A to Z : How to become a true French... for the summer : E for elegance

E for elegance ? 

The French have the reputation of being more elegant than the British (not to mention the Americans) and in his blog, [1]journalist Michael Right in Limoges, (center of France) deplores the fact his fellow compatriot will « be the one with the belly and the shirt hanging out. Indeed, the staple garment for Britons arriving at Limoges airport seems to be a shapeless black T-shirt, either baggy enough to disguise the spacehopper beneath, or else confidently stretched across it, as if it were an orange in a sock », whereas he describes the inhabitants from Limoges dressing better. 

 

In the French provinces you still see people wearing « les habits du dimanche », Sunday clothing which are just the opposite of Friday wear.

But visit camping areas in France and and you will realize the so called French style is not always that sophisticated and that the beer gut, which we call « le muscle Kronenbourg [2]», (the beer muscle) is universally shared. And shiny track suits too.

 

But as in any cliché, there is always some truth in this positive statement about my compatriots. You will hardly see French wear basic running shoes as normal shoes, unless they want to pretend that they are young and belong to the category « faux jeune » (fake young) or really old. People tend to wear specific tennis shoes (Converse, Vans, or sophisitcated running shoes) made for the city, boat shoes, and shorts and bermuda, not meant for sports.

If you really want to look casual and French, you definitely need to adopt the « marinière », the reinterpreted sailor shirt, produced by French company Armor Lux which our Minister of economy, Arnaud  Montebourg was promoting to motivate the French to buy national products products. If you want to perfect your French look, you absolutely need to have two Villebrequin swimming shorts identical to those of your son's. Since the price of these trifles oscillates between 160 and 350 euros and given the fact that your offspring is only two year old, this may ruin you but will at least please your wife.

But before succombing to temptation, please note that this summer the male fashion dictates to look like an American surfer, praising the summer camp aesthetics,  cultivating the cool attitude. Stripes, checks, flowers and denim are back and blue is the new black. 

And whenever this question of style pops up please remind your French audience, that male fashion was created by « Beau Brummel », friend of Lord Byron, who was to design Prince Georges IV's wardrobe.  And invented dinner jacket and « dandysme , "trousers, perfectly cut coats, made in black or dark blue against a white shirt and exquisitely tied cravat became his trademark" (http://christianregency.com/blog/2013/04/19/beau-brummel-just-dandy)

 

 

 

As for women this summer, it will be plain white tennis shoes (lets pretend we are simple), or flat sandals with perfectly manucured feet, will do. As far as coulours are concerned,  powder pink, spring green or soft blue, slim jeans and vapourous silk chiffon whose transparence you shall will play with « showing what you want to show », says the Magazine Elle, oh la la.

 

It is also time to wear sequined dress and skirts weighing tons like armour, which are on sales in shops ; it seems the French tried to replace the crinoline, but where the long dress revealed an erotic ankle, the radical miniskirts look like double binding. There is also a come back of check fabric and lace... Could it be on one side Brigitte Bardot's delayed impact or the 50 Shades of Grey ?

 

Once again, should you find yourself in front of arrogant French ( yes it is a kind of pleonasm, I know) pretending woman’s fashion was invented by the French, please remind your discussion partner that it was an English tailor, Charles Frederick Worth, who created the female « haute couture». Working for the Gagelin house, the immigrant small clerk, started the department of tailor made product and was  going later to start his own company, « the House of Worth », rue de la Paix in the posh 8th district. Very successful at the London and universal exhibition in 1851 and 1856, he then became the official tailor of the Empress Eugenie.

So far the royalty asked their tailors to reproduce the cloth they had seen (not in magazine but) in classical paintings, but the very daring Charles Frederic asked his prestigious client a favour : to be given free rein to imagine her wardrobe...

 

Worth it ? 

 

 

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