How Y2K Style Helped Me Dismantle the “French Girl” Myth

Robert Hundley

System Language is an essay collection that speaks to the ongoing conversation about elegance standards all-around the world—an exploration of where we came from and exactly where we’re headed.

At the switch of the millennium, when I was 14 several years aged, I was authorized to look at the Top Ten music films on MTV France each Sunday afternoon. The channel was a current addition to the French Television landscape, and it delivered intellect-boggling sartorial delights: Mariah Carey’s pink crochet top rated in “Heartbreaker” Christina Aguilera’s eyelash crystals in “Lady Marmalade” Jennifer Lopez’s shorter Juicy Couture ensemble in “I’m Real” Aliyah’s chokers and darkish makeup Britney’s small-increase denims. It was a window into a diverse type of distinctively American actuality, in which each and every color was saturated, every area was reflective, and every inch of skin was bare and toned. Week immediately after week, I absorbed it all, collecting cues that I tried to replicate in my bed room. To me, a terribly usual teenager—equal elements nerdy and anxious —Y2K trend (which is getting a renaissance on the runways, for anyone who has not discovered) seemed to stand for a variety of personal progress and a celebration of individuality, which was deeply aspirational.

It was also a blatant rejection of European savoir-vivre. On the streets of Paris, the logomania of storied maisons—Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and John Galliano’s Dior—was plastered across billboards, and attainable to me only as a result of titillating glances but on The Basic Lifestyle and in Suggest Girls, the very same monograms—heralded symbols worn solely by the Parisian grande bourgeoisie by using things that had been passed down from technology to generation—were recontextualized as gaudy accessories for teacup chihuahuas and pocket-sized flip telephones. All of the brash extravagance, the sexiness, and the exposed midriffs seemed central to celebrating a time period of self-exploration and expression that was frowned upon in France—and wholly antithetical to my possess life.

At the time, I was living in a grayish suburb outside the ring road, “Le Périphérique,” which separated Paris proper from its outskirts, and was for that reason frowned upon by the higher course. I experienced to cross this street every working day to achieve the non-public college my mothers and fathers had enrolled me in, the place, in addition to finding a fantastic instruction, I also acquired about class tensions, sexism, and how the two intertwine. I dressed in what my mom considered neutral and good clothes—plain denim jackets, shapeless corduroy trousers, brand-a lot less sneakers, a knockoff Eastpak and a bob—while the wealthier women appeared as nevertheless they experienced stepped out of a Comptoir des Cotonniers campaign: Stylistically, they had been indistinguishable from their mothers. The silhouettes were navy or beige, composed of trench coats, Repetto ballet flats, Vanessa Bruno purses in lieu of backpacks, and a discreet Chanel wallet or classic Cartier look at punctuated by the radical touch of a facet section. Their logos have been hushed, and only identifiable to a properly trained eye, and their bodies have been the natural way slim, like the French icons of the working day. But I did not will need Emmanuelle Béart, Sophie Marceau or Lou Doillon I experienced Mischa Barton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan! With each ab crunched, these ladies appeared to encourage the payoff of difficult operate, self-control, and self-advancement and the concept that you could be whoever you required to be—the polar opposite of a lifestyle of inherited “effortlessness.”

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