Paris Style Report - L'Automne - une femme d'un certain âge

Paris Style Report – L’Automne

Rue de Bac at dusk.

When it comes to style, Paris can be as diverse as any American city. Just as you’ll see very different looks on women in the Upper East Side vs. Soho, or in Beverly Hills vs. Santa Monica, you’d be hard pressed to find a single overriding Parisienne style. Gala Darling points out some common themes, but when Chicamericaine commented on an earlier post that the woman’s hair looked very “16th arr.,” I immediately knew what she was talking about.

As we happened to visit during an unusually warm few days, what we mostly observed people wearing was probably more of a summer-to-fall transitional layered look, less vraiment autumnal than might have been seen had temperatures been cooler. Some popular looks spotted on women:

  • Narrow jeans or trousers tucked into knee-high boots (both low and stacked heels)
  • Patterned or brightly colored tights on women of all ages. (Including one 60-ish woman at Ladurée doing a very Pat Field kind of look with black skirt and jacket, flaming long red hair, lipstick-red belt and tights, black patent ankle boots and bag.)
  • Subtle makeup – no raccoon eyes or goopy gloss (some exceptions to this, but a more natural look predominates)
  • Bubble hem, patterned and other distinctive coats
  • Lots of patent leather shoes and bags
  • Shoulder bags with outside pockets (very practical!)
  • Scarves, scarves, scarves. Mostly lighter weight due to the weather, but still ubiquitous, and tied easily and casually
  • Heels, but not teetering stilts. Most heels I spotted were either chunky, or 2-3″ walkable heights. Low-heeled loafers were quite common with trousers.

In the shops, we spotted lots of greys, purples, currants, cranberries and all variants thereof. But I think there must be a city ordinance that every shop must feature one of these in their window:

The Rabbit Fur Vest seems to be poised to be the must-have item for Fall/Winter.

One big difference that I noticed between some of the more well-to-do older women in Paris and their counterparts in the US was that you don’t see the same level of obvious cosmetic surgeries among les Parisiennes. I didn’t see any “trout pout” or taut, stretched faces, or cheekbone implants. Rather, I saw women who are well-groomed and who seem to be unashamed to look their age (including some wrinkles), dressed well and often in current styles, yet without appearing to want to look like their teenage daughters. Of course there were also many of the skirt-suited, chunky-heeled, more classically turned out femmes as well, representing that style impeccably. Another difference was hair. I got to the point that I could spot American women by their “done” hair. Les Françaises don’t seem to go in for a lot of styling or products, hair is more natural, and relies on a good cut or a loose pony tail or chignon if longer. Messy hair isn’t a negative; many women looked as if they hadn’t bothered to comb or brush since waking up. (That bit of French style might be harder to translate to some parts of the US; I can see it being regarded as “unkempt looking” for women working in corporate environments.)

Ultimately, what I’ve taken away from observing les femmes Parisiennes is:

  • Wear what you like, and wear it with confidence.
  • Don’t be afraid to look your age.
  • Perfection isn’t natural; embrace your individuality.
  • Have fun!


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  1. October 23, 2008 / 1:57 pm

    Look for those observations in an upcoming post. 🙂

  2. chicamericaine
    October 23, 2008 / 2:05 pm

    I agree that those rabbit vests seem to be in every shop window. But did you see many rabbits walking around? I haven’t yet. Maybe they’ll come out once the weather becomes colder (although I won’t be sporting one). In the meantime, it’s a beautiful sunny day Paris — rather like your first few days here.

  3. October 23, 2008 / 2:53 pm

    Actually, the only one I saw worn was on a 5 year old girl!

  4. October 23, 2008 / 4:56 pm

    Miss Janey is completely jealous of Deja Pseu’s frenchy peopl-watching experience. Such wonderful and informative observations!

  5. October 23, 2008 / 5:13 pm

    Oh, you mean I can claim my messy shoulder-length hair is Parisian? Suddenly I feel so chic! Overlook my bland navy wool slacks, navy socks, navy pumps, and white smock-style shirt–my hair is Parisian!

  6. metscan
    October 23, 2008 / 1:39 pm

    Thank you Deja. You pretty well answered my earlier question. How about the atmosphere,the life style etc. ?

  7. ...
    October 23, 2008 / 7:12 pm

    Ah ah !
    You are almost a parisian girl !
    But 16th is so boring …
    Rue du Bac is more interesting … as you know already.
    Have you been to the Lutetia ?

    Fred the Mole

    Easy fashion Paris !

