Two of my French GFs visited over the summer, and in the service of our fascination with French style, I noted some of their ways. These native Parisiennes have never met, yet Daniele, who lives in the 10th arr., and Huguette in the 15th are sisters in style, and close in age.
Shown, Daniele in a Toronto café.
While they consider Toronto rather slim pickings, they still wanted to check the boutiques; Huguette was especially interested in Canadian design heroines Comrags.
I noticed that they are incredibly particular.
Construction details I would have ignored were cause for rejection: the set of the shoulder and armhole had to be perfect, close but not tight. Buttonhole thread had to be the right colour (precisely matching or at most a tone darker than the garment). Lining could not bunch, even in place you will not see, like the inside of the arm. And the body; if the gorge too high, a collar too pointy: out.
And did you know there is "good black" (inky, deep) and "bad black" (flat, ashy or too shiny)?
They were leery of sale merch. They were not interested in trolling double-markdown racks, believing that leftovers were not worth their time. If looking for bargains, they preferred consignment.
Apparently 100% cotton tees are expensive in France. Daniele, shopping with her daughter, bought a half-dozen for vacation wear at Winners (our TJ Maxx), as well as several packs of Fruit of the Loom white tees, which she finds very good quality. But she did not give Winners' other clothing or shoes a glance.
Both women plan to keep their clothes a long time. Daniele wears a black velvet jacket I remember from at least a dozen years ago, and thinks nothing of it. She carries a 20+ year old Kelly bag, refurbished a few times at Hermes.
She said she buys more skirts than pants, finding them more forgiving of a few kilo's weight gain, the result of finally quitting smoking. She organizes her wardrobe around only two colour schemes, black for fall through winter, and ecru for spring and summer. She buys two or three pieces a season, always casting off worn or dated items. She does not count tee shirts, gym wear or lingerie in this tally. (Shown, the Comrags dress Huguette bought.)
Huguette will spend a fortune on a beautiful blouse or sweater. Superior fabric and tailoring, seen "above the table" are evident; the skirt may cost less, mid-line bridge or Banana Republic was acceptable. (Shown, blouse by Ventilo, a favourite.)
She invests in an array of aesthetic treatments and specialized massages, probably one treatment most weeks, though I would call her skin just okay (but who knows how it would look without this attention).
Both of them buy exquisite lingerie: "Cent dollars pour une culotte!", Huguette said in a but-what-can-you-do tone. This lacy laissez-faire is fueled by deep identification with femininity, relatively new romances for both, and an I'm-worth-it attitude.
The investment is not without sacrifice; neither has a great deal of money. Much of my time with one was spent discussing her precarious finances.
Regarding the women in my city, they said, on separate outings, the same thing: the mature women who made an effort looked good, but they were amazed at how many women did not seem to care. "Not caring" to them meant jeans and running shoes, bland coats indifferently worn, and poorly coordinated bags and shoes. Sloppy tailoring (pants length, sleeve length) was "everywhere", they thought.
Also, I should note, their jewelry is real. Huguette's is gold and gemstones; she wears this Fred "36" watch.
Daniele wears multiple carved ivory bangles bought on a trip to Africa with her late husband in the '70s, simple gold hoops, and on a gold chain, three antique family wedding rings.
I stood back while we shopped and tried to assess, if I did not know where they were from, would I think they were locals? Huguette's boho chic is uncommon here. Daniele is more classic; you do see the type, but not as often as on rue Parmentier.