What is a Parisian?

A Parisian, or Parisienne in French, is a charming woman, often chic but complex and paradoxical. Let’s be clear: you can be charming without an ultra-bright smile and chic in blue jeans. The Parisian has an elusive personality that’s hard to pin down. At first, she comes off as distant and a little cold. But fairly quickly you realize she’s refined but nice. She’s saucy, with a stinging sense of humor. She likes to surprise you. She’ll open up when you least expect it, then suddenly pull back into her shell, and finally go back to being her charming self again.

11470cc8128c821f264590831431083fEverybody talks about Parisian charm. Perhaps part of our charm stems from being mysterious. We’re like hidden, genetically programmed behavior codes that only other Parisians know how to read and use. You hear a lot about French attitude or typically Parisian behavior. Well, I guess it’s true. We have typical ways of acting with our friends, our men, our kids, and strangers. We know what we want and how to get it, but we won’t reveal our strategy too much. 

There’s the native Parisian, born and bred in Paris, and then there’s the “Parisian by adoption.” As it turns out, it can be hard to tell them apart. Fortunately, you don’t have to be born Parisian to become Parisian. According to Karl Lagerfeld, “You don’t even have to be French to be Parisian”— provided, however, that you have a good friend like me, a benevolent godmother who takes you under her wing and reveals all the tricks of the trade. And, of course, provided you have the proper survival guide from which to extract essential pearls of wisdom as needed. Where can you find it? It’s in your hand! 

Be careful. Becoming Parisian is possible, but it’s an art. It takes a lot of work to achieve the supreme result: perfect style that looks natural and spontaneous. One day you’ll finally 30438603567190ccf731178a69984babmange, but watch out—if you want to stay glamorous, there’s no letting up. One slip and you’re a “has been.” Not that I want to be discouraging. Hang in there and follow my advice. Write my tips on post-its and stick them on the fridge, on your bathroom mirror, and on the dashboard of your car. In no time, “Parisian-ness” will soon become an automatic reflex. 

Another part of our appeal is the way we mix our grandmothers’ traditions with the latest trends. We dream of traditional dishes with rich sauces but nourish ourselves on steamed haricots verts (French beans) with barely a dash of olive oil. We enjoy simple and light nouvelle cuisine but also love not-so-light Italian recipes that we happily blend into our own culinary heritage. This is sometimes known as “the French paradox.” It is the art of masterfully juggling styles, of nimbly shifting back and forth between apparently contradictory trends. It is an acquired skill. 

We’re brought up to be careful about the way we speak; language is part of our image and bearing. Yet we don’t hesitate to adapt some of the “in” expressions of our teenage children, which are not always refined but are an unavoidable part of urban life. Pop slang one moment, literary discussion the next—it’s not always easy to keep up with our conversation, but that’s just the way it goes, for the Parisian does not have a moment to spare! 

We are said to be elegant. Even if our style is meticulously planned, it must look very natural. Once again, we have our little secrets. There are strict rules for being and staying chic, whether we’re getting married, strolling the banks of the Seine, or sipping a cocktail at Café de Flore, a legendary sidewalk café in the quaint Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. The same goes for our 18ed3d4c278f86998c2134deb1ad202ekids. They must be well bred, well behaved, and impeccably dressed.

My girlfriends in the States are always telling me how Parisian I am and asking me for advice on shopping and style. I take the compliments with all due modesty. Of course, we know all the right addresses in the French capital for just about everything—from the fanciest chocolate éclair to the best private sales. We’re very proud to boast about our “finds,” but only rarely will we actually divulge our “secret” addresses. A Parisienne wouldn’t be a Parisienne without her little black book of the “right places.” After all, whether you’re looking for a soup bar, a hat boutique, or a health spa, “in” is “in, “out” is “out,” and Heaven have mercy on anyone who doesn’t know the difference! 

The Parisian is said to be svelte. But do we ever love our pastries, sausage, and cheese, none of which is exactly great for a woman’s figure! How do we keep the weight off? Let’s say that we are constantly on guard, preferring the philosophy of “preventing and correcting” to that of “repairing and healing.”

Last but not least, the Parisian woman would not be what she is without Paris, a city that is sublime but often gray, an exciting place but also a tough one. Paris is a magnificent setting, a stage for the greatest celebrities of our time. Paris is also a demanding place to live. If you are worthy of the Ville Lumière (City of Light), you won’t be seen dead in baggy sportswear or sloppy shoes. Paris is a city where people are expected to outdo themselves. There are strict rules here about what is and isn’t done. If one is or aspires to be Parisian, one behaves as b8073220fef085ed85f172d263840428expected 24/7, even when traveling. Paris is a harsh mistress, but the Parisian bends to her strict rules and criticism with pride. She is proud of the beauty of the city and its cultural riches. This pride can be sensed in her character.

To keep her face looking naturally youthful even as time marches on, to keep her figure despite a sweet tooth, and to live up to her famous reputation, the Parisian woman must constantly have the right attitude at the right moment. 

 

If you want to know more about… read my book “Tips from a true Parisian woman” (Rizzoli).

Charlotte - Style & fashion

Bonsoir, my name is Charlotte. My mother, ex-model for Saint-Laurent, is American but I’ve lived in Paris since I was 4 years old. Since my mother was often abroad for fashion shows, my French grandmother, a dressmaker for Chanel, taught me the way to become a real Parisian. Today, I’m a wedding-planner and my husband directs a famous fashion magazine. I don’t have to tell you that I have a front seat at all of the fashion shows and I’ve developed a good general culture about fashion. Although I’m the personal shopper for my friends, my strong points are marriage and elegance.

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