Ines de la Fressange | 53, French Chic & Divinely Delicious

NYTimes writer Elaine Sciolino is oh-so-American in writing about Ines de la Fressange and her new book on French chic style.

Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange, trending now at #20

This onetime muse of Karl Lagerfeld has spun her beauty and style tips into a confection of a best seller, “Parisian Chic: A Style Guide,” which has sold more than 100,000 copies in French and has just hit the American market.

The book might have withered and died on the shelves, except that Ms. de la Fressange combines a “je ne sais quoi” audacity with a sassy tone, and leaves readers believing that, by following her rules and experimenting with confidence, they, too, can be just like her.

They can’t.

Ms. de la Fressange is almost 6 feet tall, about 125 pounds and hipless. She has been the official model for Marianne, the ageless symbol of the French republic that appears on postage stamps and municipal buildings. She is wealthy and quadrilingual. She drinks wine and lots of strong espresso. She doesn’t diet. “Potatoes, chocolate, bonbons, wine, bread — I eat everything that’s good,” she said.

Indeed, the images of Ms de la Fressange aren’t those of a typical woman — even in France. But the sensual wellness defeatism evident in ‘they can’t (look like Ines de la Fressange)’ is the same NYTimes Style section argument about French women, I found myself in last July.

Just this week a new study on the psychology of optimism and food indicates that optimistic people who generally believe they can accomplish things in life make better food choices.

I will never look like Ines de la Fressange and actually don’t want to look like Ines. I have a different vision of beauty for myself, but it’s French women who make me believe I can achieve my goals because they manage their lives with a good amount of self-discipline. When I behave like a French woman, I take better care of myself.

Reading the NYTimes Style section article is summer 2010 deja vu all over again. (I’m looking for the articles now.)

American women love trashing French women for setting unrealistic beauty standards, and our dear Jezebel will be on the case any moment.

My writing on Ines de la Fressange is our top article today, and and picked up my article for Benjamin Kanarek Blog (French Woman Carine Roitfeld Knows Sensuality Is Not A Sin), for which I am truly grateful.

Having spent years of my life in France as the Fashion Director for Victoria’s Secret, I have enormous respect for women like Ines de la Fressange. French women do see themselves differently, as reflected in many surveys.

Perhaps the best known comparative survey of women internationally is the Dove Global Beauty Study, which underscores the fact that American women believe we peak at 28 and French women at about 40. Half of French women answered around 35 and the other half 45. Age 28 for ‘peaking’ wasn’t even in their mindset.

Spending so much time in France and Italy totally changed my view of aging and my own self-perception of me — the woman in the mirror. It was a lot of work but I ‘reclaimed’ myself thanks to France, which is why I defend French women — and many others in Europe — at every opportunity.

Speaking only for myself, I truly believe that French women celebrate every aspect of themselves and — yes, French men do prod them to do so.

What I do know is that French women have more sex at every age than American women, and I believe our self-perceptions and state of physical health have a lot to do with these differences. 

Viva la France!

Ines de la Fressange is 53, but dared to pose topless for Madame Figaro. “Photoshop helped,” she said, knowing you don’t really believe her. As for exercise, she tells the NYT, “I thought about doing it once.”

The fact that Madame Figaro has photographed Ines de la Fressange nude more than once, tells you something about French culture.  These images and the video are from Madame Figaro’s Feb 2009. The cover shot up top and image below were shot by friend Gilles Bensimon for Madame Figaro’s ‘30 Ans Special Mode’ edition.

Ines de la Fressange for Madame Figaro

The image below is revealing in following women out out of our allegedly barbaric state into realized selves. My current concern is that the Republican War on Women wants to march women backwards, once again demanding control of our bodies, because we are not responsible enough to manage ourselves.

French women scoff at this idea, while in America the good girls get in line. Or will we?

I wrote today SlutGirl Marches Sweeping the World | Have Women Had Enough? Only time will tell, but for myself it’s women like Ines and Carine Roitfeld who are my sensual beacons, my lamps of light inspiring me to carry on.

I so regret that American women struggle with giving French women the respect they deserve. They are NOT just like us, which is not to say French women don’t have their own challenges in life. In the self-confidence department, French women win hands down, especially when the focus is aging and an independent vision of self-realized personality and beauty. Anne