It appears, after all, that chic in Paris isn’t all that different from chic in New York City. If my limited-data observations are correct, globalization is upon us. The fashionable crews of of Manhattan have their Parisienne doppelgangers. Or the other way around.
Dishevelment rules the hipster crowd, which I experienced, granted, only in the Marais, but still. Girls wear mini-skirts with volume, or tunics and leggings. Color. Stripes in unexpected places. The mariniere makes a statement, with puffed sleeves for that required hipster touch of irony. In the non-artsy crowd, young, beautiful, and tall women wear black and shiny everything, with white for accent. Impeccable shoes, either fiercely high-heeled or completely flat. Dignified well-to-do middle-aged women are well-turned out, curated even, with the hair, jewelry, and jacket just so. No more, no less, than needed. Dignified. That part the French do better than we Americans.
If you go to Paris soon, I can only say, wear what you would wear in a large, coastal, American city. Either black and white, or a tone-on-tone color range that suits you perfectly. If you accent, accent across the color wheel. Burnt orange against your aubergine. Bring cash. And the first day you arrive, buy yourself the 2-3 accessories that call out your name. For localization, as we call it in the software industry. That will suffice for even the most fit-in-with-the-natives amongst us.
For example, the one day we actually shopped on this recent trip, (as opposed to wandering the streets thinking, “My god, it’s Paris. It’s actually Paris again,” or laughing hysterically about the kinds of moments long friendships create) I wore 7 For All Mankind “Ginger” jeans, the pale blue patterned NaraCamicie shirt, black quilted Manolo ballet flats, and a black trench. Diamond studs. After about an hour and a half I was suddenly possessed by the desire to wear a bracelet like this.
Why, I cannot tell you. I never wear accessories beyond the required shoes and bag. Some signal from the passing crowd told me to up my fripperies. But I couldn’t have heard the call from here, on my sofa in Northern California. Hence my recommendation to bring cash and buy locally. Which wouldn’t be a hardship, now would it?
My friend and I began our day of shopping on Rue St. Honore. This woman was washing her car. I always dress in purple boucle to wash my car. You?
But abstained. Paris requires no purchases to enjoy. The day was beautiful, sun shining and window after window sparkling. Gaudy looks dignified, in enough light.
If a day passes when your only challenge is how to get out of a cavernous and maze-like department store with faculties intact, that’s a lot of luck and a lot to be thankful for. If all you lack is a bow-tied pearl bracelet, hallelujah. If the sun shines, even better. Merci beaucoup aux esprits de Paris. And to everyone else for forgiving me my fading French.