Perhaps "Parisian Charm" by Ines de la Fressange would have been a better title for her book.
No, true enough, it wouldn't have had the same tantalizing ring to it. Such a title doesn't transmit the message -- the promise? -- that within the red, red covers one might find the key to finally translate the secret formula that will tell us how to look, act and even shop like a true Parisienne.
But, at the end of the day, does her book give us the magic ingredients? Does she deliver?
Let's face it, we're a how-to society. We are never satisfied, we constantly want to improve and reinvent ourselves in one way or another. Good for us. Or maybe not. And, therein, for me, lies the real treasure in Ines's charming guide.
I think I read her book somewhat differently than many women. Was I looking for something I didn't know? Why not? Did I find it? No. (Except for some of her addresses.) Do I care? Absolutely not.
Who doesn't like confirmation and validation, as in: "Oh, that. I've known that for decades."
|Back in the day when Ines was Karl's muse for Chanel.|
Reinvention is not necessary. Evolution is essential. Enjoy the voyage.
Those are the reasons I savored her irresistible style guide. As others have pointed out before me, most of the pages are devoted to her favorite boutiques and eateries; where to go; where to stay; how to shop for and amuse children -- in other words, how to have a true Parisian experience in the city she loves. (Her style advice stops at page 71, the shopping, plus blank pages for notes continue to page 238.)
What if you never set a Converse-clad foot in Paris, does it make her book any less fun to read? I don't think so.
While I'm ranting, I might as well deal with the fact that some critics seem to be annoyed that Ines is verrrry tall and verrrry thin and therefore everything she puts on her body is chic. C'est la vie for heaven's sake. Get over it. That's not her message, or at least that's not what I take away from her chatty tome.
Below a smattering of advice we already knew long before perusing the pages (but look at it this way, Ines is validating our brilliance):
1.) Don't wear transparent bra straps, (they're ridiculous).
2.) Not wearing a bra (after a certain age) is a mistake.
3.) Watch out for the gaping button over the bust.
4.) Scarf rings are prohibited.
5.) Body piercings -- (what's to say?)
6.) Mini-skirts and micro-shorts. (hello?)
7.) Never follow fashion blindly.
8.) Don't dress like a teenager.
9.) Don't feel obliged to buy "fun" clothes.
10.) Loafers and ballet flats suit everyone.
Then she tells us her Top 7 "Musts" for the consummate Parisian wardrobe foundation. Remember, it's her 7 basics -- it may or may not be ours and if we aspire to the heady realm of a real Parisienne, we will take what we like from her list and add our own signature pieces to fill it out according to our taste, lifestyle and figure.
1.) A navy blazer. (I agree totally. It's a lifesaver.)
2.) The trench. (Not for me, but thank you anyway. I get it.)
|Nine and her mother wearing the highly recommended navy cashmere V-neck sweater. Nine was the model throughout the book.|
4.) Tanks or Marcels. (Yes, definitely, piles of them. But never in funky colors.)
5.) A LBD. (Of course, but to each her own.)
6.) Jeans (Again, to each her own. Personally I opt out of this suggestion, but approve wholeheartedly.)
7.) A leather jacket -- hers is biker style. (Not my thing, but have seen it over and over on the streets of Paris and I like it -- on others.)
|Ines in 2009 wearing a stunning LBD with daughters Nine and Violette. (Note all three are wearing Roger Vivier ballerines.) Photo for WWD by Dominique Maitre.|
The charm and appeal of Parisian Chic is Ines herself, her drolly whimsical drawings, the OK not fabulous, fabulous photos taken by her, but then arranged in a layout that makes the entire book feel insider-ish. She seems to be sharing her personal look book, inspiration board, "little red book" of secrets.
In my entire collection of fashion books -- and I have two shelves of them -- Parisian Chic is by far the prettiest. It's a perfect bed table accessory. And, we all know how the perfect accessory changes everything.