Thursday, May 25, 2006

How to be as chic as a Frenchwoman

Don't wear makeup. As reported in Elaine Sciolino's NYT article, the standard American look involves noticeable makeup; Michèle Fitoussi, a French social commentator and Elle magazine columnist, describes this look as "vulgaire." Mais oui! What's all the rage in France these days is "le bare face," "le no makeup."

To Frenchwomen, a woman who sports the made-up look is trying too hard, hopes to attract men, or is just plain old. Quelle horreur! There's a classic quotation from Yves Saint Laurent in the article: "The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy."

Between my minimal use of makeup and having just one child, I feel very European. Now, those of us who don't wear makeup seldom take an interest in following trends in cosmetics, but I can absolutely get on board with "le bare face." Who's with me?

The article mentioned mirrored sunglasses as part of a California look mocked in Elle. This reminds me of a foursome of young women I saw at the bus stop last weekend. (If only I'd had my camera!) One was sporting a pair of giant Dior sunglasses with a big, shiny "D" at each temple. Two were wearing nearly identical shades, but with a big, shiny "C." The fourth had on sunglasses with a strikingly similar design. Mind you, this was no Beverly Hills bus stop. These were casually dressed girls in the Midwest, looking patently ridiculous with their combined $1,000+ of oversized shades.

Usually I have to go a little farther south, to the Lincoln Park neighborhood, to find clusters of people slavishly following the same trend. Last spring, I spotted three young women wearing short, pastel-colored trenchcoats. Gee, you girls go shopping together? Sometimes, the trendmonkeys are young men. Three guys walking to the Cubs game, wearing similar sandals, shorts all of the same length, and the same type of shirt. It's as if they'll be drummed out of their social circle if they don't wear the uniform.

I used to make fun of the young couples you'd see at amusement parks wearing matching personalized t-shirts. But you know what? At least they're not wearing exactly what all their friends are wearing. They're motivated by affection, not adherence to, say, the Abercrombie aesthetic or the Coco Chanel code.


thenutfantastic said...

I'm all for the bare face trend since I love that one. I don't even think I own any makeup worth commenting on and the mascara I do own get applied all of 2 times a year.

As for fashion trends, I wear what I like. If someone else doesn't like it, they don't have to look at me. ;)

Mona Buonanotte said...

I love that people mock my Birkenstocks. HAH! They're like going BAREFOOT! Ugly or not, comfort is what it's all about.

Mignon said...

This spells trouble for those of us that like to secretly feel superior to the masked hordes of women blowing their paychecks on lip pencils and foundation. Well at least my clothes are cheap and ugly!!

(Re: sunglasses - I never wore sunglasses until we moved here. They call it the Big Sky country because on a clear day it's like you're living on the surface of the sun. So. Fucking. Bright.)

Emma Goldman said...

I'm all over the map on this one. On one hand, I don't wear makeup to work (the croissants really do not care how I look). On the other hand, I actually own makeup and wear it occasionally--if going out on a weekend, for example, or for the big bash last weekend. When I had an office job, I wore it pretty much every day, but not a whole lot of it and I didn't reapply it repeatedly during the day. I wore it partly because I think it improves my looks a little, but also partly because I'm unconventional in other ways (long hair, no shaving of body hair) and I found that giving people some cues that I'm Normal (even if I'm not, really) helped ease things along. It confuses them, too--wait! she looks conventional, but then she speaks her mind! I also like the costuming aspect of it. I do not like the enforcement, though; I get testy if someone expects that I wear (or not wear) makeup or particular types of clothing.

bitchphd said...

I'm such a total fashion whore. Even though I don't wear makeup most of the time (but I do own good makeup for when I do), I totally read that article and thought, "shit, should I start getting facials? Should I have someone teach me how to achieve this groomed "no-makeup" look (which is obviously very different from simply not wearing makeup, let's not kid ourselves)? Argh, my acne scarring. . . .

Then I told myself to shut the fuck up.

E. said...

I love "le bare face." I wear it every day.

Check out the title essay in Dwight McBride's book Why I Hate Abercrombie and Fitch. I read excerpts of it to my high school students. (Subtle message from teacher to students: Don't use your chest or your ass to advertise for those racist, elitist dickwipes!)

Orange said...

E., check this out: the super-creepy CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch.

JT said...

I'm a big fan of le bare face, because for one thing, I'm lazy, and for another, I'm cheap. It's also nearly impossible for me to wear foundation because I have about a zillion freckles and extremely sensitive skin. However, I'm almost never without a coat of lip gunk of one kind or another.

I doubt I could pass as French anyway... don't they say Frenchwomen aren't fat?