Parisian style is often held up as the pinnacle of effortless chic; the kind of style many aspire to achieve but often fall just short of that certain, je ne sais quoi.
French fashion writer and Parisian style authority Isabelle Thomas’ book Paris Street Style (2013, co-written with Frederique Veysset) landed in my hands recently as a lovely gift and its lessons on French fashion and style are beautifully encapsulated, so I thought I’d share some of my favourites by way of a few key points:
Firstly, the French approach to fashion and trends is to find a balance between slavishly following fashion and giving no thought to it whatsoever. While a large sector of fashion bloggers can be spotted at 50 paces by their entirely unoriginal boyfriend jean, white tee, statement jacket, designer clutch, stiletto heel combo (or whatever the outfit du jour happens to be), French women know how to apply their own personalities to a trend.
“For me, style is having one’s own identity, not following any particular fashion,” says Thomas.
“It’s having a touch of class, with a certain level of attractiveness, classic or otherwise. It’s a person you notice in the street, because she’s not fashionable and has her own clear-cut personality.”
Lesson number two – disregard cliches.
‘High heels are sexy’, ‘leopard print is vulgar’, ‘push-up bras are irresistible’, ‘ballet flats are always chic’, ‘black suits everyone’ – all of these rules are guiding principals but a one-size-fits-all approach is something to be wary of. Make your own informed choices based on what works for you. (Or hire a stylist to help in the decision making process.)
Lesson three – making cheap look expensive.
This is one of my favourite topics, as explored a couple of weeks ago on this blog. From Paris Street Style, the tips are to use discretion – research and forage for nuggets of real value rather than jumping at the first and most prominently promoted knock-off product. Secondly, invest, and place trust in accessories. Good quality accessories will be worth their weight in gold on a cost-per-wear basis and can really elevate the most basic of outfits.
Lesson four – pay attention to the details
I love this, as I too find nothing more annoying than washing instruction labels showing through a sheer top, and stickers on the soles of shoes (sale stickers especially, not cool). Others to look out for:
– The washing instructions label left on a scarf. Snip it off immediately
– Sheer bra straps. If you’re going to see your bra strap, you’re going to see it whether it’s a nice one or a cheap plastic one. I know which I’d prefer
– Clothes that are too tight or loose at the waist. As I’ve discussed before, a woman’s waist is one of her best features and to not define it properly sends your entire look out of whack
– Misplaced hems. Beware the pants that drag on the ground or, equally if they’re too short
Lesson five – the importance of a beautiful bag
I’m a firm believer a woman’s bag says a lot about her. My advice here, as with shoes, is to buy the best you can afford. If that’s something current and pretty from Colette then great, choose something stylish you’ll love. If your budget extends to designer, fantastic. If you’re in the in-between range, all well and good but my advice is to steer clear of the knock-offs. They’re a dead giveaway to even the most novice of fashion followers and I just don’t think it’s a good look.
For the French, the advice is to give the ‘it’ bag of the season a big miss as well. Opting instead for individuality, they see toting the bag of the moment as a bit boring. The hot tip from Paris Street Style – invest in something from an up and coming designer, it’ll be a lot more unique.