11 May 2007

Flaubert, foie gras, and fashion, too.

As difficult as it is for me to admit this, the French really do get it, and by "it" I mean all the important parts of life aside from a sound national security strategy.

The French people enjoy a 35 hour work week, have an alcohol-at-lunch acceptant attitude, indulge in a daily intake of rich fatty foods, all the while smoking enough cigarettes to put the entire Georgetown University Eurotrash contingent to shame and somehow remaining the most collectively lithe and acne-free society I've ever seen.

I was aware well before my inaugural trip to Paris nine years ago of the matchless gifts the French - Montesquieu, Deneuve, Matisse, Casta and Camus, to name my favorite few - have bestowed upon the world. And it was not until my stint in graduate school when I was forced to look at the country in which nearly all my beloved Kundera-written love affairs were set in a new, defense-related light, that I developed a strong and perhaps unfair distaste for all things French.

So strong and permeating had this distaste become that I would actually make a conscious effort to cross MassAve at the stoplight just past the Cosmos Club so as to avoid running on the same side of the street as a stunning chateaux-style mansion I'd come to recognize as a - for lack of a better description - hangout for patrician-looking French people.

Tonight, however, for whatever reason, perhaps humidity-induced fatigue, perhaps distraction from rediscovering Candyman's Knockin' Boots and Color Me Badd's I wanna sex you up (my first and second self-purchased cassette singles back in '90 and '91, respectively), I remained on the Gandhi-statue side of the street and thus found myself not even two feet from the black wrought-iron gates surrounding the French party palace I usually take such care to avoid.

Not at all surprising, last night, like any other Thursday night for the French, was a black-tie affair.

The closer I came to the six-car back-up blocking the sidewalk, the clearer the cuts, fits, silhouettes and fabrics of the ladies' dresses became.

"Whoah," I said under my breath, when I finally passed by what was easily the best-looking, best-dressed couple I'd ever seen in the nation's capital. Monte and myself, obviously, not included.

He in a Clooney-fit simple black-tie tux and she in a strikingly similar plum version of the black dress Eva Mendes wore earlier this year to the Golden Kamera Awards. In their late-40s, early-50s and clearly pleased-as-punch with that fact (neither was trying to look 30, which only served to make them look even more sublimely attractive), they walked past me tittering at something she'd just said, his hand on the small of her back, hers holding an ivory Roger Vivier clutch.

If for no other reason than to share with you the details, I wanted so badly to find an excuse to stop and gawk at the rest of the stylish arrivals. But with Makin' love until we drown/Girl you know it feels real good/We can do it 'til we both wake up pounding into my ears at full-volume, compounded by my knee pain and the high humidity, there was no chance I could come up with anything even remotely believable.

And so I ran on, but not before craning my neck one last time, taking in one more sigh-worthy sight - this one a butter-hued backless column gown - and vowing to the catchy hum of the Knockin' Boots intro, to never again run on the opposite side of the street.

What the French lack in ally-loyalty they certainly make up for with their high-fashion sensibility, the presence of which on the much-in-need (see below, but don't look too long) DC style landscape is only too obvious.

(last photo courtesy of Project Beltway)


dc girl said...

That outfit sums up DC style in so many ways. An exaggeration, sure, but it gets the point across. To what event did that woman wear that nasty get-up? She looks like a 19th-century schoolmaster.

I know exactly which mansion you're referring to. I always see skinny women in great shoes smoking outside the front doors. What an interesting world there must be inside that place...

tom h said...

Love the pic of you and your puppy.......

Noelle said...

I agree with Tom - the best part of this post was the pic of you and your puppy! He's almost as cute as you!

Walking around downtown DC today doing site visits, I was unpleasantly reminded of how poor DC style can be. I then had lunch with a sales representative from the south of France. What a breath of fresh air! I wish I could have taken a picture of her, as an example for all DC women. Not to mention she was in her late forties and still looked appropriate, but fierce.

Johanna said...

Awww, thanks guys. I'll pass your praise onto the little one when I get home tonight. He'll be mightily pleased, if not a little bashful.

I know the in-vogue thing is to defend DC style, cite Adams Morgan/U Street/Georgegtown as burgeoning areas of a new brand of DC-specific style, but I don't know...

My area of interest is predominately professional dress, not urban casual dress, and from my point of view, in this ConnAve/M neighborhood, anyway, women dress about as sloppily as I've seen anywhere in the world, including flyover states where most East Coast people assume there's nothing on the streets and in the offices but stretch pants and sports bras fashioned as shirts.

French women, for the most part, seem to really *get it*.

Anonymous said...

I would have loved to have seen the butter colored dress. Yellow is such a springy tone to wear!

And backless?? Sigh.