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Saturday, July 15, 2017

The new French chic

 (The Philippine Star) 
Yesterday was Bastille Day. It commemorates the French revolution that reverberated around the world including the Philippines. Andres Bonifacio said explicitly it inspired the Katipunan to fight for freedom even if Rizal was said to have been against it. Filipinos were not ready. But it did change France one way or the other with the Damocles sword of Bastille hanging over the heads of the aristocracy.
The victory of Emmanuel in the last French elections may not have been a Bastille revolution but it blocked the victory Le Pen’s ultra-right party.
There is another important change happening in France. It is about the equality of men and women. When Macron was being derided for being married to his former teacher who was 25 years older, his answer was curt and direct to the point. Why is it all right for men to choose partners 25 years their junior but not for women? Good question. In fact there is a name for women marrying men younger than they are – cougars. It has unflattering connotations.
My idea of French chic has been the standard one – wealthy women who wear expensive haute couture dresses. You see these in glossy fashion magazines that make a lot of money from cosmetic advertisements and have wide readership. But all this is changing with Brigitte Macron the new First Lady of France. In many articles, their attitude towards her is changing. She carries her age with aplomb and asks does it matter? I am myself. She is has been heard to have said and offers advice of a new French chic. She may be older than the French President but she does not look her age – is it 65 or 66?) You see her walking hand in hand with the President but you would not think she is 25 years older than him.
What is her secret? Audrey Diwan, author of the best selling “How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are” says the secret to France’s First Lady is this: keep it simple. And by keeping it simple she is able to exude her individuality.
“That is what the Parisian woman does best,” Audrey says. What’s good about Brigitte is she’s not stylish for older ladies but she’s stylish in her own right.
She’s opening a new door for every woman. I don’t feel she considers her age which is a great thing.
“She is so casual and yet so chic which is a good mix. At first so many people were making jokes about her age and then all the French women started to say, ‘Come on, guys, it’s over, we don’t care about that at all.’
The story about her being a lucky cougar has faded away and replaced with a fascinating personality who does  not care about her age. She will dress up in clothes that look good on her. Instead of dressing as a 64-year-old, as some royals would do she set up her own fashion. Never mind her age. She dresses according to what she thinks of herself. That is her version of French chic – be different.
She has achieved this new French chic when she shows above the knee dresses. Her individuality shows up whether she is dressing up for a picnic or for the presidential election victory rally. A fashion designer gives some examples of Brigitte’s interpretation of style. What would she do with the little black dress that Chanel made fashionable? It can be dressed up or down according to Brigitte’s new French chic.
The world has changed and so has French chic and you don’t have to have lots of money.
“I show how women can take a work suit and instead of wearing high heeled shoes she wears it with sneakers and that makes her instantly look younger. She has said “I am not trying to tell women how to look young – less old maybe.
“I am not for middle-aged women dressing like teenagers but there are tricks that you can do. One T-shirt from Topshop mixed with your usual clothes can be all it takes to update your look.” one fashion designer said even if means haute couture loses its glamour. I am not a fashion writer but I thought it a good thing to write on her attitude to fashion.
Emmanuel Macron completes the different style by upsetting the apple cart. They have also changed a way of thinking. It might seem trivial but I think it is ground breaking for feminists. It used to be only men who can have younger partners but not women. After a certain age, women are pushed to the background by the stories of how this man or that man has a new young girlfriend. Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron changed all that misogynist nonsense. It gives a boost to feminists even if few will admit it. To be treated equally on a matter of age whether you are a man or a woman spills out to other serious causes.
I was looking for local versions of it but found little because the Philippines is a misogynist society even if we pretend it is matriarchal (old women as executives or government officials) but when it comes to love and romance our local versions have little of it. We don’t like women marrying younger men but old men can marry younger women. What could be more misogynist than that? It is pernicious but done ever so subtly, we do not think of it as an inequality of the sexes.
“There are “cougar” benefits men don’t talk about it. It is the time of woman “at her peak of confidence and sexuality, a woman who is experienced, who knows the value of compromise and is possessed of a finely honed dry wit. But she has to work at it too and not look their age according to one author.
When French President Emmanuel Macron landed on a nuclear submarine from a helicopter the internet went crazy. It tweeted that Macron was a life version of James Bond and the internet went crazy. It had over 3,600 retweets and 11,600 likes. I posted in FB that I wish I was Brigitte Thoreau. A friend and contemporary immediately replied – you are not the only one, so do many other women.

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