The holiday shopping season is here once again, and anxious retailers are poised to pounce on the latest wallet-opening trends. In fact, the only steady truth about trends is that they come and go, and their mercurial nature is a source of constant uncertainty (and inspiration) for the retail industry. But for decades, one market has proven remarkably resistant to passing trends — Paris. Despite jumping at the occasional fad (the Balmain-inspired shoulder pad, the hardware-adorned gladiator sandal), Parisian shoppers — both young and old — follow certain cardinal rules in their shopping habits, year-in and year-out.
The key to this eternal French chic may lie in a natural sense of restraint and discernment. In considering her past wardrobe choices, a French woman is less inclined to wonder, “What was I thinking?” because (most likely) it’s what she’s still thinking: Invest in high-quality staples and err on the side of understated elegance.
Here are the most time-tested items that can aid your journey towards impeccable Parisian dressing.
10. The scarf Parisians’ year-round obsession with scarves has more to do with style than climate. For warmer months, a lightweight silk scarf (think Hermès) can sass up a basic outfit. As it gets colder, reach for heavier knits.
9. The trench This old-school staple projects refined sexiness, while also combating the relentless Parisian drizzle.
8. The ballet flat Brigitte Bardot helped put Repetto on the map when she began traipsing around town in the brand’s dance shoes in 1956. Nowadays, a pair or two is de rigueur for any pavement-pounding Parisian.
7. The pump For the office or evening hours, an elegant heel is the way to go. Just make sure it’s walk-able—teetering is never a good look.
6. Le smoking Created by YSL in 1966, this tuxedo jacket set the precedent in sexy menswear-inspired style for women. Today, you’ll find variations everywhere from H&M to the fashion house that originated the look.
5. Black pant It’s a no-brainer, but a well-made pair of black pants (or a few, in various cuts and materials) provide the foundation for many a Parisian wardrobe.
4. White tailored shirt Clean, classic and always in style.
2. Touch of fur Even the most basic outfit can be amped up by a hint of fur in the form of a hat, a stole, or a glove.
1. Minimal make-up Well-maintained skin and hair are the domain of the French woman. Beyond that, a red lip or a kohl-lined eye can add drama—just don’t overdo it.
Finally, remember that it’s less about assembling a look than it is about owning it, so don’t forget to cultivate your je ne sais quoi.