Haven’t written for about 10 days as we were on holiday in Brittany last week.
It was amazingly beautiful, but not really SecondCherry territory, in that there were very few opportunities to play dress-up. Most days we were scrambling round dolmens and menhirs, playing on the beach with the dog and walking in the oak woods, so practicality had to be the order of the day.
All the same, though, you’ve got to love winter for the fabrics if nothing else – there’s something so luxurious about them. I ADORE my ribbed silk thermals in orange and lilac, my vintage cashmere polonecks in ice-cream colours and yummy brown moleskin trousers from Boden (nearly bald from too much stroking). Sadly, the dog put two claws through my leather trench (also vintage), so I reverted to a navy Barbour and trekky boots for the rest of the week, along with a rip-stop backpack that proved a godsend when I needed both hands free for climbing.
Still, sartorial elegance wasn’t entirely lacking in the neighbourhood. On our last day, at the bakery in Carnac we encountered an amazing-looking woman, entering as we were leaving. Fluid black pants, a short, fitted Chanel-type jacket in white textured fabric, big black sunglasses and a chiffon scarf tied in that je-ne-sais-quoi way the French have. Her shoulder-length pageboy hair was gleaming white and her age, anybody’s guess – somewhere between 65 and 75 I suppose. Undoubtedly a Parisienne, of which there are many in the area because of all the holiday homes. What fabulously simple chic.
That evening our hosts invited us for an ‘apero’ before dinner and at one point, when they asked what I did for a living, the conversation turned to fashion and beauty. Mr and Mme Jouanic were in agreement about French women never losing the plot. "My mother’s 76," said monsieur, "and every day she dresses to the nines – and your mother’s the same, isn’t she?" Mme Jouanic nodded agreement. "Fabulous shoes, always does her makeup," she said.
I told them about Helena Frith-Powell, who when asked the difference between French and English women, said: "About 10 pounds…", which made them laugh. "Oh, but it’s true," said madame. "I watch my weight all the time." "French women don’t get fat," said her husband. "A little rounder, perhaps, once they hit 50, but that’s no bad thing."
Monsieur, it transpired, was particularly enamoured of Jane Birkin, whom the French take to be very much their own, rather than technically English. "She has absolutely nothing up top," he said, waving both hands above his chest, "but she is so beautiful. "She has great style."
I told him that in the UK, Birkin’s daughter Lou Doillon would probably not be considered beautiful at all unless she got a nose job. He found it completely scandalous, the idea that any woman should alter her appearance by surgery, or even by teeth-whitening or straightening. "Every woman has her particular charm which is entirely her own," he said. "The trick is to find it and bring it out."
Not a bad style pointer, that.