It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

Subscribe to the Fashion Abecedaire newsletter

Twitter @FashionAbecedai

Email: fashionmemex(at)gmail.com

Can you imagine Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, innovation and skills posing for the cover of the Sunday Times magazine wearing a bowler hat and an umbrella in defence of the British industry? Arnaud Montebourg, the man with the slightly communist title of Ministre du Redressement Productif, minister of Industrial renewal, did just so for Le Parisien Magazine in the French equivalent of the clichéd British outfit: an Armor.Lux stripy t-shirt.

In the accompanying editorial, Montebourg wears other products of the French fashion industry such as Caulaincourt shoes and a Bérengère Claire shirt. His acknowledged aim is to prove the French industry is still going strong, producing quality products, and to encourage his fellow citizens to buy things made in France.

The French industry can’t bounce back without exports, including clothing ones, which accounted for 7.2 billion euros in 2011. Armor.Lux, Saint James and Petit Bateau are three of the French brands succeeding in France and abroad thanks to their high-quality nautical style.

It’s therefore fitting that, even though Montebourg’s cover t-shirt was French, the styling decision was anything but, adopting the codes of what is perceived as French outside the borders, rather than what the French people really wear.

A recent staple of the French wardrobe, first used by la Marine (the Navy) the stripy t-shirt was popularized over the past century by designers such as Coco Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier. Fashion is one of France’s strongest soft powers, and the sailor jersey has become a symbol of Frenchness abroad. No French-inspired editorial is complete without it, and American magazine TIME used the item to cover its issue on The death of French culture.

The stripy t-shirt sells well because it sells the French way of life and the Gallic romanticism foreigners still buy into. Montebourg is not just wearing a t-shirt, he’s wearing the millions of tourists who come to Paris for the food and the philosophical conversations in cafés, for the nonchalant cigarette and l’amour libre. He’s wearing a garment which innovation, ignoring colour and cut versions, is stuck somewhere on a 1920s Deauville beach. Is this loop of heritage and cliché really what the French industry is condemned to?

Posted at 7:45pm and tagged with: france, petit bateau, politics, chanel, Stripe,.

I have twelve striped tee-shirts in my wardrobe, six striped dresses, four
striped jumpers, one striped jacket. That’s a total of twenty-three striped garments, enough to open a Petit Bateau shop on my own, and that’s before I’ve even started counting striped knickers and striped socks. I have a long-standing, and not too original, addiction to stripes. As a non-trend trend, guaranteed to pop up season in, season out on the runway and in editorials, stripes have become my answer to morning outfit panics. Stripes make an otherwise boring outfit unboring, jazz up a black bottom. Stripes have the neutrality of block colours, but none of their plainness. If it was a plain white or a plain navy top, the striped tee-shirt would be boring. Stripes give it a French accent, with the obligatory classy, romantic, sexy, Parisian (never mind stripes were more Brittany fisherman than Parisian élégante) subtext which resonates in British minds. Stripes are not just about the fashion magazine cliché, they’re about the way they talk to people’s subconscient. As I’ve started losing my French accent for an undefined, neither completely French, nor entirely English one, I’ve found myself doning more and more stripes, going into personal challenges of wearing different stripes every day of the week. As I struggle with feelings of national belonging, stripes have become something attaching me back to France, even if it’s little more than the France foreigners fantasize. In my wardrobe back in France, the clothes I wore age 12 to 17, there’s hardly a stripe in sight. Just like I had to wait for my first year of uni in London to buy a beret, I waited to feel like a foreigners both in France and England to buy my first striped Petit Bateau. More than mere elegance or fashion, stripes have become an outside display and a strong part of my identity.

The lovely Fashion Carrousel did a great post last year with the best marinières in fashion shoots.

Here is a selection of my favourite stripes at the moment:

Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Striped knitted cotton top, on sale £92.25 from The Outnet

Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Striped cotton dress on sale £101.25 from The Outnet

Sonia by Sonia Rykiel, Cotton sailor dress on sale £74.25 from The Outnet

Rochas, Striped cotton dress £505 from Net-a-Porter

Posted at 6:11pm and tagged with: first person, dream shopping, stripe, net-a-porter,.