Monday, May 31, 2010
I feel most chic when I am well-turned out, healthy and vibrant, and kind. This may be a different definition to the haughty and aloof high-fashion Parisian girl, and I am happy to have my own idea of what chic means. I came to this conclusion when thinking through my list of chic mentors - women I have met over the years who I've thought 'I'd like to be like you'.
One, a customer named Jeanne, is very tall, medium- to slender-build and aged around late 50s. She dresses very elegantly for her job in an interiors show-room just down the road, quality clothing but always with a little twist. She wears trousers often, slightly loose sort of Diane Keaton style, with blouses or tops and the most beautiful chunky pink-toned pearls. She has a silver bob, but it's her demeanour that I most enjoy when I cross her path.
She has a serene manner and speaks softer, slower and lower than others. Her energy is muted but has strength. You could never push her around but she isn't aggressive. I can imagine her simply walking away if she didn't like a situation, or giving someone a look. I often channel this woman if people are getting on my nerves or being cheeky. You would never be cheeky to Jeanne. She simply wouldn't allow it.
A woman I used to work with, Kristina, is an inspiration to me for different reasons. She was the master at handling men. When our boss would be driving me mad and I could barely contain myself, she would laugh him off and jolly him along. She never once showed anger or even annoyance.
She also never told you anything she didn't want to share. I still think of her as having a mystique. Her and her husband did not have children and when I knew her I was early 30s to her early 40s. I was thrilled to be invited around to dinner one night. It was just the three of us, and I got to see inside her home. It was immaculate as I knew it would be. Lovely, very classic furniture, everything spic and span and clutter free.
Christine had a very vibrant and sparky energy. What I take from her is the mystery aspect, and the French-inspired way she had of handling men. I think she even used to pout!
One of our sales representatives, Martine, is an inspiration to me also. She has sons in their 20s. I enjoy hearing little snippets about her life, because she doesn't let it all hang out at once. She is always well-groomed and has youthful, stylish clothing. Even though her style is a little 'mod' for me, I always enjoy seeing what she will wear, and look forward to our appointments.
I'm ashamed to say I always tidy and clean the office before she comes, because I think to myself 'Martine won't want to show us her samples when it's messy and the floor hasn't been mopped'. I really do! I honestly don't think that about any other representative we see. When she speaks I want to listen, and I think it's the way she is - calm but fun, softly spoken and listens well.
My final chic mentor for now is a customer called Shannon. She is in her mid 30s and has two pre-school children. Despite having a high-flying career overseas, she is the most down-to-earth and sweetest person you would ever speak with. Her husband still is high-flying (in an industry which is famed for arrogance and superiority) and he is also lovely.
Despite the demands of two small children, whenever she shops with us she looks slender, well-groomed and glamorous. She dresses for her role as a stay at home mother - fitting jeans (skinny leg), little ballet flats or canvas Keds and a floaty, long t-shirt top. Her hair is long and either down, or in a high pony-tail and she wears subtle makeup to give her a fresh, glowing look.
I rung one day to let her know an item she had ordered had arrived in. It was late on a Saturday morning. Her husband said 'can I take a message, she's in the bath'. I immediately imagined her in the bath soaking with the door closed, going through her grooming regime while her husband looked after the children, before stepping out fragrant, smooth and serene.
I thought if I ever have children I would like to be like this. I see lots of happy, nicely put-together young mums in our store, but I also see frazzled and frumpy ones, where the kids run riot. I wonder if you get to choose what type you are going to be?
One thing all these women have in common - they are all very feminine in both their appearance and the way they carry themselves. I can't imagine any of them swearing much, or getting too drunk, or sitting on the sofa chomping on a large-size cake of chocolate.
Noting down what it means to me to be chic, I kept coming back to kindness.
Being kind to yourself
Kind to other people you come across
Kind to children
Kind to animals and pets
It doesn't mean being weak or a pushover or letting people boss you around. I think kindness shows strength and generosity.