The Art of Fashion in Paris
I love Paris in the Springtime!
Last week we took a quick trip to Paris for a much-needed break and to hold 2 events to introduce the work of H*O*T artist Patrick-Earl Barnes to our friends in that wonderful city. We held a cocktail party at the beautiful Left Bank atelier of Sylvie of Boks&Baum. B&B Business Manager, Bulle (as sparkling as her name suggests), was indispensable in making our event a great success.
We also hosted a fantastic evening in Neuilly at our friend Eric Pasquet's charming wine bar, Vivin, featuring organic wines from France. We had an amazing time both nights and now several chic Parisiens have their own fashionable collages by Patrick-Earl. We still have a few Fashion Folk Collages on House of Terrance if you too would like to own one.
When I first moved to Paris back in the late 80s, I was totally and ridiculously ignorant about France. The only French words I knew were basic ones about food or fashion and believe me they didn't go very far in my attempt to make myself understood. I had never been there as an adult and in my typically skeptical fashion, I couldn't quite believe all the hype around how much the French knew about style, fashion, food and living well in general. It took me about one week to come to my senses and realize that ok yes they did know an awful lot about those things and I had a whole lot to learn from them! I was particularly awed and impressed by French women, here are some of my initial impressions:
• Older women in particular really had it going on! They didn't seem as concerned about aging as American women were, they were confident, deeply chic and sexy. I remember thinking at the time Paris would be the place to live after turning 50. And this from the perspective of a 30-year-old!
• Yes, every single woman no matter her age seemed to know exactly how to tie a scarf. They had a way with accessories which was nothing short of masterful. The French wore a very cool mix of good (real) jewelry mixed with trendy costume jewelry as well as vintage pieces. This is the time I really began my love affair with costume jewelry and as it was the 80s everything was big, bold and gold!
• I was shocked that most French women didn't seem to wear any makeup. Neither their hair or makeup ever looked "done". I thought they were crazy and had a hard time reconciling the no makeup look with being stylish but I had to admit they looked really fresh and well-groomed with their natural nails and subtle hair color.
• Most French women seemed to have a uniform approach to dressing. They didn't seem to mind wearing their pieces often, sometimes several times a week. This was a revolutionary concept for an American used to never wearing the same piece twice in 1 week. I came to understand that fewer well made, well-tailored pieces as expensive as could be afforded actually made a lot more sense than tons of different less special ones.
I was incredibly lucky to meet a group of open, worldly French women (mothers at our son's school) and voila, my education began! These lovely ladies (Pascale, Michele, and others) were friendly and kind and really helped me bond with a culture that I began to understand and adore. We have remained close friends for 30 some years and in fact, one of my tres chic friends from those days is Sylvie, founder of Boks&Baum, a H*O*T collaborator! Our H*O*T collaboration is available here.
Of course, I've been back to Paris many times since that first trip when I moved there to live but I'll leave you with a few of my current impressions of the style of French women today (keep in mind that these are just broad observations and there are plenty of exceptions):
• Paris much like everywhere else in the world has become more casual.It's hard to believe but even chic Parisien women have fallen for the athleisure trend that's taken over the world. That said, though I saw plenty of sneakers, sweatshirts, and Ts, most women still seem to be less casual than their American counterparts.
• French women still seem to favor that uniform approach to dressing. I saw countless outfits comprised of perfectly cut dark jeans paired with tailored jackets and richly printed silk scarves tied just so, the only update to this look was a pair of trainers (sneakers) usually in blinding spotless white. Tres chic!
• I saw signs that more overt makeup and hair color is being embraced by Parisien women. Although I didn't see a lot of colorful eye makeup I did notice that eyelash extensions were worn by many women of all ages just like here at home. French women still love to wear their hair more natural than not with subtle highlights. So I guess French women continue to raise the "I woke up like this" look to an art form.
• The observation I welcomed the most was the incredible increase in diversity I spotted all over Paris. When I lived there in the 80s, women of color and different religions were found mostly in the neighborhoods they worked and lived in. It was so great to see stylish, chic and diverse women out and about all over Paris. I saw them at the art museums, the galleries, Les Grande Magazins (i.e. Le Bon Marche, Printemps, Galleries Lafayettes) as well as neighborhood boutiques. It was uplifting and on time!