Paris a la Mode Fall 2006

Paris a la Mode Fall 2006

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So you’ve already bought your latest Fall duds—a pair of platform shoes, a tweed tailored jacket with Peter Pan collar, something red and, if you’re brave (and thin), something called “skinny” or “pencil.” This year, the trends are pretty much the same from New York to Paris, but if you think you’ll be mistaken for a Parisian on the Boulevard St. Germain, you’re wrong. It’s not what you wear, but how you wear it.

To bring you the Paris trends, I went undercover. I got all dressed up in the latest looks and hit the rues, avenues and boulevards armed with my keen eye and sketchpad. I thought I was positively Parisian, blending imperceptibly. But everyone with whom I interacted said the same thing: positively New York—very chic, but not Parisian. My cover was blown. “How can you tell? What gives me away?” I asked, bewildered. My plan was foolproof; I was wearing the exact fashions I saw in store windows and on Parisian women. What is this thing that makes Parisian fashions Parisian, especially when the basic styles are the same? I became obsessed with uncovering this secret and this fashion report is dedicated to what I found. Here are the trends, Paris-style—some seasonal, some perennial.


It all starts with your head. Me: Full and flowing, very Farrah. Them: Blunt cuts, few layers, minimal styling. French women seem averse to fussing with their locks and are going simpler and shorter than a lot of the men I saw. In fact, les hommes used more mousse than their girlfriends and this season, some boys even donned kerchief-like head coverings and headbands to keep their flowing locks in place. When the women did put their hair up, it was in a simple ponytail or twist, yanked up carelessly as if done while waiting for the Metro. (I found this curious since Parisian women are notorious for being put together “just so.”) For Paris hair, go blunt and shoulder length and dye it some unnatural shade of red or eggplant (super-short Gigi bangs, optional). Wash and go.


Me: Silver disco hoop earrings. Them: Big, glitzy earrings with a chunky necklace and a huge belt. Oversized accessories are hot in Paris too, and they really know how to pour it on. This is where Parisian women excel (just think of Coco). They can mix it up in a daring way and still avoid being gaudy or tacky. The rule: there are no rules. White shoes after Labor Day—mais oui! And with black stockings, s’il vous plaît. Wear it all together and don’t try to match anything. Big gold bag with a red pantsuit. Aqua ankle boots smothered in silver studs with black leg warmers. Simple beige trench coat cinched up with an improvised ornate belt. Classic tailored suit paired with huge chandelier earrings. My favorite sighting: A green knit oversized chain link scarf—fun and fantastic. And speaking of scarves…

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The difference between a Parisian and a New Yorker: the scarf—this season, last season, toujours. I don’t mean the type you tuck neatly under your coat to keep out the chill. In Paris, it’s all about the table-cloth-sized variety—brightly colored, fringe and all. Men and women both swaddle their necks in these shawl-like accessories and let them flap flamboyantly. And I do mean swaddle. It’s as if they are guarding against the flu or, I don’t know, vampires. Or perhaps this trend is born out of a psychological need to protect that which was so vulnerable during their revolution. God knows it would take the guillotine to separate a Parisian from his scarf. On my visit this Fall, even though the weather was unseasonably warm, scarves abounded. Young, androgynous couples were curled up like cats at cafes, both “scarfed” to the max. Men in business suits—scarfed. Women in jeans and short-sleeved tees—scarfed. Me after a few days in Paris—yeah sure, ya betcha.


Me: Black knit tunic, black leather obi belt, black patterned hose and red cowboy boots. Them: Nice try, but how about: black pencil skirt, red stockings, orange top, blue shoes. Sounds hideous, right? Wrong. How do they do it? Parisians will throw colors together I would never dream of combining and pull it off somehow. And this season, color is bold and daring: Red with pink. Orange with yellow. Green with blue. I’d be afraid of looking like Bozo or some sad superhero, but Parisians—women and men alike—have an innately adventurous way with color. It’s inspirational. Well, inspirational in theory. It will be a cold day in Barnum & Baileyland before I wear the yellow- and pink-striped hose and orange shoes combo that walked by me while I sipped chocolate chaud at Café de Flore. (My friend dubbed this trend, “Le Big Bird.”) Maybe those less adventurous types should stick with all black and one colorful accessory. There’s plenty of that in Paris, too. 


I may sound like an old man circa 1970, but I couldn’t tell the galldarned boys from the frickinfrackin’ girls, dagnabbit. Something about the hormone-free meat and dairy in Europe that creates hairless, thin youths the likes of which you will not find in Anytown, USA. Add to this the propensity Euromales have toward fem fashions and you have a very different-looking guy than your average New Yorker. The pretty, young Parisian males are very fashion-forward and not afraid to wear softer, “feminine” styles like brightly patterned shirts that cling to their slim frames. They love shopping for clothes and tend toward dandies, yet somehow manage to stay just this side of “fay.” Slipper-like, thin-soled sneaker shoes, messenger bags that look suspiciously like purses, bright patterns, soft scarves, perfectly styled hair—what a refreshing contrast to the generic baggy shirt/jeans/sneaker uniform of the straight American male. Boy-tiful.


Another thing that separates New Yorkers from Parisians: the “old” broads still got it. You 60+ gals, listen up: in Paris, older women still follow the latest trends—trends generally considered for younger women—and still dress to attract. (Of course, it helps that they are rail thin so they can actually wear this season’s skinny pant.) I saw many an older woman walking the Paris streets in spiky high heels (my God, HOW do they still do it?), perfectly styled and very on trend. Hell, they looked better than a lot of the young girls. So this season, try one thing that you might have thought too young for you—the platform shoe, the brightly printed tunic, the chunky jewels, whatever. Just have fun with fashion and be the grande dame that you are. 


For those of you still out of the loop, here is a “petit” Fall trend overview. This year, I gleaned them from the Paris sidewalks rather than the catwalks. Yes, Parisians are also in skinny pants, leggings, hip belts, cowl necks, long sweaters in the dreaded horizontal stripes, etc. But boot cut jeans, pointy toes (square point for men), and metallics are around yet another season. I found slouchy, oversized handbags in stores, yet on the streets, women opted for small, structured purses with long, thin straps, à la Ralph Lauren. Boots were slouchy, too, worn with jeans tucked in. Also popular: shorts paired with black opaque stockings and heels or boots. No, I’m not talking about black hose and daisy-dukes-on-my-way-to-see-White-Snake denim shorts. These shorts are tailored and cuffed; made from tweed or wool crepe and worn with a matching or coordinating jacket—the hotpants suit. In that vein, knee pants were a hit as well, particularly in denim. Some women simply cut their jeans and rolled them up, while others wore versions that fastened with a little button or snap at the knee. Trés Little Lord Fauntleroy. 

Fashion warning: Stay away from anything called “skinny” or “pencil” unless you wear it with something called “long” [sweater] or “bubble” [top]. —LMA