It’s Lundi which means it’s time for the weekly conversation with my incredibly talented partner and friend, Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart.
Jeanne-Aelia, the creator of the stylishly sophisticated blog, Through the French Eye of Design, and I throw ourselves into the depths of discourse and debate about our experiences on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Every Monday we venture into those treacherous waters separating New York from Paris with its undercurrents of ingrained customs and curiosities that we’ve both learned to navigate over many years of swimming along or barely treading water. We’ve each been in sink or swim situations — in our actions, conversations and probably our deepest secret thoughts.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves on which side of the ocean we find ourselves before taking a deep breath and plunging in.
For those familiar with our weekly exchange, you may stop reading now (but please pick-up the flow after this paragraph). Jeanne-Aelia lives outside New York City, I live outside Paris. Each week she and I decide on a topic to be discussed and dissected for your (and our) pleasure. As I’ve mentioned, we post simultaneously and thus never have a clue as to how the other will address the week’s topic.
Today we are delving into the differences between French and American fashion magazines.
Do, Don’t, In, Out — It’s All Too Much. . .
For heaven’s sake, don’t do that.
Of course it was an “It” bag, three months ago, but now you can’t risk your reputation by leaving the house with it hanging off your shoulder. You have to buy the new “It” bag right-this-minute (!)
Yellow is in, green is out; plume was hot, now it’s not. There’s beige and then again there’s ecru — be careful, it’s tricky.
What about leopard? Yes, no, maybe? Is it a classic? Is it my personal style statement?
Black, well yes, of course, always, but make sure you wear it only with white this season.
Ruffles, caution: They can be sweet and they can by cloying. Make sure you know what you’re doing.
Teeny floral prints are sooooo au courant — if you hate them, at least buy a scarf. It’s your fashion duty to signal: “Yes, I know. I get it. I’m on it.”
Lace, oooh, you must have some lace. It’s essential. How about lace bottines? Non? Fine. Figure out a way to incorporate lace into your wardrobe. Now. It’s a reputation breaker (again) if you fail to do so. Your call.
Yikes, all these dictates make one quake with uncertainty. What to do? Where to turn? What to buy? What to toss? High anxiety.
Take a deep, deep breath and let me explain a few essential truths to you. (This is one area in which I have enormous experience, so you can trust me.)
1.) The difference between French and American fashion publications is that each is working on precise and opposite assumptions, i.e. Americans, for the most part, are basically insecure when it comes to following trends and getting it all sorted out while the French are fundamentally comfortable in their skin and know how to take whatever is new, mix it with whatever they have and call it a day.
It’s called personal style. Do your own thing.
2.) Generally, with the exception (though not always) of American Vogue, the other side of the Atlantic is telling you what to do and how to do it. On this side of the Atlantic, the fashion editors are showing its readers what to do — operative word, “showing.” Of course American magazines show as well, but cannot resist telling in detail how it’s done.
Above, a page taken from Elle talks about wearing dresses this season and offers quirky ways to make them look different. In this case one might think this page is an exception to the “show and tell” formula, but I don’t think so. An American magazine would put the dresses with the “right” shoes, the “correct” accessories and not venture off into a wonderland of possibilities as shown here.
3.) Recently French Elle and Madame Figaro, for example, dabbled in the area of “suggestions” you’ll note another page from Elle that suggests accents and accessories to try with a collection of summer dresses.
4.) You may recall a few weeks back when Elle did its “Ronde” issue, not once did the editorial accompanying the piece suggest how to look less round. Some of the clothes actually did just the opposite. When American magazines talk about figure types, they figure they better tell everyone what works for them specifically.
5.) In France it’s more about “show” than “tell.” The news is imparted, but it’s not legislated.
6.) Almost every issue of every French fashion magazine has some news, tips and practical “do-its” on diet and makeup. Dressing is largely left to the discretion and the assumed creativity of the reader.
7.) Those pages of age-appropriate dressing that are part of American Harper’s Bazaar every month would be unheard of in France. French women know they’re not supposed to wear micro minis after 45, unless they turn them into tunics. French publications give their readers credit for imagination and personal style.
Pictured here are the covers of American Vogue which proclaims “Fashion to Flatter Every Figure” and Harper’s Bazaar which features — every month — “Fabulous at Every Age” fashion plus its final page of do’s and don’ts. Also pages out of French Elle, and this week’s covers of Elle and Figaro Madame.