- (noun) Ostentatious ornamentation added to women’s clothing.
- (adjective) The sound of rustling, as of a silk dress. French, onomatopoeia
Now, most people use the term frou frou without giving a second thought to its origin or definition. It sounds like a word someone made up on the spot. Used in describing a man, frou frou has a connotation of femininity or homosexuality. With a woman, it is usually used to describe over-the-top behavior or style. However, neither of these uses sound much like the original definition.
Much like we use the word ‘bark’ to describe the sound a ‘doggy’ makes, frou frou is an imitative word meant to resemble the sound of a woman’s skirt swishing when she dances. Consider the following quote from the website Frou Frou makes you happy1:
“In the Folies Bergères, when the women were dancing, frou frou was meant to be the sound of the swishing skirt,” explains Guy (Sigsworth). “There’s meant to be a poem of Baudelaire’s where he’d taken opium and was tripping out on the skirts swishing and getting delirious, and there’s this old French song called, Frou Frou is the sound that drives men mad.”
And now, the line from the poem written by 19th century French poet, Charles Baudelaire: “Mes étoiles au ciel avaient un doux frou-frou…” – Baudelaire
Which, if the translation services I found are correct so correct me if I’m wrong ’cause I don’t know French, means, ‘My stars in the sky had a soft rustle.’ Again, this is poetry we’re translating here so I’m sure the literal translation leaves something to be desired. Any French speakers may comment with a correction translation.2