Monthly Archives: March 2014

Pratique mais feminine: 7 style lessons from Paris

Just over 10 days ago I took myself on a weekend trip to Paris to celebrate the fact that I have joined the exciting world of entrepreneurs. I couldn’t pick a better destination to celebrate my new lifestyle and career, get my creative juices flowing and treat myself to delicious food, gorgeous views and of course get a much needed dose of style inspiration.

This trip was everything I had imagined and so much more. Traveling solo, I was able to only do, see, experience, enjoy what I desired without having to compromise even for a minute. And what I desired was to discover the secret formula behind Parisian women’s style. I have long admired Parisian chic, that je ne sais quoi (excuse the cliche) that many Parisian women have. To say I was excited to finally dedicate an entire weekend to this subject would be an understatement.

In Paris I engaged in conversations with stylish French women, went shopping and spent hours people watching in cafés in trendy neighbourhoods, determined to learn about the art of style and allure that appears to come from within. Here is what I now know about the key elements of Parisian style.

1. Looking good starts with a mindset

At the beginning of my research I was met with some obstacles. Even French women themselves struggle to define their style, claiming they are not doing anything special to look the way they do. Yet, those women looked very elegant.  It is something so instilled in their mindset, in their daily life that they struggle to define it. The majority of women I came across were well dressed, stylish in their own way, one thing they all had in common is how effortless their style looked. Looking good is not something they only do when they have a date or a meeting. Effortlessness in style begins with a mindset.

Effortless style in the streets of Paris
Effortless style in the streets of Paris

2. Style can be practical

Many women, especially on weekends, are wearing very casual clothes, yet they still look stylish. Even when I went out in the evenings I didn’t see a lot of examples of full-blown glamour. Understated is an essential element of Parisian chic. “Your outfit can be practical but there are ways to stay feminine”, explains Maryvonne, a friendly and stylish shop assistant at a shoe boutique I visited. She explained that most Parisian women choose low heels (up to 5cm) because they are always on the go. There is even a name for this type of shoe – “Parisienne” – feminine and comfortable. Style has to be practical for a busy modern woman, according to my new Parisian connection. A Parisienne adds a scarf, an elegant pair of shoes or a stylish jacket to transform her outfit from day to evening. This does not require a lot of time and effort (which, let’s be honest, is what puts many women off style).

Parisienne style shoes
Parisienne style shoes

3. Embrace who you are

One thing Parisian women appear to do very well is dress in the most flattering way for their body type. They know what suits them and what doesn’t and they stay with what works, not being lured by fashion trends every 6 months. My friend Laure, a beautiful young French woman, who always looks chic, tells me over a glass of wine: “I don’t wear short skirts because I know they don’t suit me, I always go for pencil skirts, they work well for me”. This is an amazing level of self-awareness from someone who hasn’t even turned 30 yet. Instead of feeling bad about what you don’t have, be it bigger curves (I am talking to myself here), thinner hips or longer legs, and hiding behind baggy clothes, embrace you shape and show off what you love about your body.

4. Make pleasure part of your daily life

“A perfect macaroon is ‘croquant’ on the outside and melting on the inside when you bite into it, it has to be absolutely fresh”, says Cordelia, my charming shopping guide, a true Parisienne, as we pass by a beautiful patisserie. She is petite and slender and a self-confessed dessert addict. In France they eat desserts, chocolate, drink wine and have cheese. And then there is the bread. I saw women eating bread in very trendy cafés where bread shouldn’t even be on the menu! There is no guilt involved. How do they do it? Well, firstly no guilt means having a healthy relationship with food. Secondly, accepting pleasure as part of daily life means we stop actively depriving ourselves and this alone decreases the risk of overindulgence. They simply know when to stop. The proof is everywhere: I have not seen anyone who is overweight.

Delicious macaroons. Who could resist?
Delicious macaroons. Who could resist?
My style and shopping guide Cordelia
My style and shopping guide Cordelia

5. Inner confidence is key

As I walk around the vibrant Le Marais with Cordelia discovering new boutiques, we talk about the fact that not many women wear bright colours or attention grabbing outfits. She tells me demure is essential for a typical Parisian: a top with sheer back but not sheer front, clean lines, simple t-shirt with jeans and a good quality jacket. Parisians do demure so well. They don’t look too “polished”, they wear mainly neutrals or darks, very few women wear tons of make up, not much skin is displayed. Yet they are not hiding, they are strangely visible and project so much confidence. This natural confidence comes from being comfortable with who you are.

Stylish Saturday brunch outfit
Stylish Saturday brunch outfit
Demure Parisian chic
Demure Parisian chic

6. Accessories are essential

During the three days that I spent in Paris I do not remember seeing a single person without a scarf! Even small children had stylish scarves on. To be stylish a woman needs to learn to accessorise – there is no way around it. Accessorising is the simplest (and it can be a very cost effective) way to update an outfit, take you from day to evening or add a personal touch and make a plain outfit your own.

