Life in Paris

The day I became a Parisian

If you search for the definition of the word chic using google, you will get the following answer:

Chic — Adjective: elegantly and stylishly fashionable —“She looked every inch the chic Frenchwoman.”

What does this tell you? Well, basically, google is telling you that French women are the epitome of the word chic and if you want to be chic, you have to follow in the footsteps of your French counterparts.

When I first arrived in Paris I was a walking fashion disaster. To be honest I was a walking fashion disaster until July of this year. My younger sister, who has always been very fashionable, often commented on the fact that I looked like a teenager in most of my outfits. She also rolled her eyes when I picked up items of clothing to try on and by the end of our shopping trip she was usually pulling out her hair. It seemed like nothing could be done for me, I was just always getting it wrong. My life was a constant fashion faux pas.

So what changed? Well, as someone who has never taken an interest in fashion, I never imagined that I would attend any fashion shows. I didn’t even think they would let me in, they’d probably say “Actually C&A is that way…this is a fashion show for FASHIONABLE people.” But anyway, after I turned to writing full time in May, I had a lot more time on my hands. A photographer friend of mine suggested I send emails out for fashion week, but she was honest and said I could get no invites or I could get 10. It was really all about putting bums on seats. I was intrigued and decided it was worth a try. I ended up getting invited to 12 shows in total and I found I was really excited to discover what fashion week was like.

Fashion week was a totally different world to anything I have ever experienced before. The clothes, the accessories, the beauty…it was all so inspiring. I suddenly found myself understanding fashion and what Coco Chanel said about dresses “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.” Fashion wasn’t just about the clothes, it was about the women who wore them. Beautiful, strong women who showed their charisma, power and elegance through the dresses they donned.

Fashion was about having respect for yourself and for your own beauty.

I thought long and hard about my fashion sense. I said I wore bright colours because I wanted to be unique and different.  I didn’t want to be like every other Parisian. I wanted people to know I was English and I wanted to shock and surprise. But then I thought about it, and I had to ask myself, do I feel beautiful in the clothes that I wear? The answer was a big, resounding, NO. I had never felt classy or fabulous and I’d never really felt like confident in the clothes I wore. Coco Chanel would be turning in her grave. Sorry Coco.

After some deliberation, I decided to give the Parisian look a try. After all, I always admired the way my Parisian friends looked and dressed, so what would be the harm in testing it

The Parisian fashion sense is relatively simple. JUST WEAR BLACK. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. Off you go, you can now become Parisian.

Just kidding, there is a little more to it than that. I took the time to study my French counterparts and here is what I discovered:

1) If the Parisian woman had a motto it would be LESS IS MORE. Less make up, less hair products, less anything fake. They do wear make-up but a Parisian woman’s essentials would be: a good lipstick (red is very popular but it depends on your skin tone), a bit of blusher and a great mascara. That’s it. Parisian woman are so beautiful because their make-up is understated and shows that they are confident enough not to need a ton of it (British girls I am talking to you)

2) Wear dark colours, it’s simple but elegant. Black, dark blue and grey are the top three colours worn by Parisian ladies.

3) Have something colourful in your wardrobe but save it for a rare occasion. Sometimes it’s great to wear a green blazer or an orange top, but not all the time. If you wear it occasionally people will remember it as being unique instead of that ugly colourful thing you wore to last week’s afterwork.

4) Invest in a pair of black heeled boots, these are a must-have for any Parisian night out.

5) Buy a few pairs of DARK skinny jeans. No light jeans and no ripped jeans, it’s not the 90s ladies.

6) Purchase a pair of flat pumps, think VANS. Again in grey, white or black.

7) Buy a trench coat, if you don’t already have one, wait until the January sales and get yourself one. Beige if possible. They are a STAPLE item in every Parisian closet.

8) Get accessories that aren’t too flashy. Simple long necklaces, rings, stud earrings and a nice, elegant watch is more than enough. Too much jewellery is a big no no in Paris.

9) Scarves can be tartan (red or green if possible) or black.

10) Keep your hair natural. Don’t use your straighteners or curlers, you’ll just frighten people. And NEVER wear fake tan. Natural beauty is the key to success in Paris.

So here we are, almost four months after the Haute Couture fashion shows and I have completely revamped my wardrobe. My clothes are darker, with the occasional spot of colour. I no longer straighten my hair (I used to, every single day). It no longer takes me 30+ minutes to do my make-up and I’ve now succeeded in cutting it down to 10 minutes. I have toned down my jewellery and my accessories and my boyfriend is delighted to see that I seem to be overcoming my handbag addiction. I buy less items, saving my money to purchase more expensive and better quality clothes. And last but not least I stick to staple colours like black, navy and grey. I dress like a Parisian and I feel great.

At the end of the day, the most important thing about dressing like a Parisian has taught me is that, natural beauty is the best kind of beauty. I finally feel like a confident young woman, even if I’m only technically, a faux Parisian.

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