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Les Femmes Chics De Paris: A Look Into France's Trendy Pin-up Subculture.

France has been known as the fashion capital of the world; It was the first country to realize that fashion could become a real money maker. With the invention of Haute Couture (when you fit clothing to each individual client) and Coco Chanel shunning uncomfortable garments such as the corset, and defying gender roles by popularizing trousers as women's wear in the '20s. You could say that Fashion is to France what the mines of Peru are to Spain. That’s why many people assume that everyone there is always immaculately dressed, and very “proper.” Many would go as far to say they’re “stuck up” because of that.

I spoke to Marion Berrou-Drand. A French pin-up model that goes by the name of “Marion DollyKitten” to find out what it's really like to be a pin-up in France; I wanted to see if it’s really more of a normality to dress in such a way, or if it’s just as uncommon to as it is in the U.S.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your life and how it led you to start wearing vintage fashion?

A: “I’ve been a French Vintage Model for American companies since 2011; I live in Lyon, a lovely city in the center of France that’s full of amazing architecture. I was a receptionist in America and I was lucky because my job let me wear my own style at work. I started a few years ago because I was intrigued by the elegance of vintage style fashion. 

My grandmother was a very elegant and classy lady; Everybody knew her because of her kindness and her perfect style. She always wore jewels, tailors, scarfs and gloves. One day, I discovered a Facebook profile of a British women who happened to dress in vintage fashion; I decided to start dressing like her because I never saw anything like it. I started to wear everything I had after my grandmother's death and I wore it every day.”

Q: What’s been your experience wearing vintage fashion so far?

A: “Thanks to my passion for vintage and pin-up style fashion, I met a lot of amazing people at vintage and Rockabilly events. I started to participate in vintage fashion shows and I met some photographers. That’s how I started my modeling career. This year, I was a finalist for the famous Viva Las Vegas Pin-up Contest. I was very proud of it because it's very hard to be selected!”

Q: Which era of fashion do you like to wear the most and why?

A: “I prefer wearing '40s fashion; because of the hats and the cut of the clothes. It was the most impressive period for fashion and history. But I often wear '50s fashion because I love the cut of it, the hairstyles, and it's easier to find pieces from that era. One of my best friends wears '30s fashion every day - I try wearing it too - but it's harder to find real '30s pieces.”

Q: Do you have any tips for maintaining a pin-up look?

A: “You just have to be yourself! There are a lot of different styles of pin-up. You can go on Instagram and find shops that sell the style you want. I prefer wearing authentic vintage clothing because I can find it easily in Paris or on Etsy. It depends on your own preference, find an easy hairstyle which is vintage style, but doesn't take too much to keep up. Your hairstyle is really important when you're going for a vintage look.“

Q: How do people in France react to the way you dress?

A: “It depends on the people and place. Teenagers don't understand, so they don't really like it. To them, I look like their grandparents! But in general, people like it. Sometimes they compliment me but when I go to a little village, it's quite different. Because it's unusual for people. They don't understand what it is or where it comes from.“

Q: What is it like being from France in the pin-up community? How have they treated you so far?

A: “I think people around the world have their own image of a French woman. So sometimes, when I say I'm French, they look at me and say “Oh yes! of course, you're French! You look French!” But in general, they're always kind to me, and they love my French accent!

Q: What’s it like being a pin-up girl in France? 

A: “When I started in 2011, there wasn't a lot of pin-up girls. People didn't know anything about it. In the beginning, it was quite hard because of people being judgemental. But after a few years, a lot of pin-up events were created and people started to discover what a pin-up girl is, and what vintage fashion is. Now, there are more and more people with an eccentric style, so it's easier to walk around and ignore people staring at me.“

Q: Here in the US, there are very large pin-up communities. What about in France? Are there a lot of women who wear pin-up fashion there? 

A:  “There is a kind of fad with the pin-up style, there are a lot of pinup events and with the social media and the television people really know that there are a community of vintage and Rockabilly people in France and all around the world. So there are a lot of girls who want to try this style which represent femininity for a lot of them. Now, there is a big pin-up contest in France called "Miss Pin-up France" And there are more and more ladies who try to win it. That just shows how much the pin-up community is growing in France.

Q: What’s your advice for French women who’d like to become pinups?

A: “Sometimes, women come to talk to me on Facebook or Instagram to ask me for some advice. I always tell them the same thing; love yourself, do what makes you happy, wear what you want, and stop waiting for permission from people. They will criticize you anyway.
If you want to find pin-up clothes, go to vintage markets or on the internet. There are websites like Collectif Clothing or Top vintage. If you want to learn how to recreate a vintage hairstyle there are a lot of tutorials on YouTube you can watch (it takes a lot of practice!)
It's a passion, that means it takes a lot of time. That's why you have to love it. Not just because it’s the latest trend; When I started dressing in pin-up style fashion, I spent a lot of time trying new hairstyles in my room. I was collecting a lot of jewelry and I was always trying new accessories like putting a scarf around my neck, or putting a belt around my waist, etc. I loved doing that! That's how I started to fall in love with it."

Q: Any up and coming projects we can look forward to?

A: “I'm going to live in New Zealand for a year. I will visit Australia too and maybe some other countries as well! You can follow me on my Instagram to keep up with me."