Diana Vreeland is said to have quipped, "To have style you have to be born in Paris." Dommage for Vreeland and the rest of us Americans, non?
Fortunately, for the past nine years, we've had Mireille Guiliano as our guide to all things French. Her first book, "French Women Don't Get Fat," sold over 3 million copies and landed on the New York Times best-seller list. In her latest book, the soon-to-be released "French Women Don't Get Facelifts," the author delves into what makes our European counterparts age so gracefully. We sat down with Guiliano recently to discuss just what Americans can learn about aging à la française.
As the former CEO of wine importer Cliquiot at Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, Guiliano has spent the past 40 years living in America, taking note of our grooming idiosyncrasies. Though some of the tips she doles out require more money and energy than most women are willing to put forward, she says you don't need hours of preening or a $300 jar of cream to look good. Just stick to the basics: Wash your face and moisturize everyday. No exceptions.
"There are these little rituals that don't take much time or effort," she says. "But they do matter if you accumulate the mistakes."
Be confident -- looking young starts with feeling young
Beyond simple grooming tips, what we can take from the French has more to do with attitude than anything else. Giuliano says that Americans tend to consider women in their 40s "old," while a self-awareness of their persisting allure keeps French women in their 50s and beyond looking and feeling young. The confidence jolt Giuliano gets each time she goes back to Paris, she says, is palpable.
"There's a lot of flirtation and seduction that goes on in a very complex way that wouldn't happen here," she explains. "My husband says, 'You should keep going to Paris. It will keep you young forever.' Maybe not forever, but it certainly boosts your morale."
Giuliano herself has what many consider a "French" look: At 67 years old, she's tall, thin and has an expertly-cut bobbed hairstyle that would make Anna Wintour jealous. Her clothes are timeless, yet subtly sexy. And yes, she still wears high heels, even though she makes sure to bring a pair of flats to change into for long walks. It's certainly not hard to imagine a gentleman paying her a flirtatious compliment.
Try not to fixate on aging
As for the catchy title of her new book, Giuliano claims it came about after seeing how quickly ladies stateside would turn to Botox, facelifts and other procedures to maintain a youthful appearance. "They're very self-critical, but they're also under tremendous pressure from society," she says, adding that the media culture in America, which tends to put aging under a disparaging microscope, is partly to blame.
In France, staying young is not a topic of conversation, she explains. Women just know how to do it -- gradually and naturally. Plastic surgery just doesn't have the same draw as it does in the instant gratification culture of the States. (To provide some perspective, France had 207,049 cosmetic surgical procedures performed in 2011 compared to America's 1,094,146. Adjust that for population, and that leaves the US with about 10 procedures for every 1,000 people and France with 7 procedures for every 1,000 people.)
"I don't want to pass judgement, because everybody does what they want to do," she says. "But to a French person, [surgery] would be a last resort. There are lots of things you can do before that."
Like we said, Giuliano isn't peddling pricey products or time-consuming regimens. In fact, her favorite at-home anti-aging remedies include argan oil to moisturize her face ("one drop makes a huge difference") and olive oil as a hair mask. As for makeup, she operates under the less-is-more philosophy, claiming that if women stopped caking on the concealer and red lipstick, they would look "five years younger."
Embrace what makes you beautiful at the age you are
Perhaps her best piece of advice, however, is just to be bien dans sa peau, comfortable in your own skin, a phrase that crops up throughout "French Women Don't Get Facelifts." "I think every woman is beautiful," she says. "So you have to find what is it in you that makes you beautiful and play on that, as opposed to try to be trendy or want to remain young and dress like your daughter."
We think Diana Vreeland would agree that you certainly don't need to be born in Paris to do that.
Mireille Guiliano's "French Women Don't Get Facelifts" comes out on Dec. 24th.
This post has been updated with additional information about the per capita incidence of plastic surgery for the US and France.
If you needed more inspiration...
Curtis, 54, admits to getting Botox injections in the past, but insists that she regrets that decision. "I am appalled that the term we use to talk about aging is 'anti,'" Jamie Lee Curtis wrote in a blog post for Huff/Post50. "Aging is as natural as a baby's softness and scent. Aging is human evolution in its pure form."
Rossellini, 60, has often asserted that plastic surgery might be the new "foot binding" for women. As the former model told the Huffington Post: "I age, it just happens; it's like, tell a baby don't grow (but) it will grow. ... I age comfortably."
Diane, 66, has never had plastic surgery -- although she has said "never say never." Apparently the star of such films as "Annie Hall" is still on the fence.
After a botched Botox job a few years back left 56-year-old Delany with a droopy eye, the former "Desperate Housewives" star swore off plastic surgery.
Streep, 63, has often expressed her opposition to plastic surgery, being quoted as saying those who succumb to Botox draw more attention to their features than those who don't. The mother of four has said she prefers to age gracefully, without any artificial interference.
Thompson, 53, is so against plastic surgery that she's joined forces with friends Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet to form what they have dubbed the "British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League." She says it's awful that everyone thinks people, at 60, should look 30.
At 48, Hatcher admits that she has -- in the past -- tried Botox. But she now insists she's against the idea of plastic surgery, even going so far as to post photos of herself fresh out of the shower on Facebook so that everyone can see her wrinkles.
The sex symbol star of "Basic Instinct" admits she had a bit of work done on her lips following her divorce from San Francisco newspaper editor Phil Bronstein in 2004, but has since sworn off plastic surgery. The 54-year-old is even one of those stars that doesn't mind getting photographed without makeup. We love what she had to say about her fellow anti-plastic surgery supporter, Meryl Streep in an interview with Britain's Tattler magazine: "Meryl looks like an unmade bed. That's what I look like. To me, that looks true."
Jodie Foster just turned 50 and, as a former child star, may have felt pressure at times to remain youthful, looks-wise. But she has publicly declared opposition to plastic surgery, saying she'd rather "hear somebody say 'wow, that girl has a bad nose' than 'wow, that girl has a bad nose job.'"
At 45, Julia is not quite a boomer -- but she's pretty darn close. The star of such films as "Notting Hill" says that Botox just isn't for her. She told Access Hollywood, "I have three children who should know what emotion I’m feeling at the exact moment I’m feeling it."
Jon Stewart And 49 More Post 50s Who Are Aging Gracefully Older Actresses Over 50 Are Hitting The Big Screen This Fall 7 Biggest Beauty Blunders By Post 50 Women Susan Sarandon: Age Brings Character (VIDEO) Leading Men Over 50 Hitting The Big Screen This Holiday Season