Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Guide to Elegance

Ever wondered why French women are so chic? Chic meaning they have that certain inborn quality that sets them apart from the regular folks. (Heck, they even have a term to identify women who may not be gorgeous but have that certain je nais se quois; "jolie laide" or pretty ugly they call them. Only in France can "ugly" women still be considered attractive.) Anyway, I bought a couple of books yesterday at Fully Booked in Rockwell and the first book that quickly got separated from its plastic cover was "A Guide to Elegance" by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. It could easily well be the book passed on from one generation of Frenchwomen to another, holding the secret to such chicness. Warning though, this is not for the stubborn and rational ones. Reading this is like your shrink telling you to go ahead and splurge on that dream bag because it will be good for you! You know, that there is no need to feel guilty, and that really, it makes total sense.

So okay, I loved it! Tell me, how many books encourage its readers to buy Hermes bags and cashmere sweaters because of the saying "I cannot afford to buy cheaply"? According to Madame Dariaux, "these efforts are one of the keys, one of the Open Sesames that unlock the door to elegance". Not that I'm justifying irrational exuberance when it comes to retail therapy but when I really think about it, this is the secret that French women knew all along. Madame Dariaux writes...

"One of the most striking differences between a well-dressed American and a well-dressed Parisienne is in the size of their respective wardrobes. The American would probably be astonished by the very limited number of garments hanging from the Frenchwoman's closet, but she would also be bound to observe that each one is of excellent quality, expensive perhaps by American standards, and perfectly adapted to the life that the Frenchwoman leads...Americans are often shocked by the high prices in the Paris shops, and they wonder how a young career girl, who earns half the salary of her American counterpart can afford to carry an alligator handbag and to wear a suit from the Balmain boutique. The answer is that she buys very few garments; her goal is to possess a single perfect ensemble for each of the different occasions in her life, rather than a wide choice of clothes to suit her every passing mood." (page 147-148)

Its not like this is the first time I've heard about this. Tito Johnny, my friend Nina's fabulous uncle and a valued client at Homme et Femme (thanks for letting me use your discount! hahaha!) has long instructed us on the virtues of French women. He said that Parisienne girls never give in to impulse shopping. They really save their salary to be able to purchase the best bag/coat/pair of shoes that their money can buy. You will never see them settling for the next best thing. Now that's what I call the wisdom of our elders!

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