With the New York and Paris fashion shows just behind us, it occurs to me that it is I who am behind the fashions. And that is fine. Looking good has always been more about style than fashion, but that is especially true as we enter what the French so gracefully refer to as un certain age, between 40-something and heaven. Ahem, and I’ve been there a while. The question is how do we acquire that wonderful sense of style; and dress, decorate, and live accordingly?
Some are born with it, of course. But for the rest of us there’s a nifty book from which to glean all kinds of great tips to become our most stylish selves.
Ines de la Fressange, 50-something, French supermodel, the former “face of Chanel,” and brand ambassador for L’Oreal Paris and Roger Vivier, reveals all in her Parisian Chic–A Style Guide, out about a year ago (speaking of behind) and discovered by me a few months ago at Ann Mashburn’s fab shop (speaking of chic) in Atlanta.
“Effortless Style” is an especially good section. Snippets here:
*Mix couture and street culture…
*One maxi-impact accessory with an ultra-simple silhouette…
*Team your old denim jacket with a silk blouse…
*Wear black velvet riding jackets a couple of sizes too small…
*Hunt for vintage men’s scarves and wear them with everything.
*Wear your teenage son’s shirt with a push-up bra… (And don’t try to hide it.)
*Cinch everything with a big, well-worn man’s belt. Tie the excess in a knot.
*Roll the sleeves of your cotton shirt back loosely over your sweater…
She gives advice not only on how to dress but how to make-up, entertain, decorate, and how “to live like a Parisienne,” divulging all her favorite shops and sources in Paris. Apart from its practical advice, the book is a Paris-lover’s dream.
The writing is pithy and straightforward, and the illustrations are adorable. Ines’s daughter Nine is the model, and she looks just like her darlin’ maman.
I say “darlin'” to mean looks and acts. A few years ago I went to the opening of the Roger Vivier boutique in New York. Standing against the wall with a glass of champagne was this other darlin’ girl I’d recently met named Alejandra Cicognani, who is an international PR impresario. As Alejandra and I share common acquaintances, and as the prospect of greeting a charming Italian inspires in one a certain ebullience, I launched myself at her with the full force of an encounter with a long-lost chum from Camp Yonahlassee. We were a good ten minutes into it when I realized she was not Alejandra, but Ines. Mid-sip when it hit me, to avoid choking, I emitted a small spray of champagne in the vicinity but please God not on her. She pretended not to notice. She didn’t even say Qui est cette bumpkine? Which is French for Who is this bumpkin, which is moi. And that has endeared me to her since.
When she walked the runway at age 51 for Jean Paul Gaultier in 2009, she got a standing ovation. See it here. Something tells me it wasn’t just because she looked great. Real style is having the grace and confidence to treat everyone with kindness and respect, even the bumpkins. Especially the bumpkins.
Now, dites-moi, what do you do or wear that makes you feel stylishly good?