So Frenchy, so chic.
If you are a regular reader you might have noted that in my post earlier in the month on Love x Style x Life, that I mentioned How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits. I’ve had this cute little book in my collection for some time now and it’s surprising that I am yet to review it here. I’m thinking that the delay might be due to the fact that it’s more of a quirky little coffee table number than any hard hitting piece of style or sustainability literature. However, as you might have noticed from the title of this blog, style is a key point of discussion. So How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits is equally as deserving of it’s place on the Sustainability in Style book review as titles like To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the World? Sure, you won’t find any statistics about pesticides and cotton production in it, but you will probably have a good giggle to yourself and in a World full of negative news sometimes a book to giggle at is just as important as one that’s full of stats.
How to be French.
If you have a squizz at the video above from i-D filmed with one of the four authors of the book, Caroline De Maigret you will get a pretty good general impression of what this read is all about. Somewhere along the line the fashion industry decided to start fetishising Parisian women and French style. This has somehow multiple over time into a plethora of literature and websites that are all about ‘How to be French’ or how to have that French ‘je ne sais quo‘ which leaves many of us wonder just what it is that French women have that make them just so damn stylish? How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits does an excellent job at poking fun of this obsession with Parisian style, while simultaneously celebrating the fabulousness of French chic. Somehow this book, in making fun of it’s own premise in the most stylish way, further cements the stylishness or ‘je ne sais quo’ of the French woman. Why? Because now, not only is she impossibly elegant and cool, she also has a wicked sense of humour and the ability to twist the obsession with her style and poke fun at it, making her coolness even more illusive to those wishing to replicate. How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits tells us all about how to be French, but somehow in doing so makes us feel even less French in the process (unless of course you are French in which case you probably have French cool and would be far too cool to admit it). So when you unpack this humorous coffee table book it actually is a really clever little work in challenging our ability to think about the media ideals that we are being fed. All while having a laugh and practicing how ‘always look as if you are gazing off into the sunset’.
My favourite bits.
Throughout its 250+ pages the authors and close friends, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas provide a collection of short and sharp topics. Some are useful, others are hilarious and many are acts of self defamation. Don’t expect this read to give you any comprehensive style guide (hey it’s not really in a French woman’s nature to share with you all her style secrets) because you will be disappointed. However there are some great little tips throughout. My favourite sections were the ones that shared the Parisian views on weddings and babies. In a nut shell the coolness of the Parisian woman leads her to take a very relaxed and nonchalant approach to nuptials, if indeed she chooses to marry at all. Something that resonated with me as a non-wedding kind of girl who never bothered with an engagement then rang away and eloped because ‘it seemed like a good way to spend our 30th birthdays and would make future travel easier’. These little ‘convo’ about wedded life made me giggle out of familiarity:
You’re not going to wear your wedding ring every day?
Are you kidding? What next- I’ll have to take my husband’s name too? Let’s not get carried away here.
So why are you getting married?
I can’t wait to be able to answer the phone and say, “Hold on, I’ll get my husband”.
Perhaps in this way I might be able to claim my Frenchness… but that might my only claim to Parisian style fame. When it comes to babies the women of How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are they are the kinds of mothers who can still hold their own in adult life without being defined by pregnancy or motherhood. They keep their ultrasound photos only for those who ask, don’t discuss stretch marks with co-workers and don’t have parties to celebrate the fact they had sex eight months ago (A.K.A baby showers). As a woman who doesn’t gush over babies (don’t get me wrong, I do like kids and have indeed worked in child care and believe that parent have the most full on job out there) these are the kind of pregnant women who don’t make me feel uncomfortable for missing the ‘baby-gene’. By now you might kind of have an idea how this book rubbed a few people up the wrong way when it comes to customer reviews. Bitingly sharp, sometime vacuous (hey there is a whole bit on how to look like you are staring at the sunset) and 100% hilarious, How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are is a crisp satire in a World where many are willing to buy into any fashion or style headlines.