Monday, May 2, 2011

Ines on Parisian Chic

Friends again.

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.
As far as I'm concerned, her predominant theme is: relax; life is short; a sense of humor is a priceless accessory; try not to make a fool of yourself (but if you do, move on, lesson learned); have fun; explore and learn; celebrate your birthdays; make an effort to look your best at all times and then forget about it.

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.

Ines says:

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.
3.) Navy cashmere sweater. (Absolutely.)
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.
For those who have not yet bought her book she gives more details on fit, accessories and a lots of do's and don'ts. I suspect few of us will be wearing battered combat boots with a chiffon print dress, but Ines could.

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.


Villette said...

I think you've captured the book very well. I read my copy over the weekend, and my only disappointment was that the pictures were all of the lovely Nine -- some of Ines herself would have been v inspirational. Meanwhile, I'm off to order a navy v-neck from Eric Bompard: it's a start.

The Fashionable Traveler said...

Thanks for the scoop! Having read my fair share of "French Women" books, I wondered if there was anything I didn't already know. But I'm fascinated by Ines, and this book is definitely on my wish list.!

quintessence said...

Wonderful review of a book I have been already waiting for - why I didn't pre-order on Amazon is a mystery. I went to my local bookstore and they are sold out -awaiting reprinting - good for Ines. She is indeed charming and as you say, I doubt the advice will be anything we haven't heard - here in particular - but am still looking forward to seeing it in print!!

Deja Pseu said...

Lovely review! I thought it was a very good (not perfect) blend of ingredients. I think some people had held out hope for a more nuts-and-bolts style guide (e.g. "if you have wide hips, wear X") but I mostly loved her attitude and humor.

You've summed it up so perfectly and succinctly here:
"Reinvention is not necessary. Evolution is essential."

And Charm is always chic.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Very well written and thought-out book review Tish. Ines' book proves once again that good taste never goes out of style. It also "validates the brilliance" we get in our daily read of "A Femme d'Un Certain Age." Keep up the good work my friend.


itztru said...

Thank you! I agree that perhaps we're looking for affirmation vs. "how - to", because let's face it...if we need an instruction manual as a woman of a "certain age", then what we wear or do won't be our true style!

ParisGrrl said...

Clearly Ines hasn't seen my collection of fabulous scarf rings, or she'd change her mind, lol.

kathy peck said...

Great "review" of the book.

Spiral Style said...

Thanks so much for your great synopsis of the book. Alas, navy is NOT my color but I'll get the suggested pieces in chocolate brown which is much more flattering for me and just as neutral/basic.

Murphy said...

I agree that the book is charming, and I love Ines' positive attitude throughout - especially the part where she says we should work towards a good overall impression rather than obsessing over every wrinkle. All the little tips and sketches are lovely too!

Shari said...

Nicely done sneak preview, Tish. I've got a copy on hold at my library to avoid commitment until I've had a chance to peruse it myself.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Tish, You really have me wanting to read the book! I like her suggestions...I love reading about Paris...and a little controversy makes it more interesting! I like the fact that she says a must have is a navy blazer and not a black blazer...I own a lot of black, but I do think it can be too harsh as I move up on the birthdays!!

AC Quigley said...

Parisian chic, to me, is something some women have naturally and for others it takes a bit of effort to try and achieve. I fear that I fall into the second group!
The book sounds interesting, I'd love to get my hands on it and see if it helps!

Andrea said...

The only possible source of disagreement I might have with this sage advice is the suggestion that a woman of mature years should wear tank tops. To be quite frank, very few over 45 can go sleeveless without embarrassing those around them. Yes, it is true even for those of us who work out religiously and have very well-toned arms. I'm sorry, it's sometimes very hot and only a tank-top provides enough air, but when there is loose skin hanging about, it's best to keep it covered.

Russian Chic said...

Thank you for the review. I am so curious about content of your fashion book collection. Could you please consider sharing your favorite books? Thank you.

Alice Olive said...

Great review. I also loved reading this book and it has stayed on my coffee table since it arrived on my doorstep! I was halfway through it and ordered a copy for my sister.

One of the things I admire about Ines' style is that it is so simple. She looked fabulous in the 80s and she still looks fabulous. Not sure I can say that about me, unfortunately!

I particularly liked her comments about jewelry. Less is more. Literally.

She isn't preachy, it's just fun and style should be that!

That's Not My Age said...

I like your review, and I like the book - it's charming and witty and I will be visiting some of Ines' favourite haunts on my next trip to Paris!

BigLittleWolf said...

This may be a book I seek out (et rouge - comment me priver de la couverture rouge ?) - and love, love, love the way you take and leave what makes sense for you.

And isn't that the whole point, really? Self confidence, playfulness, class, and savoring l'essentiel?

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

This book is causing quite a stir...
your review is one of the better ones.

Your powers of observation are keen Tish.

Semi Expat said...

Totally agree with your review of the book Tish... Not life changing but a gorgeous looking book and a fun read. Oh, and it is nice to know that things you are doing/buying are considered 'chic' enough by Ines too! X

ida said...

What a relief someone else likes navy,not the forever black number!!
What a great photo of Ines and her children natural and elegant.

Have given up on wearing jeans,miss the 'suck in everything'on the hips though!! Spanx the way to go urrrgh!

Thanks Tish for an interesting as always take on things.Ida

Francine Gardner said...

I don't know if I should feel better about myself (desperately trying to shed a few pounds via caveman diet and roughtless trainer) as I meet all of her criterias...except the clear bra straps...oh dear...all these years i had no idea idea it was such a no no..

Duchesse said...

Why is it so important to have "validation" for the notions that a navy cashmere or pair of jeans is essential? Are we not intelligent in and of ourselves?

On these subjects, I prefer the writing of Cathy Horyn, Daphne Merkin or Linda Grant's blog when she was posting on style.

Also, of these items are essentials for all women, why show them only on a 19 year old?

California Girl said...

Now I know who this lady is! It all makes sense. Her words are sensible and a good reminder to those of us who may mourn the loss of our youth & smaller lithe figures that wearing clothes well is as much an attitude and choice as anything else. Thanks again for the style sass.

California Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you or the review, your ideas coincided with mine. Her ideas are useable and adaptable by anyone regardless of age, shape and size, also on any budget with a little thought and research.

Geisslein said...

so many beautiful women here on your blog! Ines is still such a beauty!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...