Skip to comments.French tell US beauties, spare your blushers
Posted on 06/03/2006 11:33:01 PM PDT by MadIvan
TYPICAL French chic or bare-faced cheek? The simmering diplomatic war between France and the United States has taken an ugly turn after French women accused their American counterparts of being "painted dolls".
French madames don't wear make-up, or at least pretend not to. Their new goal is to glow, with invisible pores and highly polished skin. Too much make-up, they claim, makes a woman seem older, or worse still, appear as if she makes a living walking the streets.
And they have singled out American women as the worst examples, while putting forward their own versions of perfection such as actresses Juliette Binoche and Audrey Tautou.
Led by French fashion experts, the attack will stoke tensions based on cultural differences that neither country pretends to understand. Laura Mercier, the French creator of a line of cosmetics, who lives in New York, said: "It really astonishes me the way American women wear so much make-up.
"In the US, even teenage girls are overly made up. And when you are overly made up, you send out the message that you are overly sexual, that you want to be visible to attract men."
By contrast, Mercier added: "French women are not flashy. They must be subtle. The message must not be: 'I'm spending hours on my face to look beautiful.'"
Michèle Fitoussi, one of France's leading social commentators and a columnist at French Elle magazine, branded the "painted-doll" look "vulgaire".
Certainly, the French delight in placing themselves in opposition to the US, no matter what the topic - food, wine, diplomacy, and now beauty. A recent issue of French Elle poked fun at what it called the "too much" look of "California Beauty", illustrated by a model in a shocking pink shirt, bicycle shorts, an orange print scarf, mirrored sunglasses, a Louis Vuitton handbag and gaudy, gold, high-heeled sandals, earrings, necklaces, chain belt, bangles and rings.
The French say Nicole Richie and Britney Spears have adopted the "overdone" look, while Madonna is forgiven since she is seen as a hard-nosed businesswoman and free spirit.
Jennifer Lopez escapes criticism because she is Hispanic and therefore culturally more exotic.
But the French disdain is aimed less at specific women and more at the overall 'overdone' look. This season, the unadorned look is more in vogue than ever in France. The weekly magazine L'Express calls it "Le no make-up" look.
To women in France, it represents something more profound than simply one's taste in skin care. Make-up is also the mark of the desperate housewife type who tries too hard.
They cite Yves Saint Laurent's famous quote: "The most beautiful make-up for a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy."
Even for Olivia Hollert, a 22-year-old nurse who considers herself a make-up fanatic, Americans overdo it.
"American girls worship the cult of the 'ideal woman'," she said. "No part of the face seems to be forgotten. And when you use too much make-up, it means you are hiding from yourself."
In a poll by the market research group Mintel, 64% of American women said they sometimes used foundation, compared with 47% of French women; 81% of Americans use lipstick, compared with 70% of French women, and 59% of Americans use blusher, compared with 43%.
The image "du jour" of "le no make-up" look is Audrey Tautou, with magazines featuring the 29-year-old Da Vinci Code star without jewellery or any visible make-up, except for a slight tint on her lips. Even her beauty marks have not been airbrushed away.
Actresses Juliette Binoche and Nathalie Baye are also regularly featured in magazines for embracing the natural look
In political circles, the Socialist politician Ségolène Royal, a presidential contender, is successfully seducing the country in part because of her grass-roots style, broad smile and fresh-faced look. When she had an upper tooth straightened last year, the daily newspaper Libération labelled it an un-French act.
"The French people's favourite Socialist is now endowed with an American smile," Libération wrote.
That may be because French women still lag far behind Americans in cosmetic surgery and sundry injections aimed at making them appear less flawed.
Catherine Deneuve, for example, with her painted face, is sometimes seen as an object of pity. Deneuve, 62, the icily beautiful star of Belle De Jour, was once considered so perfect that she was named France's "Marianne", the idealised embodiment of the French Republic. She now admits to wearing make-up even when she is gardening.
"Poor Catherine," said Terry de Gunzburg, creator of the By Terry make-up line. "She let herself get hooked by the syndrome of Dorian Gray, of eternal youth. It's sad."
On the whole, French women like to portray themselves as more balanced, more inclined to pamper themselves and take pleasure in daily rituals than Americans. In its most extreme form, the US is seen as a youth-obsessed, throwaway, quick-fix culture where women are more likely to look artificially young and totally "done".
Instead, French women invest more time aiming for perfect, blemish-free skin.
Even French women of modest means are much more likely than American women to get treatments in spas or clinics that scrub, polish, buff, massage and cream their skins.
In this, the French government is complicit. Any woman who can claim to have a medically diagnosed skin condition, from eczema to acne, can receive a regimented "thermal cure" at spas in France once a year.
The French taxpayer covers as much as 65% of the cost.
Pit hair, body odor and unshaved legs are so hot....NOT.
One would hope for a catfight, but as soon as the clothes started flying the white flags would be flying like bats out of Mammoth Cave.
American women also use deodorant, as do American men.
The French could take a lesson from that.
Should be fun:-)
C'mon guys, I know the French are idiotic 99% of the time, but they are right about this. Standards of beauty have gone downhill in the last decade. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears would have been mocked hideously in the 70's and 80's.
Personally, I blame Clinton : )
The thing about America... It is like we are number one at everything. Sure, We have the fattest and some of the ugliest people in the world. But we also have the skinniest and most beautiful as well. Nothing is homogeneous about this country at all. A country full of fat-ass lazy slobs, yet, we have the most Athletic, WE WIN THE OLYMPICS, almost all the time at least in the most recent history. That's just America.
I think the French are wrong. I've always been taught that any old barn needs paint. :-)
Left, with makeup, American. Right, without makeup, French.
Text message from daughter attending math conference: "The Europeans are beginning to smell."
OK....I've been to France and the woman on the street does have a certain chic....until (in my experience there) the hairdresser raises her arms to do your hair and all that underarm hair poufs out and that certain chic goes out the window forever. eeeeeeeewwwwww
As much as I loathe their foolish, ungrateful politics, I must confess that I think French women the most beautiful in the world, followed closely by Indian women. I don't know why or where it comes from, but they are. It's not just their facial features, it's the way they dress and do their hair, even the way they walk and talk.
I must agree with the author about the "American Beauty" look - it is overdone. Too much. The French let their beauty speak for them, instead of their implants, bleached hair, fake tan and lip gloss like American "beauties" do. And the author is right on something else too - all of this artifice is covering something up...something inside. Sorry, Ivan. I'm happy with my looks, but if I could look, walk and talk like a French woman, I would be much more attractive to guys, and that's what we all want, isn't it? :^D
Makeup has a great protective effect that will be anti-aging in the long run if you're diligent about putting it on every morning and also diligent about slathering sunblock if you spend any amount of time in the sun.
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