Hi this is the website for my new book, Two Lipsticks and a lover. I loved writing it because it is about my favourite subject, style, fashion and France, and I hope the information here will give you an idea of what the book is about and why I wanted to write a book about all the style tricks that French women seem to be born with. You can always email me by clicking on my photograph above. I love hearing feed-back or questions from readers!
First Chapter from Two Lipsticks & a Lover
The first time I visited Paris I stayed with a dancer come stripper who worked at the Lido Nightclub. I was fourteen years old. My father, in those days a bit of a charmer, had arranged to meet me there for the Easter holidays. He lived in Italy but was travelling to meet me via the Riviera. When I arrived at his hotel, I was told my father was not there, but that the concierge had a telegram for me. It was from my father: ‘Have been delayed by a bottom in St Tropez. Call Sophie. Stay with her until I get there.’ I asked the concierge to call the number on the telegram and spoke to Sophie. She told me that my father had arranged everything with her and to get a taxi to an address which she gave to the concierge.
I was furious when I got into the cab. What was he doing sending me off to some unknown woman? Who was she anyway? Undoubtedly another one of his many girlfriends. My parents had been divorced for years, but his behaviour maddened me nonetheless. When I got there, Sophie was waiting outside her apartment on the rue du Bac. She must have been in her early twenties, but to me she looked incredibly grown up and glamorous. She was tall and thin, her dark hair cut in a classic Parisian-style bobbed haircut. She wore red lipstick, jeans and a black polo-neck jumper. When I got out of the car, she threw her arms around me and kissed me. Being an English-educated girl, this took me by surprise, but I followed her into her apartment anyway.
Sophie lived in a one-bedroom studio which was incredibly Zen. She had some plants and a picture of Audrey Hepburn on the wall. There was a tiny balcony which looked out over the rue du Bac below. I didn’t know who Audrey Hepburn was, but thought they looked very similar. In fact Sophie looked to me totally perfect. Slim, incredibly pretty, elegant and sophisticated. Exactly how I’d imagined a French woman should be. As the young heroine Cécile says of Anne Larsen in the book Bonjour Tristesse: ‘To her I owed my first glimpse of elegance.’
I stayed with Sophie for three days while waiting for my father. She worked at night, so didn’t get up until midday. We spent the afternoons together, leading an almost Claudine-style existence. Me as Colette’s heroine Claudine and Sophie as Mademoiselle Aimée, the teacher she develops a crush on. I loved her clothes and look: she was always perfectly turned out. She seemed to me like a film star. I idolised her in the way a little girl idolises a fairy princess. Even when she first woke up, Sophie would look impossibly elegant in her cashmere dressing gown and hair loosely tied up. I was also astounded by the amount of time she spent covering her body and face with lotions. I had never seen a bathroom with so many magical-looking bottles. I must have driven her mad asking what every single one was. ‘You don’t really need all this,’ she told me one day. ‘All you really need to be a French woman are two lipsticks and a lover.’ I asked her why two lipsticks and she looked at me in amazement. ‘One for the day and the other for the evening of course.’ I was too embarrassed to ask about the lover.
A few months after I went home, the image of Sophie with all her elegance faded. It wasn’t until I moved to France a few years ago that I started to think about her again and realise that if I was ever going to fit in I was going to have to become more like Sophie. Although our move had gone well and we were very happy, we were always referred to as ‘The English on the hill.’ I realised that it wasn’t just our accents that set us apart. I looked different to the women around me. I simply wasn’t as stylish. Whatever it was they had, I hadn’t got.
When we still lived in England, I thought I looked pretty good. In no way did I think my style was vulgar or tacky, that my skirts were too short, my legs too hairy or my shoes too cheap. But after a few months in France I realised that I stood out as a foreigner in every way. I had to change if I was ever going to be accepted in my new country.
But where to start?
'A fascinating - and illuminating - read.'
'Witty, and very elegantly written.'
Some of the publicity for Helena's book:
Sunday Times serialisation
Daily Mail serialisation
Daily Telegraph, Spy
Teletext on ITV interview, page 571
Daily Mail diary, Richard Kay
Sunday Times letters page, Ooh la la
Daily Telegraph, Feature on French shopping
www.guardian.co.uk/books Ten sexiest French books
www.femail.co.uk web chat
www.dailymail.co.uk, editor’s choice
TV SKY News
TV Channel 5 News
RTE Gerry Ryan Show
BBC London Vanessa Feltz
BBC Scotland MacAulay & Co
LBC Sandi Toksvig show
BBC Wales Nicola Heywood Thomas Show
BBC Derby Shane O’Connor Show
BBC Cumbria Paul Braithwaite
BBC Coventry Annie Othen show
BBC WM Danny Kelly show
Two Lipstick & A Lover
£12 isbn 1-903933-67-6
If you would like to order a copy at £9.99 free of UK p&p, do call Bookshop Direct on 08700 748 494.
Why are French women more elegant
and more sexy?
Find out in Helena Frith Powell's riveting new book Two Lipstick & A Lover!