Saturday, March 9, 2013

On a Quest to be "Parisian Chic"

Travelling is one of my absolute favorite things to do, and I travel out of the country a lot. I will admit, however, that I actually hate the traveling part of traveling. I hate packing. I hate sitting on planes. I hate getting strip-searched at the airport. My saving grace is taking sleeping pills, so I don’t have to be conscious on the plane.

How to go through airport security. What happens when you get strip searched.
Story of my life...

When you travel as frequently as I do, you tend to pick up tricks on how to make the process of getting to (and being at your destination) easier. Things like what shoes you should wear to the airport and how to live off of a small suitcase. My biggest travel trick, however, is to try not to look like a tourist.

I know what some of you are thinking: “But I want to be comfortable on my trip!” or “I’ll never see these people again!”

First off, this has nothing to do with vanity, nor does it have anything to do with impressing the locals. It has everything to do with being a chameleon in a culture, and thus enhancing your travel experience. Besides, you can safely assume that the people there wear comfortable clothing as well.

Secondly, the more you look like a tourist, the more likely you are to be pickpocketed. Fact. If not, you will probably get yelled at in a foreign language.

This brings me to my main point. In a little under two months, I’m going to Paris for a study abroad. Out of all of the places I have been in Europe, Paris has made me the most nervous about getting pickpocketed. And yes, this happened to me the last time I was in Paris. Parisian pickpockets are an elusive breed.

The Eiffel Tower, of course! (I don't know who owns this picture, but I'm not claiming it. Let me know if it's yours.)

I picked up some tips from my French teacher about how the French typically dress (neutral colors, low-key styling, no t-shirts with logos, etc.), but I wanted to know more. Then I came across Parisian Chic by Inès de la Fressange, businesswoman, aristocrat, and one of the best-dressed women in the world.

The title page of the book starts out with a shout-out to her reader: “To my new best friend.” I thought she was laying it on a little thick, but I was completely wrong. By the end of the book, I felt like she could be my friend in real life. Her writing style is warm and friendly. She also gives some dang-good fashion advice.

The book cover (it's leather). The insides are filled with the author's illustrations.

The book consists of four sections. The first is called Dress Like a Parisian, where she explains that one must not be born in Paris to dress à la Parisienne—thank heavens. She also explains how to put together an outfit; how much jewelry to wear; and how to dress for a date among other things. She even gives some great stores to check out, both online and in person.

The best part of this chapter, however, is when she discusses the not-so-basics. She insists that every Parisian should have the magnificent seven basics in her wardrobe: A navy sweater, a tank top, a leather jacket, a trench coat, the perfect jean, a men’s-style blazer, and—obviously—a little black dress. After that, it is just a matter of putting an outfit together. To tell you the truth, I might only be taking these things to Paris with me, so I can come back with an amazing Parisian wardrobe.

Ines de la Fressange. How to dress like a parisian. How to dress like a Frenchwoman. How to dress like you're French.
Jeans and a little black dress. All of the pictures feature Inès' daughter.

The second part is The Belle of the Ball where she gives some beauty tips. This is the shortest and simplest part of the book. She gives tips like not putting mascara on your lower lids, avoiding botox, and moisturizing your face. She especially lays down the law when it comes to brushing your teeth. Amen.

Next, she discusses aesthetics of the ideal Parisian apartment in Chez Moi. She clearly has an affinity for all things simple and Zen. She also explains that having a mixture of fine furniture and thrift store finds are so very Parisian. One of her best suggestions is to let children draw pictures and frame the “original” artwork—it's super cute as well as being a great idea.

How do the French dress? Why do people like the way the French dress?
The navy sweater.

Then there is the issue of space. She says that the typical Parisian apartment is very small. Even her 700-something square foot apartment is considered large. She suggests going to Muji for beautiful (and practical!) plexiglass storage boxes. (By the way, Muji stores are a big deal in Paris. They are everywhere. You can also find some in the US. I highly recommend it, especially if you are short on convenient travel supplies)

She finishes off the book with Inès’s Paris. This is a list of her favorite places to visit including bookstores and restaurants. She also gives some great ideas for traveling, even if you are traveling with children. Moral of the story, there is something in Paris for everyone!

The tank top and ballet flats.

How many stars for Parisian Chic do you ask? Well, out of five stars, I will give it four. It is not the most spectacularly written book. It could’ve spent a little more time in editing. But other than that, it is a quick and fun read. It has some great suggestions of places to go and things to do; it almost acts like a travel guide. And her style advice is simple and classic; it is sure to help you look like the chicest person in town (even if you don’t live in Paris).

How to fit in on a trip to France. How to look French. What do the French look like?
A classic trench coat.

(Parisian Chic by Inès de la Fressange • 250 pages • about $18 on Amazon)

Paris is always a good idea.

UPDATE: By the way, I’m not writing here much anymore, but if you would like to follow me my writing, please sign up through the form below and please consider a free or paid subscription. I’d love to see you over at The Charrette.

UPDATE: I’m not writing on Blogger much anymore, but if you would like to follow me and my writing, please sign up through the form below, and also please consider a free or paid subscription. I’d love to see you over at The Charrette. I'll still keep writing things on here, but mostly as a way to keep all of you updated on what's going on with my career currently. You can read more about it here

1 comment :

  1. You know what is awesome about Ines' book? It's available on iTunes if you're trying to limit number of books. For me this is an ongoing challenge and once I "bond" to a good book, the relationship is pretty much permanent.