To celebrate my arrival in Paris (Man, I’d really celebrate anything) and inspired by your passionate comments you left me on my post about The Parisian (We’re gonna put her in capitals, it’s such a concept) the other day, I thought we should explore the concept further. Plus this convo will go great with my espresso
First of all, let’s agree on one thing – the Parisian is not defined by where she lives. That’d be too easy. It’s more of an idea – inspired by celebrity Parisians, maybe.
Like all caricatures, that idea of La Parisienne can sound dumb – but if you think about it…
What makes the Parisian is Paris – a city that’s as gorgeous as it is grey, exciting yet tough, where you have to really fight to find your place, but without showing it too much (Ambition is not very valued. In Paris, you never want to show too much effort…) and where dressing too flashy or sexy is sure to get you stared at, and a few whistles thrown your way…
These are only a few details but they are a key to understand how La Parisienne dresses.
When I compare it to other places I know like New York, where every kind of personality is accepted, where everyone is encouraged from a very young age to “be yourself!”, where you can practically walk around topless without anyone really noticing or making a comment, it makes sense that New York would have a more fun idea of style.
Here is a funny thing though… As Cory was saying in the comments, even if The Parisian we’re talking about is usually an import, the most Parisian of Parisians are the ones there from birth. They have that certain something, that mix of apparent coldness mixed with biting humor that takes people by surprise and that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world.
Your comments were full of humor and very interesting (you need a good sense of humor to try to define a cliché!). And some of them are just so true!!! Okay, let’s see…
Le Style of La Parisienne.
“Having spent hours observing chic Parisians over many a Ricard at Le Flore these past two summers, I can say that she is uninterested in trends, unfazed by dictates of what is appropriate for a certain time of day or for a woman of a certain age, confident of her sartorial decisions, be it a black Nike worn with a tailored black pant suit or a bold swipe of cat-eye liner at 10:00 am (no, I was not drinking Pastis at Le Flore at 10:00 am). I’d sum up her style as carefully curated to look absolutely effortless!”
“I feel like the myth of “The Parisian” comes from the fact that France is pretty old school in a lot of ways.
[I totally agree and wonder if the whole fashion legacy here is some of the reason. Paris is home to some of the most important fashion houses that have defined chic for decades. Which can be pretty intimidating…]
In London and Berlin, you can try anything, from blue hair to a tattoo on your arm, mix sneakers and formal dresses. But in Paris, you take the time you need to make a new trend yours and you keep the things that work well on you, well-cut basics that work for sure.
Maybe this is where the myth of the “simple and chic Parisienne” comes from?”
- Amalgame Magazine
“The French don’t follow fashion blindly. I mean, really, because the French think they are the ones making the trends! She doesn’t follow trends, she just allows a few in her life.
She’ll never show up at a party looking like a Christmas tree. She chucked her ballet slippers for some pumps, but kept her jeans on. Actually, she only stopped by the party because she had a little bit of free time.”
- Cohiba, who explains in her commentary why for her the Parisian is really the French woman in general.
“The Parisian is never over dressed. She has to look totally natural, like she just tossed everything together in 10 minutes in the morning. She doesn’t like stuff that’s too sophisticated or anything that would make people think she’s put any any efforts into being pretty.”
“The Parisian… She’s a girl who could care less. She’s not looking to put herself into a box or follow any of the rules.”
- Lady Moriarty
“The Parisienne is very self conscious about her body (maybe too much) and refuses to be a slave of fashion but instead uses it. She uses fashion to flatter her body and therefore will only wear something that is adapted to her body type. Also, she will not wear something that does not fit her lifestyle.
She is not a slave to fashion but they are still some unsaid rules. You never go for the total look, you do not wear sport shoes except if you are a teenager or going to the gym (as a commenter said if you need comfort you wear ballerinas) and you do not wear a down jacket!”
“The Parisian has a single outfit for the day: It’s gotta be able to go from day to night… It’s an art!!! And she’ll never make concessions in the name of comfort. NO TENNIS SHOES TO COMMUTE TO WORK IN. IT’S NOT ALLOWED IN THE PARISIAN CODE OF HONOR. (Ballet flats where not created for dogs where they?) [totally French expression by the way]”
Le Body of La Parisienne.
“Yes, she takes care of herself, [...] but no one should know about it. No way she’s gonna work on her muscles like Madonna !”
“She’s chic, she takes care of her body and even more of her hair. She does aqua biking ;)”
- Maryse, super precise.
“She’s natural and sophisticated at the same time. It means, for example, shiny hair but never blown out. Red lipstick, but very little make up. Very natural hair color too. Even if there is a color, you shouldn’t see she had one done.
