Even French Women Have Flaws

September 29, 2014


Here’s an utterly unshocking confession: I love Parisian style.

Like countless other non-French women, I have taken many sartorial steps in an attempt to achieve some degree of relative Frenchness…

Repetto flats? Check. Cropped leather jacket? Check. Pinning countless photos of Francois Hardy and Jane Birkin? Check. Perfectly tousled hair? Attempted.

But here’s some more truth for you: Once upon a time, when I was a naive young thing, I had a Parisian boyfriend. In our time together, I made many French friends, including a bevy of sylph-like Parisian women. They oozed chicness of the highest order—pulling off dramatic layered haircuts and loud silk scarves that would have left me looking like a tired librarian.

A few of them, however? Not stylish. Not stylish at all.

But they grew up in Paris! I’d think, furrowing my overplucked American brows (it was the early oughts, back when that was still happening). Where were their fringy bangs, their knotted scarves, their magical ability to eat pastry without gaining an ounce?

Missing, apparently. Because despite their gorgeous accents, they were still just human woman-people, with different tastes, talents and sensibilities. Refreshingly immune to stereotypes, and inspiring in other ways.

But if you too covet French style, here are my three favorite books on the subject:

Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange: Ines de la Fressange does not encounter flaws (or as the French would say, faux pas). What she lacks in flaws, she makes up for with opinions: staples to splurge on, golden rules, and where to shop in Paris.

Paris Street Style by Isabelle Thomas & Frederique Veysset: Chock full of amazing street style shots, illustrations, and punchy interviews. Flip through it for inspiration, then put it on your shelf and admire its sweet striped spine.

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Caroline de Maigret, Audrey Diwan, Ann Berest and Sophie Mas: A tongue-in-cheek manifesto perfect for the seasoned Francophile. It goes beyond the basics to offer glimpses into the philosophy, psychology and humor of Parisian women. You walk away feeling uncool in comparison, but cooler for having read it.

I wish you many chic adventures, but let us all remember: NO ONE is immune to faux pas… or the perils of humidity.

Carry on, mes amis. Carry on.


P.S. Look, there’s France! And a random croissant! And some scraggly plants on the windowsill, wondering where their newly-dead plant friends have gone. (I’m not French, you guys. You can only expect so much.)

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  • Spending way too much time looking through your blog for a Monday. You’ve created such a wonderful space here! As a new reader, so much gratitude to you. Thank you 🙂

  • I’ve been living in Paris for 4 years, and I can tell you that, yes, on the whole Parisian women are stylish (but it’s more classic/formulaic — skinny jeans, scarf, etc — a variation on that every day). But perfect? Farrrrr from it (thankfully).

  • Loved to see that you didn’t fall in that trap ! I hate to see american women (or whatever country they’re from) rave about french/parisian girls ! Please, you’re all wonderful in your own way ! There’s nothing perfect in Paris, far from it. Quite the contrary, I often think. Depends on the moment 😉

  • Hello!
    I just discovered your blog and love it very much. I just lived in France for one year and I couldn’t agree more. I thought all French women were born with ballerina bodies and smooth skin. I was wrong. Just like the rest of the world, women come in all shapes and sizes.
    I wrote a post on my blog about it called There is no such thing as flawless french beauty.
    Glad to have found you!

  • isavoyage,

    I am French and by no means perfect or perfectly dressed. In the US, in Mexico and in other places, i have been asked to “prove” that I was “really” French. How embarrassing (and rude)!

  • I really love that post! I don’t think French/Parisian women are perfect, but there’s definitely a je-ne-sais -quoi that sets them apart. Last year, in NYC with my best American friend, she asked me to teach her how to tie her scarf the same way I was doing mine. I had no idea what I was doing to tie that scarf right. to me, it was just a scarf! I said I couldn’t teach it because I wasn’t aware I was doing something particular and she said “oh yes, must be a French thing!” Somehow, we’re born knowing how to tie scarves! How about that!!

  • Caroline, I’ve just found you!

    I am a WordMistress myself, now slowing working my way through your wee CyberCorner…& finding more and more delight with each new word, sentence and sentiment! Merci beaucoup xo

  • I love your blog! So refreshing and you have a great writing voice. I also love your globe–where did you get it?

  • I’ve just discovered your blog, Caroline. I love it so very much, you have a wonderful voice. I’ll be looking forward to your posts from now on.
    I’ve lived in Lyon for 5 years before moving to Canada, and I agree with you completely. Actually the majority of my female colleagues were lacking in the style department. However, I was very impressed with the elegance and style of older women (past their 50s) – so chic, perfect hair and manicures, impeccable make-up. So I think the idea of French perfection stems from the image of the Francaise of 30-40 years ago.

  • Anne Roy,

    I do hate to disagree but I think Italian women look more elegant … more effortless.

    Anne clean, tidy, drab Cdn in England

  • A few years back this was also something that I was trying so hard to achieve, but now I think that whole style thing is mainly cultivated (though very alluring) myth. When we were last time in Paris, we even played a game “Parisian or not”, trying to guess which of the stylish people were French and which were tourists like us (many). And then one day a couple came up to us and started talking french only to discover we knew only few (heavily mispronounced) basics. Turns out they were from another town in France and decide to asks us for directions as we looked “Parisian” and walked the streets like we knew where we were going . We celebrated with (more) wine and cheese that evening.