back when bush (aka “g-dubya”) was in office, the term “freedom fries” was introduced to spread pro-american propaganda to the masses and demonstrate a symbolic united front against france, who at the time strongly opposed the UN invasion of iraq. on many levels, i found this notion to be utterly absurd.
politics aside, the overall sentiment that nothing good can come from other countries or divergent points was ridiculous. i for one believe that inspiration, innovation, insight can come from anywhere. we are better when our perspectives are broader. when we learn as often, if not more, than we teach.
so who better to teach us a thing or two about fashion than the french.
for our 5th anniversary, my husband and i took a trip to paris and fell in love with this glorious city. a simple walk down any street can lead to an amazing meal or a jazz band playing on a bridge or a live fashion shoot in progress (as pictured above). it is infinitely glamorous and for countless reasons: the art, the culture, the cuisine, the markets, the cafes, the croissants, we were blown away by what i consider to be one of the greatest cities on earth.
but one of the things that struck me most of all was not the couture windows of chanel, YSL, lanvin and dior on the rue saint-honore’, paris’ most fashionable street. though they were gorgeous, living in a city like chicago with access to nyc and la, made them not entirely unique.
rather, it was the style of everyday people that truly made an impression on me. the bourgeoisie. there were a few stunningly gorgeous people that crossed our paths, but most were not. they were a mix of ethnicities: anglo, middle eastern, some asian. many chain smoked themselves into weathered complexions. some were skinny, some were not. some were polished. some were grunge. but no matter what their profile, young or old, the parisians were, in a word, chic.
it wasn’t about expensive designer duds or spell-binding good looks. it was about confidence. unapologetic self-expression. no body issues. no fretting about what people will think. no “can’t wear white past labor day” arbitrary rules. no wishy washy, off-the-rack ensemble dictated by someone else. in paris, you don’t just put on clothes. you accessorize. you mix. you match. you put it together and make it your own.
sure basic black was the flavor du jour, but all you had to do was scan the booths in the neighborhood brasserie to see 50 different interpretations of the look. sleek black turtleneck and pencil skirt with slick-backed pony and bug-eye dior shades. loose blond chignon with crisp tailored blouse and high-waisted jeans. an old grandma in a simple dress but the most impeccably tied scarf draped around her neck. twenty-something dude with a caeser cut, ray bans and retro sneakers. uber-crisp businessman with a bright paisley pocket square peeking out of his bespoke suit.
my brother and i have a saying that often gets bandied about in conversation. “dress for success.” half-joke, half-truth, it is a philosophy. are we materialistic, superficial freaks? maybe. but there actually is a deeper meaning. it’s not about pricey pieces and expensive indulgences. it’s about looking your best so you can feel your best. forget about the peanut gallery. buy what you like. wear what you want. define your style. and own it.