Saturday, March 08, 2008

International Women's Day with Elsa Schiaparelli

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day and I thought I'd take this opportunity to celebrate an extraordinary lady, the fiercely independent fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli whose engrossing autobiography, Shocking Life, I am reading at the moment. The bold color on the book cover is Schiap's trademark Shocking Pink, an acid hue I too love. Thanks not only to Schiap but also to Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet and Jeanne Lanvin, it seems that the 1920's-30's was really a golden age for women designers...
Lately I've really been into outstanding women's bios - Katherine Frank's Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi is next on my reading list. (If anyone has book recommendations, I'd love to hear them!).
It always makes me sad when girlfriends of mine think feminist is a dirty word, or that in our day and age it is no longer necessary to take a strong stand in favor of women's rights. I remember the day when, aged 9, I stepped into class, wearing glasses for the first time; my teacher (ironically, a woman) gave me a bright smile and said "Oh, you look just like a little secretary!". She would never have said that to a boy. I'm sure she meant it as a compliment, but in the end it's remarks such as that one that cripple women's ambitions.

15 comments:

pve design said...

Adore "Schiaparelli Pink" and women with glasses and guts to stand out strong!

marie said...

oh nice post!

i'm reading (its not a biography though) katherine mansfield's collected stories..they are beautiful

and did you know that virginia woolf (i love her work so much) 'confessed' mansfield's writing to be the only she was ever jealous of!

Ekub said...

I agree, I hate it when other women tell me that feminism is a nasty word. I also enjoy reading boigraphies of different kind of women. Lately I've been reading about the lives of Finnish women artists and last autumn I took a very interesting tour of Maja Plisetskaja's (the prima-ballerina) life!

Bexy said...

surely women could/should be offended by this?
i absolutely understand what you mean, however, as someone who does a job that people assume holds no ambition,prospects or value - i'm an assistant in a shoe store(incidentally i also used to be a PA)i constantly feel the need to defend myself and i how i make a living but why should i have to? many retail directors began as area managers, began as store managers, began as shop assistants.
i do believe that perceptions of women and our capabilities are changing for the better (still some way to go yet) but lets not forget the pivotal role that secretaries play in major corporations. lets also not forget that many make an excellent salary and get to travel the world.yes, many of these secretaries are women - but could men handle it?

will absolutely read this book btw, love her ;)

Bexy said...

p.s
i'm not an angry loon and i do believe that women should have ambition, but one persons ambition is different to anothers. we don't all have to be rocket scientists and astronauts, as long as we all want to be better people i believe that is ambition enough.

god, was that another rant? whats wrong with me today?

beXy

Bexy said...

p.s
i'm not an angry loon and i do believe that women should have ambition, but one persons ambition is different to anothers. we don't all have to be rocket scientists and astronauts, as long as we all want to be better people i believe that is ambition enough.

god, was that another rant? whats wrong with me today?

beXy

laura said...

YES! stand still and be strong!

Bitterbetty said...

I'm sure she meant too say Secretary Of State, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Education... or something of the sort.

I adore reading old books (I just finished "Ask A Man" by Arlene Dahl, the very antithesis of feminist) and reminding myself how far we HAVE come... and then listening to the news of the world and realizing there is still a long way to go.

Chloé Dreyfus said...

I wish i could eard it this summer.

Mary-Laure said...

PVE - I was so sure you'd be an Elsa fan...

Marie - thanks for the recommendation! I didn't know Virginia Woolf had said that about Mansfield, and now I really want to read her stories...

Ekub - are the books about Finnish artist women published in English?
Also, it's funny you mention Maya Plisetskaya, because she is my absolute IDOL! I read her autobiography and loved it!

Bexy - I hope what I wrote didn't hurt you. I always say that if I have kids, I will encourage them to be whatever they want, whether a truck driver, a gardener, an artist or an astronaut.
I have a friend who left a top job on Wall Street to work in a restaurant kitchen, and I admire that VERY much because she went for what makes her feel good rather than what society considers enviable. Another friend (a boy) dropped a "good" job at a top consulting firm because he wants to just do something that makes him happy, not something that just comes with a big paycheck. I also greatly admire that.
(BTW, I too am amazed sometimes to see how dysfunctional some top execs seem to be when their PA is away!)
What I object to is teachers treating boys and girls differently. A report on French schools pointed out that the word GLOVES was explained as follows in a 1rst grade reading manual: "Mum wears gloves to wash the dishes. Dad wears gloves to ride his motorbike"...
See what I mean?

Kwana said...

Great post! We women must stay strong and never forget. Oh, Jack says, bonjour!

Topsy Turvy said...

Well said! It IS very sad when women themselves don't even realize how and when they are being denigrated and discounted. Our current pres. campaign is a perfect example. Lana

Mary-Laure said...

Topsy-turvy - yes, I TOTALLY agree! Notice how of ALL the presidential candidates, only 1 is always referred to by her first name, and guess what, she's the only woman?
It was the same thing last year in France during the presidential election, when the only female candidate, Ségolène Royal, was always the only one who was referred to by her first name...
Coincidence? I think not...

Line said...

Thank you for this recommendation - I will read the book for sure! On my own list is the biography of Tove Jansson who wrote the moomin-books. She was a hard working woman - always inspiring.

I so agree that a feminist perspective is still needed today on so many levels, and i am so proud to have given birth to my son on this 8. march!

Mary-Laure said...

Line, congratulations! Babies bring such JOY, they are just amazing. I love them... I am sure your baby is beautiful and hope both he and his mum are healthy...