What Parisians Have Taught Me About Style
France, in particular Paris, for me has been a place of intrigue, the epitome of cool and the true home of high fashion since as early as I can remember. I grew up fascinated by the stories of Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Lauren and Pierre Cardin. I become enchanted by the world of Haute Couture and, as a teenager, Vanessa Paradis was my icon.
In 2003 I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the famous fabric trade fair in Paris for work and then spent a few days exploring the city with a carefully curated list of 'must sees'. From then on I was in Paris with work many times over and never grew tired. I loved how the women dressed and had been reflecting some of what I observed in my own style choices. I've recently read two great books on Parisian Style that I mentioned in my Favourite Books Blog which really pulled together my observations and help me finish the curation to my wardrobe, plus providing very amusing reads. Check out Parisian Chic: A Style Guide By Ines De A Fressange With Sophie Gachet and How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Caroline de MAigret and Anne Berest.
So what have I learned? Here's my six takeaways on Parisian style....
(1) Mix It Up
Parisian girls don't do outfitting and coordinating....they're way to cool and creative for that. Sounds a bit ridiculous but I love this idea. You don't need to buy the top to match the pant or even a full outfit from one store - style your pieces across a blend of designers, high street brands and vintage finds for a truly personal look. Also, don't put obvious pieces together e.g your LBD with a set of pearls....again, mix it up. I love to mix denim and diamonds, girly tea dresses with studded biker boots and tailoring with trainers.
(2) Avoid 'Bling'
The word 'bling' makes me cringe! Parisians are neither magpies nor billboards - they don't see the sense in dressing like a unicorn has bedazzled you head to toe nor do they subscribe to wearing ostentatious designer labels across their chests. Instead, think of luxury not as a brand or as glitz but as a piece that demands a high taste level....
(3) Scout New Labels and Find Hidden Gems
Parisian girls pride themselves in not following but setting trends. They revel in the discovery of the new and the unknown and I liked this observation as I'm naturally like this myself....particularly when it comes to fashion. I don't subscribe to 'must haves' or 'it pieces' and instead opt for the ineresting and new. This need not be exclusively designer brands - it can equally be the most incredible shirt you picked up at the grocery store. I discovered an Italian brand called Vivietta on a trip to Milan a couple of years go and was attracted to it as it was new, fresh and felt really 'me' - that's what intelligent scouting is all about...If you'd like to hear more about my finds then check out my Fashion Scout series starting tomorrow.
(4) If It Feels Good, Wear It and If Not, Don't!
French girls are not the sort of girls to wear shoes they can't walk in or clothes that are too tight. This rule is so simple yet such a goodie - I don't think any of us are truly happy in shoes that hurt or clothes that are uncomfortable. I hate seeing someone wear something that they obviously don't feel good in - a short skirt they are tugging on, a strapless top that they are constantly pulling up, etc. The philosophy here is that the secret of great style is wearing something you feel good in! Know your shape and therefore what suits you. This is not about being big or slim, tall or short - it's about your proportions and knowing cuts that work and those that don't. If you're not sure then grab a honest friend to go shopping with you and try on a range of styles, cuts and fits. Listen to both their opinions and your gut - if it feels great then it's likely to look equally as good.
(5) Rules to Break
Yves Saint Laurent inspired us to reconsider our colour palettes and gave French women the green flag to combine Navy with Black and Pink with Red, both of which look incredible when worked the right way and neither of which were previously acceptable. Break the rules and reap the rewards.
(6) The Magnificent Seven
One thing those Parisians do amazingly well is to put together collections of key basics then style them with accessories and trend pieces to make them truly individual. I've read up about this quite a bit and the consistent pieces that no stylish Parisian girl would be seen without are: A Blazer, A Trench, A Knit A Little Black Dress, A Great Pair of Jeans, A Leather Jacket and the Perfect T-Shirt. This philosophy has been with me for years and was the foundation of my capsule wardrobe creations. You don't need to head to designers for each and every piece here - spend time finding the perfect piece for you then treasure it. For me I'd recommend investing in the blazer, trench and leather jacket (read more in my The 6 Wardrobe Staples Worth Investment Blog). The High Street is fantastic for jeans, knitwear, dresses and basic t-shirts. For more specific advice check out my I Love the High Street Blog.