That’s right. Moving to England literally saved me from a life of crime(s)… against fashion.
A persistent stereotype about French women is that we are all born with an innate sense of style and that, with the gift of glamour at our fingertips, we just effortlessly tumble into our clothes and make them look, and here’s a cliché if I ever heard one, timeless. What. A. Lot. Of. Crap.
For the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, here’s the reality of growing up an average teenage girl in France in the 90s (I specify the 90s because I have no idea what it’s like right now, having left France over 15 years ago – maybe things have changed, in which case, tell me about it in the comments!):
- Hardly anyone has a sense of style: the most important thing about growing up in France is to conform, conform, conform. You do this by subscribing to the traditional school uniform. But France doesn’t have uniforms! Oh yes they do, it’s called the ‘jeans and t-shirt’ combo. Most kids don’t veer very far from this template; or they do so at their own peril.
- Girls don’t wear pretty things: again, jeans and t-shirt. Grey, black and white. With sneakers and probably a scarf. Special occasions, like going out to a club or a party, involves putting a different top to your normal ones but that’s it. I’ve not seen any girl or women in ‘pretty dresses’ unless there was a wedding. So imagine my surprise when I moved to England and went out. Girls in dresses, girls in heels, girls wearing pretty things, shiny things, glittery things, and colours; it was a revelation. I had never thought of it as an option but I certainly liked having the choice.
This said, I have always been particularly challenged and I have committed so many fashion faux-pas that it took emulating a good friend and a few good years on British soil for me to learn what suits me and what doesn’t and mostly, to recognize when something is just hideous. I’m still not particularly stylish because that takes money and it’s never been a priority.
If you don’t believe that I could be so utterly clueless, here’s the proof: when I moved to England, I wore dungarees that my mum had made me. Not even denim dungarees, we’re talking soft cotton and bright colours. I have nothing against homemade clothes because they can certainly be stylish, but then there’s me and my choices. I was 18, and truthfully, it was quite frightful just how uncool I was. Thankfully, there aren’t any pictures. Well, not many anyway. And definitely none of the dungarees.
Also, when I was 15 I liked to wear a suit because it made me look more mature or something. It was a thick peach-coloured double-breasted suit. I swear I do have a picture of it somewhere but I can’t find it right now, otherwise I would share it, because it has to be seen to be believed. I was so confident I looked good in it that I sent a copy in the post to a boy I fancied; I seem to recall he wrote back to ask why I was wearing old people clothes. I’m getting tears in my eyes just thinking about it, the SHAME.
I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is, apart from maybe to serve as a warning that if you are looking for ideas on how to look stylish like French women, this is not the blog for you. Apart from, less is more. Always.
4 thoughts on “England Saved Me From a Life of Crime”
Ah, that’s a good post I can totally agree with. We’re probably about the same age, I was a teenager in the nineties and my sense of style, was, well, senseless. I had dungarees too (black cotton ones). I think they looked cool, but I wouldn’t like to see a picture of me in them now… Anyway, you’re right in saying French fashion is more about conformity. Even now, when I go home, everyone seem to be dressed exactly the same, there is a lot more diversity here (Ireland is pretty much the same as the UK in terms of fashion). Having said, I think I kept my casual French look and I don’t really get Irish fashion at all…
Ha I’m on a real commenting roll it seems! I love these types of articles about cultural differences, so if I can bring my 2 cents… I believe I am about ten years younger since I was a teenager in the noughties. What I can say is that there is still most definitely a lot of conformity but it’s also changing a lot. Even when you go on French blogs you can see the huge influence of British fashion with a lot of girls ordering things from the likes of asos and topshop. Lots of girls liked some of my clothes as I was living between the UK and France and was therefore wearing certain items that “ticked outside the box”. But to summarise there is more originality and also feminity in French girls taste nowadays (at least the 16-28 year old range I’d say). Although having said that no matter how feminine you are, I am glad that France respects the “legs or cleavage” rule. The outfits you may see in the UK or Ireland as well as the overall attire (hair, make-up) reminds me of drag queens at times.