During the craze of New York fashion week, French designers and fashionistas alike come and go, leaving only traces of cigarette dust and memories of an alluring savoir-faire that leaves Francophiles wondering—what makes Parisians so effortless, elegant, and chic? When was the romanticism of the Parisian lifestyle ignited? Was it in 1926, when Coco Chanel’s first evolutionary Little Black Dress transformed women’s ready-to-wear fashion, inspiring American actresses and classic Hollywood films like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
Or was it the international fame and notoriety of French icons like Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, or Françoise Hardy? Or, was it the seamless way that non-French women, such as English-born actress Jane Birkin could easily adopt the Parisian lifestyle without, in fact, having to grow up in France at all?
To answer these questions, we are fortunate that one of Francophiles’ all-time favorite books was created: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits—a gorgeous, witty guide created by Bohemian free-thinkers and iconoclasts, Anne Berest, Caroline De Maigret, Audrey Diwan and Sophie Masthat, that cuts through the myths of the quintessential Parisian lifestyle. Though published several years ago, How To Be Parisian remains a timeless classic that brilliantly deconstructs the French woman’s views on culture, fashion and attitude. Full of wit and self-deprecating humor, this book will walk you through living as the modern Parisienne, taking you on a first date, to a party and through a hangover.
As the weekend approaches, we decided to take on the challenge of How To Be Parisian with a New York City Edition. Using the guide, we’ve selected several of the book’s mantras and crafted a New York Saturday that would be distinctly Parisienne, despite being on this side of the Atlantic.
After a quick yawn and stretch in our satin slip, you wake up feeling quite moody, a sudden surge of sorrow for no reason at all which, according to the book, is very Parisian thing to do. While hanging out on the balcony before beginning our Saturday errands, take in the rising sun above the Manhattan skyline, maybe puff on a cigarette and read the latest news on Frenchly or French Morning.
Makeup: The book boasts about the barefaced Parisienne, so apply a light moisturizer, powder, mascara, and a bold lip tint.
Hair: Sleep with damp hair the night before so as to be satisfied with its interesting tousled shape in the morning.
Clothes: A simple Burberry trench coat over a plain black tee paired with the perfect pair of black skinny jeans (Parisians and New Yorkers definitely share one thing in common: we both love to wear black!) For footwear, adopt the book’s mantra, “What you won’t find in a Parisian’s closet: 3-inch heels. Why live life halfway?” 4.5-inch stilettos it is!
Just kidding. Parisians don’t go to the gym. They have a leisurely breakfast of croissants and buttered toast, because it’s Saturday morning and they already burned enough calories last night, damnit! Alas, have a quick tea, toast, and confiture at the French bakery down the block. Despite the fact that Parisians are supposed to take their sweet time enjoying breakfast, this is still Manhattan, so it’s perfectly acceptable to grab-and-go.
After a leisurely start of the day, head over to the Upper East Side to visit Albertine, a wonderful French bookstore with the best classics to choose from. Choose a few art books you love for your coffee table, just as a Parisian would do.
Check messages, write messages, respond to messages. Parisians are very social, alors it’s very important to gracefully handle invitations and keep in touch, especially to double-check the RSVPs for the dinner party you’re hosting ce soir.
The handsome stranger you met at the bookstore asked to meet for lunch at Boucherie about this time. Don’t make the effort to change your appearance for the date, but instead, follow the one golden rule: “Less is definitely more. A skirt that rides ever so slightly up her thigh when she sits down in a café; a wide-necked tee that slips down her shoulder as she waves for the waiter; the surreptitious hint of her breasts when she leans down to pick up her bag.” According to the book, this is how you look sexy.
In Manhattan, there is a French version of Eataly called Le District, located in the Financial District. To prepare for your dinner party this evening, purchase all the fromage, charcuterie, and baguettes you can gather in your arms.
A quick stop for a blowout at the Manhattan salon with all the French stylists, Red Market. While looking at yourself in the mirror, embrace your imperfections and remember the attitude that a Parisian must always wear: embrace your inner snob. (Because let’s face it, that’s who you are.)
Living like a true Parisian means to always make the best things from scratch. Flip through cookbooks until you find the perfect recette for Coq au vin to make for the evening, served with a bottle of Bordeaux.
After dinner, take the night further by heading to Bagatelle, a lovely French bistro by day, and nightclub by night. When mingling, remember to adopt another Parisian mantra by mentioning Sartre or Foucault in a conversation, for it’s our personality that sparkles and nothing else: these are the signs of intellectual wealth.