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!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I'm back

I’m back but swamped at the moment so I shall blog about my trip to Paris tomorrow when I have more time in the meantime, is this what every woman should have lurking in her bedroom?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ready to Go

So bags have been packed, the last minute shopping has been done and the only thing left for me to do now is go to the hairdressers and have my hair cut and voila, Paris here I come.

It's been a very busy week at work trying to clear my work folder out so there is nothing left outstanding and I don't start getting frantic calls to my mobile phone while I am away.

I have no idea what getting access to my blog will be like when I am there so I'll either post very irregularly or not at all for the next 10 days or so. Wow, I'm already looking forward to reading the backlog of all the posts by bloggers of my favourite blogs when I get back.

Have a good one and see ya when I get back.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Scrumptious September

At last September is here and I cannot tell a lie, I am so glad that August is over. It was the longest, weirdest and most surreal month I have had in a long time – it just seemed to be one pothole after another.

September promises a lot of things – for a start summer seems to be officially over, leaving as suddenly and as unceremoniously as it came, so I guess it’s time to start trawling the shops for winter stuff again. *sigh*

A friend of mine just returned from a two week break (does one really go to Naija for a break?) and I asked her to bring me back the usual supplies of crayfish and Ogbono and boy, did she bring back some. I won’t be lacking in these two items for the next five years!! A bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. ‘Didn’t you have any trouble at the Airport with all this stuff?’ I asked. She assured me that she hadn’t. Apparently she had called the airline (KLM) beforehand to let them know she would be travelling with some Naija food items and they said it was fine because every (Naija) passenger is entitled to take out a certain amount of food stuff with them. Hmmm, this was news to me. So I’m just passing it on to you all out there planning to make any trips soon. (Disclaimer: if you are caught don’t say you heard it from me!)

She also brought along two issues of The Guardian on Sunday for my reading pleasure. But I must admit that I was very surprised at –

  1. The quality of the newsprint which is terrible! The pictures are all runny and unfocused and it they didn’t carry captions underneath telling you who the people in the pictures are, you’ll have a hard time trying to decipher it for yourself. Gosh, I remember when the Guardian first started (now my age comes through) it was considered the best quality paper in the Country and I especially loved the Sunday edition which always carried pictures by Summi Smart-Cole (whatever happened to him?)
  2. The quality of English. The grammar is so bad!! Do the editors really sit down and edit this stuff? Expressions are wrongly used, words are misspelt and there is just a general lack of attention to the appropriate use of the English language that runs throughout the paper. One used to be able to read a newspaper and walk away haven learnt a new word or two but sadly that’s obviously not so anymore and
  3. 95% of the paper is just about politics, politics and more politics.

One article did catch my eye though – it was a review of the book 26a by Diana Evans. My oh my, the reviewer sure held nothing back – talk about letting it rip!! If I was Diana reading that article, I would never write another book, ever. Ouch! The reviewer was incredibly harsh. I think too harsh. S/he absolutely tore it to shreds. I agree that the book is not to everyone’s liking and we all (mostly) agree that the section where the family moves back to Nigeria wasn’t very well presented and could well have been left out all together, but overall it wasn’t that bad. I felt sorry when I’d finished reading that piece. But moving swiftly on…

I have got a few things I am looking forward to this month. A few of days ago I ordered a couple of my favourite things here and here. So that’s something for me to look forward to getting in the post soon.

But best of all, we are off to Paris for two weeks second week of September!!! Yay!! I am way excited. Really looking forward to it and this time I am going to do more than just take a picture in front of the HUGE model Louis Vuitton suitcases in the front of their store on the Champs-Elysées, I am actually going to go in! Aren’t I brave?! *laugh* I shall also venture up the Eiffel tower and not just loiter around the bottom of it craning my neck trying to get a good view of the top of it.

I plan to have me a Scrumptious September.