes sweet – I had an egg salad at a very upmarket chichi restaurant and it was vile, when I inquired about the ingredients I found that sugar had been added – to egg salad? Revolting).
French women tend to dress their age. They do not (blush) try to wear groovy on trend clothes. That is not to say that they look frumpy, but they are more conservative. Clothes are well pressed, neat and accessorised with smart, good bags and shoes. If you look at Carine Roitfeld, the uber glam fashionista, even she – outrageously cool and trendy by French standards, tends to dress appropriately. Neat little pencil skirts, no clunking wedges, immaculate blow dry and super grooming.
Which brings us to hair – Frenchwomen’s hair is always well groomed. No grizzled split ends, no grey roots. A well-coiffed head always adds both youth and smartness to a look.
I would like to think that I have learned some valuable lessons here and that I will turn over a new leaf and become chic, but have at least a modicum of self-knowledge and know that I have neither the patience nor the discipline to keep up the maintenance involved, never mind the expense. For example, nobody over 20 wears leggings (unless they are leather and the wearer is super slim and long limbed), but I know that if I am going for a walk with dog up the hill and have just fallen out of bed, leggings, wellies and a big jersey will often be my outfit of choice. However, I will try to avoid wearing them properly out. I vow to keep my hair well maintained, but having naturally frizzy hair with the consistency of wire wool means that this is difficult. I shall also NEVER EVER wear shorts again unless I am on a beach.


3 thoughts on “The Chic French Madame

  1. Excellent article Vandra! Not just French women but all our continental counterparts take far better car of their appearance. It doesn’t just boil down to being emaciated – its about looking well groomed. Thats not just hair but polishing those boots and keeping them well heeled. Starch, bleach and give that white shirt creases in the right places! Now, thats not asking you to survive on a lettuce leaf! Susan


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