When I look back to my early grad school days in Paris, one scene in particular stands out. It was the morning after a very, shall we say, jovial midweek post-exam celebration and my new beau, an artistic and opinionated French classmate, had just slept over for the first time. With the day’s first lecture only 40 minutes away, he walked over to my tiny closet, evaluated its components, and asked me if he could borrow something to wear. Barely waiting for my stupefied nod of consent, he reached for my beloved oversize black Helmut Lang blazer, paired it with his own T-shirt and slim-cut jeans from the night before, and pronounced himself ready to roll.
In retrospect, that morning set a precedent for our short-lived—yet exceptionally fun and fashion-centric—liaison. There was the psychedelic Henrik Vibskov jacket (his) that I wore to celebrate every non-failed exam; the clear-framed Oliver Peoples sunglasses (mine) that were used to deter the rare rays of sun while sharing a 3 euro bottle of rosé by the Seine; the vintage velvet Sonia Rykiel leopard skirtsuit that we discovered at a thrift store during a school trip to Belgium, with him quickly claiming custody over the coveted Keith Richards–worthy jacket while offering to me the more impractical pencil skirt. We were probably destined for a pretty enviable joint wardrobe, but, alas, other obstacles got in the way.
My biggest fear during the 29th year of my life was that it would be my last summer of wearing cutoff jean shorts. In retrospect, I assume (or at least hope) that my frivolous concern had more to do with symbolism rather than vanity. After having spent my early 20s on an ever-swinging pendulum between who I should be and who I want to be, I had only recently grown entirely okay with my real self: my offbeat personality, my often unstable career as a freelance writer, and a style so basics-driven that I could easily get dressed in the dark. Denim shorts, worn not as weekend gear, but almost as a warm-weather uniform, paired with linen button-downs and Converse sneakers, felt like an emblem of this self-acceptance, which made the thought of retiring them at the age of 30 feel hasty, unnecessary, just flat-out wrong.
I realize that there is no longer a rule that dictates a cutoff age for cutoff denim—or any other youthful clothing item, for that matter. I’m aware, technically, that 30 is about coming into your true self, about having amazing sex, about blossoming into a real woman in the best sense of the word. And yet, sometimes all it takes is yet another profile of an over-accomplished young mother-slash-entrepreneur-slash-style-icon showing off her impossibly chic existence (as satirized in this brilliant Julie Houts illustration) to experience an urgent call-to-action to grow up in every realm of life. Or is this mindset a result of living in America, in a culture driven (and often, misled) by quantitative results? Are Europeans, particularly the French, who are known to celebrate the process of getting older, less fixated on age as the barometer of one’s life (and wardrobe)?
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Five decades after the first women’s rights activists burned their bras in a brave statement against female oppression, a new feminist wave has risen. From comedians like Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham creating bold female-centric content, to actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence and Emmy Rossum spearheading the fight for equal pay, to designers including Maria Grazia Chiuri and Miuccia Prada sending feminist-theme collections down the runway, this is a fight that has been brewing for years. Women have never been more resolved to equilibrate the ground we stand on once and for all, a quest that saw the fruits of its labor when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in November.
And yet the path to success is never linear. Despite all the attained growth, the recent Electoral College victory of an unabashed male chauvinist to America’s highest office of power has pivoted us back to a battlefield we thought we had left behind. “I think before the election, misogyny was very prevalent but it was more insidious. Now it’s in your face and blatant,” says Observer sex columnist Jasmine Lobe. “When [Donald] Trump said, ‘grab ’em by the pussy,’ he validated men’s bad behavior. I felt this new sense of danger and lawlessness.” In Trump’s America, misogyny is not only commonplace, it’s condoned.
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“I give up,” proclaims a girlfriend, flinging her cherished iPhone 7 on the table as though it were an explosive device. Given the rate at which it is spewing out a stream of notifications, stemming from none other than five dating apps (full disclosure—she has a separate folder), it certainly seems like a threat to one’s sanity at the very least.
Over the past year, online dating fatigue has become a justifiable phenomenon that is forcing more single people to adopt a blasé approach or even abandon it altogether. In addition to the stupefying abundance of options, there is the deteriorating quality of interactions and consequent dates. In the off chance that you manage to break the virtual barrier and coordinate a physical rendezvous, there is a high likelihood the person will have mentally checked out by the second cocktail, eager to swipe on to the next B-list bikini model. With dating apps as our metaphorical free pass, we appear to be zipping through this dystopian carnival of love with our trademark extremism, only to be confronted by an ardent sense of nausea at the end of each ride.
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As anybody who has ever dipped into the perplexing landscape of modern romance knows, keeping up with the associated vernacular is about as challenging as keeping up with the latest denim trend, and a lot less enjoyable. First came “ghosting,” the vanishing act that made it normal—if not exactly acceptable—for the object of one’s once-reciprocated interest to disappear into the abyss without as much as a mere warning. Now comes its commitment-phobe cousin, courtesy of New York Magazine writer Jason Chen: “benching,” a sports-inspired furthering of the concept of leading someone on. It entails keeping someone hanging for extended periods of time, occasionally throwing them a bone in the form of a casual text, while never allowing for the relationship to transition into anything remotely substantial (i.e., keeping a player on the bench as a backup while you pursue others whom you might prefer to, shall we say, “put in play” first).
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Liberté, égalité, fraternité—liberty, equality, fraternity. In our tumultuous, often unpredictable world, one must honor any reason to celebrate these three guiding principles of human camaraderie. Since most of us cannot exactly ring in tomorrow’s Bastille Day by frolicking around revolutionary stomping grounds, we propose that you do the next best thing and channel your inner French citoyenne through the wardrobe staples that truly speak to her liberal spirit—her accessories. Just like the emblematic national motto, the Parisienne’s approach to accessorizing is part of her inherent independent sensibility, rooted in timeless style and personal pieces that truly connect with their owner. A French girl usually goes for discreet, carefully selected accessories that never adhere to trends or overwhelm her outfit, but instead relay her personal story, one unique detail at a time.
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