My chosen feminist style icon

02 Mar
beach, smoking

Sitting together at the beach

As a child I had very strong likes and dislikes. My propensity for all things bright and colorful turned my mother into a very concerned citizen. I’m only paraphrasing slightly when I say that she would swear I dressed myself up like a Christmas tree when left to my own devices, having taken after my grandmother, the family magpie. I realize now that the analogy of the Christmas tree must have made more sense in French because it doesn’t really hold much drama when uttered in English.

That said, she meant I had too great of an enthusiasm for color and textures to meet the criteria of a lady, classy and tasteful. She had me pegged right. I still think fondly of my mémé Nadia (Najla) Bittar as my inspiration with regards to fashion. Stories of her eccentric behavior and questionable moral fiber flit about here and there, as a child I knew a very different woman.

It was 1972, a Parisian living in Lebanon. She was a woman who would not rely on a single man, she lived a fabulous life. The rose pink baroque velvet sofa, the glass-topped dining table and chandelier, the fox stole, the sequined dresses. Last but not least, the caribou bedroom slippers with the kitten heel. As child of five I was mesmerized by the magical natural of this opulence. Oh, my mémé must have been Liberace’s fantasy muse. She was a free spirit and she never turned down anything that glittered or shined.

She traveled and brought back trinkets from faraway places, she regaled tales with the theatrical intensity of Gloria Swanson, one captivating story after another. While adults might have tsk’ed-tsk’ed, she was my hero. Dressed to the nines every time she left the house, she drank Johnny Walker Red, smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes, straightened and bleached her curly black hair blond, outfitted her golden arms and fingers in costume jewelry and wore a lot of heavy eye make-up.

She carried herself with a glamour to inspire and mesmerize the young and innocent. She broke every rule about the expectations of women’s roles along the way. I’m not saying everything she did was right but she certainly did it her own way. While no one may have ever heard of her, Nadia Bittar is my chosen feminist style icon.

Check out these additional contributing Fashionable Feminist Icon posts for inspiration:
Hedy Lamarr – Adventures in Refashioning

Björk – Oranges and Apples

Christine Lagarde– Rags Against the Machine

Cindy Sherman – Mrs Bossa Does the Do

Claude Cahun – Cervixosaurus

Diane Von Furstenberg – For Those About to Shop

Elizabeth Smith Miller – Techie Style

Ellen Page – SK{ru}SH

Frida Kahlo – La Historiadora de Moda from Fashionable Academics

Frida Kahlo – Knitting Up the Ravelled Sleeve of Care

Gloria Steinem – Ef for Effort

Gloria Steinem – What If No-One’s Watching?

Gloria Trevi – Feministified

Grandmother – The House in the Clouds

Griselda Pollock – Magic Square Foundation

Marjane Satrapi – Jean of all Trades

Joan of Arc – Interrobangs Anonymous

Julia de Burgos – Mad Dress Game

Margaret Cho – What Are Years?

Rachel Carson – Aly en France

Siouxsie Sioux – Yo Ladies

Sydney Fox – My Illustrative Life

Vivienne Westwood – Seamstress Stories


Tags: ,

Leave a Reply


CommentLuv badge
  1. Gracey at Fashion for Giants

    March 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I loved this post. It was so beautifully written. Your grandmother sounds absolutely amazing and everything a girl could hope for in a grandmother. And a wonderful feminist style icon.
    Gracey at Fashion for Giants recently posted..Its Switzerland Week at Fashion For Giants

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      She was definitely quirky! I was definitely mesmerized by her life.

  2. cervixosaurus

    March 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    This is a darling post!! :) She sounds pretty hardcore and fabulous. My nanna is so old and proper and british, what a contrast.

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      Lol! I don’t think my mémé had a single proper bone in her! She was practically scandalous!

