We are in 2020 and some French institutions are still trying to standardize women’s clothing. On September 21, 2020, the French Minister of National Education released the word “republican attire” to be worn in high school. A little bit problematic, in my opinion.
I am taken aback by this very new and very meaningless concept (from a legal standpoint, in particular) since I notice that we only talk about this “republican” type of outfit when it comes to women – rather young women for that matter, teenage girls.
I am also taken aback by this concept because Marianne, who personifies France, often has a bare breast, in her revolutionary version.
“Republican attire” means absolutely nothing, unless you’re dressed in blue, white and red all the time, maybe (wait for me, on this one).
Following this new concept of “republican attire”, Ifop (the French polling institute) published an equally disturbing poll, according to which what bothered a majority of respondents was linked to the sexualization of women’s outfit (sexualization they put in their gaze on the female body, whether it is about necklines, crop-tops, mini-skirts or even worse apparently, shorts) and not to seemliness (they don’t give a damn about ripped and frayed jeans).
I’ll be honest: the reasons leading to this survey, which was ultimately focused on female attire (since we were talking about bras, crop-tops, mini-skirts and female shorts) and the drawings that accompanied the survey were as disturbing as the results.
Disturbing results really, because 73% of French women are opposed to giving up the bra, because 62% of French people (men and women) are against plunging necklines (still it would be necessary to define the infamous plunge and its degree) and because crop-tops and shorts are devilish or almost.
Disturbing results really, because they demonstrate once again the difficulty of a society in de-eroticizing the female body.
Following this poll, Alain Finkielkraut, the famous (hum) French philosopher (hum) quietly announced on the radio waves that the sight of a crop-top on a teenage girl distracted him. Your cardboard virility, Alain, if I may.
Too veiled some time ago, the woman is now too uncovered. I have mixed feelings about the niqab and the burkini because I sometimes have the feeling that for some it’s a question of religious and societal pressure (a different type of societal pressure than the one which weighs on some women who want to be young and hypersexualized), but as a very last resort, I have decided to trust my sisters-women who are in the best position to know what to wear. In short, everyone should have the right to dress as they wish as long as they stay within the law.
There is no question of politics here, but I am realizing that women’s attire has, in fact, always been a political subject. The ones who burned their bras in 1968 won’t contradict me and the subject remains just as political today.
So here I am at 6.30 in the morning (because of a once curfew now transformed into a second lockdown) in an extremely thoughtful place, namely Convention street in Paris (which therefore refers to the revolutionary period of the Convention, which proclaimed the First Republic) in a dress just as thoughtful, namely an old French cancan outfit.
In blue, white, red, right? Republican enough for you, dear Minister of National Education?
Let’s take a minute here to talk about this very patriotic emblem that is the French cancan dress. Perfect illustration of the famous French spirit as seen by foreigners nowadays, it should be remembered that in its early days, the French cancan dress was worn without panties and was the prerogative of prostitutes who danced in the most suggestive way to attract potential clients. It has to be said, since it shows that social norms are constantly changing.
Here I am also in an outfit of boring simplicity (in the video because, well, I usually don’t run across the city in a French cancan dress): a black V-neck sweater, a gray three-quarter coat, black opaque tights, black heels and … black shorts (the famous shorts demonized by the results of the Ifop survey). Neither appropriate nor republican, if I believe the current government dogma (especially when you’re close to 46) but whatever.
No one will forbid me to wear shorts, a French cancan dress or anything. Let’s call this the “French spirit” 😉
Vintage French cancan dress from Marcel et Jeannette – Dior heels – YSL cuff