News and Opinion from Anne Barone to Keep You Chic & Slim

Parisian Chic - Part 1

Updated || 24 October 2019

Susan in Hamilton comments on the French/European lifestyle:

I have always thought our fascination with French women, was actually more related to the European way of life.  All the women I observed in Paris 30 yrs. ago were very chic but, it’s more than that…  

I couldn’t believe the quality of the food in the outdoor Paris markets, the way people spent Sunday afternoon strolling around city parks (even though it was early November and cool  when I visited).  There were no gyms, with people obsessing over exercise; everyone just walked everywhere.  People took time for a nutritious lunch, and lingered in the evenings over dinners - a time to relax and socialize.  The department stores full of beautiful, but expensive clothes resulted in thoughtful purchases.  It was just a different way of life.

I noticed the same things during a trip to Italy in the early 80’s with my mother & stepfather.

Good food, taking time for lunch and dinner, and walking were all part of everyday life.  I remember we took a bus on a Sunday, and got off at the wrong stop.  We were in a residential neighborhood in Rome – as we walked around looking for a cab, you could see all the families sitting down for Sunday dinner!  

My friend, Beth, was an exchange student in high school, staying in France for 6 months.  Later, after college, she lived in Germany for 2 years and became life long friends with a young German couple.  For decades, she visited them every other year, staying in their home in a medieval town, watching their children grow up, getting to know their neighbors.  She always came back saying how much better their life was, even though they owned less and lived in a less modern home.  The quality of their food was better; seeing a doctor didn’t involve a pill for every ailment (when their young daughter became unexplainably sick, the doctor figured out she had a food allergy – a change of diet and she was better). 

Beth was always impressed that after dinner, most residents would take a casual stroll around the outside of the town’s walls.  Many went to the nearby hot baths for a restorative soak.  When Beth would return from these trips, the differences between our stressful, consumer driven lifestyle and their “less is more” attitude were glaringly obvious.

Reading all these “French women” books I always return to thoughts of my German grandmother.  I wouldn’t describe her as chic, but she lived a thoughtful, meaningful life.  Her home was uncluttered, with a little housework completed every day, leaving her time for her hobbies of sewing and knitting.  Even after the death of my grandfather (who she adored), she cooked a nutritious meal for herself every night.  Sunday dinners with family were very important.  Her wardrobe was limited but of the best quality she could afford.  

What I’ve always liked about your Chic & Slim books, was that you translated the French/European lifestyle into something we could attempt while leading American lives.  Some of these authors (the “French Women Don’t Get Fat” author comes to mind) have lifestyles that are unattainable for the average American woman.  Living in a luxury apartment in NYC and jetting back and forth to Provence is definitely not my world!  

—Merci to Susan for sharing her thoughts.

|| 17 October 2019

Parisian Chic - Part 1

Today’s Nouvelles will have a second part (probably posted on Sunday 20 October). Our Chic & Slim Special Correspondent Kat sent a photo of a wonderful example of the sort of Parisian chic she observed on her recent visit to Paris. (Merci, Kat) In this second Nouvelles, an analysis of how traditional French chic has evolved to its current manifestation using the photo to illustrate.

In the meantime, today a link to a recent New Yorker article on how some French writers are redefining Parisian chic — and la Parisienne — to move beyond what they feel is a prevailing cliché. Susan in Hamilton alerted me to this article. (Merci, Susan)

Reading this linked article, those of us of the Chic & Slim persuasion can feel a bit superior. One point I have repeatedly made clear since the very first Chic & Slim book was that I was writing about the techniques for eating well, staying slim and dressing well I learned from “chic French women.” Of course we realize that some French women are overweight, some are indifferent about personal style. I did not study those women. And I did not write about them in the Chic & Slim books.

In the New Yorker article titled French Women Take On the French-Girl Cliché, there is the assumption that we have been mislead about French women and particularly “la Parisienne.” That the popular image does not reflect the diversity of actual Parisiennes.

In fact, in the first Chic & Slim Toujours, I introduced readers to chic and slim women who had been born and lived their lives in Paris who were of Chinese, North Africa and West African heritage. In any case, almost everyone knows that ne plus ultra Parisienne Inès de la Fressange’s mother was South American. Juliette Binoche had a Polish grandfather and also some Moroccan ancestry. Isabelle Adjani’s father was North African.

You can decide whether you agree or disagree with the ideas in French Women Take On the French-Girl Cliché. In any case, you will be alerted to some new books on the topic of French women.

French Women Take On the French-Girl Cliché in the New Yorker.

be chic, stay slimAnne Barone