I’ve been thinking about fashion and style recently. I don’t think they are the same thing but I am also quite conflicted about the entire subject to be honest. There is a significant part of me that says fashion is a thing that shallow people care about. There is another (large!) part of me though that says, man or woman, how you dress expresses something important about your personality and your sense of self. People do judge you by how you look, like it or not, and so you should care about it and make an effort.
It has been this internal dialogue that led to me considering my work wardrobe with my new job in mind. I try to keep my work and my ‘home’ clothes quite separate. This is mainly because when wearing my ‘cleaning the guinea pigs out’ outfit of hoodie and jeans, I look like an aging student – not really appropriate for the office! But it is also about my mental attitude I think. This distinction between sections of my wardrobe tells me when I am in ‘work’ mode and when I am in ‘home’ mode. Everything blurs though when I work from home. I have noticed that I am more productive when I am sat at my laptop in something respectable rather than my pajamas! Do you agree?
So, with all that in mind, I decided that I needed some bookish help from the very stylish French to help me plan any new purchases and make best use of what I currently have. Enter Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic. I seized it in Waterstone’s after aimlessly browsing the rails of the high street with little inspiration one lunchtime. I wanted to look like myself, but an ‘effortlessly chic’ version of myself!
I gobbled up the pictures of elegant ‘put-together’ French ladies and here is what I learned:
– Being chic is not effortless. The sub-title is a lie. It actually required careful consideration and thought when purchasing clothes, planning outfits and getting dressed. But that was time I was prepared to invest (at the moment anyway).
– Should your bag and shoes match, in colour at least? Yes, at least to be classically elegant if a bit old-fashioned. Noted. I will be going for an elegant look whilst trying not to look too old for my age I think.
– A trench coat and V neck cashmere are two essential items. I never really though trench coats suited me, but I will try again. V neck and cashmere – two of my favourite fashion words so that one is not a problem!
– You do not need to be rich to look good but you do need to choose carefully, recognise quality when you see it and be disciplined enough to save for important, more expensive items. The author of this book had a horror of cheap shoes for example (with the exception of Converse). I think I probably agree that, in my experience, very cheap shoes are usually a false economy.
– I really don’t think it is ok to wear fur (particularly new fur), despite what this book has to say on the subject. I saw a lot of women in Switzerland wearing it (much more so than you ever see in England) and I found it unnerving and was a bit shocked by it.
I finished this book and I did feel a lot more enlightened and I’d had a good time in the process. If you are thinking about planning a new look and admire French style, then it is definitely for you. Since reading this book and applying a few of its lessons, I have also had more compliments about my outfits, so something must be working. Finally, it has given me the comfort blanket I needed that I won’t look a complete mess for my new job. That said, I think the most stylish thing you can be is yourself rather than a bad copy of someone else, and so taking books like this (with lots of rules) with a pinch of salt, and cherry-picking what works for you, is essential too!