Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being ‘French’

I've been thinking about whether I have actually put into my life what I love to read about. Have I been walking the walk? I'm sure there are women living in Paris who would laugh at the 'French girl' descriptions, or perhaps they really are all like the books say.

I love reading, thinking and writing about the idealistic French girl. Whether it's actually true or not really makes no difference to me. I am inspired to be a better (and better-groomed) person and that's the important thing. So here are ways I have incorporated some French-inspired ideals into my life.

Walking. I sometimes walk purely for exercise, where I put on my running shoes, a t-shirt and a pair of knit pants and walk for an hour, briskly. Lately though I have been blending my exercise walk with errands. Previously, I would walk for an hour, get back and then drive to the supermarket, bank, post office etc.

Now I often have gone out for a walk in my normal clothing, just adding a pair of comfortable walking shoes (not running shoes) and carrying a tote bag that slings over my shoulder. I can then walk to the bank, post office, shops. As long as I'm not buying too much I'm OK. Obviously for a big supermarket shop I take the car.

Natural hair and makeup. I have always worn makeup, however now I wear less. I want a subtle glow, and long, dark lashes. I use a sheer, water-based foundation and use a very light hand with powder, blush, lipstick, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, eyeliner and mascara. Often on a day at home when I wear just tinted moisturiser and even smaller amounts of the above I think how pretty the effect is. So as time goes on I can see myself wearing less and less - but always some.

With my hair, I had it my natural colour for many years (medium blonde), but now with greys creeping in it has started looking a little... drab. Bearing in mind advice not to stray too far from your natural colour, I have been having blonde highlights and my own colour lowlights together. I have read that French women embrace natural hair colours rather than anything too extreme.

Clothing. What I have taken from the French woman is to wear what I like and what suits me, regardless of what's in fashion. I still try new things, but have come to get a better idea of whether it will suit me or not.

I also know now that I don't like floaty boho pieces, but feel altogether more polished in simple, fitting shapes in soft or bright colours paired with neutrals and not too much black. The process of thinning out my wardrobe is ongoing, distilling the pieces down into ones I love and wear and which look great on me.

Using my good things. I light expensive gift candles, eat off our good plates, and enjoy one of the few bottles of good wine we have stored away for a special occasion. My husband has said this to me more than once that he loves that I use my good things.

We have four gorgeous small glasses rimmed in 24 carat gold that have to be hand washed (I learned that after putting two in the dishwasher - it used to be a set of six). I never used them because... they had to be handwashed. A few months ago, I got them out of the cupboard, hand washed them and used them that night. It felt like such a treat! They really are beautiful glasses and I don't mind looking after them.

Same with some wine glasses which were a gift. When I broke one and had to replace it, one glass cost $30. It put me off using them for a while, but now I do again. I put these ones in the dishwasher. If they break, they break. Better to enjoy them than keep them for, what? The day that never comes?

My Nana died last year, and she was famous for keeping her good clothing in the wardrobe and wearing old clothing around the house. She bought beautiful, expensive clothing but didn't want to wear it (it was 'too good'). Now her daughters and grand-daughters are walking around in her lovely tops and scarves.

She also had boxes of scented body lotions and perfumes stored under her bed, with cheap supermarket body lotion in the bathroom. Perhaps that comes from growing up during the Depression. I'm just sad that she didn't get to enjoy it.

So now when I look into the bathroom cupboard after my shower in the morning, I use my most expensive body lotion first. It doesn't last forever you know. Even if all I'm doing is going to work or staying home. I don't have that many big nights out to save it for.

One such day last week when I had moisturised top-to-toe in rose-scented Crabtree & Evelyn my husband commented how nice I smelt when we hugged. And even if he's not there I enjoy it too.

What French-inspired things are you doing with your day?

Image from Studio Nate on


  1. Fun post as always, Fiona.

    I've been striving to treat my skin MUCH more gently. There is a British makeup artist, Lisa Eldridge, who has a fantastic website filled with little video about skincare, makeup application and removal, vintage makeup, really just about everything you can think of. Her video on removing makeup really changed the way I think about taking care of my skin, and since employing her methods, my complexion looks and feels so much better. I'm waiting for an order of Avene skin care (a mild cleanser and no-frills moisturizer) and Bioderma micellar makeup remover to arrive; it is in the mail to me now. The simple, pared-down routine with items that really work (and are French to boot) make me feel French.

    I've also put away my leather handbag for the summer and am using a French straw market bag instead.

    A nice bottle of chilled San Pelligrino at my desk at work feels chic. I get a case of a dozen liter bottles for only $11 at Costco. So cheap you practically can't afford NOT to drink it.

    After Adrienne at The Rich Life mentioned dry brushing and lymphatic drainage in a post a few months ago, I've been making an effort to dry brush and massage in the shower, and follow with a Weleda cellulite oil. At night, I also love to put my feet up up the wall (with a folded towel under my hips for support), saturate a couple of cotton circles with Eau des Bleuets (cornflower water) and place them over my eyes, and just zone out for 20-30 minutes. Leg drainage feels French to me.

    I think that may be it!

  2. Marsi, leg drainage DOES sound very French! I do this at yoga before the class starts, but it would be a wonderful way to wind down before bed.

    I will check out Lisa Eldridge thanks, as I think sometimes I'm not as gentle on my skin as I could be.