  3. Ofelia

    March 3, 2011 at 4:43 am

    This is such a heart felt post!!
    It is so wonderful when we can look back and find love, strength and style in our childhood memories!
    Fabienne, Lovely post
    Ofelia recently posted..Today we went

  4. Lee Oliveira

    March 3, 2011 at 5:08 am

    I never had a nanna but I had the best gram ever.
    Such a beautiful picture.
    lee x
    Lee Oliveira recently posted..Susie Bubble is a Style Bubble at Prabal Gurung

  5. Elly

    March 3, 2011 at 7:27 am

    What a lovely post. Your grandmother sounds like a terrific and inspiring woman… I love the line “never turned down anything that glittered or shined”! Also great to see an example of an independent, bold woman who also loved style, glamour, and beautiful things. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Elly recently posted..Fashionable Feminist Icon- Hedy Lamarr

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      She definitely made an impact on me. I loved your post about Hedy Lamarr, by the way. What a phenomenal woman.

  6. Franca

    March 3, 2011 at 7:31 am

    She must have been a wonderful woman!
    Franca recently posted..Fashionable Feminist Icon- Björk

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      She led a very interesting life and definitely made her mark.

  7. Bella Q

    March 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

    the family magpie- I love it. And can sooo relate. Wonderful choice, Fabu!
    Enter to Win My Shabby Apple Dress Give-Away- the Citizen Rosebud
    Bella Q recently posted..Sterling Style- My Mama Q

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      Lol! Now my youngest sister and I fight for that title!

  8. Fashnlvr

    March 3, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I loved reading this! Glad you had an inspirational figure for fashion and developing your uniqueness. I think I would have loved her – and wanted to emulate her as well!!
    Fashnlvr recently posted..30for30 Winter Challenge- Fashion Recap &amp Review

  9. Mrs Bossa

    March 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Wow, she sounds fantastic! My grandma used to dress me in shorts AND an underskirt. She does help me with charity shopping though!

    Beautifully written post – and lovely to read such a personal interpretation.
    Mrs Bossa recently posted..My Feminist Fashion Icon

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      You sound lucky in the grandma department, too!

  10. Señora Allnut

    March 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    such a wonderful woman!, I love what you’ve written about her as your icon!, I’m touched!

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      Thank you for saying that, it made me smile.

  11. Martha

    March 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    What a beautiful post, and even more beautiful photo!
    Martha recently posted..30 for 30- Day Twenty

  12. Terri

    March 3, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    When you described the caribou slippers with kitten heels, I imediately understood why she appealed to you…
    Terri recently posted..Feminist Fashion Icon- Christine Lagarde

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Yep. I left out her Hollywood lingerie nightgown and robe style. Incredibly impractical and glamorous.

  13. northwest is best

    March 4, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Great post – very touching.
    northwest is best recently posted..Girl Stalk- PJ Harvey- feminist fashion icon

  14. Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    March 6, 2011 at 6:58 am

    This is a wonderful post. She sounds like an inspirational woman (and one that I would have loved to go for a drink with). I think you are definitely taking her style and love of life, which really comes through in your blog.
    Emma at Daily Clothes Fix recently posted..30 for 30- They think its all over

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks, Emma. I like to think that I’ve taken some of the best she had to offer and added it to my own story.

  15. Cloud of Secrets

    March 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

    What a gorgeous post; she sounds like a fascinating woman, and her home and closet would have been fun to explore. What was her career? Why was she in Lebanon? Why did she travel?
    Cloud of Secrets recently posted..Black- White &amp Red

    • Fabienne Jach

      March 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      She and her sister inherited land and money, so no career. Just a carefree life of traveling and exploring. There had been a lot of French occupancy in Lebanon back then, the land they owned was in Lebanon, hence living there at that time. She traveled for fun. I would have gladly taken a pass at her lifestyle!

  16. My Feminist Fashion Icon.

    May 14, 2011 at 3:42 am

    [...] Steinem – Ef for Effort Gloria Steinem - What If No-One’s Watching? Grandmother – The House in the Clouds Griselda Pollock - Magic Square Foundation Hedy Lamarr - Adventures in [...]

  17. Karyn Chang

    December 13, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Beautifully written post – and lovely to read such a personal interpretation. She and her sister inherited land and money, so no career.
    Karyn Chang recently posted..Acne Tips