18th century France, American fashion, Arizona State University, City of Light, Edith Kunz, Emilie du Chatelet, Fatale: How French Women Do It, femme fatales, France, francophile, French culture, French fashion, Goldwater's Department Store, Hermès, Madame de Pompadour, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Napoleon Bonaparte, Paris, Paris Passion Places by Edith Kunz and Jennifer Gulledge, Passionate Minds by David Bodanis, Saint Laurent, Sarah Bakewell How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts to an Answer, Sonia Rykiel, The Essays of Montaigne, The Merits of Middle-Aged Men and Where to Find Them by Edith Kunz, University of Denver, vintage French fashions, Voltaire, women of a certain age
Edith Kunz author of Fatale: How French Women Do It peeks at the mysterious ways Frenchwomen manage to appear sexy, smart and recklessly chic. Clues unmask the delicious deceptions plotted by Frenchwomen while suggesting how contemporary women can flirt like a coquette, charm like a courtesan and emit sensuality with cool confidence by merely adjusting one’s attitude and garter belt. For those who savor French finesse and style, Edith’s book serves up lessons and advice to feast upon from historical and present-day femme fatales.
Fatale: How French Women Do It was published in 2000 and is still in constant demand, now in its third printing. Edith’s writing showcases her profound knowledge on the topic, solid grasp of history, and formidable wit.
Edith is a graduate of the University of Denver and retired from a successful career in retail merchandising with Goldwater’s Department Store. She serves on the advisory board of the Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture at Arizona State University. A committed Francophile since childhood, for the past several decades she has chosen to live part of each year in Paris. During the winter she resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband. Their adult daughters live in the U.S.A. Edith says that the distinct contrast between the serene beauty of Arizona and the urbanity of Paris invigorates the senses, offering an ideal lifestyle for a writer.
In addition to Fatale, Edith has also published:
The Merits of Middle-Aged Men and Where to Find Them. The book, published in 2010, answers the question: how does a single, intelligent woman of a “certain age” find a worthy candidate who is willing to satisfy her fermenting sentiments? Edith’s book provides a solution for those en route to romance who seek an alternative to the many popular match-up websites. The book is based on the premise that attractive, seasoned (as in “improved with age”) and unattached men do exist for this chaotic, modern world, and that many of these desirable, mature males are out there lookingfor a compatible companion.
Paris Passion Places. This romantic guide to Paris, by Edith Kunz and illustrated by Jennifer Gulledge, has served as a timeless manual to the City of Light for decades.
Fatale: How French Women Do It
AWP: You are the author of Fatale: How French Women Do It. What inspired you to write this book? What influenced your vision?
EK: In the late 1980s I began living in Paris for six months every year and upon my return to the U.S. each autumn my friends constantly inquired about “the mystique of the French allure.” I began writing my answers on paper and, voilà, it became a book.
AWP: You came from the world of retail merchandising. You have great insights into the body and how the body communicates, how the body moves; a theme that runs throughout Fatale, sharing with us how French women do it. What was the most surprising thing you learned about French women?
EK: French women do not “talk” about their personal style, body maintenance, bedroom secrets, or shopping habits…they merely get it done, and remain quietly confident about their private routines.
AWP: Fatale has had a huge impact on women. Now in its third printing, what do you think it is about your book that makes women connect in such a powerful way?
EK: The book includes amusing historical tales about famous French women who have struggled through wars, plagues, male political dominance, gender prejudice, and primitive birth methods; however, despite these challenges, French women seemed to gain status throughout the ages with courage, determination and wit.
AWP: What is the most valuable thing the Frenchwoman has to work with?
EK: Confidence and the ability to learn from history and literature.
AWP: Many French femme fatales are noted in your book. In particular, you write about Madame de Pompadour and her unerring style, wit and grace. What modern trend do you think she would love the most?
EK: The trend of more and more women occupying world positions as Heads of State.
AWP: What is it about women and Paris?
EK: My mind boils over with comments about that question. In short, Paris is a woman’s city: beautiful, gentle, sensitive and basically safe. One can have a love affair with the city itself.
AWP: Napoléon Bonaparte, (1769-1821) a reactionary pragmatist regarding women, said in a letter written in 1795: A woman, in order to know what is due her and what her power is, must live in Paris for six months. In what way does Napoléon’s statement hold true with your experience living in Paris? How is Napoléon’s statement understood by women of today?
EK: Of course, one cannot truly get into Napoléon’s mind and meaning. I would guess that the previous answer about Paris being a city where women can feel comfortable and appreciated helps a woman learn and come into her own.
AWP: An underlying theme in fashion is the message of freedom for women to experience their different selves or codify an articulate self. Why is this message significant, especially today?
EK: With so much emphasis on youth and classic beauty in the media, I feel a woman must have courage to be a confident individual no matter what her physical attributes are. I say, work on being brainy.
AWP: We all feel less spending power from the recent downturn in the world economy. What do French women do differently? What do you do differently? What wouldn’t you give up?
