June 12, 2009
Q What are French cuffs? Are they supposed to be classier than normal cuffs and where can I get women's shirts with French cuffs?
A There is nothing inherently classier about French cuffs, which are essentially cuffs that are folded back and fastened with cufflinks.
Much like the French manicure, which was invented in the 1970s for American Hollywood stars, the term French cuff became widely used in the United States because marketing types believed 'French' added a nice touch of European glamour.
Some fashion historians believe that the French cuff was, indeed, invented in France in the 19th century, where tailors were inspired by the turn-back cuffs of the characters in the Alexandre Dumas novel, The Count Of Monte Cristo.
It used to have more formal connotations - men wore it with a suit and tie for more formal occasions and French cuffs were typically seen on men of a certain social standing, such as chief executives and the like.
Nowadays, however, French cuffs have become more of a fashion statement than a status symbol. Men have started wearing French cuffs without jackets and with irreverent cufflinks. If you are a woman seeking style inspiration from menswear, the usual rules about French cuffs are even less applicable.
I suggest you take your cues from the dress code at your workplace. Consider women's shirts with French cuffs from Alain Figaret and Thomas Pink (prices start from around $200).
Remember, French cuffs tend to stand out - not least because the eye is inevitably drawn to the cufflinks - so if you are trying to look unobtrusively professional, stick to normal cuffs.
Q I'm bored of shopping holidays in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo. New York, London and Paris are too expensive for me. Are there any new and exciting shopping destinations that are affordable?
A It's always fun to explore new territory, so here are a few suggestions where the round-trip airfares cost under $1,000.
The Japanese city of Fukuoka was named Best Retail City by London-based lifestyle magazine Monocle last year for its winning combination of cosmopolitan variety and convenience with small-town charm.
Shopping highlights include Canal City, a humongous shopping and entertainment complex, as well as the chic boutiques in the downtown Tenjin neighbourhood.
Sydney is also becoming increasingly well-known for showcasing the work of Australian designers. Check out www.urbanboheme.com.au for up-to-date recommendations of where to find the latest hip boutiques and designers.
Now that the Olympics are over, you can also shop in Beijing with much less stress. Insiders recommend Gu Ba, a discount retailer - on the ground floor of Cofco Plaza and the 3.3 Building in Sanlitun Bar Street - that stocks trendy foreign and local labels.
The rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood of Nan Luo Gu Xiang (see www.nlgx.org for details) is also worth a visit for a glimpse of traditional Beijing and a sprinkling of indie stores.