Filing the fashion report, now.
If, as Thomas Friedman wrote, The World is Flat, the style world is ever more Homogenized. So I saw the same horizontally-quilted light down jackets in Paris as well, everywhere, the same black 3/4 length topper as is worn in Montréal, the same twisted or flung scarves. That's not to say, ho-hum, but this is Paris.
Years ago, I asked myself, What is a key difference? and settled, almost eight years ago to the day, on the preponderance of 'strict' clothing in France as opposed to embellished, detailed daywear sold in North America. But that distinction has eroded, as COS, Everlane and even the quieter corners of J. Crew make pared-down clothes available online, and the aesthetic has reached North American department stores who carry lines like The Row.
What is noticeably different still is a refined eye and acceptance of beauty that leads a woman to wear flat-heeled plum suede over-the-knee boots, matching tights, a knee-length charcoal knit cashmere pencil skirt and over that, a close-fitting acid-green velvet 7/8 length coat: a luxurious audacity that takes an assured, even artistic sensibility but is nothing like the getupy garb you see on some Advanced Style doyennes. The reference is the haute-bourgeoise, not Iris Apfel.
Hardly anything on that woman was a practical basic. Steeped in Retiree Economics, I thought, What else do you wear that with? and realized, that is so not the point. (If you are younger or poorer, there are approximations—but really nothing substitutes for a coat of fine quality.)
I saw only about 10% of women on the street dressed like that, but I was not in the swankiest sectors.
But dozens of times a day, I saw the ensemble below; the woman in rose lives in the neighbourhood where we stayed, but I saw it everywhere, the modern woman's Mao jacket.
Her grand-daughter upholds the French approach of dressing children under voting age in navy, but I also saw astonishing children's ensembles, such as this little fur gilet:
In the foreground, her friend in black, which comprises maybe 20% of the coats, with the other 80% in every hue imaginable, the opposite ratio of my city on a good day. (When you need a coat that handles subzero temperatures for four months, black is the default choice. Women here fear a bright, full-length down coat will make them look like an M&M.)
The mid-50F/14C temps meant jackets were chosen as often as full-length coats; here's a woman at the bus, en route to work in her leather skirt and tweed. I liked the beautiful bag, not in a basic black, but a vibrant blue:
The mild winters also allow knit coats or "coatigans" to be worn months longer. This one is a windowpane; lovely pair of soft blue leather shoes, too:
She matched her coat to her hair, and both are really red!
And though down rules the world, you can find original styles. Tweaking the classic marinière, a boutique showed a sheared sheepskin striped pullover. An extra $2, 000 or so more than the puffer price tags, though!
Next week, the inner woman, specifically, the passion for lingerie and my attempt to survey these places without spending all of next year's clothing allowance.