Ask a French person’s opinion on the British sense of style and the usual response I get is that we dress ‘n’importe comment’. British women make a clear distinction between what they wear in the daytime vs. what they wear in the evening. But in Paris, everything is so much more understated, more relaxed. In a city of cafe pavements people just tend to dress for all eventualities. They worship the day-to-night look, the work-to-play look, something completely transferable, comfortable, urban.
There is a real practicality about the way in which Parisian women dress that is worth envying. The Parisians are not concerned with having the latest fashion items. They focus their attention on classic items that flatter the body and avoid too much colour. They cultivate a streamline silhouette, embrace minimalism and celebrate natural beauty, which can take some getting used to if you hail from the other side of the Channel. Paris is a place where ‘dressing down’ rather than ‘dressing up’ is the key to looking good.
Back to basics
Part of the secret of conforming to this aspired look is to invest in a number of high quality staple items. You will need basic t-shirts, jeans, trousers, sweaters, blazers, scarves and sensible shoes. Parisians accept the cold weather and embrace it in a way that we Brits don’t and are very conscious about not flashing too much skin. The Parisians are also very into layering. When the cold weather hits, consider paring a shirt with a jumper and adding on the layers by wearing a coat and scarf.
The Parisians have a very subdued colour palette when it comes to fashion and stay safe by wearing mostly navy, grey, white, black and brown. The women rarely wear tight-fitting clothes. They favour the practicality and comfort of loose fitting clothing and they never go overboard on hair or make-up. They prefer to keep a very natural look and pay more attention to maintaining very clean, healthy looking skin. When I first came to Paris, I used to think that all French girls were short. Then I realised that none of them were wearing heels. Paris is a walking city, so flats are essential. That and it is impossible to walk in heels along those cobbled streets. Getting used to the natural look can be daunting at first, but it is interesting to see how men seem to fall over themselves over little or no effort; that a woman can be seen as beautiful when not wearing eyeliner or lipstick, or anything provocative.
If you are looking to perfect your Parisian look, here are the items you cannot do without:
· Woollen hats or berets
· A Breton striped shirt
· A trench coat
· Ballerina pumps
· Moderate heels and classic sandals
· Leather jacket
· A blazer
· A white casual t-shirt
· A simple dress
As a British person in Paris, you may have to make a conscious effort to fit in rather than stand out. Forget the skirts and heels. Failing that just stick a baguette under your arm, you’ll look the part in no time.