Disclaimer 26th June 2020: Due to change and education, I have made a pledge to promote only sustainable brands and garments from now on that both fight for a circular economy in fashion and pay garment workers a fair living wage. I have decided to keep all of the former brands and items listed in this blog post as well as keep the original writing for future readers and portfolio. Enjoy reading, shop sustainably.
To be frank, we cannot deny the alluring lustre that Paris and French Culture has on us as a society. Is it the quintessential cobbled streets with the utopian French shutters and curling iron balconies? Is it the dreamlike rosy haze of hopeless romance that fills the air or the nonchalance of gestures and attitude that pervades French culture, enchanting us because it is so mysterious? Is it the delicate lilt of the French tongue that curls softly around the drunken red grapes of merlot, the soft oozy camembert and fresh hot fluffy baguette?
All these sensual things and fragments are what culturally, and yet stereotypically, epitomises being French. And that stereotype, or perhaps archetype, is something that I will gladly have and gladly bite into.
But why is this the case? Why are we a partisan of the Parisian? The unmistakable allure and fantasy has gripped me for years.
I first visited Paris when I was a child and I was enchanted by how beautiful it was, and it continued to excite me for years to come. I had dreams of myself moving there, travelling around on a pink moped, falling in love with a Parisian artisté, and living in a quaint airy apartment overlooking the Seine. It inspired me to take French at GCSE (even though I was better at Spanish), because I simply wanted to learn the language of fashion, the language of love, and the language of sophistication.
Sadly, as I found French quite difficult and I had natural talents in other subjects, I didn’t pursue French to A-Level, but it is something that I would love to take up again, alongside learning Italian. I dream about getting married in a French Chateau, eating my weight in brie, and possessing that effortless character that all French women seemed to have. So much so, that after my first breakup I bought the ‘How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are’ book so I could ‘reinvent’ myself.
This fascination with French culture pervaded throughout university and afterwards too. I dedicated a whole chapter in my dissertation to Victorian Paris Fashions and the French Fashion Industry. I still gravitate towards anything remotely Parisian or French themed including that I chose to go to Paris again this year for my birthday (which was my 4th visit), and I will most certainly want to go again in future.
Plus, throughout my current job as a content executive for a digital marketing agency, I try to slip in Paris and French culture anyway that I can in blogs that I am writing for various businesses. From tips to transform your home into a Parisian apartment or choosing which fashion capital to move to – it is safe to say that I am hooked.
Brief History of Fashion and France’s Strong Relationship
Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder – why does this fascination occur, and I am certainly not alone in this. Fashion simply loves the French and vice versa.
Paris and France have been the cradle for fashion and art movements since the 17th century. from Louis XIV’s to Marie Antoinette’s ostentatious displays at Versailles to the entire reconstruction of Paris in the 19th century. Paris was rebuilt after the French revolution favouring the romantic ornate buildings and large boulevards which invited the French to easily stroll down the streets and look in shop windows – thus first developing the laissez-faire stereotype. Then came the invention of shopping malls like Le Printemps, which started to flourish at the time that mass produced fashion became the norm. Generally speaking, these shopping malls were considered safe spaces for women to frequent outside the home. As women being seen alone on the streets, no matter their class, would create associations with prostitution as they were subjected to men’s advances. Therefore, this was something that women tried to avoid, so they spent a lot of time shopping in fashion malls or doing domestic tasks.
Then came the establishment of Parisian haute couture houses in the 19th and 20th centuries from Charles Frederick Worth to Chanel, hereby transforming the fashion industry and making Paris the epicentre of design. Plus, this was combined with the fact that by this point Paris was being frequented by multiple artists and writers – attracted to its allure. Overall, making Paris and France the place to be for creatives – whether you are an artist, designer, writer, thinker or poet. All of these historic changes and shifts has not only cemented Paris as a fashion capital, it’s inhabitants take the same status too.
Below, this lil blog of mine will take a closer look as to how today we still love French culture and design. From the romanticising of the beautiful apartments to French sloganed tees, we will explore this conjecture as to how you can become French without uttering more than ‘Bonjour!’ or ‘Salut!’.
French Sloganed Tees
Though we are not obviously French, we can at least pretend to be by wearing a French sloganed tee. Though, it wouldn’t quite be the same if we saw a French person walking around with a sweatshirt with ‘London’ or ‘Angleterre’ – which we have to admit, has some undeniable Brexit undertones. With that in mind, we still relish in anything French sloganed, simply it because it references a culture that is more sophisticated, more fashionable and cooler than us. Below is my pick of my favourite French sloganed tee’s that I probably already have in my basket.
French Girl Style
Is it the slightly unkempt hair, the half tucked shirt, or the natural smokey eye from 4 hours sleep – one cannot put a finger on it but we all desire to have French girl style. It is the balance between putting effort in how you look, but at the same time – not at all. So, what is this? For me, this encapsulates the classic jeans and a nice top, the wrap dress, and the power suit. As mentioned in the ‘How to be Parisian Wherever You Are’, it simply states the following:
‘you don’t have to spend a decade’s worth of salary on your wardrobe, or flaunt designer brands the whole time. All you need is one signature item: the one you wear when you feel strong.’
I also interpret this as the subtle nuances of accessories – from the straw hat or beret, to the dainty mary jane, classic Veja trainers or a slung over the shoulder Longchamp – these all for me is the must haves for cool French girl style. Below are some of my picks from high street retailers that possesses je ne sais quoi factor.
I hope you have enjoyed reading a little insight into not only my love, but fashions love for Paris. Perhaps you will notice this trend more and more now whether you are shopping in Cabot Circus or Park Street in Bristol, to Oxford Street or Selfridges in London, just like our ancestors used too.
DISCLAIMER: All photos, unless stated, are not owned by myself and are credited to the relevant shops and websites. Go to their website to purchase their products – simply type in the name of the product (same as the caption of the image) and voila!
Websites and shops used in this blog post