Style secrets from Paris

Parisian woman on bike - Style secrets from Paris

With January’s terrorism attacks, Paris has had a heartbreaking beginning to 2015. But throughout the city’s history, including being occupied during the Second World War, Parisians have triumphed against adversity. And they don’t just persevere  Parisians, especially les femmes, are famous for living with style. I had the pleasure of witnessing style secrets from Paris up-close on a trip there this past fall. Obviously there are many individual differences, but I did notice some common themes to le look Parisienne. Or at least as it’s translated in this part of the 21st century.  In tribute to the women of that great city, check out these style secrets from Paris:

Ines style - Style secrets from Paris

Ines de la Fressange, designer and former face of Chanel, embodies casual French chic.

1. They’re done but not too done.

Parisian women often exude chic, but they also seem to embrace imperfection. For example, while we North American women love blowouts, the tresses of Parisian women often look artfully undone. Whether wearing hair casually pinned up, or down and dried naturally, women there seem to treat their locks as an afterthought.

Despite this, chic prevails because they usually pair the messy tresses with neatly polished nails and stylish clothes.

The takeaway: Channel Parisian attitude by balancing strictly put-together elements with casually styled ones.


All black - Style secrets from Paris

Editors from Vogue Paris working the all-black look.

2. Black is (always) the new black.

Parisian women have never stopped wearing black. And while Anna Wintour has banned the look from the pages of American Vogue, Parisian women are still rocking black from head to toe. But what sets the way women there wear the shade is that they don’t hide behind it. Rather, women in Paris use black as a background to display their often statement-making accessories and bijoux.

The takeaway: Regardless of what’s going down the runway, black almost always looks chic in the real world. But to avoid channeling Morticia Addams, make sure your accessories provide a shot of colour or other visual interest.

Carine Roitfeld - Style secrets from Paris

Iconic French fashion editor Carine Roitfeld is loyal to the smoky eye.

3. They’re casual about cosmetics/serious about skin care.

You don’t see a lot of Parisian women basting their faces with layers of cosmetics. Instead, they focus on one feature to highlight, rather than a face full of foundation. Exhibit A: Carine Roitfeld, the 60-year-old founder of CR Fashion Book and former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, who wears a sultry smoky eye like no one else. Other popular Parisian makeup statements are the classic red lip or lined cat eye.

Parisian women get away with minimal makeup because they focus on skin care. Indeed, while the City of Lights is home to legendary cosmetic lines like Chanel, Lancôme and Christian Dior, as well as makeup mecca Sephora; I saw the biggest shopping frenzy at a drugstore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés that features French skin care at great prices.

Citypharma Du Four Bonaparte, at 26 rue du Four, sells such popular French skin-care lines as Avène, Bioderma and Caudalie. While these brands are available in North America, this drugstore sells them, as well as others you won’t find on this side of the pond, at reasonable prices. Note: Visit the store when you have energy in order to brave the crowds. In my first foray there I ended up turning around at the entrance because of the frenzied aisles.

The takeaway: Prioritize skin care and you’ll need less makeup.

4. They’ve embraced le jogging

Despite the popular theory that French women are naturally thin, I saw several jogging around the city. From solo Saturday morning jogs by Canal Saint-Martin to after-work running groups in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Parisian women are burning off their baguettes through exercise.

New Balance sneakers - Style secrets from Paris

Old-school sneakers, like these New Balance 696 kicks, are the faves of many Parisian women when hitting the street.

While I was somewhat surprised to see the popularity of running, it was even more unexpected to see the ubiquity of running shoes. Namely, New Balance classic sneakers, which I saw on women and men of all ages. While this may be part of the normcore trend of “non-fashion” fashion, the Parisians I saw  took the look up a notch by pairing their casual kicks with real clothes rather than sweats and hoodies.


The takeaway: Dressing casual doesn’t mean you should look like you’ve given up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my take on style secrets from Paris. Of course, the biggest lesson Parisian women can teach most of the rest of us is how to carry oneself with confidence. Because that’s something these women seem to do so as naturally as exhale the smoke from their cigarettes. (Unlike the women of New York City whose assertive bearing comes across as a hard-fought survival skill). Now, if only they would quit those Marlboros and Gitanes…


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