Before going to Paris last year to celebrate my 65th birthday, I did a bit of research so that I could make the most of my stay in the French capital. I contacted a blogger who lives in France and she recommended buying Parisian Chic written by the French model and fashion icon Inès de la Fressange. It's a charming book, and there are lots of insider tips if you are planning a visit to Paris, as well as giving you the secrets of obtaining Parisian Chic.
Many of us yearn to have that je ne sais quoi that Frenchwomen seem to possess. You can find numerous popular fashion blogs based on this premise: there are links to two of my favourites on the right. Bearing this in mind,. I thought it would be interesting to look at what Inès considers are essential items in any chic woman's wardrobe.
Before we begin, here is my own version of "Parisian Chic", taken in Paris last year.
One of the most important lessons that I learnt from this book was: split your budget into two. Spend half on quality basics and the other half on fun purchases to brighten up your wardrobe, which means you can follow the trends without spending too much. If leopard-skin prints are in fashion, don't dress in it from head to toe (you don't want to look like a fashion victim) but perhaps use the fun side of your budget to buy a scarf or bag in leopard-skin .
Here is Inés' list of 7 essentials:
1. The blazer.
You can wear a blazer with a casual outfit or dress it up. Choose a style and colour that suits you and that will fit in with the rest of your wardrobe. I was looking for a classic black blazer, but soon realised that black was too harsh for me and that structured styles were unflattering too. I eventually bought the jacket in the photo above, which suits my colouring and which has proved more versatile than the other styles that I was considering.
2. The trench.
Another basic piece that can be worn with many different outfits from casual to smart. I bought a navy trench-coat when I was in London last year, which has become an essential part of my wardrobe. However if you live in a colder climate, you may prefer to buy a winter coat that is equally versatile.
3. The navy cashmere sweater.
I don't own one - yet! I do have a green cashmere cardigan that I love and so this item is now on my list of future purchases. It doesn't have to be cashmere, though if you can find one in the sales it would be a good investment. It doesn't have to be navy either, though obviously navy is a colour that won't date and that will go with most other colours, even with black.
4. The tank
Inès suggests buying several good quality tank tops in basic colours like white, navy, khaki, grey or black. Obviously choose colours that suit your colouring and that won't date. Basic tanks can be worn underneath your jacket, trench or sweater as well as with jeans, shorts or a skirt.
5. The little black dress
Aha! This one can be found on every fashionista's list of wardrobe essentials, but it won't be on mine. Why? Because black isn't a good colour for most over 60s, that's why! However the principle is fine: a simple, elegant dress that won't date is what we all really want. Just find the shape and colour that is right for YOU. I haven't found mine yet, so when I find it I may very well buy two.
6. The perfect jeans
I have them and I'm wearing them now. The only problem is that they won't last for ever, so I am looking for a replacement. The most classic shape is straight-leg jeans, but choose the shape that suits your body best. Navy never goes out of fashion, but I treated myself to a pair of bright pink jeans that I love almost as much as the navy pair that I'm wearing. For younger readers, who may have read "no jeans after 40 or 50", I'm 65 and I intend wearing jeans until the day I die! There should be no age limit on wearing jeans if you love them and so long as they love you.
7. The leather jacket
This is an interesting choice for the last of Inès' seven essentials. Some of us may refuse to wear a leather jacket because of our principles, others may feel that it's not a look that suits them. I had a real leather jacket that I bought second-hand in a French market (where else!). I loved it and it went with everything, however one day I left it in an Italian airport and, when I realised my mistake and went back, sadly it had disappeared. I now have an imitation leather jacket that looks a bit like the one I lost and that is proving to be equally versatile. If leather jackets aren't something you would wear, why not find a casual jacket that is just as versatile and that works well for you?
So there you have it. The seven key items that Parisians would wear to look stylish. Do you agree? If not, what would your seven essential items consist of?