Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: Parisian Style: A Style Guide

 

I read Parisian Style: A Style Guide months ago (pretty much as soon as it came out) but I have only just realised that I never posted a review. I love reading style and fashion books (not necessarily the same thing!) and have quite a growing collection of the ones I think are keepers. A greater collection, on the other hand, have been given away since they are, to put it plainly, a waste of my space. I am glad to say, that Parisian Style has staked out a space on my bookshelf!

Parisian Style is by the legendary French ex- Chanel model and Karl Lagerfeld muse, Ines De La Fressange, who was also selected to represent Mariane, the symbol of the French Republic. As we all know, the French, and the Parisienne in particular, holds an almost magical place in the imaginations of most women. There are countless books on how to look like the French, dress like the French, diet (or not) like the French, and many of them are also sitting in my bookcase. But this this probably one of the first books written by a true "insider"; a Parisienne who is recognized throughout the world as a style icon in her own right.

This book is beautifully packaged in a charming red leather-like cover embossed with gold lettering that for some reason reminds me of the classic Moleskin journals, especially with the ribbon bookmark.  The information inside is just as charming. There are plenty of pretty illustrations done by Ines herself, and numerous photos (of Ines' daughter, Nine) to demonstrate the principles Ines is laying out. The book is basically divided into two parts. The first part is what most people would call the style guide, including how to build a wardrobe from 7 key pieces.

  1. a man's blazer
  2. the trench
  3. the navy sweater
  4. the tank
  5. the LBD
  6. the perfect jeans
  7. the leather jacket
I don't usually like lists of "must-have" items; yes, I think a trench coat is a wonderfully classic item, on some people. However, on a short-waisted, plus-sized, full-busted gal like me, a trench coat is never going to be a great choice. However, trench coat not-withstanding, I have to say that I have almost completed acquiring the list, and they (especially in winter, not so much in our humid, hot summer) made my daily wardrobe dilemma much easier! 

What I loved most about the list of 7 must haves was Ines' further suggestions for each item, including how these pieces can meld into anyone's closet, fashion faux pas, celebrity style and examples of the perfect "hall of fame" item, such as Eric Bompard's classic navy cashmere sweater.

There is even a quick 10-point lesson on how to master that je ne sais quois, the off beat, effortless look we all aspire to. Some, I think are achievable: wearing jeans with gem-encrusted sandals rather than sneakers, for example, or a sequined sweater with men's trousers and not a skirt. Others, like toting a straw handbag with an evening dress rather than a clutch, probably need more French-style self confidence than I can muster!  Ines also includes a small, but informative section on home decor and entertaining, as well as beauty, so this gem of a book not only encompasses "fashion" style, but Parisian style overall.


The second part is a guide to Ines' favourite stores, museums and hotels in Paris. While it was interesting and often inspirational, I didn't find it as useful as the first part. If I was off to Paris in the near future, though, I would definitely pay closer attention to this section!

Overall, the book is a simple guide to looking effortlessly chic. It is squarely aimed at the more classic dresser (which I am), rather than the more eccentric Left Bank style that I have seen many Parisiennes sporting. While there is not a lot of new information in this book, the info coupled with the presentation has earned it a spot in my home.

For further French style inspiration, I can also recommend two other books - A Year of Style by Frederick Fekkai, which is more serious, and Entre Nous by Debra Olliver which is more light-hearted, both of which I re-read on a regular basis.

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