I’ve written a few stories about Parisian chic in the past as the subject rather intrigues me. I am not the only one: such search terms as ‘Parisiennes’, ‘French chic’ and ‘French elegance’ are popular, and they feature regularly in my website stats. So I was interested to pick up the ‘little red book’ as Ines de la Fressange herself dubs her Parisian Chic – A Style Guide, co-authored with Sophie Gachet. Ines de la Fressange is one of France’s icons of chic, a model and muse to Karl Lagerfeld, a consultant to Jean-Paul Gaultier and Roger Vivier, and a designer with decades of experience in the fashion industry.
The Look of the Book
I totally judge books by a cover, because that is usually what attracts me to pick it up in the first place. The cover, faux red leather embossed in gold, is immediately imbued with history, tradition and wisdom. (Leather-bound books are to be revered; one opens the bindings in wonder, ready to be spellbound by the fascinating engravings and funny old typefaces inside.)
This book is, rather, utterly fresh, like a summer breeze blowing from the south of France (Ines herself is from Saint-Tropez in the south). The pages are designed like a notebook, complete with grid paper, doodled drawings (Ines’s own), hand-writing, pins, sticky-notes and sticky-tape. The lovely photos by Benoît Peverelli are of her daughter Nine D’Urso, effortlessly modelling Parisian style.
Half the book is devoted to revealing the secret ingredients of Parisian style – the other half, where to purchase them (no trip to Paris planned in my near future, phooey!). The text is written in bite-size morsels, easy to digest and entertaining too.
In her introduction, Ines states:
You don’t need to be born in Paris to have Parisian style … Parisian style is an attitude, a state of mind. Between rocker and ho-hum bourgeois, a Parisian is always first, never second. A Parisian steps lightly around the fashion traps of the day. Her secret? She breathes the air du temps and puts it to good use, her way, and always with the same aim: fashion should be fun. The Parisian follows a few golden rules, but she likes to transgress, too. It’s part of her style …
I particularly love Chapter 6, Fashion Faux Pas! I chuckled my way through most of this: Never wear a necklace and earrings at the same time – too much! The same goes for rings on every finger. As for accumulating bracelet(s) + ring(s) + watch + earrings + necklace: Non, non, non, non, non. Even at Christmas…; Thongs with ultra-low hipster jeans – one of fashion’s great mysteries; Nightgowns printed with favourite children’s characters – I have never met a man who was seduced by a Hello Kitty nightie!; etc.
How often have I seen young girls with rings on every finger (and probably bells on their toes) and could only sigh, shake my head, and hope they would have their fashion epiphany as I once did?
In a Nutshell
The most important lesson is that the chic Parisian woman’s wardrobe is made of basics gussied up with accessories. (I don’t think Ines uses the word ‘gussied’; that’s my Aussie coming out.)
There are seven important items every woman should have in her wardrobe, Ines declares: a blazer, a trench, a navy sweater, the tank, a little black dress, a leather jacket, and the perfect jeans.
I concur (although I refuse to wear a blazer because it reminds me of high school, nor do I at this moment happen to own a trench coat – although I am now considering hunting down a vintage one). But accessories: absolutely. You can make or break an outfit with accessories.
Basically, Parisian chic is a form of minimalism; the art of restraint. I agree on the whole, but I think there should be room for some fun on special occasions. As much as the author insists Parisian women like to break the rules and have fun with fashion, there is a pervading sense of uniformity; that fashion is really a serious business; and there seems not to be much room for eccentricity. Ines says we must resist such things as sequinned dresses and flouncy petticoats, the ‘Sirens of the fashion world’, but I must confess I find sequins almost irresistible myself. Perhaps that’s my flamboyant Slavic side?