Saturday, December 29, 2012

Black is the new black

The Reveillon du Jour de l'An is near, aka the New Year's Eve party, and I will try for the occasion to answer the most difficult question in the life of a woman ever invited to a social gathering, since the dawn of humanity. I'm sure the prehistoric women must have asked the same fatidic question to their prehistoric beloved husbands: "Honey, what do you think I should wear to the Paleo-party tonight? The leopard skin or the fox fur?..."

The fact that we as a species haven't changed too much in the latest millennia calls for this special post on what not to wear in France, for which I politely invite the male audience to leave for this once: I have no clothing advice for you, gentlemen, my apologies!

So, ladies, what to wear to a New Year's Eve party in Versailles and not feel out of place?

The short answer is "wear black" but in fact any dark or neutral color will do, really! You will find that French women are very conservative in the clothing department, they dress quite soberly as they are not yet ready to give up control or composure by exposing themselves to the public scrutiny like any commoner. Some bad mouthed, envious foreigners say that French people lack imagination in the way they dress, but my take on the matter is a little bit different: given the ingrained French view that whatever they do is perfect, combined with a pinch of social pressure, you have to agree with them that any attempt to change perfection is a logical aberration!

That being said, youngsters in Versailles wear the eternal low rise pencil jeans or leggings, black most of the times, with the oversized T-shirt or tunic sweater and black ballet flats, while adult women wear either straight cotton/wool mid-length skirts or pants, with a matching shirt/blouse and a pair of loafers. Black, brown, gray, cream. Did I mention black?

Soberly they dress, but with a twist! This is in fact the secret of the French chic, for which the French women are praised in the entire world: they all have at home an impressive collection of accessories, scarves and jewelry, colorful artsy trinkets of any shape and size you can possibly think of, and beyond. Anything seems to go (let's get wild for once!) and all French women look like they graduated from the High Institute of Scarf Tying and Jewelry Matching: it's obvious that their creativity and good taste is entirely concentrated in these activities.

What's more, you will never see a French woman wearing sneakers if she's not doing any sports at that very moment and I know people who take their dog out for a walk in the evening's moonlight wearing some exquisite classic outfit (and sometimes a hat), with full makeup on. Oooh, the makeup! And oooh, the perfume!!! It is strictly forbidden to leave the house without any of it on! That's right, not even when you empty your garbage bin! Btw, makeup around here is quite discrete and natural: foundation if you need it, but lipstick, eye contour and mascara are more than enough.

I'm risking the disappointment of my esteemed readers here, but not everyone wears Chanel jackets in Versailles so you're not obliged to break the bank either. On the other hand, for a special party like the New Year's Eve one, you may allow yourself a little eccentricity and risk to be categorized as the weird foreigner. Otherwise you can just play it safe, dress in black and don't forget to have something like a colorful head ribbon or a nice brooch or other color splash in unexpected (visible!!!) places and you're good to go. You'll either have a great time or an awful one, which you can use as a measure to know how much are you integrated in the French society.

Have fun and keep me posted about your fab party!

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