Friday, April 1, 2011

Pigeon Holing Parisiennes

Ever had an annoying song stuck in your head, those lyrics plaguing your thoughts all day long?  That's how I feel about the article "No Dowdy Women " which appeared recently on the Bonjour Paris site.  The author's premise is obvious from the title, made even more ridiculous by the assertion:

You can walk anywhere in Paris and see women who are not, as they used to say, put together with two pins or perfectly dressed and made up from the roots of their hair to their toenails.  But the odds are that a woman walking along in Paris who needs a visit from Mr. Blackwell is not a native of the city and more likely than not is a foreigner.

[Parisian women] are different, and always stylish, because they dress for men, and the men, despite assumptions to the contrary elsewhere, are paying attention to what the women are wearing, can tell chic from cheap, and appreciate style.

Oh please.

And while I'm sure my brain could be much better occupied, I've let this little tune go round and round in my head until it's making me insane.  So here's the deal.  Yes, there is the type of Parisienne who is always amazingly put together.  But it's not the rule by any means.  And while I can't vouch for the nationality or birthplace of the following individuals, I now present exhibits A, B, and C.





I don't have anything against these women nor against the young lady I saw on the metro yesterday in a flowered cotton scarf, a plaid flannel bubble mini dress, black leg warmers, and flowered sneakers.  What they wear is their business.  I'll reserve the strong language for those who insist upon perpetuating myths, making sweeping generalizations, and spouting half truths.  No dowdy women?  What a load of crap.

25 comments:

MJ said...

Ugh. Get over yourself, M. Lestrange. Seriously. I'm with you, Anne -- every day casual dressing is everwhere -- and many times the French is accentless. Just ugh.

Anonymous said...

YIKES!!! Long time lurker outed by this outrage. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!! Zoomed to the article and suspicion confirmed: author is a man. Kudos to you for all your amazing posts and insights into Paris and safe travels back to the states. Cheers.

Duchesse said...

I work with a mainly French crowd in The Hague and bar two women, every single one is dressed like the two girls in your middle picture or worse. I for one would never show up at work wearing jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers. Or without lipstick.

Anonymous said...

Seen plenty of the little old lady in frumpy clothes types

And the obese ones in skin tight tshirts and jeans as well

CBR

Anonymous said...

Well said. The first time I went to Paris I was so surprised that the sidewalks were not a fashion show. Ninety-nine percent of Parisians are just ordinary folks and dress that way.

Omid said...

Painting a glamourous, romantic, and largely unrealistic image of Paris gets you more clicks (and hence more ad revenue and in the end an eventual lame book deal) more quickly. Now stop telling the truth or you'll never be a renowned blogger!

Belle de Ville said...

I'm so annoyed by the pepetuation of the myth that all parisiennes are chic. I lived and I know that it's total nonsense.

Pamela said...

Good to know!

Starman said...

You forgot to mention that French women are never over weight.

Eli said...

just back from l'olympia - can assure everyone that the vast majority of the audience looked like they had gone to bed in their clothes.

And I have never seen so many overweight people in one place in Paris before! Fortunately none sat next to me - as the seats are very small!

I long ago toned down my 'I am going to the theatre' clothes for Paris.

But I have to admit that I never leave the hotel without a little concealer, lip gloss etc (God bless Touche eclat!)

Mrs. Howard said...

Word. Sometimes people like M. Lestrange only see what they want to see.

Maria O. Russell said...

All you have to do to prove Anne right is board a TGV bound for the South of France as I have done countless times. Oh Me, Oh My! What a spectacle!

Paulita said...

Just glad you didn't click a photo of me when I was in Paris. Although when I look back at the pictures, I definitely would have fit into your collection.

emmabovary said...

That said, it IS true that in general, Parisian women dress more aesthetically than American women in comparable urban centers. You will rarely see a Parisian in lycra + running shoes intra-muros, whereas you could throw a pebble in San Francisco and it would hit a female dressed in athletic apparel--even if she is not going to the gym. We are just more relaxed about things like this, and wearing ill-fitting jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts (and baseball caps) is normative apparel for us. And since "everyone" is dressed like that, it doesn't seem odd in the streets of America.


However, once one goes outside of Paris one will see some real hick get-ups. But this is more linked to socio-economics than anything else.

Amy said...

Goodness. And good point!

I read so many things like this before I ever went to Paris and was terrified that I'd be arrested by the fashion police on Day 1 of the visit. So terrified I totally overpacked and totally regretted it.

Attack? It didn't happen. Everyone was individual, unique, showed personality. Some were chic. Some were not. And what a relief.

After all, Parisians are humans, too.

Kathleen said...

What a relief. So even comfy shoes are "acceptable." We are visiting Paris this spring and I admit I was stressing over what to pack. Silly me. People are people...thanks for the post. (- ideas for May packing are welcome, too.)

Deja Pseu said...

This assumption about Parisiennes drives me crazy too. I blogged about this very peeve after another one of those dopey NYT articles last year:
http://www.unefemme.net/2010/07/french-women-insert-stereotype-here.html

Deja Pseu said...

Kathleen, pack *comfortable* shoes with support and sturdy soles. My first visit to Paris I tried walking around in (nice) ballet flats the first day and was almost in tears within a couple of hours. The cobblestones, the gravel...not for flimsy shoes. Not white athletic shoes or "trainers" but a nice pair of broken in walking loafers are just the ticket.

Fay said...

ohh dear Its true ! when I lived there it upset me so much to see the "people on the street " looking generally like the great unwashed or more kindly!an homogeneous grey bunch .
However if you think that s bad come to Italy ! Of course if you go to a "smart restaurant or event " generally you will see the myth but outside fraid its quite rare ! SADLY
Of course there are many visitors guilty of this outrage! and perhaps even outnumber the locals ?

Anonymous said...

What's more troubling about the article for me is not the obviously untrue idea that every Parisian woman dresses well, but the assertion that women in Paris dress for men, not for other women or themselves, and that is what makes them sexy. We Americans have got to just stop it with the individuality and comfort and stagger around in black dresses and spike heels...

oliviadog said...

The comments were as interesting as your post!

MostlyFlumxd said...

I was just in Paris for a week and loved people watching. The majority of Parisians were dressed with style if not elegance and taste but I did see sweatpants on a very helpful, good looking Parisian man, sneakers on the women, jeans, cut off jeans, etc. Things I had read were NEVER done by a true Parisian. I did love the style of tights with shorts and boots or flats...

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com said...

I can bet you have never seen tights as pants in Paris the way you see them here in North America.

Topped with a low cut top (preferably sheer) and finished with UGGs

They may not be runway models but they're presentable in Paris

Chez Loulou said...

One thing I notice about Parisiennes vs. American women - they don't walk around town, go out for coffee and/or run their errands in sweatpants or yoga pants. Thankfully.
Down here in the south of France the fashion is pretty abysmal.

Anne said...

Chez Loulou: Yes, that's correct. I'd say the general rule for taking care of business in Paris is that you don't have to dress up, but you should never dress down.

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