Tuesday, March 6, 2012

REVIEW: Parisian Chic: A Style Guide, by Inès de la Fressange with Sophie Gachet

Parisian Chic: A Style Guide, by Inès de la Fressange with Sophie Gachet. Published 2011 by Flammarion. Nonfiction.

If you know me, you know my style mantra is basically "If it doesn't come from Eddie Bauer, I'm not interested." Don't get me wrong- I like clothes and I enjoy shopping, but I have no idea how to put an outfit together, only the vaguest sense of what looks good on me and little sense of fashion. And I'm lazy. Even when I know what the trends are, I can't really be bothered to follow them. I would love to put some of my meager clothing budget towards something besides hoodies and jeans, but I wouldn't even know where to start.

I picked up Parisian Chic not because I think a wealthy French model from an aristocratic family is the final word on fashion but because I thought it would be fun and maybe give me a pointer or two on how to take my characteristically relaxed style (there's a euphemism for you) and polish it up a little. And that's about what you can expect from this frothy volume.

Fressange is a former Chanel model who was also chosen to model for as Marianne, the national emblem of French values and culture. She continues to work in fashion, on the runway and consulting for high fashion houses like Gaultier and Vivier. So, she knows a lot about clothes.

And appropriately enough the book is stylishly attired in a red cover and accessorized with Fressange's own cute illustrations. The fashion advice takes up about one half of the book, where readers will learn her formula for building a wardrobe around a collection of basic pieces. These pieces can be expensive or not, and Fressange offers advice about how to style them and integrate them into your wardrobe. She includes a chapter on fashion "don'ts," most of which I was relieved to find I don't do anyway. I was glad, for example, to hear that I am not the only one who thinks leggings are tacky. I also liked her advice on dressing as it relates to aging. But the one "don't" that I do, I'm not giving up. Nobody messes with my Hello Kitty pajamas, not even Inès.

The latter half of the book contains notes on her favorite places and things to do in and around Paris, as well as advice on home decorating which I found less helpful. American home style is quite different from tiny-European-city-apartment living! It's still fun to look at, but I'm not likely to put much of this advice into practice the way I am with the clothing tips. And since I'm not going to Paris anytime soon, the travel stuff isn't useful at all.

Overall I thought her advice was simple and easy to put into practice. Style, I think, is more about building a mindset than building a collection of pieces. It's about flair and fun and enjoying yourself through what you wear, but you still have to know where to start. The book communicates a sense of fun while also laying down some guidelines. She's not going to dress you head to toe, or even offer suggestions for different body types. She's looking at universal items for every woman and pieces that are classic and classy rather than trendy. So her advice is sometimes vague but still usable. Each section also includes specific brands and stores that she likes, though some of those are more affordable than others. I think it's OK to get your cute trench at Target if you're not a Burberry girl like she is. But if you can afford a $600 raincoat, good for you.

The parts of this book most useful for me could have been summed up in a magazine article, but nonetheless I'm glad I bought it. It's fun to page through and have on hand, and I will take some of the advice.  I think the book would have worked better (1) without the travel and home sections and (2) accompanied by some blank workbook pages where the reader could list things she has, would like to buy, places to shop, etc. I'm getting a vision of Moleskine-like journal for the fashionista, with Fressange's tips and illustrations alongside. Now that would help this fashion-impaired nerd get it together!

Update: doing some further research I learned that there is a 2013 planner coming based on the book! I'll add that to my wish list!

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


Heidenkind said...

My mantra is, jeans from AE, t-shirts from Forever 21. The end.

I'd love to have a style, but I don't have the money or the time to invest that much into it. =/

bermudaonion said...

I need help in the fashion department too! I can't put together an outfit to save my life. The book sounds fun, and if I learned something in the bargain, it would be a bonus.

Madeleine said...

I have yet to read this smart little book.
Beings I am French living in the States presently, I do know that we French spend much less on clothing than our American counterparts.
I remember buying classic pieces and accessorizing them.
In the States I must admit I lost some of this and spend sometimes to much on clothing.
Will buy this book and try to go back to basics :)

Audra said...

Uhm, I so need that 2013 planner -- brills idea!

Zibilee said...

I like to dress up, but rarely do, as I am sort of a homebody, and never get the chance. I would love to get a look at this book to discover some of the classic pieces that the author refers to, and to see where my style comes into play in all of this. This was a great review today, Marie!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

interesting review. as you know, feel free to grab my mr linky for my French meme; here is the latest post to do so: http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/02/01/i-love-france-14-review-6-2012-paris-my-sweet/

stacybuckeye said...

I'm not the best dresser either, especially since I've gained so much weight. When you're skinny you look good in almost anything :)

Kathleen said...

I found this one while browsing at the bookstore. I liked the section on the basic wardrobe pieces we all need and didn't find the travel section helpful but might if I were planning a trip to Paris. I will have to keep an eye out for the planner in 2013.

Louise said...

I'd be interested in seeing this book, but can't imagine that I would want to buy it, this is a borrow from the library title for me. Still the things to do in Paris section would be interesting to browse- it always is.