Thursday, September 28, 2006

Parisian Women, Fashion and being Mindful

I am finally just pulling myself out of the blue funk I fell into on my return to England. There is (sometimes) something so depressing about this country – my husband figures it’s because its home so it’s a case of the familiar but I think it is more than that. There is an inherent dullness to England and it hits you as you hover above the runway before your plane finally touches down. The sameness of all the houses you see from above – red brick and rows and rows of identical houses – then the grey skies and then the rain. But I shall dwell not on these things…

Paris was fantastic!! I had a lovely time and the weather was super – sunshine all the way, we had the odd day of showers, but apart from that I lived in my spaghetti strapped tops. We did all the things that as a tourist you are expected to do – went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, took a boat ride down the river Seine, strolled down the Champs des Elysees, took pictures in front of all the designer shops (but didn’t dare venture into any of them), had freshly baked baguettes and croissants for breakfast and generally embraced the French way of life for ten days. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the mandatory crepes of course.

But the one thing that impressed me the most about Paris was its women.

Now, I have read and been told all my life that Parisian women are up there when it comes to style and fashion – and my trip only served to confirm this age old tale. Boy, those women know how to dress! And the funny thing is I didn’t see one of them, not one of them, wearing anything that was considered the ‘current fashion of the season’ and yet, they managed to put every ardent trend follower to shame. I am a firm believer of ‘if you’ve got it, you’ve got it’ and believe me, the Parisian women sure have got it.

I see loads of women here in England dripping in designer gear from head to toe, and it’s obvious that they spent a small fortune on their ensemble, but many of them still manage to come off looking cheap. Not so the Parisian woman. There is something about the way she wears her clothes – with a confidence and a knowledge that what she has on suits her. The use of accessories, I noticed, also plays a big part in their wardrobe. They always have something on that gives a little twist to whatever outfit they are wearing – a scarf around the neck that matches a ring, or a pair of shoes that matches their cardigan or a belt that matches their bag. And though they may not have spent much money on the outfit, they still manage to look like a million dollars. In my opinion, the difference between the way French women dress and the way women in England dress is that French women pay attention to detail and they make and EFFORT to look nice. Not so here – since my return I have not seen one woman who has evoked me to say ‘wow, I really like what she is wearing’. Here, the women all have on jeans, t-shirts and blond hair – Topshop fashion victims. No personal style just following the ‘what’s in and what’s out’ pages of Glamour and Grazia and this just creates a boring sameness to their sense of fashion. For instance, so called skinny jeans are/were all the rage but I know that they sure as hell don’t suit me – my African sized bottom and thighs scream NO, NO, NO when I dare to try a pair on – and so I avoid them like the plague. There is no need to look like an idiot all for the sake of following the flavour of the season. The style of the Parisian woman is classic and timeless and you can see that she dresses for pleasure – her pleasure, and I love that. They stick a defiant finger up at latest trends.

Another thing that stuck me about Paris and its women is that not one of them seems to be overweight. It’s true. Even my hubby commented on it as well. Not that they are skinny mind you, they are just not overweight. This has got me wondering how they do it and to help me understand this phenomenon, I have dragged out my copy of French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mirelle Guiliano once again and this time I will pay attention to what she is saying and not just whizz through it like a novel, as I did the first time around.

Being in Paris and seeing all these effortlessly glamorous, well pulled together women made me realise just how much I have let myself go over the years. There was a time I wouldn’t leave the house without lipstick on but now I don’t give much any thought to what I wear – I throw on whatever I reach for first in my wardrobe regardless of whether it matches or not, just as long as it fits – and my idea of a beauty routine is to hurriedly put on a smear of lip balm using the rear view mirror in my car. I don’t watch what I eat (my face is testimony to this as it’s covered with spots at the moment from eating too much butter and fat laden fried foods), and I walk like I am constantly on a mission – march, march, march. Even my shopping habits leave a lot to be desired as my motivation to buy clothes is mostly determined by the price tag rather than whether it really suits me (you know that buy, buy, buy frenzy that grips you when you see a red sale sign).

[I just got a book titled ‘It’s Vintage, Darling!’ by Christa Weil and it promises to teach you how to be a clothes connoisseur. I have skimmed it and from what I have read, it looks good. And don’t let the title fool you, it talks about clothes in general, not only vintage clothing.]

And then my poor husband – I cannot apologise to him enough. I remember there was a time (it seems so long, long ago now) when I pulled out all the stops to look good for him when I knew he would be coming to see me or we were going out on a date. Back then, every time he saw me I knew I took his breath away by the way I looked and he always, ALWAYS complimented me. But these days, five years of marriage later, how things have changed. I slob around the house with oil stained joggers, run down Birkenstocks and dishevelled hair and even when I do make what I think is an effort, I am the one who has to ask ‘Do I look nice?’. Not a good sign. I have taken myself (and my husbands’ interest in me) for granted for too long. So I have decided to change my ways – I have the desire to. I cannot hide behind the ‘I am mum to a toddler; I don’t have the time to look nice’ excuse anymore. If I care enough about myself, and I do, I WILL MAKE THE TIME. This is a gift to myself and to help me on my way I resolve to:

Take more interest in my Self (health, looks, body, spirit, and mind) and pay more attention to what I wear. It’s all in the detail.

