Did you know that French men wear costumes to work?
‘Costard-cravate’ is the familiar term for a suit and tie, the uniform of the French businessman. The official name is le costume, or more correctly, according to the dictionary, le complet, although I have never heard this term used.
For special occasions, in a funny turn of franglais, they wear un smoking, or what we call a tuxedo. A.k.a. a monkey suit.
The business casual craze has been slow to catch on in France. Le costume is still de rigueur for les hommes in the corporate world, finance and politics. For women there’s a bit more flexibility but classic apparel for the career girl is un tailleur, or skirt suit.
This is slowly changing, however, in the much of the European business world. My husband, who now manages IT projects for a biopharma company, goes to work in jeans and sports gear. Dressing up means wearing chinos and a shirt with a collar. I have to admit I prefer this most of the time. But I sort of miss seeing him in a suit now and then.
When I was a kid, my Dad would leave for work every morning in a suit and tie, usually topped by an overcoat, a hat on his head and carrying a leather attaché case. I thought all men did this, until I discovered that not everyone’s Dad worked in an office.
Not having to wear a suit and tie is one of the reasons I’m grateful not to be a man.
When I first left school and went to work in an office, I hated having to put on stockings and heels. Dressing up like a secretary felt a lot like wearing a costume. So I decided to get a job in advertising, where only the suits wore suits. Copywriters and art directors could get away with just about anything as long as they were ‘creative.’
Now I work freelance and when I go to out to client meetings I try to look professional yet still feel like myself. The rest of the time, working at my home office, I might wear the same clothes that I do for yoga.
What about you? Is it costard-cravate or do you prefer to keep it casual?
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