    Love your handbag switch and San Pellegrino too. I always feel very luxe when I buy a bottle, sadly not $1 per bottle, more like $4

  3. We've had a very busy past 6 days including being gone for a long weekend and hosting family and friends last night for a big dinner. No wonder that today I have been dealing with a French treatment: darkened room, fan blowing and shutting down. This was followed by a soothing shower and a complete rub down of almond oil. I feel a bit better but I need/want to be doing more. xxBliss

  4. Hi Fiona, I love reading your blog, and I want to thank you for the French Tips...I love to wear my chanel Coco perfume every day..
    Erna xx

  5. Thank you for your blog, it is a great positive read.
    I have decided to try and take pleasure in every activity I do. Its not easy but even the unpleasant tasks take on a sense of accomplishment when I can wipe my hands and say "glad thats done"
    I take the time to make French press coffee (and clean the thing later), buy good quality fresh fruit, wear the silver jewelry I have collected from my travels, fresh bakery items as a splurge but only once a week, wearing fancy perfume every second day (save it for what rainy day?)
    When I walk to work I imagine myself as a chic woman taking in all the sights, smells and sounds around me and being happy and joyful that I am alive.

  6. I thought of your blog the other evening when I went for a short run. I realised my posture wasn't what it could be and I tried to think of myself as 'French' and about 30 years younger. It was fun to kid myself for a while! And the run went better, too.

  7. Great post, Fiona, and just what I needed to read. I've realized lately that I haven't been doing a good job of "walking the walk". The most obvious area that needs work is my diet. I've eaten far too much junky food lately. That's something I just have to work on a day at a time. I'll do better today. Merci.

  8. Fiona your blog is always such a pleasure and inspiration to read! I check it each day and smile when I see a new post.

    I have been trying to focus on my posture (shoulders pulled down, spine long, pelvis tucked.) Also, your idea of not using your hands when you get up from a chair or table is now a habit of mine; it feels wonderful to work my core. I also try to keep a slight smile on my face; I call it my face yoga. I feel happier, less old when I do. It's nice to be women, isn't it?


  9. I walk everywhere in Paris. Eat copious amout of fruits, sip water throughout the day, wear a sensuous fragrance daily along with red lipstick. Treat myself to a mani and pedi every forthnight. And unwind at the weekends in the green countryside with family and friends. Warmly hope you are well. xx

  10. I make sure to hydrate everyday with 3 liters of water; my body can't function when it doesn't have its water quotient. Also, I dress to flatter my body shape - even if I'm spending the day at home. A daily spritz of perfume, using my nice dishes and cloth napkins, and lighting a candle are little luxuries that bring pleasure to my everyday life.

    I really do think it's important to use your nice things - body lotion, cloth napkins, clothing, etc. - for everyday rather than saved for a special occassion. Your life and family are special and should be celebrated each day!

    And nothing spruces up take-out Asian food like fine china and crystal goblets!

  11. After reading this post yesterday, I took out my fancy bath gel and began using it. I don't know why I use it so sparingly. It was divine!

  12. Hi Fiona,

    In answer to your question, I walk to run errands as you do now. It is wonderful to leave your car at home.

    I'm glad people here are using their nice products. It is so wasteful to let them get old in a cupboard.
    N'est pas?


  13. Thank you so much for your great ideas! I have no idea nor reason not to use my nice products, clothes, jewellery...but in fact I almost never do. I will change that starting today, by using my long kept Chanel body lotion and wearing my light cashmere sweater (its pretty chilly in Switzerland this summer).
    I found your blog a couple of month agon and can not let go every since!

  14. I find you incredibly lovely, as a French enthusiast, a New Zealander, a writer and a woman. Whatever you are doing is inspiring, so I hope you stay this course and I look forward to seeing where it takes you. =)

  15. Yes, I think all of these things are wonderful and I'm going to try harder not to save my good things, I'm terribly guilty of that. There are a lot of ragamuffin French women too, it's the uber wealthy that fit the "perfect chic Frenchwoman" mold, it's a very held down, buttoned up look and driven by a culture that is shockingly sexist.

  16. I always drink a lot of water, and instead of using ugly bottles, I use a simple glass pitcher. It's not ornate or anything, but still looks elegant.
    And I also wear less and less makeup.
    Your other ideas are great! I bought nice wine glasses a while ago. Currently, I use them to store my jewelry, maybe I should start using them for the intended purpose...

  17. I use perfume everyday, my good china everyday and now I am going to wear my "good" clothing everyday after - finally- getting myself to try my collection of lovely black pants and then had to lie down after finding 7 of them were just too small!!!
    What the hell was I thinking!!! LOL

    * When you wash your good china and glasses by hand in the sink - put a thick dish towel on the bottom of the sink water incase you drop one with the slippery detergent and it cracks - you have a nice soft base and then hang it out to dry :)

  18. Once again, a great post. I've been taking the time to properly cleanse my skin every night and to use better skin care, and I think the results are showing. I've also been trying to drink more water every day, although I fall down on this one too often. Doing proper make-up every time I go out, even if it's nothing special. I've stopped trying to fight with my hair by trying to get it to do what it doesn't want to do, and it can actually look better.

    The last little while I also catch myself being more conscious of my posture and walking with my head up and my shoulders back.

    There are other things what I really want to do, but this has been a good exercise for me, to focus on what I do rather than beat myself up about what I don't do. So thanks for that! ;o)



Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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