Classique, féminin, simple, et élégant. Est-ce le style parisien chic un mythe?
Fortunately for me, I have had many chances to see the truth.
The first time I studied abroad, I went to a political science school in Paris, France for about six months. Other than a few French history and politics class, I did not know much about Paris. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know how to use the metro. I didn’t even know French fries were not even French. There was one thing, though, that I was certain of: the elegance of Parisian style. It is true that the baggy Nike shorts, oversized T-shirt and Birkenstocks that run rampant on college campuses do not exist in Paris. In fact, French women actually make the effort to put on pants every day. But this is not the only thing that draws me back to the elusive appeal of parisian chic.
In the summer of 2018, I spent a few weeks at ESMOD, the oldest and a renowned fashion institution in Paris, France. I was studying fashion design and business alongside people like an Egyptian architect, a Central Saint Martins student, a Miss Filipino pageant star, a New York-based fashion designer and so many more. I was taught by the creators of the Parisian brand, Token, and for a few weeks, I was completely immersed in fashion design and the je ne sais quoi of French style. From walking out of the république metro station, to eating at Merci café in le Marais, to roaming the levels of Centre Pompidou, to lying on the grass in the jardins du Luxembourg, I was constantly looking at and appreciating how French people dressed. There were no flashy designer names; it was more about the care and thought that went into how people decided to present themselves. Boutique and vintage stores are common throughout the city, so that also adds the element of timelessness that was visible in their outfits. There were three fashion takeaways that I got from my experience living in Paris: Parisian chic does not always mean an ultra feminine size 0, red lips, and ballet flats; style is an expression and a complement to who you are; fashion law is a growing and important field.
La Parisienne might conjure up images of a thin, blond woman probably smoking a cigarette, but the appeal of French fashion that I found was the independence and freedom that they exhibit in their clothes. It is to be at once completely fixated with your appearance while also being removed from the frivolity of material things. Due to its nature as a metropolitan city, Paris is filled with diverse people from different ethnic backgrounds who all have different tastes in fashion. This leads me to the second takeaway about style. Parisian chic is famous not because of the profundity of wearing a white button down, a trench coat, and white sneakers. Rather, parisian chic is in the attitude and confidence that they possess. An outfit can be an expression of your personality, but it can also be an expression of your mood. There does not always have to be one tonal look that defines your appearance. The lack of rigidity in French style is what makes it so fashion-forward. Finally, small French boutiques are often a remarkable source for getting fashion-forward but also sustainable pieces. Without fashion protection laws, these owners would be under constant intellectual property threat. Luckily, France is a forerunner for extensive fashion protection laws (something that is greatly lacking in the U.S). The presence of these protective laws shows how integral fashion is to society, and it also allows room for creative designers to fully express themselves.
I now carry this idea of parisian chic everywhere, not as a fixed style but as a concept of individuality and creative expression. Studying abroad in Paris for political science and fashion allowed me to see the city in a different light. The experience has definitely left its mark on me by influencing my personal style and future career. The effortlessness of French style may be overstated, but no one can deny its enduring appeal. This longevity is what gives it its power.
P.S. A characteristic that I noticed about French style is the effort to show sustainability, or the attempt to be sustainably conscious. Here are a few of my online and in-store favorite parisian chic, sustainably conscious brands:
· Rouje Paris (go here for the sweaters and dresses)
· Veja sneakers (go here for the white sneakers)
· Sézane (go here for the blazers)