Tuesday, 24 March 2015
The Dressing Well Blog
Elizabeth Fragala

Revisiting Paris

By Dressing Well Stylist Elizabeth Fragala

One of the best parts of being a stylist is experiencing a small part of the trips your clients take. Researching the weather, reviewing their itineraries and coordinating outfits that will help them feel terrific each day they are away is very rewarding.

When I was recently asked to help one of our virtual clients pack for 6 weeks in Paris, I also got to relive my own days traveling there as well.

In this week's blog post, I share some of my favorite international fashion insights.

Insight #1: You don't have to fly to Paris to find a fitted jacket à la Coco Chanel.

Everyone has heard of the famous French style of Parisian women and their "smaller quantity, greater quality" approach to fashion. Although they have a range of shops to choose from, there is nothing that compares to our TJ Maxx when it comes to price. Europeans love to shop our discount stores when they visit, as they mostly have expensive boutiques in Europe, with nonexistent return policies. So they shop very carefully and purchase rarely. Watching a Parisian in TJ Maxx is eye-opening: they examine each piece and try it on over and over until they are sure it is perfect for them. They are not just admiring themselves in the 3-way mirror, they are checking the garment on their figure from every angle. The takeaway here is to focus on cut and fabric - make sure it fits you well and tailor when necessary. Act as if it cannot be returned. If you don't love it, don't buy it.

Insight #2: Don't save your best for tomorrow...wear it today!
Years ago we stayed with French in-laws in a trendy part of Paris. Their apartment was also trendy - and tiny! Every aspect of their home was miniature, including the closets. Our hostess was proud and unapologetic, and I admired her for it. Our first night in the city we ate out at a neighborhood restaurant, and I complimented her vintage rhinestone earrings. The size and shape were perfect for her chic short hairstyle and dressed up her jeans and sweater. The next day I admired those earrings with the blouse and skirt she wore to take us sightseeing, and the day after, with a casual jacket as we chatted over coffee and a croissant. By now, you get the picture. She wore the heirloom earrings for every occasion, and as a result always looked great. If you love it, wear it! Don't save your best for a special occasion when your best accessories, jacket or shoes can help you feel great today.

Insight #3: Know what flatters you and stick with it.
When I lived in Montreal during my freshman year of college at McGill University, my most memorable fashion excursions were not to the boutiques or department stores on Rue Ste-Catherine, but to my chic, tri-lingual roommate's closet! As luck would have it, Laila and I wore the same size shoe, and, as only a true best friend would, she let me borrow her pointed toe flats. It was love at first fit! After returning to the States, I purchased my own pair of versatile pointed flats in black and eventually wore them out. Unfortunately, trends went in and out, and I was not able to replace my much-loved shoes for many years. Ballet flats are cute on petite ladies, but never flattered my taller height and size 10 feet. I tried the round toe flat trend just once, but the ballet flats just didn't make my heart sing and they sat unworn in my closet. I am happy to say that pointed flats are back in stores and selling in all kinds of styles and colors this season. My college lesson learned - know what flatters you and stick with it!

Insight #4: Black is the international color of the chic and sophisticated.
I was fortunate enough to live in Japan in the early 1990's, at the beginning of the minimalist trend in fashion, beauty and architecture. The Tokyo subway was filled with chic women in angular haircuts and unadorned outfits. Most striking of all was the black. Everywhere I looked, men and women wore black in a way that was incredibly modern; a dark canvas with serious, artistic undertones. I was taken aback at first, when all the black clothing seemed dreary and dull. But when I observed more closely on my daily train rides through the center of the city, I realized that this was a different black. Not a black of mourning, but a chic, understated response to the boldness and wild color of the 1980's. The silhouettes were astounding - nothing body conscious or body baring. Architectural shapes that stood away from the body put the emphasis on the face, and the mind, of the owner. I began to investigate the intellectual fashion of now famous Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yoji Yamamoto, and soon fell in love with Japanese fashion. I still own and wear my Issey Miyake blouse (in black of course) but bring it up-to-date with a necklace in deep jewel tones.

Last Word
Whether you are travelling abroad this spring or staying closer to home, pack an open mind and look for inspiration wherever you go. Pick a café with a good vantage point and keep your eye out for locals with a flair for fashion. The double loop of a silk scarf in France, a graphic print top and blazer in Italy or the subtle Aegean blue of Greece can all be translated into an outfit back home. Your favorite souvenir may turn out to be a fresh point of view.

Bon voyage!

