Home Horror 3.0: How to Look Fench, Even If You Aren't


by Tiffany Lee Brown

So you want to seem French. You want the savoir faire of the glamourous Parisienne, the joie de vivre of a Provençal schoolgirl doing penance. Most of all, you ache for the suave, snooty spirit of the French Artiste, who gets laid no matter how pretentiously he opines. STIM's Home Haute Horreur shows you how: but first, you must acquire an appreciation for French decadence, the root of all great French looks.

Tiffany, you cute little bug.American decadence is all about bad drugs, sloppy clothes, and watery beer. Our Kerouacs and Carrolls attach romance to such pedestrian accessories as heroin and homelessness. Les Françaises, on the other hand, indulge in polygamy, prostitutes, perfume, fine wine, and furs. So trade in your crib for an opium den, your overgrown Friends shag for a sleek gamine 'do, your clunky laptop computer for a flea market fountain pen and a bottle of violet ink.

Attitude is the most important accessory for the would-be French decadent. Avoid potential pitfalls by adapting your tastes to your new rôle. Lose your Tarantino habit; insist that La Haine is far superior to Reservoir Dogs. Your favourite bad boy can no longer be WS Burroughs—adopt Jean Genet instead. While your common American pals swill microbrewed pale ale or martinis, you'll be sipping red wine or cognac. While they drop acid and play in the park, you'll take absinthe and paint in the dark. (Hint: do not chop off your ear and send it to your sweetheart. This has been done before.)

Feeling naughty? Climbing the scoreboard at the football stadium and flipping off the TV cameramen simply won't do. Choose a French form of mischief instead: decapitate an aristocrat, perhaps, or seduce your father. Going wacko? Don't join some cult or start taking out movie stars: folks like Charlie Manson and Patty Hearst make great role models for American kids, but not for artistes françaises. Take a cue from the Surrealists instead. Talk about how shooting into a crowded gallery would be the ultimate work of art (but Just Say Non to actually packing heat). Write heated poetry about your digestive system. Insist that everyone call you "Momo."

Once you've got the attitude, you're ready to achieve a panoply of classic French looks.

Zee French Artiste 1: le Painter-boy (2 photos, "wrong" and "right")

WRONG: Quelle horreur! This is the West Coast boy's interpretation of The Painter, an archetype he admires. But it takes more than a paintbrush and a surly attitude to convince girls that they want to pose nude for you—much less sleep with you. For that, you need the French touch.

RIGHT: Wow! Or as the French say, Oui! Our clumsy painter boy emerges a true artiste, like Cinderella from the pumpkin coach. How to achieve the look? Replace dumb American boy hat (stocking cap, pictured; baseball cap, worn either way 'round, not pictured) with a fine wool felt beret. T-shirts should be removed; instead, wear a fetching painter's frock or go bare-chested (especially if you paint with large, vigorous gestures, occasionally spitting at the canvas). The addition of spectacles says, "I know all about the Impressionists, but they are silly little men," while a finely-waxed moustache gives the face a Provençal heartiness. Top off the ensemble with a gaily-coloured scarf, tied at the neck, and you'll never be mistaken for a hetero American male again.

Zee French Artiste 2: la Noveliste (3 photos, one "wrong" and 2 "right". choose your fave!)

WRONG: Strewn with beer bottles and smelling of stale mac-n-cheese, the American writer's natural habitat is a dead giveaway. But even if she sat nonchalantly over a café crême at her local sidewalk boîte, our model's dishevelled clothes and burnt-out demeanor would read très americaine. Dad's old workshirt, black Levi's, and Converse All-Stars are plenty comfy, but what do they say about your artistic aspirations? Bukowski meets Courtney Love! How 1991—and, worse still, how very American!

RIGHT: Voilà! Awash in mystère and well-coiffed artiness, our gal has French Writer Babe written all over her. How did we achieve this transformation? Très simple.

The ratty hair and Minnie Mouse barrette were replaced with a chic bob. The Lulu bob is a staple among DIY home hairdressers: part hair in the centre. Chop ends in a straight line that falls just above your fabulously sculpted jawline. If desired, chop bangs in a straight line; add cloche or scarf to achieve a 1920s Parisienne aura that says I have just slept with your husband and I feel so... melancholique. For the full Anaïs effect, leave hair long in front. Let your handmaid create two perfect, subtle curls on either cheek while you gaze at the garden and plot the seduction of your psychiatrist.

To eliminate the "I live in Seattle and can drink more Old Crow than your grandpa" bagginess around the eyes, try the French Beauty Sleep Treatment. First, soak in a long, langorous bath brimming with hand-plucked French lavender and exotic Oriental perfumes. Secondly, make blissful, sensual love with the nearest oversexed expatriate, followed by a round of blind passion with your husband. Write about the both of them in your diary whilst wearing a silk kimono. Sleep 'til noon. This formula has worked like a charm for decades of gorgeous French women—if they can do it, why not you?

Zee Glamourous Parisienne (3 photos: 2 sillie paparrazzi types, one of mink underarm hair)

The Italians may have invented paparazzi, but French women can play the glamour game with unique aplomb. Dress, hair, and jewels should be simple and clean: leave the sequins to the American glitterati, and proclaim your wealth, taste, and status with the most classic of accessories—furs. Here, our model uses a mink stole ($15, St.Vincent de Paul) to achieve the Parisian glow. Larger, warmer pieces are best left to older women in New York or the Ukraine.

The accomodating mink has many uses. Your American identity will surely be discovered if you've shaved off your body hair. When you don't have time to grow out your underarms, just detach a mink from your stole. Tucked discreetly into your dress, your fuzzy friend peeks out from your faux-hairy armpit for that genuinely Continental look.

The glamourous Parisienne spends much of her time far from the city. To achieve a drowsy chic that says "I just meandered off a Mediterranean nude beach and aren't I fabulous?" make sure you have a carcinogenic tan at all times. When possible, appear nude or topless at casual beaches (use breast reduction surgery as necessary to achieve a truly chic French décolletage); a wide-brimmed hat is optional.

La Mignonne and her Adorable Kitté (1 photo, beret-wielding chickie avec Bella, the black cat, who did not allow herself to get stuffed into a handbag, though we really tried)

For extra Parisian authenticity, be sure to have a clever yet subtle tote bag available at all times. Use it to carry your favourite small dog or uncannily sedate feline companion. Kitty too playful for crowded Métro rides and walks along the Seine? Never fear: NyQuil softgel caps can easily be wrapped with chicken livers. Hold kitty's jaws open and insert this tasty treat—in minutes, kitty will be remarkably docile, ready to wander through Place des Vosges zipped into an oversize shoulderbag. Allergies? Not to worry: your local Goodwill features an outstanding array of stuffed animals, some of which walk, talk, bark, or squeal to give your ensemble added jeunesse.

Special Extra Added Bonus Photo: saying penance with genuine rosary beads whilst wearing beret and scarf!