17 Pearls of French Fashion Wisdom

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17 Pearls of French Fashion Wisdom
In Paris over the last several years I have learned how to “put myself together.” The saleswomen as well as my good Parisian friend, Sabine, have taken me in hand and taught me important laws on how we must shop. I say “we” to include all women who want to improve not just their appearance, but their lives, by imaginative and strategic credit card mischief.  There is not a single purchase in France that does not involve comparison, discussion, explanation and loads of advice. For your own shopping chic savvy, I will now generously share with you 17 pearls of French fashion wisdom offered to me: 1. Your clothes need not match in color; in fact they should be nuancé. They must agree in their basic color and merely be of different hues. In this way, for example all greens go together, all blues match each other, etc. It’s an optical thing. Pure science. It is not you, but the eye of the beholder that creates the color matching… now doesn’t that take the pressure off? View this post on Instagram Don't forget to check the full schedule of the week, made up of haute couture shows and high jewelry presentations ! 📷 by @vannibassetti. #hautecouture #instacouture #pfw #mypfw #ss17 A post shared by Paris Fashion Week (@parisfashionweek) on Jan 23, 2017 at 5:46am PST 2. If you’re wearing the same colors and they look wrong, it’s because they don’t match. Now you must ignore Pearl#1 because the problem is this: your fabrics aren’t matching. The same color of silk, wool, cotton, linen etc. all reflect light differently and this mis-match can make you look thrown together, not put together. Take care to match or at least complement your materials. 3. For stunning color, take risks by observing nature. Mix royal blue with taupe, brown with prune, emerald with orange. It is the unexpected that enchants. The rule is no rule. That’s why it’s OK, even lovely to wear black shoes with brown clothes. Also do what the French love to do, pair dark chocolate with navy. Elegante. View this post on Instagram 🏵@josephineaarkrogh 🏵 for @voguerunway A post shared by Søren Jepsen (@thelocals) on Jan 24, 2017 at 11:46am PST 4. Don’t match styles overmuch. Mix it up. It’s the French who got the Cubist artist Braque to paint vivid royal blue puzzle shapes on the 16th century gilt ceiling of the Louvre to dazzling effect. Pair funky with fine and you will look intriguingly BoBo (Bohemian and Bourgeois). 5. When you buy lingerie, it must be audace! Yes that’s the word they use with a straight face: audacious. Audace in France is the lingerie default. In fact, a friend in Paris, advises audace for everything you wear. Her motto is “If it’s not sexy, don’t buy it.”  She doesn’t mean trashy; she means sensuel. Speaking of lingerie, don’t forget that in France, your umbrella is considered a kind of external lingerie. Why else would the famous French lingerie designer, Chantal Thomass, also be designing umbrellas? Lace, silk frills, ribbons—out in the rain you audaciously go! 6. To close the advice on lingerie, please do not make the very embarrassing mistake I made once by assuming that our word “camisole” refers to the same thing in French. I left a trail of laughter across Paris when I ran from store to store explaining with increasing desperation that “I really need a camisole!” a word I learned too late, means “straight jacket.” 7. The coupe of the clothes is the cut or the line, the architecture. The coupe is most important and is simply described as either elegant or not. Even with an elegant cut, always engaié with some artistic element. A bit of fur, a little flower, a brooch, a necklace. View this post on Instagram Thinking about party outfits – no that's a lie, I'm more WONDERING WHAT THE HELL I CAN DO FOR NYE I'M SO LOST & SHIT / pic by @lefrenchystyle A post shared by Adeline Rapon (@adelinerapon) on Dec 30, 2016 at 5:56am PST 8. Think feathers! Recently I was nearly out the door after a purchase when the salesgirl ran after me to tape pink and brown quail feathers to the bag. Small bright feathers flutter on shoes, scarves and on ear lobes. I’ve seen feathers dyed bright orange and rimmed with tiny rhinestones for table decoration. Even my cheap eye-lining pencil from the Monoprix has a peacock feather hanging from it! 9. In winter, never leave home without a scarf. Buy the big fake fool-the-eye ones in the Metro stations or in the souvenir shops for 5 euros. For women, a scarf is said to be most flattering when it “embraces” the neck and most chic when knotted twice. In summer though, wear it as a shawl, as a belt, knotted at the side hip, or wrapped around your purse handle, in a bow or hanging like a horse’s tail. Sympa! Whatever you do, don’t wear a Hermes scarf, around your neck. Oh so predictable. You will look what the French call Mamie. Like your grandma. 10. Nothing is too young for you to wear if worn right. Clothes are said to be sage, (wise) when they suit you. If it doesn’t seem sage, too young or too old, perhaps you’re just need to re-think it? Stand the blouse collar up, scrunch up the sleeves, unbutton the top button, cover la derrière with a jacket, add a thin ribbon at the neck, and pair that skirt with boots. Dress too short? Wear it over pants! Layers are in even for summer and la tunique is everywhere. View this post on Instagram … My mum also said "You should smile" (ok that's not true but I needed something to write with the photo) #ChanelHauteCouture #HC17 #TheCHANELGabrielleBag A post shared by Caroline de Maigret (@carolinedemaigret) on Jan 25, 2017 at 10:33am PST 11. Tilt your hat…always. 12. A key chain is a major fashion item in France. The large porte clé, sometimes called a grigri is a statement. It is a chatelaine composed of numerous trinkets, ribbons, tassels and tokens (and yes feathers) in every imaginable color and material. Each season, an extraordinary new designer selection from cheap to chic arrives in the Paris boutiques. Clamp a grigri on your purse, hang it from your belt, loop it from your skirt ( this way it lends a coy chastity belt connotation), wear it on a chain around you neck or merely produce it in a restaurant a good while before leaving and play with it a bit as you sip those last drops of kir. Show it off! 13.  A necklace on bare skin looks younger than a necklace worn over clothes and an unmatched necklace and earrings look younger than a…

Lead photo credit : photo: Patrick Marty CC0 Public Domain Pixabay

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Maxine Rose Schur is the author of award-winning children’s books and travel essays. Her inspiring travel memoir "Places in Time" was named Best Travel Book of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association and the Society of American Travel Writers.


  • Eva
    2018-03-21 04:28:21
    Thanks for inspiration, Maxine! I spotted this brand (https://ysaure.com/en/) from Paris today, it seems all about French style and art.


  • Celia
    2017-03-12 08:35:30
    This was great! Thanks!!


  • Mara
    2017-02-27 10:52:20
    Some new ideas for me - Thank you!


  • Hazel Smith
    2017-02-01 12:17:44
    Hazel Smith
    Fun article. Now I want to see some pictures of YOU!