Parisian Chic vs How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are

Saturday, December 12

If you go to a bookstore, you'll find shelves full of books about France, French women and Parisian style. They promise to tell you everything about why les femmes françaises do not gain weight and do not sleep alone; they swear they know the secret of Parisian chic and Parisian charm; they even state they'll teach you how to raise kids to be the most well-mannered ones outside France. But how many of these are actually worth spending money and time on? That is the big question.

In the last few years two modern French style icons, Ines de la Fressange and Caroline de Maigret, released two books that are very similar at their core: "Parisian Chic: A Style Guide" and "How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits". But despite discussing the same theme, they are quite different - and having read them both, I have a very clear answer to for which one you should opt should you want to.

The book by Ines de la Fressange, written together with Sophie Gachet, starts off as a style guide with a chapter called Dress Like a Parisian. It is very straight-to-the-point and talks you through fashion faux pas like wearing too much bling or bras with transparent plastic straps - something Parisian women stay clear off - as well as the general attitude French women have toward style and fashion. It gives you a bunch of very straight-forward recommendations on how to achieve the desired "effortless style" look (such as wear two scarves together or shop at the men's department of H&M) and shows every Parisienne's wardrobe essentials like the navy sweater, penny loafers or coloured gem rings.

The second chapter, Belle of the Ball, is dedicated to beauty tips, luxury beauty items worth splurging on, perfumes, makeup dos and don'ts, etc. The third one, Chez Moi, takes you to the French girl's tiny little apartment and gives you clues on how to keep your closet well-organized and your space free of clutter and full of personality. The forth part, Ines' Paris, combined together with the lists of places to shop at featured in the previous chapters, is what makes this book so very useful and special - and practically turns it from a "Style Guide" to a full-proof "City Guide". It is quite heavy, yes, so I wouldn't recommend taking it on a trip with you (though I did once), but you should definitely make some notes while you're reading and this way you'll have your very own list of places to visit when in Paris that will not be limited to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. For example, Ines suggests visiting public toilettes de la Madeleine, Yves Montand's favorite restaurant on place Dauphine and Eric Bompard boutiques that are known for the perfect V-necked cashmere sweaters.

The second book, How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are, was brought together by the aforementioned Caroline de Maigret, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan and Sophie Mas. It consists of short - most of them 1-2 pages long - essays that are full of humour, wit and charm. You'll find out about what you'll never see in a Parisian woman's wardrobe; will laugh at the first date scenario at Café de Flore; will read about beauty rituals, the art of kissing, snobbism, French women's relationships with the gym and the colour of black, style essentials, partying and hosting dinners, love and sex and pregnancy and marriage... You'll also come across lists of must-read books and must-watch films, recipes and games to play with friends in the living room - all finished off with a handful of places you may wanna visit while in Paris.

HTBPWYA is a beautifully made book and I had so much fun reading it, but I think I finished it in two evenings and even though it seems to cover so many topics there's not much info you can actually come back to and not much practical knowledge you could use in real life. It is definitely not a guide in any way, but more of a book that explores the nature of the mystique French woman. Lovely to read on a cold January evening while snuggling under the blanket with a cuppa tea, but it will most likely sit on your bookshelf untouched for the rest of the year.

If you ask me, I'd recommend purchasing Parisian Chic for yourself and giving How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are as a gift to a friend that is addicted to all things France. Simply because I find that it's more reasonable to spend your own money on a book you will actually read more than once (and you will definitely come back to it every time you go to Paris) - whereas the second book is one of those one doesn't necessarily need, but would want to receive as a cute and charming little present.

Do you have any other France/Paris-related books you would recommend reading?

Ines de la Fressange (with Sophie Gachet)
Parisian Chic: A Style Guide | €29 from Wordery

Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Anne Berest
How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are | €25 from Wordery


  1. Мне еще нравится книга "Парижский шик" Изабель Тома. Вообще все эти книги очень вдохновляющие! :)


    1. Ира, очень много про неё слышала!) Видимо, скоро она всё-таки окажется на моей полке :)


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