Saturday, October 11, 2014

How to Be a Parisian (or not...)

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Band Habits,
by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas

I grabbed this book when I was in the middle of a mad shopping spree at Athaeneum bookstore in Amsterdam.  If you read Dutch, French or English, this is a wonderful place to wile away the time and the Euros.  Of course, I'm a little weird about bookstores now that Chicago has very few in the entire city...

Frankly, either this book is terrible, or it is so tongue-in-cheek that the authors must have disfigured themselves writing it.  It makes Parisian women (and yes, it's ONLY about women) into a caricature of reckless sexual conduct, adolescent romantic sensibilities, and an overall casual disregard for their work, significant others, and family members.  That said, there were, as always, some bits with which I completely agreed... For example:


  • Three-inch heels.  Why live life halfway?
  • Logos. You are not a billboard.
  • Nylon, polyester, viscose and vinyl will make you sweaty, smelly and shiny.
  • Sweatpants. No man should ever see you in those. Except your gym teacher - and even then. Leggings are tolerated.
  • Blingy jeans with embroidery and holes in them. They belong to Bollywood.
  • UGG boots. Enough said.
  • A skimpy top. Because you're not fifteen anymore.
  • A fake designer bag. Like fake breasts, you can't fix your insecurities through forgery.
Truth be told, if the Parisienne could wear just a Burberry trench and nothing underneath, she would be in heaven."

If you can't find something in this book that deeply offends you, I will be astonished...

But speaking of EXCELLENT writing:

I've got a packing worksheet for you!

I've been promising it to you for months, I know. This is actually the worksheet, embedded in a 10-page baby booklet that discusses the various items, and what ABC, 1,2,3 means.  

Here where you can find it:  Add to Cart

Let me know what you think,


  1. Thank you, Janice! What a lovely way to begin my morning as I'm already dreaming/listing/virtually planning. As usual your advice is clear and succinct while being eminently practical. Another winner!

  2. Enjoy your travel, lifestyle & wardrobe posts. Always learn interesting information. Thank you for all the work that you do for your readers.
    How did the LL Bean leather tote work for you on your recent trip? I am considering it but concerned about carrying it & did you feel the need for a longer strap for hands free at times?

    1. I love the L.L.Bean tote, but I didn't use it everyday - I had a smaller cross-body bag that I used for my daily hiking about. The straps on the Bean are a great length - I can carry the bag at my side or over my shoulder. The over the shoulder might be difficult with a bulky winter coat, but with my lighter jacket it works perfectly. And at under $200, I can highly recommend it for quality of leather and of construction - it looks as if it will last for decades.

    2. Thank you for your insightful answer. I do believe LL Bean makes quality products.

  3. I would love to read this book! The list made me ponder why so many women are wearing the ripped it an attempt to be youthful. I just don't get it. Sorry, had to vent for a moment. I love how it ended with the comment about the Burberry trench coat!

  4. Thanks, Janice, for your great organization. I just downloaded the mini-book. I am leaving shortly for a three week Caribbean cruise. I'm thinking black with turquoise with silver jewellery. I wonder if grey is a too chilly colour for a cruise. I looked at the book in Chapters and would not buy it. Lamentably, we have lost almost all of our independent bookstores in Vancouver as well.

  5. I down loaded the book on Kindle, it is a waste of time and money!

  6. I have this book and have just skimmed it but what you said is so true:

    "If you can't find something in this book that deeply offends you, I will be astonished..."

    It is a book best approached with a sense of humor.


  7. Have you visited French Girl in Seattle's blog? She is fantastic at dispelling any French/Parisian stereotypes regarding the "chic french women" idea. I think she is great because she is very realistic and will tell you exactly and truthfully how there isn't much difference in the way women dress in France, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, and other cosmopolitan cities around the world.

    Having been to Paris several times myself, I agree with her. I don't believe there is a "secret" to parisian women's dress. I don't read "how to look french/chic/parisian" books anymore. I think if one simply tries to not dress sloppily and pays a little attention to hygiene you'll be fine!

  8. The most wonderful and inspirational saying I have read in a while - actually made me laugh as well:
    "A fake designer bag. Like fake breasts, you can't fix your insecurities through forgery."

    LOVE, LOVE LOVE this Janice.

  9. Hi Janice, as always I love that you're brave enough to critique this latest (and perhaps most stereotypically over the top) "French women explain how to be them" trend. I've been consuming French style books like the next American gal, but that book (I skimmed it too) left me cold -- it seemed actually to be a veiled satire of the genre and also a kind of ultimate joke being played on the "French style book" consumer. The most useful thing about the book was that it forced me to ask myself "why do I take these books so seriously?" ;) Also, love your travel packing list -- perfect!

  10. I spotted the book on a recent trip to London, but luckily decided not to buy it on the basis that my DH wouldn't find it interesting and I was supposed to be buying books that we can both read! I'm very glad now that I wasn't tempted.....!

  11. Actually, this book was not appreciated at all in France either..... as it sends a very wrong and fake idea of french women (except the list which is so true and, for us, just common sense). If ever you would need or crave a"french chic" book, I would recommand to give a try to "You're so french". More parisian than really french actually but hell, it seems than for most, France is only limited to Paris (sigh) although thare are so much differents places in France to discover even (and mostly) when they are NOT touristy at all!!