Be mindful of what I put into my mouth – as the saying goes, a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips.

Walk at a slower pace – life isn’t a race.

Take joy in the simple pleasures – there is always something to be grateful for.

Centre myself, focus on things that are important to me and get rid of the ‘drainers’ in my life.

Make time each day, to do something for myself – read a chapter of my favourite book, listen to a motivational CD or tape, go for a walk or simply just chill and do nothing.

Be mindful of the words that come out of my mouth (whichever way you look at it, a woman swearing is not pleasant to hear), my reactions to situations (things aren’t always the way they appear) and the way I handle the daily stresses of life.

Develop my communication skills – especially with my husband.

Think of others more.

And now, I gotta run. Oops sorry… walk. I’ve got work to do!

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10 Comments:

Blogger LondonBuki said...

I haven't been to Paris but I can imagine how the women look. Once in a blue moon, I see a woman with natural style and I want to have my own style. In London, you got the uniform right... so DRY!

I have been meaning to figure out my unique style but I can't :-(

2:22 pm  
Anonymous d said...

another great book i recommend is 'a guide to elegance' written by a french woman. she says exactly the same thing. a young parisian woman would save and buy 1 quality item, but brits , like me, would rather have quality over quantity. it's still a great book.

11:14 pm  
Blogger Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

whao... now I wanna go 2 Paris cos it sounds so pretty and refined... Just out of curiosity.. y didn't u go in2 the designer stores? I mean even if you couldn't afford anything.. couldn't you have just looked? tried on stuff just for the heck of it?

In canada... you see some of the same looks especially in Toronto.. but in Montreal which is essentially a french city, I noticed more of the women there had a more elegant style , even the guys looked better put together- not so much of the 'stereotypical hip-hop dressing'... even the homeless people in Montreal looked better than the ones in Toronto.. my friends wouldn't believe me when I told them.. so I guess its something about the french...

Great blog... fun to read

5:21 am  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

@ d.. I am a quantity over quality woman at the moment as well, but I am hoping to change that starting now. Thanks for the book recommendation.

@overwhelmed naija babe: Sadly, no I didn't go into any of the designer shops. There is something sooooooooooo intimidating about them. Besides, an ice-cream smeared, jam encrusted, crisp covered mum with a toddler in a pushchair wouldn't quite have fit in with the ambience of the shops. :-D

And thanks for the kind compiment.

9:08 am  
Blogger Ore said...

I totally agree with you about the chicness of French women. I have noticed it everytime I have visited Paris. I have never been one to follow fashion, I go for what I like and seeing how beautiful French women look in such an effortless and timeless way encourages me to choose style and fit over trends anyday.

Have you read Almost French by Sarah Turnbull? She moved to Paris to be with a man who she had known for barely a few weeks. She ends up living there for years and getting married to said guy. She talks about French women and their style. Good read.

12:15 am  
Blogger Gbemi's Piece said...

Welcome back! You seemed to have come back with a renewed spirit. The French are good dressers, no doubt but I find that English women aren't half bad themselves. Nigerians living in America seem to prefer European fashion to what is available in the States. I'll tell you one thing, I got a terrible complex while in Paris a few years ago. My size could only be found towards the back of the racks. Other than that, I enjoyed French food a little too much and loved their relaxed attitude to life. Qu'elle facon de vivre!

11:28 pm  
Blogger In my head and around me said...

Welcome back!! Great post.
I particularly like "French women pay attention to detail". I'll keep that in mind.
I just recently (March, 2006) started revamping my image and style and its been totally worth it(its still a work in progress, though).

France sounds like a real fashion Mecca.

1:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there:

Thanks for mentioning my book "It's Vintage, Darling!" If you or your readers have any critiques I'd honestly love to hear them . . . I'm off to Paris myself in November for a refresher in French chic . . . best regards, Christa (christaweil@aol.com)

2:21 pm  
Blogger April said...

I totally agree with what you say about London, about women in Paris, and also about taking care of one's self.

Italian women (actually those in Milan) are also quite fashionable and appear not to follow fashion blindly.

I always enjoy reading what you have to say - great blog!

4:08 pm  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

Hi Christa, I am honoured to have you visit. As soon as I saw your book in Borders I just knew it had to come home with me. I'll give my feedback when I am done with it. Enjoy Paris!!

@Shakeera: Thanks for your kind comment, much appreciated.

10:17 pm  

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