Nine Fashion Lessons I Learned From French Women A trip to France is an opportunity to check yourself in the fashion and confidence departments. I spent a lot of hours on trains, walking for miles and dining in several French cities and towns,including Nantes, Bordeaux and Paris, carefully studying what French women are wearing these days. Here’s what I brought back with me to share with you. De Rien.

  1. Women dress like women 

    Sometimes when I look in the mirror at my hoodie, ripped jeans and Converse, I wonder, what exactly sets me apart sartorially form the 12 year old boy I sat across from on the bus yesterday? I get it, it’s comfy. The weeks that I was traveling, staying in towns, villages and cities of France, traveling by bicycle, metro and on foot, there was something that struck me. Regardless of age, women dressed like adults. The styles varied wildly, it could be feminine, masculine, edgy, sophisticated.. but, I got a clear sense they were not trying to dress like a teenager.  They did not dress like a 12 year old walking home from school. Their clothes spoke of a personal standard.

  2. Your clothes and make up should be flexible enough to do anything

    Not just one thing (like sit in an office). You should be able to bicycle through traffic, run to catch the bus or have spontaneous afternoon drinks (Did I mentioned it was France?)

  3. Tight isn’t always right

    The coolest looking women I saw were wearing loose, semi-structured, skimming togs – snug was less common; tight, rare  Surprising? If one were to hypothetically get sucked into the infinity scroll of Instagram, and see beautiful women of note, e.g. your friends on a night out, models, magazine spreads and influencers, you’d logically deduce that sexy = tight.  This is not the rule in France. See #2.

  4. Leggings are mostly not a thing

    Sure they’re in every store you can name and Millennials are stockpiling them. They are much harder to find on the streets of Paris than you’d think. At least on their own, passing as outerwear. My conclusion, French women are better than me.

  5. Shape is Embraced not Hidden

    The shape of your body (or your age for that matter) need not stop you from rocking the fashions. The confidence of the French woman, combined with an innate style and knowing means that large small, lopsided, flat chested, big-booty – they manage to make it all look good.  (Side note: Our friends at Smithery are rockstars at dressing for your shape.)

  6. Skinny jeans and booties are everywhere

    In the words of one my most fashionista friends “skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere,” and France is proof positive (Nantes in particular, what’s up ladies of Nantes?). The skinny jean trend has been with us well over a decade and it refuses to die. It will be the embarrassing fashion flashback of the future. Booties became the go-to skinny jean combo and now it’s an endless parade of skinny-jeans-and-booties-wearing soldiers everywhere. Even guys.  Perhaps we’re about to reach our saturation point?

  7. The secret is in the shoes

    Having said that, booties are not everything. This might be my favourite observation, not least of all because I love shoes.  Fancy shoes can change everything- fancy sparkly tennis shoes with a shift dress; silver flats with ankle jeans,  high-heels, biker boots  with a skirt. And obviously, #6. The French woman’s shoe game is on fire.

  8. Less is more

    Edit, edit, edit.. When I was casually stalking the street style of French women, young and old, it was easy to take it all in with a glance. It’s a simple aesthetic. A great scarf, a cute overcoat or sparkly flats – just one of these items was enough to elevate a look. Make-up was the same. Barefaced with a pop of colour and easy hair is their MO.

  9. Cold weather is just another fashion season

    I was there when the temperature was starting to get chilly. All the same  fashion rules applied, just in chic layers with nary a puffy coat to be seen.

 

 

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Boss Lady: Donna Bishop I first met Donna Bishop on the set of a shoot I was directing; she was owner of Green Beauty, among the first in the world of online, high-end, natural make-up.  She’d parlayed her passion as a make-up artist into a major entrepreneurial success, becoming a go-to beauty expert for TV and print.

These days Donna is Director of Programming for CAFA (Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards), is a board member of the Toronto Chapter of Fashion Group International, and is a mentor for the Toronto Fashion Incubator.

Donna’s one of those women who, no matter the topic, her input is thoughtful, insightful and often irreverent.   A generous dose of her infectious curiosity, humour and intellect along with an impressive roster of guests has brought a refreshing depth  to the topic of fashion through her new podcast Fashion Talks.

