The French Connection: Weighing In On Manicures

My Mama always said never to wear colored polish on your nails because it looks cheap too easily. Bright-red polish on the toes, however, is fine. And for god’s sake, no fake acrylic nails, ever, under any circumstances.

And that was the only advice I was given on manicures before I was sent out into the world.

I keep my nails natural, round, and trimmed. My toes are usually subdued versions of red, pink, or gold, depending on the season. And whenever I do have a public appearance schedule – something important – than I get my regular nails done up in a French manicure.

Sarah Brown at Vogue, however, asks in her essay French Toast, “How could something so terrifically tacky feel so chic?” and adds:

For if there is one beauty move that at a stroke (make that two strokes of bright, whitish varnish) will put you in the company of Carmela Soprano, Jenna Jameson, and soccer wives, it’s la manucure francaise –as it’s never called in France, possibly because in France nobody wears it, unless they’re Russian.

I can only assume she is referring to this little number:

On which point, I must immediately and enthusiastically agree with her. Sweet Lord have Mercy.

But she does have an excellent point – those days of long acrylic extensions, thick white ends, and general claw-like features are over. Way over. Praise Jesus.

So what’s a girl to do? I wear my French manicure with a softer white (no White-Out styled nails) and more subdued pink, and with a much thinner line. Ms. Brown also offers these suggestions:

  • Keep your lines thinner than French manicures-past; this keeps them different and modern
  • Keep them rounded so as to present the same curves at the tip and base – no square corners. (Says Jan Arnold of Creative Nail Design: “An almond-shaped nail does for the hand what a stiletto does for the foot.”)
  • Update your French by trying a Gatsby instead: a reversed French manicure. Ms. Brown has hers done by Kimmie K in Essie Marshmallow (for the moons) and Essie Sugar Daddy (for the tips)

  • Gina Viviano (who has done the nails of Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman, among others) seconds the dual-color scheme, suggesting Estee Lauder White Beige with Essie Baby’s Breath

  • Jin Soon Choi of the West Village recommends Essie True Love, a very sheer pink, with Sally Hansen Made You Blush opaque-pink tips


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