Poem #2: EDITH PIAF VS. AMERICAN CLOTHES SIZES
In the country of the melting pot
Where Asian women wear a size Petite
And Viking’s daughters wear Women’s
Edith Piaf’s types are at a loss.
To find a dress made for their hips
To don a fitting pair of pants
Flattering their hair and skin and shape
French women have to shop in France.
I am reverting to English today. As you know by now, this blog is Franco-American, which makes either language appropriate.
And here, we are touching to #2 on my list of things French I care about. This is a sensitive and exciting subject: I am talking about clothes. #1 was the weather, and you will see that this is not completely unrelated.
And before I touch the core meaning of this post, or its meat and bones, a quick note about the inspiration for the form: Allan sent me this morning a very cute poem by Nabokov (translated by his son), a writer we share a fondness for. The poem was about a grapefruit, which, on the opposite, I am not especially fond of. But I found the form of the poem so cute and witty and whimsical that I thought I could, in a sense, play with him at having fun with words. Here is the inspiring poem:
TO THE GRAPEFRUIT
Resplendent fruit, so weighty and so glossy
Exactly like a full blown moon you shine
Hermetic vessel of unsweet ambrosia
And aromatic coolness of white wine.
The lemon is the pride of Syracuse
Mignon yields to the orange’s delight
But you alone are fit to quench the Muse
When, thirsty, she has come down from her heights.
My lines sound like a little ditty next to the master’s verses, but enough self-flagellation, and back to clothing. I have to admit that although I find perfectly fine clothes in the US, It is always a treat to shop in France. Unfortunately, I don’t get to go back very often, and when I go, it is too often “les soldes,” or sales, which means I get to glean a long time after the harvest. But, when I am lucky and land at the right time, I find such a relief in finding clothes that are made for the typical French body. Because yes, there is such a thing as the Average French woman, with the typical French body type. I am one of them! I call it the size Edith Piaf – something in the ratio of shoulder to hips to waist, which is unmistakably French. And most designers realize that the majority of French women have light skin and brown to dark hair, and design clothes in colors that flatter those features. And I know that when I try on my size, it will most likely fit me.
I hesitated to add to this poem another stanza. Something along the lines that French clothes are temperate like French weather (I am not talking about high fashion, those luxury brands which represent France abroad, but what you find in everyday common stores) : no extreme in length or shortness; moderate colors, softened hues, nothing too harsh or gaudy. No ostentatious excesses. Not too “rock”, too sophisticated or soporific designs. Not too simple or too sexy. Elegance is usually subtle, chic more than shocking, achieving an apparently accidental nonchalance. The cut flatters a temperate silhouette, nor too tall or too short, with curves following the woman’s curves to show off the woman inside. And so on and so forth.
But I wanted to keep the poem short and to the point.
You will understand that spring is finally here, and that I am dying to shop for new clothes. On my vision board: I am shopping for clothes in France.
And here is an interesting article about the Average French woman’s type: http://www.femina.fr/Mode/Tendances/A-quoi-ressemble-la-femme-francaise-moyenne-849471