  8. Suzanne
    October 24, 2008 / 2:36 am

    Love your blog. Now I know why my british parents gave me a french name. They must have been influenced by my naturally wind-blown-looking hair that has remained unchanged for 40 odd years (except for length and style, of course!). And I thought that when people (other tourists) asked me for directions in french, during my visits to France, it was because my carefully selected clothes and shoes made me look french (any such notion these tourists may have held, however, was immediately dispelled by my responses in rusty high school french). But no, I now realize it was due to my product-resistant, straight/wavy, blown-dry yet still unstyled-looking hair. Maybe I like my hair after all.

  9. October 24, 2008 / 2:46 am

    Great post — fun, observant, informative. You really were keeping an eye out for us while you were there, weren’t you!

  10. La Belette Rouge
    October 23, 2008 / 11:24 pm

    Fantastic report. And, it is one that I will come back to often. Merci, Deja Pseu!

  11. Karen
    October 23, 2008 / 11:32 pm

    The rabbit vest makes sense to me; they throw the rabbit in the stew, then make a vest from the pelt. No part wasted, everybody happy.

    Thanks for your update.

  12. October 24, 2008 / 6:55 pm

    Great post – thanks for keeping me in the know…since I haven’t been to Paris yet I can live vicariously through Une femme. 🙂

  13. Anonymous
    October 24, 2008 / 7:32 pm

    Very interesting observations. I’ve also heard they wash their hair less often, which probably keeps it from drying out as much.

  14. October 25, 2008 / 1:25 am

    Miss Janey – thanks! I wish I’d taken notes though; I know there are some things I’m forgetting!

    Kai – yes, Parisian hair! Enviable indeed.

    Fred – merci bien! We did not make it to Lutecia, quel domage.

  15. October 25, 2008 / 1:27 am

    LBR – you’re very welcome, mais c’est mon plaisir, bien sur!

    Karen – Well, I did enjoy a nice braised lapin one evening…

    suzanne – I’m sure you are très chic, and of course the hair completes the picture of une vrai Parisienne.

  16. October 25, 2008 / 1:30 am

    materfamilias – it was a tough job, but someone has to do it. 😉

    AIS – truthfully, I saw a lot of the same trends in NY (esp. the boots) as in Paris, so perhaps the world really is getting smaller.

    Janet – could be. I’m always reading that women in the US wash their hair too much. I’ve started using a French product, Leonore Greyl Lait Banana on my fine, oily hair. It’s not a true shampoo so it doesn’t dry, but really zaps the oil.

  17. October 25, 2008 / 1:31 am

    Benson – I can’t bring myself to wear fur anymore either. I love how it feels, but I just can’t do it.

  18. October 25, 2008 / 3:30 am

    Thanks for sharing a great post. I am glad to read that not all parisian women are strolling aroung in high heels all day. I just can’t imagine doing that.

  19. benson
    October 24, 2008 / 9:45 pm

    Why oh why can’t we be like the french when it comes to growing older? Look your best, but don’t look 17. I don’t think I could do the vest…I’m not a radical but I feel bad for our furry friends when I see their fur but not them. Thank you for the post!

  20. October 27, 2008 / 3:02 am

    julianne – you’re very welcome, it’s indeed my pleasure.

    badaude – red too, yes. And yes, the lumberjack check as well, though mostly spotted on younger women.

  21. Badaude
    October 26, 2008 / 9:00 pm

    I’ve noticed a good deal of red around in the Paris shops this Autumn. Not quite so much rabbit fur – in my opinion – as last year. And lumberjack check forever as always…

  22. lagatta à montréal
    November 21, 2008 / 4:19 am

    Lumberjack check – hé, c’est Québécois, ça!

    Remember when we wore that to look prolo in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    Yes, the overstyled hair is very – what, middle American? Remember Teresa Heinz Kerry (who seemed more Spanish than anything) got a lot of flack for her natural, windswept hair in the earlier US elections.

    But natural does NOT necessarily mean greying, unless it looks good.

    And those rabbit vests look tacky and cheap.

  23. December 21, 2008 / 11:34 am

    Coming from a land where we just don’t see much in the way of cosmetic surgery or ‘enhancement’ I didn’t find Paris that different, just slimmer in general.

    What the Europeans understand – mena and women, is that a great haircut and some decent threads (not jeans all the time)help them create their own style, rather than trying to fit some mold.

  24. December 21, 2008 / 3:37 pm

    lagatta – true, les Parisiennes don’t seem to fear obvious hair color, even if the styling is more lassez-faire.

    Imogen – True, however one definitely does see a lot of denim too in Paris, but well-fitting and neat.

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