Thursday, January 31, 2013

~ French Style ~ a book and thoughts after reading...

Are you a fan of all things French?
There is something about France and Paris that speaks to me...
it's a mystery as to why I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

Perhaps it is all the books that I have read over the years that paint a lovely picture of French country life.
It could be the movies... the romantic images of Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
the chauffeur's daughter who runs off to Paris and is transformed by cooking school and a new hairstyle.
Or perhaps it's French Vogue, or the iconic and enduring styles created by Coco Chanel.

In any case I am as far from a French femme as possible and have no illusions of being one.
But having said that it does not stop me from exploring all things French and reading books on French life and style.

One of my favourite books is a classic by Veronique Vienne.

she has a quality about her

 very comfortable in her own skin
"bien dans sa peau"
her skin glows and her hairstyle is casual 
she looks like she has not fussed too much
she is not wearing too much make up
my impression is that she looks natural and healthy
and quintessentially chic.

What about Canadian Chic?
Is there such a thing and if there is what would it look like?
Our country is such a melting pot of ethnic groups that it would be difficult to define!

Style is personal and the clothes you wear are a reflection of who you are.
They should be honest, comfortable, a little bit creative, and above all be fun.

So if like myself you dress for comfort...
it might be flats instead of high heels

for honesty
not wearing designer duds head to toe 
 (a no no in my books even for the rich)
and especially if you are on a beer budget

can be found in accessories and they do not need to cost the earth
they can be inherited, thrift shop finds or vintage

might be wearing a bright pair of ballet flats with your jeans and a white shirt

"Dressing your age" is a phrase that bothers me
dressing appropriately for your figure and lifestyle might be more to my liking.
I cannot imagine "giving up" on fashionable clothes just because one reaches a certain age.
We see many older women here in baggy polyester 2 piece outfits and they are not very exciting.
I am referring to the pastel shades of pants and wildly flowered patterned tops that can be found in many shops.
Please don't!

I'll give you an example of a well dressed woman 
(who must have been 80 if she were a day) 
at the Market and she looked lovely.
Navy dress pants, a short tan car coat, a bright silk square scarf with red accents on a navy background
navy kitten heels, an understated leather bag and small gold hoops in her ears and a smile!
I think her clothes were many years old but the cuts were good as were the fabrics and she looked fabulous.

whatever you choose to wear it should say something about who you are...
you clothes should be clean
and appropriate for whatever it is that you are doing
whether you are at work or at play
meeting the gals for coffee or lunch
or out on a date night with your sweetheart

Plan ahead so that you are relaxed and comfortable.
Buy sizes that fit your body
not the body that you want when you lose that extra 20 pounds.

Have a few key pieces for a variety of occasions
my go to bare basics are :
well fitting black pants
white shirt
silky tank style top for layering
a dress that fits and flatters that is simple and can be dressed up or down
cashmere cardigan
tweedy style (Chanel) jacket
a few fabulous brooches and several strands of pearls
a pair of kitten heel shoes
some flats
an evening bag
and a pashmina wrap
a great coat

Make sure that buttons are not dangling and threads are not hanging loosely.
Iron out creases and pay attention to details
are your shoes polished or worn down at the heels?

Look in the mirror before you leave the house so you are confident.

Don't do what I did that day I ran out to the bakery just before it closed only to see my reflection in the glass that showed a messy wind swept hair do and a pale face with no lipstick on!
( invariably you meet someone you'll know and the moment to make an impression is upon you!)

If you can get your hands on this book it is well worth a read.
Classics are never out of style
nor are manners.

Have fun getting dressed and exploring some new shops in your city.
Buying accessories can give a new lease on life to a wardrobe and you can dress creatively while you are saving for some new clothes or dieting and working out to shed those extra unwanted pounds.

Above all Have Fun!


  1. Non! I just don't get the obsession with France and its women at all, it's a beautiful cobwebby myth of perfection, so here's to Canadian chic and American style and British individuality!