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Elizabeth Fragala

Elizabeth Fragala joined the Dressing Well team as a stylist in 2004 after living abroad in such fashion-rich cities as London and Tokyo. Following in the steps of her two grandmothers (and a grandfather!), Elizabeth learned to sew as a child. She honed her fashion sense while working at the renowned Issey Miyake boutique and Liberty of London. Elizabeth gained an insider’s knowledge of the industry as an assistant designer at the womenswear manufacturer, Briggs NY.

Learn more about Elizabeth »

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Trine 2015-03-24 09:56

Lovely post, which I enjoyed as always.

Just one qucik note. As a European, I must say that the following is far from correct:

"...as they mostly have expensive boutiques in Europe, with nonexistent return policies"

We have more high-street shops than high-end. And all high-street offer great return policies. It's only very few high-end that doesn't.

I don't want any US readers to get scared of visiting Europe because they think shopping here is to expensive :)

Trine, Denmark

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-03-24 10:17

Thank you for pointing this out, Trine! It is true that there are certainly many more reasonably priced retail stores with return policies in Europe these days, especially in large cities. This is not the case in the more remote areas where my family and friends live in Italy. The difference in quality and style available in high end stores vs. less inexpensive stores is marked. Hence their bargain savvy!

Nancy Woods 2015-03-24 10:18

Good morning Elizabeth,
What a wonderful article! I recently came back from a trip and had wished I read this first. I am sure I brought more for 8 nights that your client did for 6 weeks. One trick I learned is that there is now incredible luggage that is made of tech fabric, very durable and lightweight to accommodated for the weight allowance. Tumi happens to have a great one. I am getting rid of my luggage and replacing it with this kind of luggage immediately. Thank you again!

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-03-24 11:45

Good morning, Nancy. You are very welcome! It is a challenge traveling for a trip abroad, even for seasoned travelers. I agree with you about Tumi; it is exactly what I suggested for my virtual client. I love that you are moving forward with your own travel tip. I would love to hear where you went! March is a great time to escape the North East coast of the US, but it's tricky to carry a winter and spring wardrobe in a suitcase.

Beth CZ 2015-03-24 10:34

Hello Elizabeth, thank you for your blog post. It made me long to be there now! My husband and I will actually be spending 3 weeks in France in July, but our itinerary is as varied as can be: an outdoor wedding in Deauville, sight-seeing and Bastille Day in Paris, walking/hiking the WWI battlefields of the Somme. How can I pack appropriately and stylishly for all of these events (especially the wedding) without taking my whole closet with me?

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-03-24 11:53

Hello Beth. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. What a fantastic trip you have planned! Your itinerary is similar to that of my virtual client's, with a range of activities and level of dressiness. Fabric is key. I suggested a classic jersey knit dress as one of her base pieces, and from there we incorporated her own items and added colorful cardigans and lightweight flats. I work with clients all over the world and would be happy to help you plan your wardrobe for France.

Janet Lill 2015-03-24 13:24

Hello -- Loved the article. Do you have a Twitter handle?

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-03-24 17:49

I am so glad you enjoyed it, Janet! You can find us on Twitter at @dressingwell, on FB at www.facebook.com/dressingwell and we also have some great boards on Pinterest now as well at www.pinterest.com/dressingwell/. My Twitter account is @ErizabesBoston. Thanks for your interest!

Chris B. 2015-03-27 17:09

"Your favorite souvenir may turn out to be a fresh point of view." How true.

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-04-02 11:22

Glad you agree, Chris. Happy travels!

Shelley B 2015-04-01 23:04

This is really great! You should write more! Perhaps the commenter from Denmark knows some good places to shop for bargains in Europe, and returns are possible. However, having lived in England, I think you were "spot on." Could you imagine buying 8 pairs of jeans, taking them home to try them on, and returning 6 to a UK department store? Not happening!

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-04-02 11:24

Thanks for commenting, Shelley. I appreciate your point of view as a former UK resident. We certainly do have a unique retail system that caters to the customer here in the US.

Craig L. 2015-04-21 23:05


I am a middle aged dude from New Jersey
with no style sense whatsoever. Do you have any advice for someone in search of an age appropriate look that doesn't remind me of my dad??

Elizabeth Fragala 2015-04-30 21:25

Hello Craig,
So nice to hear the male point of view! Our clients are often confused on how to look youthful, yet age appropriate. There are great choices for guys this spring season. Try a button down shirt - colorful stripes or muted pattern - tucked or untucked over dark washed jeans. Top with a vintage inspired army jacket or bomber jacket. Loafers or deck shoes look great without socks for a European touch. We love helping male clients update their look and would be happy to make sure you don't see your dad when you look in the mirror!


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