Blending in with Parisian crowds... I got many compliments on my statement necklace which completely transformed my simple outfit
Blending in with Parisian crowds… I got many compliments on my statement necklace which completely transformed my simple outfit

7. Elegance and style does not end when you get home

There are numerous boutiques and shops selling beautiful lounge and home wear in Paris. It is elegant and feminine: silky dresses, soft trousers, cotton and wool cover ups (not old pijama bottoms). I learn that French women stay elegant in their homes too. As a newly self-employed working from home, I am determined to embrace this particular style element from now on. Believe me, it changes everything – from the way you feel and relate to yourself to the way you show up with others.

6 tips for styling yourself for a glamorous evening event

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
― Coco Chanel

This weekend I am going to the Secret Cinema special screening of Wes Andreson’s latest film the Grand Budapest Hotel. The dress code is strictly fine evening attire” and women in particular are invited to come dressed in their most glamorous haute couture (my favourite). As exciting as the idea of dressing up in haute couture style may be, looking truly glamorous requires a lot of effort. Some of us may even be a little intimidated by this idea, especially if we are busy, not feeling too stylish or lack confidence to wear glamorous evening wear. Most of us have been there, including myself.

I have discovered over the years that looking stylish and dressing up for events (or any occasion) does not have to be stressful. I invite you to have fun with the process and to help you, here are my 6 style tips on how to make sure you look your most glamorous and confident at any social event.

1. Get in the mood for style

(I know this is an obvious one, but do make sure you know what the dress code on your invitation means.) Once you know what the requirements are, start preparing for the event by getting in the mood for it. Put together a mood board online from images that inspire you – I love using Pinterest – or cut out pictures from magazines of dresses you love, red carpet celebrities and accessories. I, for example, have visited several vintage shops, purely for inspiration. I know how hard it is to find time in our busy schedules for something like this, but it needn’t take long – have a 15 minute tea or coffee break and flick through a couple of magazines. Get in creative mood. Creating a stylish look is a creative process.

My mood board for 1930s haute couture style
My mood board for 1930s haute couture style

2. Know yourself and celebrate what you love about your body

On my recent trip to Paris, I discovered one of the main secrets behind French women’s elegance: they appreciate their natural body shape and know what to wear to flatter their shape (and what not to wear). I am not talking about being critical of your body here. Look at yourself in the mirror and admire parts of your body that you love most. Make sure you know how to show them off. Maybe you love your feminine curves, so accentuate your waist and bust. Maybe you always get compliments about your long legs, show them off with a shorter dress or a slit. Maybe your small feminine shoulders and arms deserve attention, then wear a strapless dress. Similarly, there is a way to balance what you feel is out of proportion.

Cameron Diaz wears asymmetric neckline and full skirt, a perfect way to create balance for a woman with athletic (wide shoulders) shape
Cameron Diaz wears asymmetric neckline and full skirt, a perfect way to create balance for a woman with athletic (wide shoulders) shape

If you are not sure what work for your body shape, consider hiring a personal style consultant.

3. It’s not only about the dress. Think about your entire look

Have you ever been in a situation where you bought a perfect dress but after couldn’t find any accessories or shoes to go with it? I have…

Today, I decide on the style of my entire outfit before going shopping, so I know exactly what to look for. Here are a couple of questions to help you decide what look you want to create.

Decide where you want to make an accent: bold colour of the dress, statement earrings or necklace, bright shoes and handbag?

What mood inspires you: romantic (think lace or flowy silk silhouette)? Classic? Minimalist with clean lines and neutral colours? Bold and daring with bright colours or trendy shapes?

And most importantly, what outfit expresses who you are and your uniqueness in the best way?

4. Make sure you have the right underwear

One of the things I learned when training to be a personal style consultant is that having the right underwear can change the entire outfit. Final preparatory step before going shopping for an evening outfit is buying the right underwear. Go for a fitting with a shop assistant if you are not sure what size you are and what shape suits you best. Consider buying Spanx, especially if you are going for a bodycon dress or very light silk.

5. Remember comfortable=confident

Now that you feel inspired, know what you are looking for and have the right shapewear with you, you can go shopping (or look in the back of your wardrobe if you are a lucky owner of numerous evening gowns). Make sure you can enjoy yourself in your chosen outfit. You are going to the event to have fun. Can you sit comfortably in that dress? Can you have food without feeling self-conscious in a bodycon dress? Can you stand all night and dance in those shoes?

6. Pamper yourself before the event

Book a pampering session for the day of the event to feel like a star on the red carpet. Have your hair and make up done. It’s fun and is a great confidence booster. Last time I went to an event, I had my hair done in Old Hollywood style with side-swept waves, a look I had long desired to try. It made my evening. Has there been a look that you have always wanted to try but couldn’t do at home? This is the perfect time to try it.


How do you get ready for glamorous social events? I would love to hear from you in the comments area below.



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