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Jesse Kornbluth

Jesse Kornbluth

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Ines De La Fressange's 'Parisian Chic' Is A Stylish And Practical Delight

Posted: 04/ 7/11 03:07 PM ET

The book is dedicated "to my new best friend" --- and then there's a dotted line for you to fill in.

Cringe-worthy?

Yes, if the author of a book intended to get you up to speed on Parisian style was just any old supermodel.

But Inès Marie Lætitia Églantine Isabelle de Seignard de La Fressange --- let's call her Inès --- is not like the others. Despite her impeccable breeding (she's a distant heiress to the Lazard banking billions) and her privileged upbringing, she's astonishingly down-to-earth, smart and friendly, with a goofy good cheer that suggests a refusal to take herself very seriously. Proof: at 53, she walked the runway for Lagerfeld, never having had plastic surgery or even Botox.

Interesting story there. In the '80s, Inès was the first model to have an exclusive contract --- with Lagerfeld. A few years later, she was asked to be the image of Marianne, the native beauty who is the symbol of the French Republic. Lagerfeld ended their relationship, saying, "I do not dress up historic monuments." Inès went on to start her own company and consult for Roger Vivier. But it wasn't until she was named the chicest woman in France by the readers of Le Figaro and became the French face of L'Oreal that Lagerfeld had to have her back.

"Parisian Chic: A Style Guide" is like a visit with a friendly, clear-eyed woman you trust immediately. It's the best kind of guide book --- you not only get information, you get it in context. That is, you learn quite a lot about the author and how she came to her opinions:

In the magazines we see the latest fashion, on gorgeous girls, but in my book I just wanted to help the busy woman --- a woman who is not thin, and not that fat, but in a hurry, in a hurry, in a hurry! Because we are all a lot like this --- too much tummy, not enough time.


At 230 pages, published in nicely bound soft cover, with whimsical illustrations and terrific photographs, her book is the best guide to personal style --- and to Paris --- I've ever seen. If I were a woman and had any relationship to Paris, I'd memorize it. [To buy "Parisian Chic" from Amazon, click here.]

Shall we take the tour?

Part I is "How to Dress Like a Parisian." She serves up one absolute after another. No complete outfits. Don't look "rich." Wear two scarves. Make sure you own the following: a man's blazer, a trench coat, a navy sweater, a tank top, a little black dress, jeans and a leather jacket. And Converse sneakers. And flats:

Some people think that shoes are ladders. No man is going to say, 'I would love you so much more if you were 10cm taller.' Women are suffering, you know. Elegance is about feeling nice, how can you feel nice when you have shoes that are like a prosthesis?

What to buy, what to wear, when to wear it: this is the first third of the book. (The most important thing goes unsaid --- you don't follow fashion slavishly. You're better than that. You have the confidence to believe you're attractive to men, and dress to please yourself. But you know all that, right?) Then it's on to shopping. ("I love buying new things because I like to be a stranger to them.") Inès offers an excellent guide to not-obvious Paris shops --- and their online stores. She shares her beauty regimen. ("Wear makeup every day, even on weekends. Your family wants to see you at your best, too!")

And then Inès pulls the curtain wide open and devotes half the book to her own life: "Chez Moi." Keep it simple. Display art by children. And then another section on shopping, this time for the home. A short list of museums, bookstores --- and a public restroom you'd never find on your own. Manicurists. Just a dozen restaurants. Gourmet-to-go shops. Six hotels.

Overall, "Parisian Chic" is like those memos you get from well-traveled friends. Everything you need to know. And not one thing extra.

I'll be pushing this book on Paris-bound friends --- and women in danger of dressing too young, or too trendy, or just too too --- for years.

[Cross-posted from HeadButler.com]