In honor of Paris Fashion Week, I’d like to dedicate this week to Parisian Street Style. While it’s definitely true that every city has a continuum from good to bad to ugly, it is also true that the majority of Parisians fall heavily in the bravo column. Some of the biggest trends and differences from American style range from traditional to unexpected and I’ve compiled a comprehensive list for your styling pleasure.
Let’s get some…Louboutins. Home to some of the most famous shoes in the world, Paris boasts some of the best legs as well. And while the majority of women in the city walk and use public transportation, they wear their heels all the time. Rain/slush/snow or shine, almost every woman wears between a 1 and 3 inch heel. Make no mistake, though, this woman—wearing heels to traipse around the city—is smart. Wedges and stacked heels are the most prominent for greater heights, with the occasional platform-ed Lita à la Jeffrey Campbell, while kitten heels rule closer to the ground.
But the height of the heel is not the only interesting height involved: while tall boots have taken the U.S by storm, France seems to be more enamored with shorter length, in particular, the heeled ankle bootie. Suede—real or faux—is a prominent feature in these brief lace ups, and you can find them in every color from taupe and shades of brown, to bright red, navy, black and gray.
France has a long, strong reputation as a leader in skincare and healthful beauty habits so it should come as no surprise that the French have beautiful skin. I’m pretty sure no one has acne here, and I don’t understand how it’s possible, and yet…due in part to the confidence and independence of the French woman—and in part to her fabulous skin—the vast majority of women here choose a fresh face with mascara for their daily look. Among college-aged women make-up makes a greater appearance with black winged eyeliner, but the look continues to be very clean. Women of all ages live up to the romanticized ideal of French beauty with bright, bold, red matte lipstick that, I’m entirely convinced, comes only in one color: Parisian, and is as flattering as the LBD.
With fashion in the air and pickpockets on the street, the bag has become a mode of self-expression, shaped by practicality. Something with many inside pockets and with exterior zippers helps prevent theft and with backpacks reserved for travelers and tourists, space for folders and notebooks is a must for many. By day, the tote is the bag of choice, held in the crook of your elbow: a little like a Pan Am stewardess with a casually air. Most bags I’ve seen are leather or imitation because cloth and dirty metros tend not to agree for long. For night, the cross body clutch is a popular choice with the added benefit of keeping the club-goer’s arms free for dancing.
The “skinny” cut is the biggest pant trend here, and paired with heeled ankle boots, this style shows off the svelte legs of the Parisian woman; because the active lifestyle, city walking and healthy eating will give you killer gams.
For women with über feminine or rebellious chic styles alike, dresses and shirts are very popular. While sweater tights may be the most practical this time of year, black nylons with thigh high socks make a stronger statement on the street and seem to be a favorite among young women. They may love their legs, but the French know not to give it all away with legs and décolletage, so they warm up this look with a warm, oversize sweater and their winter capes, chic overcoats, or lux furs for day or night.
Berets are still going strong, as are wide-brimmed, felt fedora-style hats in classic colors like dark taupe, navy, and black. Gloves, when worn at all, are usually knit or leather with length at the wrist to keep the arm warm into the sleeve or account for missing fabric in cape coats.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” –10th Tribe
Essentially, the take-away from French fashion is to wear what you love with a lot of confidence. Don’t fall prey to transient trends. Pay homage to the classics with your own style, and always keep it classy. Simplicity has a beauty all its own and the French have mastered how to make a statement with understatements.