The French are so well known for their “Joie de Vivre” that the expression has slipped into the Anglo-Saxon lexicon as a celebration of good taste applied to the quotidian life style. Everybody has their own interpretation of what “Joie de Vivre” is, and we run the risk of being controversial when discussing lingerie.
Mireille Guiliano (the French-American author with her share of controversy) said “French women don’t have too many clothes – a few good pieces that last for a while and are classic and timeless.” French women, as a ridiculous generalization, seem to regard clothes with a far more utilitarian eye than American women. Clothes should be as elegant as they are functional precisely because they will be worn without regard for their specialness.
When it comes to lingerie, we are not shy about expressing our own opinions on the matter. “Lingerie” and “sous-vêtement” are a lot more synonymous in French than “lingerie” and “underwear” are in English. There is no covert department store section at “Galeries Lafayette” or “Au Printemps” to enjoy a selection of lingerie. Wearing lingerie in France falls into that daily manifestation of “Joie de Vivre”. Why should fine lingerie be worn guiltily only on exceptional occasions, in much the same way that why should one only drink quality Champagne once a year and only eat gastronomic meals when the mood takes you? Why mortgage one’s life to only enjoy the finest pleasures on an infrequent and erratic basis?
The suggestion that lingerie is to be enjoyed daily, rather than as a hedonistic fling, may have to do with the origins of the word. “Linge” or laundry came into the French language in the 12th Century, derived from the Latin “lineus“. “Linge” comes from the word for linen fabric, a cloth with a strictly utilitarian function. From there comes the word “lingerie” that means anything somewhat related to laundry, including a laundry closet in a grand home and the manufacture of fabric items. You see how the word in French is really rather unglamorous, almost pedestrian, definitely quotidian?
So we propose a campaign, a revolution in the tradition of Bastille Day. Let’s take silk lingerie out of its ivory tower and make it available to the people. Democratize it, so to speak. Lingerie that is classic and timeless never goes out of fashion. Let’s make it a daily necessity, rather than a naughty indulgence.
We have just the garments that can bring back some “Joie de Vivre”.