My first memory of a Parisienne... A girl on a bicycle cycling down one of the quiet streets in soft shadows of golden autumn trees. Petite, dark hair kept in a dainty chignon, black cardi, black full midi skirt, espadrilles... Here one moment and varnished the next.
An elegant lady. Snow white long bob. Black very expensive-looking trouser suit. The time followed her, not the other way around.
A student crossing the square... Long main of ash blond hair dancing in the wind, men style trousers, shirt, sweater, brogues, carrying a couple of books.
A sales assistant in Gallerie Lafayette. Stunning and unforgettable. Ebony skin, tall, model-slim, shaved head, glorious platform heels, classic Gucci-like horse-bite print dress, scarf and pearls. One of a kind.
I think those were the moments of falling in love with Parisiennes... They stayed with me forever. Even more so, I've become fascinated with those women, their allure, attitude and charm. I wanted to know more, to live in those moments... create my own. And since I couldn't be in Paris or in a company of Parisiennes, I turned to movies, music and, of course, books...
Once in a while I'd add another title to my library and indulge, lose myself in words and memories of my own. The process of choosing each books was a rather special affair for me - it had to have something new, something exciting and be a bit like a fantasy rather than another ode to ballerina flats and stripped jumpers (not that there's anything wrong with either of those, but my brain can only take a certain volume of cliché) or a tale about women who do absolutely nothing to remain beautiful and slim (honestly?...)
With so many demands my choice of reading material was, indeed, limited to a few selected titles - enough to satisfy me for a while, but not at all useful to rid me of my permanent craving for learning about Parisiennes. I kept looking...
September brought back a familiar feeling of nostalgia for Paris, glorious weather, fashion week and a new book written by Caroline de Maigret together with her three friends - Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan and Anne Berest. The title, "How to be Parisian whenever you are", sounded good. Very good. Tempting. Too wonderful to be true. I put it in my basket. Walked away. Came back three days later wondering "Should I? Shouldn't I?"
At this point I didn't have a daisy to help me decide. I decided to start with the preview. It read:
"The truth is out: Parisiennes aren't privy to a secret "skinny" gene, they aren't always easy to be with and aren't all perfect mothers. In fact, they are very imperfect, vague, unreliable and full of paradoxes. But they can also be funny, attentive, curious and ironic, and they know how to enjoy life."
I was almost convinced.
The book was on its way to me within seconds.
Why? Because How To Be Parisian... is nothing like any other book about Parisiennes you've ever read. Yes, it does cover the usual style and wardrobe dilemmas and rules. And yes, the girls do talk about beauty, achieving those famous Parisian curls, natural skin, having plastic surgeries, no-make-up make-up and a few home treatments (including a hair mask I swear by, though I've always thought it had Russian origins, naturally). Of course, there's a mention of exercise and diets. And best books (phew, I read most of them by now - proud moment!). And movies. Paris. Places to be and not to be, for various reasons. Attitude. Men to adore and walk away from. Love. Children and motherhood. Home comforts, dinner parties and cooking. Life.
But it is not simply about the subjects and words. What makes How to be Parisian so different is how all those stories are told. Some are beautiful etudes like the watercolour paintings, light, emotional, dreamy, with a note of melancholy, joy or humour. Others are witty and wise rules, quotes, how-to's and faux pas'. It's like a conversation you would have with your girlfriends over a cup of coffee or glass of wine - funny, sad, happy, supportive, cool and.... real.
And the best of all? By the time you get to the last page you realise one very simple thing - you have already got a little bit of Parisienne in you. Wherever you are.
Photo source: personal, taken by me