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.
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.