(Original story published on Friday July 10th, 2015 on WDish.com.)
Stroll around Paris and it’s not only the confection-hued patisseries, bloom-topped shops and you know, all the historical buildings that attract our meandering eyes. We also can’t help but gaze at the blasé locals striding about, wearing nothing special but the best jeans, plain tees and steppers we’ve ever seen. What accompanies their look is, of course, an unsympathetic mystique… or that “je ne sais quoi,” for those non-cliché-aphobes.
Of course, obsessing over the style of Frenchwomen is nothing new. It can, however, be difficult to pinpoint what exactly it is about them that we find so captivating. Or rather, it was difficult, until we got our hands on How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits, a book by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. Along with sharing the classic recipes all French girls should know (like pot-au-feu and chocolate fondant) and the direct aphorisms they live by (“always be f–kable,” no joke), the authors present us, overly-cautious fashion followers with a chance to understand their unconcerned way of living and how to incorporate some of their cool-girl style tips into our own wardrobes.
We learn that the classic dos and don’ts of a French girl include embracing navy and black together as well as pink and red, not following trends (“trends follow you”) and when cleavage is involved, “less is more.” But there are a few item-specific ways to bring Parisian fashion to your wardrobe, and they’re probably a lot easier (and more affordable) than you think. From choosing the right, walkable shoes to investing in a Seine-worthy topper, ahead are the eight items you need to look Parisian wherever you are.
When it comes to footwear, there are only three ways a Parisian will go: ballet flats, high heels, or menswear-inspired shoes. What you won’t find in their closet? Three-inch heels (“Why live life halfway?”), Ugg boots or carpet slippers.
French Sole Classic Ballet Nude Leather with Nude Trim, (£65, $92 CAN), frenchsole.com.
Cotton and silk basics from tops to layers is the only way to go. After all, “nylon polyester, viscose, and vinyl will make you sweaty, smelly and shiny.” Every Parisian has a white shirt (it’s iconic and timeless) and a little black blazer (which you wear “on days when you don’t want to make it look too obvious that you don’t feel like making an effort.”)
All Saints Aiers Blazer, (£228, $321 CAN), allsaints.com.
The Classic Trench
Because nothing says French-chic more than a classic Burberry trench coat. And “if the Parisienne could wear just a Burberry trench and nothing underneath, she would be in heaven.”
Burberry The Sandringham – Long Heritage Trench Coat ($2095), burberry.com.
The It Bag
Much pressure and reliance is placed on the bag, and there are rules to ensure it makes—not breaks—your look. First, never, ever go for a fake designer bag (“you can’t fix your insecurities through forgery.”) Second, matching your purse to your outfit is a no-no, so opt for one in an atypical hue, like this gorgeous plum Givenchy number. And third, a bag is “not an accessory. It’s your home.” Ensure it’s large enough to hold all your “indispensible shambles,” but beautiful enough on the outside “that no one ever wonders what’s inside.”
Givenchy Medium Antigona Bag in Burgundy Textured-Leather (US $2435, $3411 CAN), net-a-porter.com.
Take jeans out of a Parisian’s closet “and she feels stark naked.” That’s because they’re one of those irreplaceable pieces that can just as easily be dressed up as they can down. What not to wear? Sweatpants. Why? “No man should ever see you in those. Except your gym teacher—and even then.”
Rag & Bone/JEAN Skinny La Paz (was $240, now $215), aritzia.com.
The Signature Item
A signature item is you trademark. It can be something as classic as a leather jacket, or as monumental as a piece of jewellery that’s been passed down in your family. Spending a ton of money isn’t necessary. In fact, the French love flea markets. It should be a piece you can wear with everything—“jeans, ballet flats, or a cargo jacket”—as long as you keep it simple and timeless.
Catbird NYC N + A All the Stars Gathered Ring (US $1010, $1290 CAN), catbirdnyc.com.
The Silk Scarf
A small silk scarf is a Parisian must-have for two important reasons. First, “it adds a touch of color to a dark outfit without running the risk of a fashion faux pas.” And second, when it rains, “you can wear it over your head like Romy Schneider.”
Halston Heritage Printed Silk Scarf (Now $66 or $84 CAN), theoutnet.com.
Frenchwomen love miniskirts. The way to make them look sophisticated is to “never wear [them] with any hint of décolletage or vulgarity.”
Zara A-Line Mini Skirt (was $50, now $26), zara.com.