    1. Please, let us not forget the Italians!

    2. Rome, Milan! BTW have you watched Henri on youtube?

    3. I have seen all of Henri!

    4. Paw de Deux is my favorite.

    5. So agree! And that woman in the photo (to me) looks like she could be from anywhere, but if you had asked me for a guess, I would have chosen a larger southern city in the US, like Dallas, Texas, or Atlanta, Georgia.

    6. My guess would have been NYC.

    7. Any city in UK....or anywhere! Ida

  2. Neither can I get the obsession of all French, it is an illusion maybe you and others have created about hearing and reading and seeing so much about France, French, Paris..
    I find Canada just as exciting, only it is much farther away. Ah, Josh Groban´s new songs right now, such clarity in his voice.
    But - maybe we all need " some dreams ". For you it is Paris, for me - not really sure, I´d wish our winters to be shorter. My dream however is not likely to happen, your´s probably will happen: ) !

    1. And let's appreciate Finnish winter style :)

    2. Finnish winter style?
      Never heard, never seen it ; ) !

  3. Nothing more to add,Tabitha has expressed my exact thoughts.Ida

  4. Can I just tell you how much I adore your blog? And as for the mystique of all things French, well, there are so many other cultures that I am inspired by (as well as the French). The thing I hear about American women being too forthright and open (contrary to the mysterious french woman)is exactly what I love about them. They are easy to talk to and typically very approachable. Smiling at a stranger is another American characteristic that I find brightens my day. You won't see a smile from a passerby in Paris like that. In Paris I didn't like having to remind myself not to smile so much (sad right?). I also don't like being judged on what I am wearing as I felt when I visited Paris - and I consider myself somewhat fashionable on the classic side (if I do say so myself). While in Paris I decided to take a train to Belgium. The difference was night and day. I actually fell more in love with Brugges, Belgium and its people than Paris. Your list of wardrobe basics are spot on and it's amazing what a little lipstick can do!

  5. Lovely post Hostess. Clothing maintenance is something a lot of women forget to give the attention it needs!! It can make all the difference, as can that touch of lipstick!!
    As for Canadian Chic...I have found politeness to be a beautiful quality many more of my Canadian friends have than American. Not to slam Americans...I am a Canadian and American's just an observation I've made on more than one occasion. Of course generalities are always a slippery slope and there are just as many poorly dressed, polite French women as there are brilliantly dressed but impolite Americans and Canadians I suppose.
    Have a lovely day,

    1. Apparently you have not spent much time here in the States dealing with your countrymen.....I work retail in the largest store in the world...and the Canadians are by far the rudest people that shop with us.....they want everything for nothing and always act like they are better than all others.....all the while throwing their garbage all over the parking lots so they don't have to pay duty as they cross back into Canada, after they leave,our parking lots look like a my opinion they all need a good lesson on politness and respect while visiting another country.....

  6. I do take inspiration from French fashion and embracing quality, food, wine, etc but I think Tabitha is right, there does seem to be many who put French women/society high up on the pedestal.

  7. I love Paris, too. My name is Sheree because I am part French. So all these books are a joy to me. People have said terrible things to me about the French. It would shock you. Even people who know my backround.

    I love Veronique Vienne. I love her story about her tiny wardrobe when she moved to the United States.

    1. I have only been to France, Paris. I have to say I did not meet a single unfriendly person and I do not speak French.

  8. Hostess- your list of essentials is a great guide for anyone building or even downsizing a wardrobe. I wish I had a list like this when I began my working life. I do love French style, both in fashion and in home decorating although my little cottage is as far from French in style as it could be.

    Canadian chic is difficult to classify. Like the US, Canada has so many different regions that it would be hard to peg it with a certain style. However, I do recall a time when I was a young mother and was visiting Toronto. I had bought a pair of slim pants and a red sweater to wear with my old ballet flats. I hoped I wouldn't stick out among the very smart downtown Toronto crowd. I was thrilled when a couple stopped me and asked for directions which I couldn't give. They said they were sure I was a native. I couldn't have been happier. I would love to hear what Canadians feel is Canadian chic.

