Celebrity news, beauty, fashion advice, and fascinating features, delivered straight to your inbox!
Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
American women glamorize French women to the point of idolatry. There’s a persistent stereotype on this side of the Atlantic that French women don’t get fat despite unlimited access to croissants, possess flawless style, and never age. And crucially, that this perfection is all completely effortless. After all, in France, it’s considered faux pas to reveal any effort to stay young and thin—and that’s where the real trouble starts. “Our sublimated bodies sell everything," says Anna Solé, a photographer and videographer in Paris. “And they never seem to get fat, nor grow older, nor have any gray hair. Personally, I am out of step with what society expects of me and how I want to live.” While the negative effects these impossible standards have on French women are obvious, they're to the detriment of American women, too. At best, the “quintessential French woman” makes us believe that there's a secret to looking eternally 25; at worst, she makes us feel like we’ll never be privy to it (no matter how much serum we buy).
For MarieClaire.com’s Women Bylines series (a partnership with Gucci’s CHIME FOR CHANGE campaign that strengthens the voices of women around the world), we documented the pervasive social pressure French women face to stay young and beautiful. Through interviews with French women, Wrinkles in Paradise challenges the myth that they are apathetic about aging, and instead reveals that France’s inflexible beauty norms have resulted in a cultural stigma against women over the age of 40.
“You’ve got to conform to this image. You’ve got to be nice, slim, and forever young. [The pressure] makes you feel like having a facelift every three weeks,” says Eva, an actress. If you think she’s exaggerating, stop at a French pharmacy, where you’ll find a section labeled “Minceur" (skinniness), featuring all manner of pills and powders to rev metabolism or dull appetite. It’s a far cry from the Diet and Nutrition aisle of your local drugstore, and underscores the societal priority that French females keep their weight in check.
The “sexy waif” mandate is just one facet of France’s damaging, youthful female ideal. When you’re a French woman, to age is to fail. “I decided to stop dyeing my gray hair, and had a meeting with a client who I hadn’t seen in a year. He welcomed me with, ‘Oh la la la la, we’re neglecting ourselves a bit, aren’t we?’ I was shocked," says Anna Solé. “In France, you almost start to be discriminated against when you’re a woman over 45 years old. You lose your value. You feel invisible.”
In a country that’s famous for its fashion and beautiful women, it’s not surprising that aging has become synonymous with inferiority. “As soon as you have two wrinkles, you’ll be asked if you’re considering plastic surgery,” says Malika, a CEO. “Nowadays at 40 you’re already ruined, but if you don’t take care of your face, the insults can become truly upsetting.” Adds, Aurelia, a student, “If you want to fit in, you have to be beautiful. If you’re not, you’re not worth anything.”
One silver lining? France's 64-year-old First Lady, who allegedly receives 200 letters a day thanking her for proving that older women can still attract young men. Says, Eva: “Now we have a First Lady who has been through menopause. Isn’t that great? She’s 25 years older than her husband. We love her.”
Prince Andrew Still Receiving Taxpayer-Funded Police Protection
Protecting the Duke of York doesn't come cheap.
By Alicia Lutes
Don't Insult Queen Elizabeth's Corgis
A family member said they "should be shot" and QEII had something to say about it.
By Alicia Lutes
How to Treat Hormonal Acne: A Dermatologist’s Guide
Peace out, PMS pimples.
By Samantha Holender
How 'Pachinko' Uses Beauty to Create a Timeless Period Piece
The series’s showrunner and hair and makeup designers on the show’s braids, less-is-more makeup, and creating “honest portraits.”
By Helen Li
What 'Femininity' Means in 2022
Malala, Amanda Gorman, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and more define the word on their own terms.
By Neha Prakash
Bridgerton's Hair and Makeup Designer Reveals the Beauty Products Fit for Royalty
Erika Ökvist takes us behind the scenes of the Netflix hit.
By Faith Cummings
The 2021 Book Releases to Order Now and Thank Yourself Later
New titles from Jennifer Weiner, Akwaeke Emezi, Sally Rooney, and more.
By Rachel Epstein
In 'We Are Not Like Them' Art Imitates Life—and (Hopefully) Vice Versa
Read an excerpt from the thought-provoking new book. Then, keep scrolling to discover how the authors, Jo Piazza and Christine Pride, navigated their own relationship while building a believable world for Riley and Jen—best friends, one Black, one white, dealing with the killing of an unarmed Black boy by a white police officer.
By Danielle McNally
Back to the Future
After 18 months that felt frozen in time, we're looking ahead. Our September 2021 Future Issue explores the fashion policy changes we need to make today to create a better world tomorrow, asks Tarana Burke what's next for #MeToo, and celebrates Yara Shahidi as the face and voice of a new generation.
By Marie Claire
Tarana Burke on the Past and Future of #MeToo
In her new memoir, Unbound, the activist examines how the movement was built. Here, she reflects on where #MeToo goes now.
By Neha Prakash
Wine Didn't Make Me a Better Mom
But you wouldn't know that scrolling through Instagram. Instead of peddling alcohol and memes, society should give women what they really need: support and resources.
By Kelley Manley