Don’t think I have ceased researching my soon- to-be best-seller on the beauty secrets of middle-aged Parisiennes. Au contraire. I know that in this time of resurgent Cold War and financial uncertainty, when a SARS-like epidemic out of the Middle-East (coincidence?) is heading our way, the primary pressing concern of the average North American woman of a certain age is how to stave off the ravages of time, shed wrinkles and extra pounds, and achieve the insouciant epitome of chic that is the natural state of women over here. I have dedicated myself to this research (a fact I particularly insist upon in the expectation that I can write off all of my expenses on this trip in my 2014 tax return). I cannot give away all the book’s secrets, but to whet your appetite I would like to begin with a general discussion of certain myths concerning the aging Parisienne.
#1. It is not true that all Parisian women are young-looking and chic. Not at all. They often show their age. Every one of those Gitanes they smoked as they mounted the barricades in May 68 is written on their faces in wrinkles as complex as the Paris metro map. They often wear nondescript outfits and sensible shoes. Their hair is in a bun, and not a chic messy-bun as seen in the advertizing for Aesop skin care products. Not at all.
#2. It is not true that the French don’t try to be beautiful. Believe me, they try. Take cellulite creams. In the pharmacies of Paris there is hardly room for any drugs because of the amount of shelf-space devoted to cellulite creams. And honestly, who would be naive enough to think that a cream would get rid of cellulite, anyway?
Pharmacist: “Desolez, Madame, but I cannot give you any antibiotics for your oozing sores to-day, because we ran out of room for them.”
Customer: “Zut, what shall I do?”
Pharmacist: “Perhaps try some cellulite cream? It’s very effective.”
#3. It is not true that Parisiennes do not use botox. At a dinner party I attended recently, a truly beautiful fellow guest was so botoxed that when she spoke, she sounded like she had no teeth. It was painful to see her try to form words, and discover that her upper lip just wasn’t going anywhere.
Exercise for those considering botox:
Go to a mirror. Stuff four cotton balls under your upper lip. Notice that those witchy lines do disappear, but also notice that you look like Bugs Bunny. Now try to talk. Say words like: wonderful, please, and why would I want to look so ridiculous.
Enough myth-busting, although there is much more to be said. Time for stalking the chic Parisiennes we do admire. Let’s look at some photos and analyze.
A few weeks ago, at the Paris Art Fair, I noticed that I was surrounded by the subject types we are most interested in. Ah-ha, iphone 5C at the ready!
Here’s the setting. The beautiful Grand Palais. Chic Parisiennes are everywhere, selling, buying, discussing, seeing and being seen.
Our first subject shows that you need not be young nor happy to be chic. She has style, she matches the paintings, the grey hair was a good choice and she understands that if you are going to go grey you have to wear lipstick.
Perfect. The figure on the right has orange everything – jacket, hair and hem. And it’s really working. She looks vibrant, chic – er than thou. Her friend has the most gorgeous coat. The purse and pants are right.
Some art. Just to raise the tone of our discussion.
Oh, the young Moms. Jeggings, leggings, great knee-length coat, large hand bag, white platform running shoes. Copy that.
Running shoes again. Now this hurts a bit, because no running shoes unless at the gym, used be a central tenet of the Parisiennes’ creed. But things have changed and running shoe culture has come to Paris. Still, as your teenagers know, they have to wear the RIGHT running shoes. White or black lace-ups. Look like Keds. Could be platform if you want a little height.
More art. Improve your mind.
Yes. Camel and perfectly coiffed. Oxfords are another good shoe choice and they are everywhere here.
Arty, shawled, dark tights. Take notes.
Dashing about. She’s working but always coordinated in the great Paris non-colours that are a no-risk choice for the chic.
Okay, there you have it. More myths busted and more secrets revealed in “Aging Like A Parisienne”, by Christine Stonehewer. Advanced orders accepted.