Aging the French Way


French chic.

I have girlfriends that come from many different backgrounds, all special in their own way, but my girlfriend Solange stands out from all the rest with her unique sense of style and fashion. She would probably cringe if she read this description of her, because she’d rather be known for her other, more profound qualities. But I continue to write about her in this light, because there’s nothing wrong with focusing on style and fashion even though there are plenty, more important things to write about. Solange, after all, is the epitome of a French woman who knows how to keep up her good looks, regardless of her age.She lives in Santa Monica, California, but still adheres to a specific taste in fashion and beauty that can only be attributed to the typical French woman strolling down the streets of Paris. I recently viewed some photos of Solange at her son’s Bar-Mitzvah, and out of all the women there, wearing their glitzy and glamorous evening-wear, there she posed, wearing the same understated dress she had worn for the morning service. It was a simple looking dress—nothing shiny—no bows or expensive labels I am told, but it made Solange stand out, looking very elegant and chic. In the evening photos, she did not change her dress but only added a smart little jacket on top that swathed her body like a beautifully wrapped piece of chocolate, the kind that looks so pretty that it’s a shame to tear open and eat. It offered her morning look a completely different feel, without having to spend much money either.

She once told me that French women do not necessarily need much in their closet to achieve a look of elegance. And her closet is a testament to that very statement. She has very few items of clothing in her closet, in fact every time I see it I’m a bit surprised at its spareness—mine is a huge closet filled to the rim with so many clothes that most times I don’t even know what I own, and most times I never have anything to wear either. Yet, every time I meet Solange, I revel at her unique style. I wanted to learn how to attain her special look, or how to “look French,” so I posed the question before her, and what she had to say was most interesting.

Apparently, looking French is a sense of style that’s been bred into every French woman alive—they’ve been reared to take care of themselves and always look good. When it comes to their face, even when they show signs of aging, sporting wrinkles and gray hair—they look just as good—just as attractive without trying to hide their age necessarily. They achieve this without having to concern themselves with creams or procedures that erase the signs of aging from their face—they can look good at any age, regardless.

This, however, does not mean that French women do not take care of their skin. In the makeup department, they don’t feel it’s necessary to use a lot of makeup for instance, the natural look is preferred and therefore even when some of them turn to plastic surgery, it will be for a small, little touch-up as opposed to a drastic change. They never want anyone to know they’ve had surgical help. In America it seems that so many women who choose the plastic route, have gone out of their way to change themselves completely, at times looking very vulgar and unattractive as a result of surgery. They resemble nothing of their younger, more attractive selves—after surgery, they look just like a 50-year-old who’s undergone plastic surgery.One thing I’ve learned about Solange is that she always takes care of herself, but not obsessively; she doesn’t overeat, but eats everything she likes and exercises regularly—I’ve never seen her gain a pound. She goes for facials and massages regularly. The French do not believe there is anything wrong in taking care of themselves, their beauty industry is just as evolved as ours, and looking good has always been part of their culture. But their goals are completely different than ours.

When it comes to clothing, Solange absolutely abhors fashion trends; she does not believe in purchasing an item of clothing just because it’s a new “must have” trend. Wearing a trendy item of clothing regardless of how ill-fitting it may be for one’s body type is one of the biggest mistakes that women make in their pursuit of a beautiful, fashionable look. She says that owning beautiful clothes does not make a woman elegant, it’s what you put together and how you wear your clothes that gives you a sense of style and elegance. Too little can be bland and boring, and too much can make you look totally vulgar.

So there you have it, it’s a choice we can all make between doing things the American way, where anything we do, even beauty-wise, has to be bigger and “better,” even when it doesn’t serve us very well. The other alternative is to adopt the French way, becoming less excessive, less extreme in the measures we take. Doing a little bit less, but achieving a most rewarding outcome where anything we do serves to compliment and enhance our appearance, instead of detracting or even distorting the way we look.

Alright, the first thing that I’m going to do in my quest to look more like the French, is to rethink my closet— something that will, no doubt, make my husband very happy. I still have a box full of shoes in my garage that my husband had the chutzpah to label “Ugly Shoe Collection.” To be honest, since moving to a new home a couple of years ago, I have yet to even look in that box. I’m so good at getting rid of all my husband’s old shoes and clothes, but when it comes to my stuff, I have a tendency to hoard. I guess I should start by tacking my shoe boxes, yes plural I’m afraid, before dealing with my closet.

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