Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Are You Going to Make Me Wear a Scarf??

Ah-ha. The tables are turned. As promised, below is this week's scarf story. Here's the twist: It's written by a Frenchwoman who lives in the United States.

Better than that, Marie-Therese Norris is an image consultant. Her company is French Touch Image Consulting and if you would like to see what she's up to you may click here and here.

It seemed only fair to have a view from the other side, n'est-ce pas?

As the American-born child of a French Father and French-American Mother, I have spent a lifetime adapting the best of French culture and style into my American way of life, and my goal is to do the same for my clients. I am also a femme d’un certain âge, the Frenchwoman’s version of “Don’t ask; don’t tell.”

For the average American woman, the words “French Style” conjure up an image of a skinny lady in stilettos wearing a scarf. Now, we all know that not every Frenchwoman is thin and the boulevards of Paris are full of Parisiennes in ballet flats and sneakers…………..but that scarf thing…………they really do have a “thing” for their scarves. And in that regard, I fall right in line. But, more about that plus tard.

Over the years I have worked with women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Often, they come to me during a period of transition, but most of my clients are women who get up every morning, stare at a huge walk-in closet crammed with clothes and say, “I have nothing to wear!! Help!!”

How does this happen?

Image from Custom Closets Direct
While the Frenchwoman loves a good sale as much as her American cousin, in France, les soldes happen only twice a year. In America, not a day goes by without our e-mail and letter boxes being bombarded with ads for SALES…..20% off!…40% off!!...50% off!!! Unable to resist the siren song of the Sale women rush off to buy more and more items to stuff into their already over-stuffed closets.

Over time, the result is a dizzying array of mismatched, unrelated items, most of which are never worn. If I am to help a woman find her own style, I have to teach her to shop in a disciplined, purposeful manner. But first, we need to go back to basics – wardrobe basics 101.

For this client, my list of must-have Wardrobe Basics comes as a bit of a shock – the first shock is that it all fits neatly on one page; the second is that she has no idea whether or not she has any of these items, because she has no idea what is actually in that monster of a closet. The pieces on The List, from a great pair of dark-wash jeans to the classic LBD, represent the essential elements of casual chic, which is, for me, the essence of French style. With a closet paired down to these items, you are pretty much ready for anything, except the most formal of occasions.

And, of course, my list would not be complete without the so là là French accessory, the scarf. (You knew I’d find my way back to that, didn’t you?) Be it ever, or not, so humble the scarf is the perfect accessory.

There is something about the Frenchwoman and her obsession with her scarf that brings out a curious mixture of admiration and exasperation in American women. Remember that look on Glenn Close’s face in “Le Divorce” as she rolls her eyes and explains the whole foulard thing to Kate Hudson newly arrived from the States? That’s the look I often get when I come to that item on my List.

“Oh, are you going to make me wear a scarf?” says my client.

“Only if you want to,” I reply.

“Oh, well, I don’t really know; I don’t know how to wear them,” says my client.

“I’ll show you,” I offer.

Charlotte Gainsbourg
Marion Cotillard, times three.

I pick up a scarf in a flattering color and begin to twist and drape. Her face lights up. “Wow,” she says, “Who knew? With a little practice, I think I can actually do this myself!”
Of course, we still need to tackle that monster of a closet lurking in her bedroom, but that’s for another day. For now, my client has learned to add a bit of French chic to her look and she is delighted….and so am I.

Ladies, the truth is that the scarf is the easiest way to bring color near your face, hide a few unsightly neck wrinkles and turn a Tee-shirt and jeans into an outfit. It’s the perfect "completer" piece and traveling companion and takes up little or no space  in a drawer or suitcase.

The scarf helped get Frenchwomen through the Second World War when shampoo and other beauty essentials were in short supply. They learned how to drape them around their heads in chic turbans to hide unwashed hair.

On the beach in France I once saw a woman create a halter top and a sarong out of two enormous scarves from her tote bag, slip into a pair of sandals and walk off the beach looking utterly elegant. Is it any wonder that the Frenchwoman loves her scarf?

See how a simple scarf can add style to a classic black and white ensemble?  (Ed. Note: I've been trying to use this picture for months. Unfortunately I don't know who took it. But, I love it.)
My thanks to Tish for allowing me to spend time with her wonderful circle of friends.

Must dash now…..time to battle another closet monster.

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