The French Feminine Mystique - Part 2
Last week's parting thought on the French feminine mystique was
to give up the cosmetics and go for inner beauty à la
française (French style). While I am a firm believer
that attitude and self-confidence are at the heart of the French
woman's perpetual allure, I must admit les Françaises
have some beauty secrets that go beyond the internal.
ago (read, pre-Victoria's Secret era), my very Parisian friend Anne
took me shopping. One of our main stops was the lingerie boutique
at Le Bon Marché department store on the Left Bank.* It was
an eye-opening experience. Everywhere I looked were lacy-and tasteful-undergarments
in every conceivable hue. She introduced me to Lise Charmel, Chantelle,
Simone Pérèle and Erès, brands that still make
me swoon today. I tried on les soutiens-gorge (bras) and
les culottes (panties) that matched, something French
women take for granted but a concept that seems less important to
les Américaines (American women).
Another stunning discovery was the fit of French lingerie. Wearing
it was like driving a new Mercedes coupe after years in an old Ford
sedan. No wonder French women walk down the streets of Paris like
they own them. With lingerie wardrobes of this caliber (according
to a New York Times article earlier this year, French women spend
around 20% of their annual clothing budget on lingerie), every woman
can feel and act like a princess every day of the week.
Scent is another beauty essential the French have perfected. No
secret there. Go to any department store worldwide, and French perfumes
dominate the scene. But thanks to un cadeau (gift) of Cabotine
from my same Parisian friend Anne, I caught on to the magical possibilities
of a fragrance wardrobe.
I wasn't familiar before with Cabotine, a perfume made by the Grès
couture house in the early 90's.* It turned out that Anne's father
had designed the perfume's beautiful flacon (bottle) with
its green glass floral stopper as well as the packaging. They treated
me to a suite of Cabotine creations: eau de parfum, eau
de toilette, lait pour le corps (body lotion), and amazingly
enough, déodorant. That's right, deodorant perfumed
with the scent of Cabotine. How original and even luxurious to have
all your body care products go together! No more cheap baby powder
smell from your deodorant clashing with the expensive, exotic florals
from your perfume. I knew then and there that French women really
have this beauty thing figured out.
Needless to say, I was hooked-on Cabotine (for a time) and on the
notion of a perfume wardrobe (forever). Today, I am back to wearing
a Chanel perfume I embraced in the late 80's. My current fragrance
collection of the scent includes le parfum, la crème
pour le corps (body cream), le gel moussant (bath gel),
and of course, le déodorant. I apply them according
to my mood, where I am going and how I want to feel. But I never
use them all at once. That would be beaucoup trop (way too
much), kind of like the guy who walks down the street with a cloud
of aftershave trailing behind him.
I do, however, use the deodorant every day. The trick is keeping
a supply of it when I am in the U.S. For all the abundance of French
perfumes at American department stores, the corresponding perfumed
deodorants are rarely available. So when I am in Paris, I make a
very planned stop at the dazzling cosmetics and fragrance department
of Le Bon Marché and stock up on the stuff. Even if I don't
buy a lick of the latest French fashions due to the crazy euro,
I know that my fragrance wardrobe is le top du top (the best
of the best).
* Le Bon Marché is located at 22, rue de Sèvres (at
the Rue du Bac) near the Sèvres-Babylone metro stop.
* The history of Madame Grès and her couture house can be
found on the Parfums Grès web
September 17, 2008
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