She is the definition of studied effortlessness. Everything is super thought about, but she looks like she just woke up in the morning exactly the way she appears in front of you.”
“For me a true Parisienne drinks a coffee and eats a croissant in the morning, but she might not have the time to do so, but she always will have a really good lunch, warm food and a glass of red wine. She would sit down and talk and eat and she would never ever eat a sandwich while working. It is really interesting that the French are among the most healthy people, if you look at the statistics, that always amazes me! I think that if you eat with other people and socialize while eating it is healthy and a glass of red wine is always good for your vessels.”
La Parisienne Attitude
“La Parisienne is a little cold and removed. She doesn’t smile easily, walks fast and crosses the street wherever she decides!
She has a coffee in the morning, and 12 later.”
“She is fun to talk to, and independent. And she drinks red wine.”
“I hope that a Parisienne is someone who rejects the idea of being labeled and lives their life without feeling beholden to convention. They’re chic and resourceful, not trendy…they’re engaging and smart, selfless and effervescent.”
“La Parisienne doesn’t know she’s special, that’s what makes her charming…”
“La Parisienne keeps a nonchalant attitude in everything: her walk, her ways, her cigarette. She pretends she didn’t take the time to dress but she has crazy good style. She eats organic with her friends but loves heavy food when she’s alone. She pretends to not be very likable, cold with people she doesn’t know, smokes her cigarette with a tea at the Flore but likes to go crazy at night in Pigalle or around the Canal Saint Martin. She works a lot, even more if in fashion, art or cinema. She loves to go to APC, to thrift shops with her friends and to show up with her cute boyfriend.
When you know her, she is actually super nice, fun and absolutely lovable. She needs love and affection.
She pretends she doesn’t care, but actually she cares a lot.”
“For me, as a fellow European (I’m Scandinavian and in envy of the term Parisienne..!) la Parisienne is a woman with effortless elegance, that is why she’s s chic. And there’s this aura of carelessness and maybe a tad bit of arrogance, to hide away her true feelings of passion that runs in her blood… Because I think she’s a very,very passionate woman. She drinks, she smokes, has a powerful laugh, and I think thats what I admire, this free spirit, that is so French…”
“The Parisienne is the girl who’ll do everything to make you think it comes to her easily… And that succeeds so well that she made the entire world believe that she stays thin while chugging croissants, has perfect skin while chain smoking, dresses in one second without thinking about it and was born in Paris when she’s actually not…”
“I’ve lived in Paris all my life and parents and grandparents before me. I settled in London and New York for a few years but my heart belongs to Paris. In the morning I drink coffee and eat two tartines with raspberry jam. I smoke (too much) and I love to sit at cafés to watch people go by. Seeing the Eiffel Tower makes me smile. I take bike rides in the city and eat croissants only on the weekends. I put make up on my eyes or my mouth but never the two at the same time – except for a little mascara of course. I have a french bulldog thats called Louis and I live in the heart of the city I love. Oh, I almost forgot to say, I am black… Am I still a Parisian for you?”
“The Parisienne is my girlfriend. She mixes brands, is never try hard and likes to look nonchalant. She has something about her that makes her irresistible and walks with our son on her 12cm heels and her super overstuffed Balenciaga weekender. She likes to make fun of people, talks out loud and is extra cool. Morning is coffee and tartines. I don’t know if this is LA Parisienne but this is the Parisienne I love.”
I love (and I say that without any irony, you know how important breakfast is for me) that you took to heart my question about breakfast… And so we learned that for most Parisiennes, breakfast is tartines and coffee. And this, too :
“What does she have for breakfast? Her lover ;)”
If you want my Corsican point of view, by way of Marseille, Paris, and New York, I think that the cliché of the Parisian has some truth, but at the same time, and you know, I’m definitely not one – which is also why I really wanted to hear what you had to say.
I’m a southern girl. The Mediterranean is pumping through my veins.
I come from a completely different culture than Paris and I remember feeling so out of place when I first got there. It was tough to adapt.
But I learned to know and love the Parisienne. She can be intimidating at first, but she is frank, non-hypocritical, and she has a heart of gold and is hilarious.
It’s true that she goes to the worlds end to look like she just threw everything together, but I think the result is often pretty worth it.
I like how much the put together and quiet appearance has this kind of wacky and irreverent underbelly. If it’s a cliché, then it’s a cliché, really. And after all, Paris is a city of clichés and it’s one of the reasons we love it, right?
So this Parisienne, what do you think, myth or reality?
The illustration is from my last campaign with Seafarer. You can see it in full here!