On a pretty regular basis, I get emails asking how not to look like the dread Study Abroad Student.
I get a little funny when asked outright for advice. I know how I feel personally, but I think, who am I to judge if they want to look like gypsies on the way to the state fair? It makes my life more interesting, allowing me to spot them on the bus and quiet my iPod so that I may get a dose of American Valley Girl voice. Tell us again how that class is SO not worth your time! OH, HOW IT DOTH BRING BACK MEMORIES.
But I’ve never talked about the other Americans I spy on: the 40-something Alpha moms I see in Saint Germain de Pres, shopping with their teenage daughters in identical trendy outfits purchased at Scoop NYC (or the nearest big city equivalent).
Because the age thing gets decidedly more hairy. I can understand that a day will come when the skimpy camisoles or ingenue dresses that I so love will be entirely inappropriate. But like most Americans, I am quite capable of self-denial, so I try not to think about it. Maybe I can buy a self help book?
But here’s the neat thing about France: dressing your age is not checking out on your sexuality. You can still have fun shopping and find interesting things to wear. You don't have to compete with the teenagers wearing camisoles and flip flops to seem vital. Older women don’t become invisible here.
The trade-off is that you can't leave your house in your favorite sweatpants from college that are sagging (just a little) in the bottom. Yes, even for five minutes to buy milk. Trust me, IT'S WORTH WEIGHING YOUR OPTIONS.
I am quoted in this article in The Sunday Telegraph's fashion magazine Stella, trying to get that idea across and a few other ideas, too. (I'm on the bottom of the first page and top of the second page.)
Also, there are street photographs of French girls in the article. You know you love the street photos.
p.s. Another great read in the same issue? The article by Le Divorce author Diane Johnson (fun DJ fact: did you know she wrote the screen adaptation for The Shining?). I love this because it is full of things you don’t hear in your typical article on French women. She gets in the love of McDonalds and the weird color of red hair dye that only French women think is attractive.
[Warning: she does open up by mentioning the scarf. My feeling on the scarf? Word has gotten out: THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD KNOW ABOUT THE SCARF. But she doesn’t use the phrase “Bien dans sa peau,” not even once. It has to be a first.]