Paris, a city where mid-19th century stores were built as temples of style and shopping is an art form can be so intimidating. What on earth do we pack to look chicly Parisian as opposed to looking as stale as a three-day old baguette!
Visiting Paris over the years, and observing women of all ages who effortlessly mix classic pieces with seasonal ‘must-haves’, it seems to me that the essence of Parisian chic is never far removed from European style icons of the 1960s and ‘70s. Think Jane Birkin, Francoise Hardy, Jackie Kennedy Onassis (during her Greek period) and Loulou de la Falaise. Channeling these perennial spirits, I always pack navy/white striped t.shirts, ankle-grazing Capri pants and classic jeans, flat shoes, crisp white man-style shirts, scarves and faux ‘statement’ jewellery for instant PM glamour, a short trench coat, a leather jacket, a pencil skirt and lightweight layering pieces which I then try to wear with insouciance!!
I also throw in a Longchamp Le Pliage travel bag for those above-mentioned seasonal must-haves.
Airborne, a tote bag morphs into the travelling office with t.shirt, underwear and cashmere wrap essential survival gear.
Paris is the spiritual home of Melbourne artist Betina Fauvel-Ogden who travels there each year while preparing her sell-out exhibitions of Paris street scenes. Her Parisian uniform? “Black leather jacket, jeans and a freshly laundered t.shirt worn with ballet flats. Simple but eternally stylish, ” she asserts.
Australian fashion designer John Cavill, offers up the following advice. “Leave your inhibitions in the departure lounge, be expressive and show your individuality. Most importantly, leave the lycra/gym gear at home – never wear it on the streets!”
My French friend, event designer Laura Laffitte, always looks effortlessly chic so what’s her style secret? “I believe that less is more. If it’s spring or summer, I take dark, straight leg jeans (never skinny) with a fluid silk top and a little cardigan in the same colour, ballet flats and good accessories. Otherwise I love to wear a trench coat or leather jacket especially if I am wearing an expensive day dress. It dresses down a pricey outfit,” says Laura who assures me that Parisian girls never like to show off…..
Before hitting the shops, spend at least half a day exploring the Marais in the 4eme, particularly the busy grid between rue des Archives, rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie and Vieille du Temple where the promenading will provide plenty of inspiration and plug you into the fashion pulse du jour.
Haute couture reigns along avenue Montaigne where you’ll find the world’s finest couture clothes that you’ll never afford while window shopping along the quaint medieval streets of Ile St Louis – the geographical heart of the city – conjures up visions of Paris before the great architect Baron Georges Haussmann built its grand boulevards and stores at the behest of Napoleon III.
Le Bon Marche department store oozes high voltage style and elegance as well as a spectacular food emporium. Go and gaze at the glass dome at Galeries Lafayette. Built in 1906 as the poster building for the Art Nouveau movement, it brings grand spectacle to department store shopping. My favourite, and where many Parisians shop, is Le BHV – Bazaar de l’Hotel de Ville – an unpretentious and great value department store at 36 rue de la Verrrie in the Marais.
For idiosyncratic Parisian frockstar finds, the weekend flea markets at Clignancourt (too big) and Vanves (just right) are both filled with vintage clothing. Go early weekend mornings for the best hunting and gathering
Or take inspiration from former Chanel model Ines de la Fressange who was quoted as saying:
“When I have few clothes I manage better than when I have a lot because I use my imagination.”
For more on shopping in Paris go to www.en.parisinfo.com/what-to-do-in-paris/shopping
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