EK: It appears to me that French women tend to buy quality classic pieces that last for years and then update those items with a current accessory and cleverly mixing the basic piece in a new way, with a different pant, skirt, or blouse. Rarely do I see French women wearing their clothing the way it was presented in store windows or on the runway of a fashion show. Personally, I would not give up my gabardine black slacks, my YSL jacket, a short Sonia Rykiel black wrap skirt and my collection of vintage Hermès scarves.
AWP: How do you define style?
EK: The word “style” includes personality, individuality, wit, grace, confidence and inveterate good taste.
AWP: How do you express your own style or fashion?
EK: Simple, fun and low-key.
AWP: What modern trend do you love the most?
EK: Smart looking flats for safety on the Paris cobblestone streets.
AWP: What style advice would you like to share?
EK: Self-expression, confidence and comfort.
AWP: What is the best part about living in Paris?
EK: The beauty of the city and the cultural and intellectual atmosphere.
AWP: What French cultural nuances, attitudes, ideas or habits have you adopted? In which areas have you embraced a similar aesthetic?
EK: Hard to say, as I find it difficult to observe myself from the point of view of others. I find that I am more comfortable and confident “in my own skin” and I am not as concerned with the youth factor that is so prevalent among American women. Also, I have learned not to discuss health and physical maintenance habits with men or for that matter, in great detail with anyone except a doctor or beauty technician.
AWP: Describe your own “Paris.”
EK: The answering of this question would have to take place at a sidewalk café with a bottle of wine and a French omelette.
AWP: Name the single book, movie, work of art or music, fashion or cuisine that has inspired you.
EK: The Essays of Montaigne say it all for me. Any published version of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne’s thoughts and philosophy is rich in advice for living a satisfying life. I particularly like Sarah Bakewell’s book, How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer.
AWP: What is the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
EK: Passionate Minds, by David Bodanis. I like biographies and this one features the love affair between the scientist, Emilie du Chatelet, and the philosopher, Voltaire, in the 18th century. It is a good lesson about the allure of intelligence when worn with confidence by a woman.
ART OF LIVING
AWP: Tell us something we don’t know about Paris.
EK: How about a lesson concerning the magnificent public bus system on clean, comfortable and delightfully entertaining buses that provides an inexpensive way to get around Paris.
AWP: You’ve just published your third book, The Merits of Middle-Aged Men and Where to Find Them. You have great wit! What made you want to write it?
EK: I have always enjoyed mature, educated and confident men and I think sometimes the merits of older men are not appreciated. I want to applaud them when they deserve it.
AWP: In the writing of your first book, Paris Passion Places, a romantic guide to Paris, what was the most surprising thing you learned?
EK: I was surprised to learn that some of the private parlors for two still exist in a few Paris restaurants.
AWP: Your passion for life is extraordinary. What’s next?
EK: Back to Paris in April.
SELECTED BOOKS BY EDITH KUNZ
The Merits of Middle-Aged Men and Where to Find Them. Big Red Dot Designs, 2010
Fatale: How French Women Do It. Bridgewood Press, 2000
Paris Passion Places, by Edith Kunz and illustrated by Jennifer Gulledge
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, French Impressions: Anne Fontaine’s white shirts and the color of happiness. Anne Fontaine, a Franco-Brazilian fashion designer, entrepreneur, businesswoman and philanthropist, known as the “queen of the white shirt,” brought new faces and unforeseen levels of diversity to the fashion industry. Thanks to her, the white shirt is now definitely a staple on women’s wardrobes as a key piece. Anne shares her rise in the industry and 2011 launch of The Anne Fontaine Foundation, which is committed to the reforestation of the Brazilian rain forest. (French)
French Impressions: Alice Kaplan – the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, on the process of transformation. Author and professor of French at Yale University, Ms. Kaplan discusses her new book, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the process of transformation. By entering into the lives of three important American women who studied in France, we learn how their year in France changed them and how they changed the world because of it.
French Impressions: Brooke Desnoës on dance, the finest expression of freedom. Brooke Desnoës discovered dance as a student of Sonia Arova, a former partner of Anton Dolin of the Royal Ballet and in 1987, after graduation from high school, joined the Scottish Ballet under the direction of Alexander Bennet. In 1990, she obtained a diploma as a professor of classical dance, while dancing in the Georgetown Ballet in Washington D.C. In 1997, Brooke returned to France and founded the Académie Américaine de Danse de Paris.
Ballet Flats in Paris: And God made Repetto, by Barbara Redmond who shares what she got from a pair of flats purchased in a ballet store in Paris; a feline, natural style from the toes up, a simple pair of shoes that transformed her whole look. Including the vimeos “Pas de Deux Coda,” by Opening Ceremony and “Repetto,” by Repetto, Paris.
French Lingerie: Mysterious and flirty, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience searching for the perfect lingerie in Paris boutiques and her “fitting” with the shop keeper, Madame, in a curtained room stripped to bare at Sabbia Rosa. Including a French to English vocabulary lesson for buying lingerie and a directory of Barbara’s favorite lingerie shops in Paris. (French)
A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre
We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)
Text copyright ©2013 Edith Kunz. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.