The French Perennial
In a very un-French-like gesture, it’s time for a little full transparency. This year, like it or not, I will be transitioning from my fabulous fifties to my sexy sixties. So in an age seemingly dominated by millennials, how does one embrace being a perennial?
Fact is, female baby boomers outnumber millennials by about 7% of the population, they’re just not all braggy about it.
Age doesn’t slowly sneak up on you one day at a time like you would think. Oh no my dear fellow Francophile, it smacks you hard in the face when one day you look in the mirror and see strange spots that weren’t there before, or you prop your arm on the back of a chair and see your skin do funny things you never noticed.
So how does a French woman age? Very well, thank you, because she knows what’s important.
Putting on a little weight as we age is not only natural, it helps combat the appearance of wrinkles. But notice I said a little. If you look at those celebrity “what do they look like now” slideshows, commonly the biggest difference between those who have aged well and those who have not is how much weight they’ve allowed themselves to gain.
As we age we are somewhat less active, our body runs a little differently, and we require a lot less fuel. I’m a believer in eating whatever I want, just not all the time and not in large quantities.
What works well for me is a diet of mostly protein, vegetables, fat and a little fruit, essentially a “Paleo” diet but I’m not hard-core (the French woman is not “hard core” about anything really). If I want bread or dessert, I have it, but with one caveat – it has to be worth it. I’ve found that most women, by eating this way, can easily maintain a good, healthy body weight without having to be overly restrictive or measure portions. If you need to lose some weight, just be fairly strict about sticking to the protein, veggies and healthy fats and stay away from the prepared, processed foods with hidden sugar and weird chemical things, and the weight will drop off pretty quickly. Once you’ve gotten your weight where you want it, you can indulge in the occasional treat, as long as it’s up to your fine French standards.
Age Appropriate Yes – Frumpy No
So I’m walking down the street in a popular Hollywood neighborhood, and there is a woman with her back to me – blonde hair, very short black fit and flare dress over bare legs a little on the heavy side. She turns and, as I’m looking from the ground up, I see a rather aged decollete and (sound of vinyl record being scratched) the face of a woman probably in her fifth or sixth decade trying to do 20. Oh yes, age appropriate is a thing.
One of my favorite documentaries (I’m a documentary junkie), which I think is required watching at any age, is called Advanced Style (full film available on Netflix.) These amazing “mature” women seriously know how to rock attitude, and it changed my opinions of what you can and can’t do at any age. BUT, everything must still be done with a sense of style.
The thing is, you can pull off an age appropriate version of pretty much any look, but you’ve got to put some thought into it and know when you’ve got it right (and when you haven’t). I think this is where Coco Chanel’s iconic statement “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” comes into play. Take the time to try things – layer coats over jackets over sweaters over blouses over … you get the idea. Tie up a scarf as a head wrap, belt or top, and just keep going until you get it right. Fashion is fun, so be fearless.
As to our poor, misguided perennial mentioned above, she probably could have pulled off that look if the short dress had been paired with some solid or even patterned opaque tights, maybe a pair of simple motorcycle boots for an edgy look, and a chunky scarf. She would have looked totally hip, sans the record scratch.
Quality Becomes More Important
The French woman would rather have fewer quality pieces than a closet full of cheap clothes. This is even more important as we age.
Young women may have no problem shopping at the less expensive stores and wearing less than natural fabrics. Not so with the elegant French perennial.
Fabric is a bigger deal than you might think. A soft cashmere sweater, a crisp cotton shirt or a flowing silk blouse is worth dozens of polywhatever tops and sweaters. It is THE difference between ordinary and elegant.
Take time to plan your wardrobe and splurge on the pieces that count, and then take care of them like they were your grandmother’s crystal – keep them clean, hang or fold them properly, mend when needed. But USE them.
I hope you find these guidelines helpful. If you have some wardrobe piece that you’re not sure how to (or if you should) wear, or need some particular advice on overhauling your wardrobe or style, just email me!
Bonjour! Je suis Kelley
Hi, I’m Kelley – thrower of parties, drinker of wine, and lover of all things French. I hope you enjoy my Lessons in Becoming French!