She’s a definite Boss.

WHAT IS CAFA?

It’s like the Academy Awards for the fashion industry.

WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FASHION?

I love deciding what to wear everyday. It excites me.

DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE EVOLUTION

When I was younger it ran the gamut from preppy to being a rebel and trying to make my school uniform funky. I’d pair cowboy boots with my uniform kilt. Then I discovered vintage and fell in love.

kensington market toronto vintage clothing shopping

Kensington Market, Toronto Photo: Marriott Traveler

FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOP VINTAGE

Kensington Market, Toronto

ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE YOUR FORTIES

Engaging

ADVICE FOR YOUR 39 YEAR OLD SELF?

Aging is not a measuring tool for success.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN YOUR FORTIES?

Before your forties you think you should have accomplished a lot of stuff. But, when you get there you realize it’s a time for beginning things. I started the Podcast in my forties and it’s one of the joys of my career.

Links:

Fortyology Podcast Coming Soon!

CAFA

Fashion Talks Podcast

 

 

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Happy 51st Birthday Salma Hayek, Actress, Producer, Possible Feminist Salma Hayek, like many sexy, beautiful women, has not always been taken seriously.  I mean, how can you be sexy, show off your cleavage AND have something intelligent to say, or, make astute business decisions?

Salma Hayek Credit: FilmMagic

Not that she’s let this stop her. At all. Today, at 51 (!!!) she is as drop-dead as she was 30 years ago, more outspoken and irreverent, and yes, still smart.

Career Moves

Let’s look at her resume – remember when she totally held her own opposite Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock (thanks to the brilliant Tina Fey)? By the way, that pairing was such a hit that the two are starring in a movie together called Drunk Parents.

Who remembers that she produced and starred in Frida, which won TWO OSCARS!  And, that her production company Ventanarosa brought Ugly Betty to America.

She is regularly listed on Hollywood’s Power Women roster and one of Hollywoods biggest ball breakers, Harvey Weinstein called her a “ball breaker“.

Earlier this year,  Rolling Stone called her performance in Beatriz At Dinner  “the performance of her career”.

She’s a bonafide Boss Lady.

Feminist Blur

We could take a page from her stance on sexism and it’s evil twin ageism. “We are the generation that said, ‘We’re not going away at 30,’” she said to uproarious applause as she received an award for her charity work, and laid some harsh truth on Hollywood. “They cannot ignore us anymore.”

It might seem trivial, but,  Salma’s (among other’s) popping up in #nomakeup selfies have a role.  For one, hello??? um, I’m pretty excited to see a 51 year old woman look like this. Secondly, after 40, women tend to go either one of two ways – ‘what the hell, I give up’ and stop caring, or ‘botox and full make-up all the time’ to hide the effects of aging.  We need to show more of our real faces, everyday faces.  We don’t need to be perfect. We do need to be seen. (Trust me, I realize most of us don’t look like Salma Hayek, but still. And, PS a lot of you look amazing.)

And, for a bonus shot of over-forty natural beauty, here are Salma and Penelope Cruz.

 

But, there’s one area that’s hard to completely get a grasp on with Salma: feminism. First she said she isn’t one, (what??) then, thankfully, she turned it around and she now says she is,  “I am a feminist because I love women and I am ready to fight for women. I am a feminist because I am proud to be a woman, and I am passionate about making the world a better place for women. I am a feminist because a lot of amazing women have made me the woman I am today. I am inspired by women every day, as friends and as colleagues.”

Salma Hayek receiving award for her foundation Chime for Change.

Yet, earlier this year she had some very uncomfortable challenges for former Daily Show bad-ass Jessica Williams’ point of view at a women in hollywood roundtable (read about it here), that comes across as naive and privileged. Salma comes from privilege. An affluent upbringing, a million dollar paycheque, a billionaire husband. She exists in the 1%.

In other words, despite the trappings of a perfect life, she’s not perfect.

The important lesson here is that it hasn’t stopped her, and it needn’t be a roadblock to gleaning inspiration.  Too often women wait until some BS version of perfection has been attained before we are willing to use our voices. Our plan is that once we have it completely figured out, polished and practiced, then we’ll step out. It’s a losing game.  It’s been shown time and again in the workplace and in life, we fear judgment, being ostracized, looking stupid.