  9. Oh my goodness! I have this book and absolutely adore it! So nice to see you write about it, Leslie!

  10. Canadian chic? We are pleasant and helpful. Comfortable but not sloppy. Reluctant for the most part to be conspicuous. On the West (wet) Coast, we might see more outdoors wear (i.e. Goretex jackets or Hunter
    rubber boots. Lululemon or yoga pants are acceptable wear for errands or casual coffee with friends. I took my nice red Columbia jacket to Europe because I was doing the camino later. I wore it in Paris one day and felt conspicuously North American. I love Veronique Vienne.

  11. I like your description of Canadian Chic - you're on to something!

  12. I have a lovely friend, 4 children in all kinds of activities. She often looks wind blown and disheveled. You would probably not give her an admiring look, she is certainly far from what you would consider "chic" However, she is lovely, she glows. Kind, generous, compassionate and full of the love of life despite challenging health problems that she meets with a smile. What she wears does not matter for the person inside is completely "put together"

    1. I love that she glows! Sounds like a vibrant and lovely woman. I think we all know someone who inspires us like your friend does.

  13. French women is an "urban myth" in my opinion, now widely spread by the internet. I travel a lot and have been to France many, many times. Parisienne women do not look any better than women in any large, cosmopolitan city. France has it's particular charms, as does virtually any place. Paris can be a very magical city because of it's architecture, history, museums, restaurants and cafes, it's own special "light", but I'm almost turned off of it because of all this worship of French women. I'm not sure why you think you're as far from a French femme as possible - it's not a city of all Ines de la Fressange look-a-likes. A variety, like everywhere else.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. In my brief stay,the French women in Paris looked like women everywhere (a mixed bag), though the city is beautiful.

  14. Kathy I have never travelled to France only through the media and the spin that they put on it.
    I am not putting myself down when I say that I am as far from a French femme as possible. I aspire to the "good qualities" that a pulled together woman might possess and I aim to be minimalist in the wardrobe area buying classic functional clothing that looks good and fits well. I do love how the French focus on fresh wholesome food and that they pay attention to quality and not quantity. A little bit of cheese and a glass of red wine does sound like a sensible approach when watching ones waistline!
    Perhaps there is a bit of the French Femme here in the Humble Bungalow :-)

    1. And the rose Peace is a hybrid tea bred in France.

  15. Also, might I suggest a visit to Japan. Many lifestyle blogs I frequent are a bit eurocentric, which is fine since I love europe too. But I also have a great appreciation of elegant traditional Japanese lifestyle (since we've touched on simplicity, archictecture, manners, exquisite food, beautifully dressed, warm people). Mind you, I'm not talking about the current crazy Harajuku type trends, but traditional japanese aesthetic. And remember, even the French take inspiration from other cultures than their own, evidenced in Chinoiserie, their love of Japanese food, etc... Their is a Finnish blog I like to visit called Muotti Mielessa and it has great links.

  16. oops, I meant "there is a Finnish blog..." not "their." :)

  17. Leslie, I absolutely love what you wrote here about style. It is so true! Thank you for shedding some good sense on the topic and also giving us a great list of stapes for our wardrobe. I am also in awe of the chic French woman and one of my favorite movies is 'Le Divorce" with Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson. It was based on Diane Johnson's wonderful book and it is a very funny story about Americans encountering the very chic French.

    1. I too agree with you and the Hostess. I adore French fashion and their lifestyle. I'am Canadian but I can still be influenced by another country that I find unique and elegant.
      Le Divorce is one of my all time favorite movies and I found that it portrayed us (North Americans) curiousity about all things French so very well.

  18. I can see the author now, sitting in a sidewalk cafe in Paris, a wine or cafe before her, musing, "Zoze Americains, ze are so stoopeed. Ze pay $150 for my leetle book."

    I see me at a wifi-enabled Starbucks, my computer before me typing, " 'That will be the day' which, Madam Veronique Vienne, translates to 'ce sera le jour'."

  19. $150 ? Non c'est impossible!
    Veronique has not dictated the rise in popularity of this book as it was not $150 when it was released back in 1993 it was a mere $20.
    Supply and demand are at work here Neats.
    I don't suppose that she would see a penny in the resale of this book.