Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….

Do you agree?

This phrase was the focus of a recent lesson with my advanced English conversation class. We had been talking about stereotypes and cultural similarities and differences.

The well-known expression, has been accredited to Plato and Shakespeare, amongst others, but it was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford who is widely acknowledged as coining the saying in its current form.

Not long ago, this YouTube clip popped up on my Facebook feed, thanks to Diane who writes this great blog:

This clip showcases 100 years of beauty in France. Which was your favourite clip? I found it difficult to select only one but if you forced me, maybe the 1920s…most of them have their merits.

There are also lots of stereotypes around French beauty. You only need to search the internet to find all kinds of information about how to look like a French woman. Red lips? A bob haircut? Tousled Hair? How would you describe French beauty? In my opinion, French women wear less make up (huge generalisation?!) or maybe they are experts at applying a natural make up which, as we know, takes ages to apply!!!

So, back to my class. We concluded that beauty is very much based on culture. I was reminded of a previous post I wrote:

I included a video clip of journalist Esther Honig. She sent her photo around the world and asked for it to be retouched according to the beauty standards of a range of countries. The results are fascinating. Clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, according to their culture.

I’d love to know your thoughts. I had some fantastic responses to my post on ‘French chic’. I’m sure you’ll have opinions on beauty!



C’est chic…?!

Well, hello lovely readers! I do hope there are still some folk reading this blog. It seems to have been an awful long time since I wrote my last post. It’s mainly a question of life getting in the way – especially where family is involved.

Anyway, I’ve been planning this post for some time and it’s mainly thanks to one of my favourite bloggers, Catherine She is a very funny, feisty and opinionated American blogger who happens to have a French husband. She loves France, too and has some interesting thoughts about French style.

Why chic? ‘Chic’ is a word that is bandied about a lot but what does it actually mean? I decided to do some research via the dictionary.

Here’s what I found: ‘elegantly and stylishly fashionable’.
“she looked every inch the chic Frenchwoman

And there’s the rub. Is this a myth, a stereotype or the truth? Chic is an adjective often applied to French women and you only have to look on Pinterest, for example, to see countless boards telling us ‘How to be Parisian’ or ‘How to dress like a French woman’.



But, as someone who has a home in France, I have to tell you that not every French woman is chic. I love people watching and I am on the look out for some local chic French women so that I can take their photo and put them on this blog, assuming they don’t mind! Unfortunately, I haven’t spotted any yet… I think this is because there is not a lot of money in the area where we live and perhaps all the chic people are at work… If we go to the nearest city, Toulouse, there are lots of chic and stylish people around but there are also lots of people who are less so. Toulouse is a university town and has a feeling of affluence, so perhaps this is the reason.

I believe that ‘chicness’ – is there such a word? – varies considerably from town to town, place to place, country to country. I know of Italian, Spanish, Brazilian, Indian (I could go on) women who are incredibly stylish. There are even some in the United Kingdom!! JOKE…

But, I would suggest that there is a classic look that we ascribe to French women; including simple black dress, white tailored shirt, trenchcoat, striped top … Ah, striped tops. We all know of my love of the striped top!

photo (1)

But is this accurate? Anecdotally, when I was working as a primary languages consultant, in the UK, I was observing a French lesson and I heard one of the pupils comment that I must be French because I was wearing a striped top! Vive les stéréotypes!

While looking at the original definition of chic, I decided to look at synonyms for this word. What should appear but ‘stylish’? If you put ‘French style’ into a search engine, page after page are available to tell women how to dress like a French woman. I’m sure this advice is all very helpful should that be your goal but, as far as I am concerned, it is more important to find one’s own style, whatever that may be. I feel I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here…

As a more mature woman, I do get fed up with being told what I can or can’t wear because of my age. Not that I take any notice! A subject for another blog post, perhaps?!

As I’m beginning to ramble and this post risks turning into a dissertation, I’ll finish by saying that there are certain French style ‘icons’ whose style I do admire. These include Coco Chanel, Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Hardy, Juliette Binoche, Ines de la Fressange but there are many other style icons I could name who are not French.

I’d love to know your thoughts about French style and French ‘chicness’ ! Is it a myth, a stereotype, a generalisation or the truth?! Do please share!





…Or is it Perfume?

I love perfume. I have for as long as I can remember. A spritz of perfume can cheer me up, transport me somewhere else and bring back happy memories. It’s part of my identity.

Do you have a signature perfume? What do I mean by this? My closest friend has a perfume that she always wears. Wherever I am, if I get a whiff of this scent it makes me think of my friend. For me that’s a signature perfume. I don’t have a true signature perfume – yet.

My earliest perfume memory is Aqua Manda which was around in my teenage years.   I remember it as spicey and oriental. While ‘researching’ this post, I discovered – to my surprise – that Aqua Manda is available again, mainly on line.IMG_0133

The next perfume that really struck a chord with me was ‘Biba’. How I loved this perfume! I was lucky enough to work in the large Biba store, as a temporary retail assistant, when I was a student. I was so disappointed when this perfume was no longer made. Interestingly, there are several Pinterest boards which are dedicated to the Biba brand.