This is a result of centuries of inequality and disenfranchisement, NOT, because women are weak or incapable. It’s a deeply ingrained habit.  But, a habit that will only change as we exercise our willingness to choose using our voice over waiting on misguided perfection. And, its important we cheer each other on, and, chill out if a woman says or does something that isn’t perfect.

Happy Birthday, Salma. You make 51 look good, and not just because you’re hot.

Related: Sheryl Sandberg on how men can Lean In

 

 

 

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How To Be 40: Beginner Lessons For Women Turning  Forty I took my first breath in the arms of woman on the cusp of forty; my formative years were shaped as she navigated her forties. And, I suppose, in turn, her forties were shaped in part by me.

That woman was my mother. And, it was the ’70s.

Portrait of A Woman Turning Forty

There is a picture etched in my memory more vivid than any other picture from my childhood. I am three years old, grinning, leaning back over my highchair, craning to look at my mother who is sitting beside my father at my grandparents house.

My mother is what I remember most. She, and my father wearing a brown cardigan and stylish trousers, sit side-by-side, opening gifts. It’s their Silver wedding anniversary. My mother is naturally beautiful. Slim and trim and modest in a simple and stylish shift dress of the early ’70’s. Her skin is sunkissed. She’s smiling her shy smile.

She is 43 years old.

Looking back what is remarkable about that picture is not simply that she looks great at 43, unlike how we think most parents look, but, her life experience up until that point was so …epic.

I was three years old, and I was her youngest. There were eight who came before me. I was child-number-nine, born when she was 39 years old.

She’d gotten married at 18, had her first kid by 19, raised a baseball team of babies, including twins, lost a child to a swift and cruel illness, and was temporarily raising five of us and my father in a campground while he looked for work, having just relocated half-way across Canada on a wing and a prayer in the back of ’62 Ford cube van.

Struggle was her companion. Yet, bitterness never was.

Her persona is capped by her detached bemusement about aging. Her standard quip is ‘it’s better than the alternative.’

I, however, am not that zen.  Here are five lessons I learned the hard way.

1: Don’t Look Back

Looking for some guidance when I was approaching 40, I tried to tap into her zeitgeist. She pointed out the obvious: at 40 she was too busy raising a family to remember her age half the time let alone worry about how old she looked. Besides, what did it matter?

Could it be that simple? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and I’ve concluded that, yep, it’s quite likely that simple. For her. For some. My mother was (is) beautiful and beloved and unburdened by vanity and for the most part, the opinions of others.  But, her life experience was nothing like mine. At 39 I was single with no kids, a career woman, traveling the world in an exciting job, meeting incredible people. I had a busy social life, and, an apartment in the middle of a big city.

Not only did our trajectories look radically different, the choices available to us during our lifetimes differed, the pressures and expectations weren’t the same. In 39 years since I was born, the world itself was in some ways virtually unrecognizable, for better or worse.

As much as I wanted advice, I would have to look elsewhere.

2: Freaking Out Is Totally Acceptable

I remember the day I started freaking out about turning forty. It was the day after my 39th birthday. In my mind it was the beginning of the end.

In fact, it wouldn’t really be an exaggeration to say I’d been mildly dreading it since I turned 30. With that kind of anticipation, what chance did I have of being anything but traumatized by this…this number? With October marching closer, I started a Being Forty journal. It was a safe place to vent and fret and dream; it led to my research. Later, it drew other women like a moth to a flame.

For years, I wished for a mentor, someone I could trust,  who would assuage – heck, even diagnose -my neuroses; to inspire me about life-post forty, talk me off the ledge. My friends younger than me, just seemed to make it worse, confirming my advanced age with their flawless skin and tight bodies and endless energy. I was (and am) lucky to have friendships with women who are older than me whom I could at least inquire about their approach to this milestone, and, when needed, whine about my own perceived trials. But, for the most part, I wrung my hands in silence.

