Paris fashion tops Seattle's, but the reason might surprise you

Parisian style is remarkably practical and monochromatic, featuring low-heeled boots, casual jackets, and short skirts.

Comfort and style combined: Fashion for Parisian women is surprisingly sensible.

Comfort and style combined: Fashion for Parisian women is surprisingly sensible. Photo by Fred/easyfashion.blogspot.com

On an early fall flight to Paris I read Anna Wintour’s comments in Vogue magazine about skirt length. She declared it a fresh fashion moment, proven by her recent trip to London where all the fashionable women were wearing slim skirts nearly long enough to graze ankles.

Parisians didn't get the memo. We arrived on the first day of fall, and women young and old were strutting the streets in boots, tights, and definitely short skirts — when they weren’t wearing snug jeans and leather biker jackets, or wrapping long sweaters over boots and leggings.

I'd never been to Paris before, and spent as much time checking out fashion as the awe-inspiring art and architecture. It was all so gloriously, intensely urban, from the grand buildings to the rush of smokers, chatting on their cell phones, hanging out at cafes and clogging the streets at all hours. I felt like a whirling dervish, spinning around to take in what people were wearing as well as all the tiny cars, stylish bikes, fabulous flower shops….well, if you've been to Paris you know the list of wonders and beauties is a long one.

Parisians, men and women, are sleekly stylish in their everyday dress. But scratch the surface of pretty scarves, glossy boots, and enviable purses, and you see that they dress more practically, and I’d guess more frugally, than we Seattleites.

I've lived in Seattle all my life, so I say this fondly and guiltily: Here we dress down most days in comfortable jeans, fleece, and sneakers. When we do dress up, you can tell we put a lot of effort into it. Parisian women dress simply and beautifully every day, and I’d guess they have far fewer clothes than we do.

For Parisian women, it's all about hair, jackets and shoes. The 60-ish proprietor of the boulangerie where I drank dark and delicious coffee every morning had expertly colored blond hair worn slightly unkempt around her shoulders. This undone hair looked great with her black leather jacket and gray wool pencil skirt. Younger women wear their hair mostly long, loose and casual, although obviously salon polished. Some even were wearing side ponytails. Really.

Women in Paris aren’t jumping in and out of cars, for they mostly walk or ride the subway or the loaner bikes that line the streets. So footwear is low-heeled and comfortable, though you’d never know it. They rarely resort to sneakers, grounding their looks with sophisticated little ballet flats or tall walking boots. And because everyone sits out at sidewalk cafes, even in October, jackets top off most outfits. They’re usually short and chic, mostly leather, but also dark cotton or tweed, often belted. Oh, and sunglasses. Even on the chilly, cloudy days of early autumn, hip sunglasses are part of everyone’s ensemble, men and women alike.

Clothes were mostly gray, beige, and black, except for scarves and purses in brighter shades. Interest was created with texture and shape, not pattern or color. And the clothes fit beautifully; people didn’t do baggy, sloppy, or wrinkled. My guess is because women own fewer, simpler clothes they can afford to have them beautifully tailored. And with sleek, timeless lines and monochromatic colors, it’s possible to wear the same clothes most days and over many years. When I admired a knee-length camel-colored cardigan the young woman at our hotel desk was wearing, she said she'd bought it at H&M 10 years ago ... surely she couldn't have been old enough for that?

Men pretty much wore a uniform, and it was a good one. Rarely did I see a sport coat — even young men wore snug, dark suits, in black or dark gray. Shirts are white, ties narrow and dark. The suits are impeccably cut, with slim pants worn a little short (to my eye). The jackets are single breasted and cut slightly slimmer and shorter than jackets here. Guys looked sophisticated and relaxed, despite the flashy, pointed shoes that livened up the dark suits.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Nov 16, 7:52 p.m. Inappropriate

Women in Paris can wear burlap bags and Converse All Stars.

Because they're hot.

Totally hot!

jabailo

Posted Wed, Nov 17, 8:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I enjoyed this story while drinking my own cup of delicious, dark coffee and embarrassedly wearing old black sneakers, lime-colored crop pants, and a gray sweatshirt.

Not remotely hot!

— dk

Posted Wed, Nov 17, 8:39 a.m. Inappropriate

No fashionista here, but as an unrepentant people-watcher, I loved
Paris when I visited two years ago. This wonderful article made me
want to get on the next plane!

rainbird

Posted Wed, Nov 17, 8:42 a.m. Inappropriate

When you travel, you can always tell who's French (well dressed), who's Italian (impeccably dressed, expensive shoes & sunglasses, wool scarf) and who's American (dressed as if going to feed farm animals...or to invade Poland).

Posted Wed, Nov 17, 6:30 p.m. Inappropriate

What a brilliant commentary.
Are you certain you weren't also in London?
Having just returned from this chic area, I found the Londonites to dress both fashionably and practically.....and I was so envious! .......................looking beautifully while walking to their destinations.......................in flats, heels, boots.....................no tennis shoes-while I wore my boots "trying " to look fashionable and couldn't walk even a mile!!!
And..............couldn't wait to return to Seattle!
SusanC

hemiboso

Posted Thu, Nov 18, 1:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Much the same story in Italy were I spent two and a half weeks this fall - cashmere leggings, long sweaters, requisite neck scarf and boots or flats everywhere. And let's not forget that fashion looks amazing on fit bodies - the result of all that walking, freshly prepared foods and cities designed with accessible goods and services.

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