What are the secrets of French style?

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Answered by: Lesley, An Expert in the Trends and Designers Category
Coco Chanel once observed: Fashion is fleeting, while style is eternal. Which is easier said than done...unless, of course, you happened to be the lucky fashionista that was hit with the Parisian style stick - or, better yet, born privy to the secrets of French style.

However, even if you weren't born that way, it's now possible to fake it! "PARISIAN CHIC: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange" (Flammarion, 2011) covers everything you need to pass for a chic fashion native of La Ville Lumière, including specific pointers on how to dress like a Parisian ("The secret to great style is to feel good in what you wear."); where to scrimp and where to splurge ("Always ask yourself, 'If I buy this will I want to wear it tonight?' If the answer is 'non', or 'I'll wear it around the house' or 'Maybe one day, to a party, you never know' it's time to leave the store, and fast."); and, most importantly, what not to do ("The Parisian never fights to be the first with the latest high-priced It bag, especially not if its on a waiting list (so vulgar)...," she sniffs.Sharing her personal tips gleaned from decades in the fashion biz - starting as a runway model, later as the face of Chanel, and now, as designer of her own clothing line and brand-identity consultant for Roger Vivier - Ines pokes some vigorous and much-needed holes in the fashion conceits that drive so many of us to focus obsessively on being "fashionable". An adorable diary designed to look like a purse-sized Moleskin journal, it will help you look as Parisian as possible, including pairing your shorts with loafers (rather than trousers), stepping out in biker boots (instead of ballet flats) paired with a chiffon print dress, and sexing up a pair of menswear trousers (rather than a skirt) with a sequined sweater. "Two or three zany details can transform a look," she writes, "with madly successful results." Or not. But even if your risk doesn't quite pay off, at least you'll look unique rather than being just another member of the fashion herd cluttering up the dreaded "it" item waitlist.

Having practical guidelines helps, too, such as her "Universal Golden Style Rule" of proportion which say: if it's tight on top, then make sure your pants or skirt are full and vice versa - tight pants call for a loose-fitting top or tunic. Ines also includes in her "Magnificent Seven" key pieces no would-be Parisian Wardrobe should be without; a mannish blazer, trench, navy sweater, tank, jeans, leather jacket & LBD round out the list.  And should you be lucky enough to have a trip planned to visit Paris, you'll now be able to shop - and window shop ("faire du lèche-vitrine or, literally, lick the windows...which is so much more evocative than its English counterpart) - just like Ines, who devoted the latter part of her life to other secrets of French style, including her favorite shops, resources, and even a secret spot for an al fresco picnic ("Jardin Catherin Laboure...a park for those in the know - you'll never stumble across it by accident!").
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