Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weighing in on Parisian Chic

Author and goddess de l'age, Ines de la Fressange

A dear friend rewarded me with a copy of the lovely style guide, Parisian Chic, by Ines de la Fressange. I've devoured it slowly so as to separate the wheat from the chaff.

That is to say, there's good stuff in here, and there's other stuff. And there's a bit of filler. So let's begin with the good stuff.

1. Ines herself. Lovely, of course. An inspiration in her honesty of life in l'age without botox.
2. It looks and feels like a Moleskine notebook, so that's all good. A very clever bit of publishing style which makes you want to own the book.
3. Advice on the basics: I won't go into the details but the basics are there and do solve a lot of problems for most of us.
4. The makeup tips: Fabulous. Nothing worse than a woman in l'age wearing frosted anything. Excellent advice here.
5. Golden rule: Avoid the head-to-toe look of ladies-who-lunch. Sage advice and a dead giveaway that you lived through the '80s and haven't let go.
6. Flats of all kinds: Let's face it, day to day, we need ballet flats, sandals and discreet running shoes. In my little foray into Italy and France last year virtually all the natives were in flats. Switch in the office, at the party, in the bar - but let's accept flats as de riguer. At 5'5" I'm with 5'10" Ines on this one.

Stuff I could have done without:

1. All fashion photos featuring her teenage daughter: Now really, nepotism is all well and good but in a book for women in l'age, who wants to see how these clothes work on an 18 year old? Presumably she might have tapped into any number of Parisian girlfriends for this job.
2. The rather long shopping guide: Clearly filling in space. Less might have been more here.
3. Shameless flogging for Roger Vivier: Now I'm a fan of M. Vivier and have been since he made boots for Diana Vreeland, but like Madame 'French Women Don't Get Fat' and her shameless flogging of Veuve Clicquot Champagne in the guise of a diet book, I know a marketing campaign when I see one. She didn't need to be quite so flagrant in her 'implied' endorsement.

And finally, while French style as put forward by Ms. de la Fressange is great advice, if the world solely reflected the discreet good taste of the chic French woman it would be a dull place indeed. A baseline - yes, a rule absolument non. Just too safe. There's more to life and style than a navy blue v-neck and I, for one, will continue to explore other slightly more eclectic options.

All that said, Parisian Chic will remain on my bedside stack of reliably enjoyable reads for both the near and distant future.


  1. I appreciate this review very much -- it echoes what I've read about the book, but with a very welcome balance.
    and I really like your second last paragraph, a sentiment I feel quite strongly after spending a month in Paris. Discreet good taste can be very dull -- I want a bit of cacophonous eclecticism!

  2. I am just dying to get my hands on this little red book (still in its plastic wrapping) staring at me. I promised I would wait until Mother's Day to open my gift! (what was I thinking?) I understand the comments on the 'dull' aspect of Parisian chic but I must admit finding great comfort in the 'safe' stuff as I start living my 40s. Maybe this will change. I'll keep you posted, but please continue to spice my life with as much eclecticism as possible! ;)

  3. I must nip off and order this, I keep forgetting. My wardrobe doesn't resemble Ines's at all but I'm dying to see her tips.

    I love your honest review. And I bet she's had a teeny bit of botox!

    Thanks for your lovely comments over at mine xx

  4. Although like Mater I am a big fan of the understated French style not for a moment could I adopt it. This is a great review and I too was left scratching my head at the lack of photographs of her since the book is clearly aimed at our age group not my daughters. That said I may pass it on to her later.
    My other gripe was the constant children thing, which again didn't seem necessary.

  5. Yes, I agree with most of these comments, particularly the teenage model. Also, I thought she covered too much territory; I would have liked more style tips, and less on children and little bistros where you have to be a friend of Ines to get a table !

  6. I think that Ines does try to encourage us away from relentlessly discreet good taste - thus the exhortations to wear boots with a chiffon frock, for instance - but totally agree that the world would be very dull if we all took the same approach to fashion.

  7. Mater: Cacophonous eclecticism! What a phrase! Let's start a movement. Based on very little personal research ... I think the Italians have it down.

    Mrs. V.: Your restraint is commendable. Chic + spice = perfect.

    Christina: So nice of you to come for a visit. Botox? Honestly, why do I believe what anyone says?

  8. Indigo: Couldn't agree more. This is exactly the kind of good taste style guide I would give my daughter. Then, I would hope, she would style it up to reflect her individuality.

    Parthenope: Yes, a pretty broad scope. I would like to see how and when these wardrobe staples work on different body types of women in l'age. That would have been a useful guide.

    Tiffany: Good point. And there are some good tips to not be afraid of mixing cheap with chic. Not sure I could pull off boots with a chiffon dress ....

    Thank you all so much for your lovely comments!