I then experimented with several different perfumes including: Obsession, Opium and Poison. The names say it all! I loved them all but lots of people didn’t as they found them overpowering, heady and heavy. My students used to say that they knew if I’d recently walked down the school corridor!

IMG_0135For a long time, Oscar de la Rente was my go-to perfume but currently it’s La Vie est Belle. How long will this one last?

To me, France and Perfume are synonymous. Think of Chanel No 5, for example. An iconic French perfume. There are so many other famous French perfumes that you might fall asleep if I mention them all!

And, what about perfume for men? My youngest son has already discovered his signature fragrance; Bleu de Chanel. A great choice, in my opinion. As he’s twenty, this might change, of course.

I have never visited – yet – Grasse. This town, in the South of France, is famous for its perfume industry. I’ll add it to my list!

One of the most interesting and unusual books I have read is ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’. The author is Patrick Süskind. Set in eighteenth century France, it tells the story of Jean – Baptiste Grenouille. It’s a dark, disturbing read but certainly original.


The book was made into a film, starring Ben Whishaw. It’s not for the faint hearted and received very mixed reviews but I found it to be a compelling if challenging watch.

This post seems to have rambled on quite a lot already and there’s so much more I could say about perfume but what I’d really like to know is whether you have a favourite or signature fragrance. Or perhaps there’s a perfume that you really can’t stand. Either way I’d love to know!


A shopping spree…

What are you thinking? Designer handbags, fabulous French fashion, perfume…

These suggestions couldn’t be further from reality!

a-shopping-spreeThese are the first purchases for the new home.

You may spot rubber gloves, toilet paper, kitchen towels, a toilet brush – to name but a few items – and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I’m not complaining, however. I’m delighted!

Is my obsession getting out of hand?

…..With stripes, that is?

One of my earliest posts was about: La Marinière; Breton or striped T shirts.

I’ve always been a fan of the striped top. When I used to teach French, some of my pupils thought that my love for a Breton top, indicated that I actually was French!!!

However, when trying to declutter my wardrobe, recently, I began to wonder if my love of stripes is getting out of hand.

These are just some of my striped tops and jumpers. Yes, there are more – in the wash and waiting to be ironed! I even have one that arrived in the post this week that I haven’t worn, yet..


I am not a fashion blogger, as you may be able to tell from the quality of this photo!


This isn’t my photo. It’s far too good! Perhaps I should have put my tops on hangers…


This was my next effort. Artfully arranged in a pile!

In truth, only one of these tops is an authentic French top:


Here is the label to prove it:


Here’s another one of their tops being modelled by a French man, possibly?!


Purely for your viewing pleasure!

Are you a fan of striped, Breton tops? I’d love to know….


Chez le coiffeur!

When the whole world appears to be going mad, it can be the simple things that bring pleasure – like going to the hairdressers.

Call me shallow but I do love the pampering and sheer indulgence of relaxing and having my hair done by someone else! In the village where I live, we are lucky enough to have a brilliant hairdressers run by an amazing, young, husband and wife couple.

My nineteen year old son also goes there, although obviously not with me! From massage chairs, to endless cups of coffee, to glossy magazines, not to mention brilliant hair cutting and styling, I always leave the salon feeling like a new woman!

So, I decided to get my hair washed (un shampoing!)  and blow dried (un brushing!) during my recent month long stay in France. I’m afraid I wasn’t brave enough to have my hair cut – apart from my fringe – which if you know me – is very daring indeed!

But which hairdresser to choose? For a small town, Castelnaudary is highly populated with hair salons. Luckily, my friendly local estate agent, whose hair always looks fantastic, was able to recommend her hairdresser. The salon was tiny with two members of staff; the owner and her apprentice. The owner did the wash and blow dry   and here’s the result:  image

French women don’t have Facelifts – Beauty Standards Around the World

Two things have inspired this post: a visit to the library and the French conversation class I attend.

I use our local library a lot. I live in a village and our library is not the biggest but I really like it! I was surprised when I walked in recently and this book was prominently on display!

facelift book


The title intrigued me … However, I can’t say the same for the content and I have failed to get to the finish, after dipping into one or two sections. I guess one reason is because I don’t really care whether French women get facelifts or not and, equally, I’m pretty convinced that some do anyway!

It seemed that some research might be a good idea and here’s what I found.

According to uk.businessinsider.comimage

this table shows the vainest countries in the world!

The book is written by Mireille Guiliano who also wrote ‘ French women don’t get fat’. I’m afraid I haven’t read this book either and based on the ‘facelift’ book, I don’t think I’m likely too in the future!

If people wish to have facelifts, I don’t have any objections but I know I wouldn’t be able to put myself under the knife for something that wasn’t a medical necessity. I’m equally frightened by the idea of Botox, so I’ll just have to age (dis)gracefully!!

Curiously, ‘Parlons de la beauté’ was the topic of our conversation class this week. We discussed the idea of universal beauty and cultural differences. Our teacher showed us a YouTube clip to stimulate discussion. I have to say that Marion is a fantastic teacher who always gets us talking!

Anyway, the clip we were shown is about ‘Beauty Standards Around The World’ & I found it compelling watching. There’s no voiceover so it’s easy to follow:

I guess some of you might have seen this before but I found this fascinating and a great topic for discussion in any language. What do you think? The featured woman is called Esther Honig.