Thursday, 18 September 2014

Clothing Rules . . .

Clothing Choices: Set by the Rules


It is the middle of September and I am in the South-West of France. If you couldn't pick out the tourists in July and August, you can now. There is something askew about what tourists are choosing to wear. The locals have synchronized their clothing with the seasons but the tourists are hanging on to every summer-like temperature-relative day, symbolized by their clothing.

This last Sunday, it was most obvious. A woman I met at the brocante/vides grenier was wearing a swimsuit cover-up . . . too short and too skimpy, even though she has the body that can pull it off. Even in July and August, she should only be wearing this "outfit" at the beach and at the most, for lunch at a beachside cafĂ©. I don't think she realized how out-of-place she looked and if she did, of course, it is her prerogative. 

I felt as if I was wearing winter clothing in comparison. My skinny jeans and a t-shirt topped with a blazer, albeit I chose to wear sandals, seemed overdone but somehow in sync with the season and the crowd. I did end up taking my blazer off when I sat down for a coffee but for the most part, I did feel "more French" somehow. Anyone in beachwear or a "tanktop", in this particular location, was not French to be sure.

My French neighbours think I am a wimpy Canadian I am sure. They cannot understand how a woman who has seen and felt minus 40 is shivering when it is plus 24. It's the humidity I explain; Canadian winters are a dry cold. That, my friends is another post.

But what is it in my personality type that makes me want to blend in and not be designated as "tourist"? For the most part, it is the negativity with which this type of dress is regarded. One of my neighbours exemplified this by saying in a rather condescending tone, "Ah yes, but she isn't French". So you see, it is not so much a criticism but a fact, and so because she isn't French, she can be forgiven. Now I'm not French and as soon as I open my mouth, everyone knows for certain that I am not French. So why should I care? But I do.

It's all about clothing choices and of course, because I am my mother's daughter. My culture and socialization set the foundational clothing rules, which are affecting my clothing choices . . . don't wear white after Labour Day; only closed-in shoes from October to April; no tank tops, sleeveless shirts, short skirts, jeans or shorts in a church; wear beachwear on the street and you are sure to be designated as either "on holiday" or immature; don't wear more than three colours in an ensemble; don't wear joggers unless you are jogging; no black at weddings, no red at funerals . . . no this or that . . . make sure you wear . . . sigh . . .

Now, hey you, Mister can't you read? 
You got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat.
You can't even watch. No you can't eat.
You ain't supposed to be here.
Lyrics: Signs (1971)
Five Man Electrical Band (Canadian)

It's easy to say that one should live by his or her own rules; it's quite different to actually do it. I'll try my hardest to wear white linen today.


  1. As the transition from Summer to Fall gets under way, so is the way people are dressing in my part of the world. Darker colours, sweaters and boots are appearing everywhere. I'm resisting the trend for now and trying to soak up every last bit of Summer warmth. Shorts, sandals and flats for me (for now!)

    On to the weather. Many people don't know or have never felt very hot and very humid or very cold and very dry. I've always said it's easier to dress for a hot or cold dry climate than it is for a hot or cold humid climate. Humidity causes "bone chilling cold" or "unbearably hot" Yes a topic for another day.

    Nice tie in with the Five Man Electrical Band. I never knew they were from Canada.

    1. You, my friend, are like my British friends here - in denial, that the summer is coming to an end ;-). Keep wearing the flats, they are the perfect transition shoe from summer to winter (I think there's a post there).

      By the way, if you recognize Five Man Electrical Band, then you are revealing your age and so am I. I loved that song and still do. There's something about it that reminds me of a youthful rebelliousness that never was manifested.


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