Adventures in French Fashion:

          For those of you who have ever been to Paris you will understand my predicament. I laboured over packing my suitcase for four whole days. There were 10 sets of daytime outfits and 10 sets of night outfits, carefully picked, and intensely scrutinized. For once in my life I would not travel to Paris only to feel like a squashed eggplant in comparison to the glamazon next to me. I had finally cracked the system. But alas, French style is not one to be so easily overcome by an overenthusiastic Indian girl and her collection of Vogues. Instead of feeling under-dressed I felt overdressed. Like a little kid trying far too hard in a game of dress up. I had forgotten that the key word in French style is “degage”. Here is what I learned:

  1. The French woman should never look like she’s put too much effort into her appearance. It would take away from her time riding around town on her lover’s Vespa, or from planning a picnic by the Seine. 
  2. The French woman should never look too bourgeois. There is a strong distaste (among people 40 and under) to look obviously wealthy. Stores like The Kooples or Zadig and Voltaire sell clothes that look scruffy and undone sometimes for the price of something from Oscar de la Renta. 
  3. The French woman should never look “preppy”. A moment of silence for polo’s everywhere.
  4. The French Woman should always look slightly undone. Here is I think the biggest source of wisdom that I have discovered. Two years ago while doing a summer program in New York I noticed a stark difference between the American girls and the French girls when we would go out. The American girls took nearly 2 hours to curl their hair, hairspray it into place, fully conceal and contour their face, and liberally apply layers of makeup with an end result of looking flawless. The French girls on the other hand always looked slightly messy, either their hair was out of place or their makeup was reserved to solely eyeliner and lipstick. They looked more human, and therefore more glamorous.
  5. The French woman sticks to subdued sophisticated colors. Essentially the French woman is the antithesis of Anna Dello Russo and would be caught dead wearing a cherry as a hat.
  6. Everything must be worn with a healthy splash of joie de vivre and a certain je ne sais quoi that makes clothing look like the least interesting aspect of your obviously fascinating life

While it is obvious that French women have an innate sense of style that can only be described as “cool” (yes what a wonderful use of the English language), I cannot explain the relief my friend and I felt as we walked into the Ralph Lauren on Rue Cambon. Ralph Lauren is easy feel-good-fashion so to speak but above that, it’s expensive clothing that looks luxurious. I for one, love walking down the street and seeing someone who has obviously put effort into their appearance and obviously loves fashion. It’s a strange balance to strike between not looking like a little girl playing dress up and being able to have fun with what you wear. I suppose as someone who’s spent many years living in India, the mantra of “more is more” and the philosophy of glamcore will always have a soft spot in my heart. That being said, I’m a sucker for men’s tailoring and half of my wardrobe consists of blazers and collared shirts. 

French It girl Lou Doillon vs American It girl Olivia Palermo

Editor in Chief of French Vogue Emmanuele Alt vs Anna Wintour

What do you think?