3: Don’t Compare Yourself to Halle Berry

Like any busy, misguided female in the 21st century I turned to the most obvious place to medicate my anxiety: the internet. I found women who were, like me, hitting this milestone age, and, they managed to look fantastic. Except these peers had personal chefs, personal trainers, stylists, air brushing, botox and had won the genetic lottery. Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Jenifer Aniston. These were my homegirls.  Somehow, knowing even the most beautiful women in the world were also facing forty made me feel less of a pariah.

During this entire year I awkwardly avoided any jokes of being ‘old’, choosing instead to feel oddly ashamed and adopted the ‘lie about your age’ approach. Some of my closest friends were planning BIG 40th birthday celebrations. The very thought horrified me. What was wrong with these people? They should not be drawing attention to this terrible event.A  full six months after  I turned 40 I resigned myself to ’come out’ about my age, i.e. get over it. I’d call it more an act of surrender, borne of exhaustion from keeping up some imaginary ruse (I was kidding no one) than it was a peaceful and joyful embrace.

It was like my spirit had been waiting for me to figure this out. It made room for self-acceptance which is oxygen to self-confidence and empowerment. That freed up my psychic energy to pour into a creativity, to find true love and to be brave in my career pursuits. Things were looking up.

4: Reject Invisibility For Women Over Forty

Age is a delicate subject, even to the most courageous, feminist among us. Perhaps now, more than ever, we are pounded with the message that to age is to lose worth.

Psychologists have been telling us for decades that this – feeling unvalued, ignored, irrelevant- is one of the biggest triggers to anxiety and depression.

The secret, I’ve learned, in part from the dozens of women I’ve had the privilege of interviewing, is to not pay any heed to that feeling, whether it is self-induced or projected upon you by another. The truth is, invisibility can happen at any age and for many reasons. If you ask around, or think back to your own memories, invisibility happens because you’re too young, too short, female, male, old, timid, immigrant, don’t speak the language, not in the clique.

There will always be people who are invisible to you; not necessarily because of prejudice or willful rejection, but simply because we are not aware at all times. The same is true for those times when you feel invisible.

There’s a way to turn off the invisibility switch – you hold that power, your finger is on the switch. Stare down anyone who dares to consider you less visible.

5. Redefine Forty on Your Terms

If you’re turning 40 in the next few years your parents were Baby Boomers. You were shaped by their philosophies, but, also by the world you grew up in, which was a much different world than the one they grew up in.  We are redefining what it means to be 40, and beyond. Embrace yourself. Put on blinders that force you to focus on your bliss, and, see what happens.

 

“There are far, far better things ahead than we leave behind.”

– C.S. Lewis

women woman forty age how to be forty beginner lessons

Bugging my parents on their 25th wedding anniversary

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Destination Metanoia Don’t you love it when you can share with (*cough* one-up *cough*) someone you know has been everywhere, a NEW place to go.  I’ve got one for you:  Have you ever been to Metanoia?

I’m sure the true travel nerds have. And, more than likely, so has most anyone who’s dragged their bags off of an airplane and walked into an unknown territory; or, had to rely on the kindness of strangers in a foreign land. Until recently I’d never heard of it. But, I’ve definitely been there.

Metanoia, I think is the Universe’s choice of destination for every trip we take.

“Metanoia (n) a profound… transformation conversion, Change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion, a change of mind, change in the inner man”

The travel industry is booming. From discount websites, to airlines to gadgets and accessories, satisfying that wanderlust has never been more popular or accessible; and, at the same time it’s become a major hassle – and that’s just getting through airport security. Along with long lines, strict rules, canceled and oversold flights, the sober reality is that traveling to places we once considered the safest of havens, have experienced the kind of violence that gives us pause.

After the giddy rush of independent travel in our teens and twenties – family trips, a gap year to back pack through Europe, an overseas internship –  some of us are lucky enough to get paid to see other parts of the country, or other parts of the world. You might even call it the dream gig. At first. Anyone who travels regularly, even for a job they love, will tell you that the bloom falls off the travel rose all too soon.  It can be exhausting.

Yet, we persist. We have such a longing to experience another vista; another culture; to see the beauty of another way of living. It is one of the most sure things in life, that travel and exposure to other lands will change us deeply.

Related: Top Travel Destinations of 2017

 

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