How To Dress Like a Chic Parisian Woman

y friend Didit is in town from Paris.* As an haute couture designer (click: Didit Hediprasetyo) and an honorary Parisian, it's only natural that I look to Didit for insights on what makes a woman's style chic. Specifically Parisian women. What's their secret? I pondered this over brunch with him this past Saturday, as we sipped on our virigin Bloody Marys at Five Points.

"So, how are the chic women in Paris dressing these days?" asked, swirling around the ice with my straw.

"Like men," he deadpanned.

"Really? I've always imagined them looking like Emmanuelle Alt... Skinny gray jeans and a t-shirt with a sharp Balmain jacket and a pair of sexy heels!"

"Sexy heels? They wear shoes like this." He gestured down at his black leather brogues. "And boyfriend jeans," he added, "Everything is a bit boxy and baggy, but you have to have a nice body to be able to pull it off. Not everyone can."

"What about beauty?" I wondered, as I proudly showed off my glossy, seashell pink nails, ""Look, I just got Shellac on my nails!"

"They don't care about manicures so much," he remarked, "I think they do it themselves. Manicures are so nice, though. That's what I love about coming to New York. There are nail salons everywhere." He took a moment to gaze down at his hands. "And they don't wear much makeup, but they do love a smoky eye–although, not so much eyeliner."

After brunch, it was his turn to ask me a style question.

"Where can I find a good thick black sweater?"

I, of course, knew just the place. "We must go to the Acne store in SoHo. They have the best selections of sweaters!"

And so we went. I made a beeline for the women's section as he perused the men's. Just as I predicted, he found not one, but three ideal sweaters. One in particular caught my eye. It was a beautifully textured black cotton sweater that was thick but not too heavy. "I think I have to try this one on," I gasped.

When I emerged from the dressing room, he nodded in approval. "Oh, Jess... This is chic." I turned around in the mirror as he pushed the sleeves up my arm, which were ever-so-slightly too long. The look was nonchalantly oversized. "Really? You think so? You don't think it looks too masculine?" I asked, even though I knew it was a done deal.

"You can wear this casually with white jeans or to dinner with tailored pants and a pair of earrings. For spring, you should wear it with shorts!" he exclaimed, taking a step back while still nodding, "Yessssss... You'll wear it all the time!"

I wore my men's sweater to lunch at Soho House today, with skinny black pants and a pair of heels. For the record, I received compliments from four men, all of whom wanted one for themselves.


*Didit and I first met in Paris in 2008 when I was covering Paris Fashion Week for an online fashion industry trends resource. I was staying at a crap hotel at the time and, after a casual gathering at his beautiful apartment in the 8th arrondissement, which was outfitted with elegantly minimal Christian Liaigre-designed furniture, he graciously invited me to stay in the guest room for the remainder of the trip. How lucky I was! It was better than any hotel I've ever stayed at in Paris. When he visits New York, he stays down the street from me at the Mercer Hotel—which I must note is also designed by Christian Liaigre.

On Traveling Light

It was my second day in Puerto Vallarta. I came down to the pool in the afternoon and saw one of the travel writers from my group stepping out of the water--an older woman who also lives in New York. She waved me over to a lounge chair next to hers. 

"Is your name 'Barbie' or 'Bobbi'?" I asked, unfolding my towel, "I've heard people call you both."

She shook her head, "It's neither. It's 'Babbie.' B-A-B-B-I-E. And it's not a nickname–it's my actual name."

We ordered Sauvignon Blanc and shared a bowl of ceviche with tortilla chips. At one point, Babbie asked me what I was wearing to dinner later that evening. I told her that I hadn't thought about it yet, and that I might just wear the same polo dress that I had worn the night before. "I didn't pack much. I'm the kind of girl who doesn't mind wearing the same dress over and over again," I said, "I think it's the sign of a good dress."

She nodded her head in approval, "You may have packed lighter than I did! I have a story about that. I met Bianca Jagger in Acapulco ages ago. This was before she met Mick. She was being kept by a man who owned a very famous hotel there. She had this black dress. You could tell it was $3,000 and from Paris, like Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent. Someone must've bought it for her. Anyway, she would wear this dress every single night, and she looked so chic. I couldn't tell you the words we exchanged to each other...But I've always remembered what she wore."