En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil ; en mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît

My host shared this French proverb with me sometime in mid April when those of us in Paris experienced two or three days of 70+ degree weather. The expression, which communicates the distrust towards the capricious weather in April, warns against changing into a summer wardrobe and packing away your winter clothes. 

Image

If this is something most Parisians hold to be true, it would explain the lack of weather-appropriate clothing on those very warm days. It’s as if no one except for myself and some other foreigners looked at the weather forecast: while I was dressed in a bright yellow skirt, sandals and a tank top (perfectly appropriate for a 76 degree day anywhere else in the world) I was made to feel like an outcast amongst all the Parisians clad in leather jackets, black turtlenecks, [Ugg] boots, winter coats with fur trim hoods… Paris fashion is synonymous with black on black , but you’d think they’d spring for the chance to feel the sunshine on their forearm after 7 months of winter!

 

A book I read for a class this semester ‘L’Autre Rive’ compares French and American culture. Unlike many other books published before it on the same subject, the author focuses on the more psychological reasoning behind these differences and doesn’t just merely recite his observations but has done research to support his claims. 

 

One of the differences between the American individual and French individu is that the Français is more likely to avoid commitments and abide the terms put worth in a signed contract. From my personal although limited experience I feel like I definitely agree with this. Compared to American and anglophone acquaintances, I have had a harder time establishing a date and time to meet up with French acquaintance. Even if we managed to set a time, I would without fail never receive a confirmation message or they would cancel on me.

 

What does this have to do with wearing weather-inappropriate black leather pants on a hot day you may ask? Well, I have a theory that the reason Parisians love black clothing (and have a hard time giving it up) is because it greatly complements their psychological/behavioral tendencies  For a fashion conscious Parisian who has no idea what she or he is doing that day, when she/he is doing it, where she/he is doing it, who she/he is doing it with, a black ensemble will fit all these requirements! If a night at the cinema and some dancing with a date changes to a picnic on the quai with a friend and a midnight cat funeral, a black outfit will do the trick for any and all of these occasions. 

Fortunately for everyone who recoils at the mere idea of a strong sunshine that is powerful enough to upheave the ominous Parisian clouds, Paris is back to being gray and cold with sporadic rain showers during this first week of May.

 

As for me, I’ll be leaving Paris behind tomorrow and heading down to the south of France where I hope to see some sun and locals who are ‘dressing however they please’.

Advertisements

Parisian Fashion: Not Exactly My Cup of Thé

After spending two and a half weeks in NYC for Christmas vacation and another 2 weeks in Paris pre-Spring semester, this Monday marked la rentrée: the commencement of school in France.

View of NY/NJ.

View of NY/NJ.

Flying back into Paris in 2013 and settling in again in my room and old routines reminded me of how different this period will be compared to Fall Semester. Being in New York reenergized me and made me approach my experience in Paris differently. I’m not in need of an adjustment period, other than the first few days spent to get over le décalage horaire. And instead of conforming to every social expectation and custom that is typified as the French way to do things, I will be less apologetic about doing the things that I enjoy though not considered ‘normale’.

 

View down a street in Paris.

View down a street in Paris.

I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the way Parisiennes dress. I appreciate that the Parisian uniform dictates a clean, well-fitted style and that, contrary to the overwhelming abundance of borough folk I saw in NYC, no one is wearing pajama pants, sportswear, or carpenter jeans. I’m conscious of respecting people’s style even if I don’t agree with it or find it boring (the more I disagree with your outfit, the more diversity there is!) but the fact that there is such a limited variety in what Parisiennes wear is a bit frustrating knowing that this city is supposed to be one of the fashion capitals. There’s little room for daily creativity or innovation when you’re in a society, especially as a foreigner, where people generally feel it’s their duty to correct you if your appearance or behavior is ‘abnormal’.

The main categories of style as worn by women in Paris seem to be of three camps:

A: The young Parisienne rebels with blank, unsmiling faces

B: The young to middle aged ‘professional’ women usually toting a novel, a shopping bag from Le Bon Marché or a child while coming home on the metro.

and the most daring of them all!

C: The 60+ ladies who will not be slaves to your fashion humdrum! 

Camp A: They shop at Zadig et Voltaire, Sandro, H&M and Zara. They wear the same exact styles, in approved colors (black, brown, gray, olive or eggplant), and can’t say no to apparel that is studded. They own a pair of black motorcycle boots with studs, sneaker wedges, skinny jeans and cotton fingerless gloves so their hands are always free to text or light up a cigarette. Leather jackets or large fur coats are what she prefers to complement her chunky infinity scarf. And she usually sports long, wavy hair and black eyeliner. She loves a good leather bag with some studs or zippers or the infamous Vanessa Bruno bag with all those sparkles. She broke curfew once two years ago and since that night she has been using fashion as her way to rebel.

Camp B: She’s a newly graduated woman searching for work or a middle aged professional who keeps Americans begging the question ‘How can I attain that classic, Parisian je ne sais quoi?’ The answer does not lie within Chanel number five or grandmother’s Hermes vintage scarf (although it could), but Repetto ballet flats or heels no taller than 2 inches (I can attest that footwear higher than 2 inches will cause too much of a rio), opaque tights paired with a pencil skirt, and poncho-styled wool coat. She generally abides to the neutral-colors-and-black-only rule but may surprise you with a flash of blue, red or pink with her cashmere scarf. Her bag of choice comes from Tod’s, Lancel, Hexagona, Longchamp or Chanel. Makeup is minimal and confidence is foremost; never look up from your phone or book while on the metro unless you want to surrender your expression of indifference.

Camp C: My favorite group of Parisian woman who inspire me and make me feel like maybe it’s okay to stand out. While not all older woman dress super stylishly, most of the time the most daring outfit and the boldest of colors are worn by a woman above the age of sixty. While modest in her choice of skirt lengths and necklines, she is the true rebel when it comes form deviating from fashion norms by wearing prints, colors and flashy accessories. She has the advantage of a stockpile of clothing from different eras including at least 3 different designer bags from each decade and no one can critique her look. She’s got moxie and she doesn’t think twice about smiling in public. She prefers her hair in a bun and who knows she may even be in your ballet class. (Yes, really!)

This was all in good fun and I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive to anyone! I don’t think that I dress so incredibly different from the rest of the crowd, but I was definitely more concerned about fitting in with the Parisiennes during the fall than I am now. I have always been one to take some risks even if they were huge mistakes and I am here in Paris to continue said lifestyle.

Maybe I am not really going to be Stacey: La Parisienne and more like Stacey: Hey, I once lived in Paris, can you tell?

xx

Spotted: In the 75008, Stacey La getting scolded by une petite vieille dame

Paraphrasing what a little old Parisian woman said to me today:

“It’s really a shame that your skirt is so short. If it were longer it would be much better. You have to be careful going around with a skirt like that. If you go to certain neighborhoods you could get raped. (Did she really just say that? Yes, I think she did) You’re so cute but it would be best if you wore longer skirt. Goodbye. Have a good day.”

Yes it was windy, yes my flared skirt was short and appeared shorter with heels but I was wearing opaque, black tights and holding my skirt down gracefully! Not to mention she’s sharing her belief that a woman’s outfit causes her be harassed and raped, but that’s another problem for another day.

I’m not really bothered but I thought it was funny and very frank of her, a complete stranger. This is something that has never happened to me and I don’t think would ever happen to me in New York.