Oh dear reader, sorry for my on-going love affair with Paris. It’s really getting so out of control. (Few nights ago, re-watched Amelie in bed and consequently couldn’t fall asleep all night…getting 2 hours total. Ugh I just can’t.) But I take inspiration from what’s on my mind right now and it’s either this, or my chronic, severe vertigo problem (= a lot less fun to write about and read about).
As you know I *may* be going to the City of Lights next month. Tickets haven’t been booked yet–on the other hand, all this intense positive thinking should bend the universe (or more realistically, my boyfriend) to my will. In the meantime, I’ve been reading How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits (Doubleday, September 2014). Disclaimer: This was also one of my last projects I worked on at my last job, so obviously I’m biased…but it’s a cute, funny, charming picture book on that enigmatic parisienne style. Style of course here means not just what they wear, but how they think, behave, and cultivate their lives. And let me tell you, it’s all très sexy.
So what is it about these parisiennes? Without giving too much away (that’s what the book is for!) I would say that these are the main points at which they differ from les americaines. Don’t get me wrong–American women (and men) are super charming. They’re really some of the most open-minded, funny, endearing, and attractive bunch. But we can all learn from some healthy cultural exchange–American optimism and earnestness can benefit from French insouciance and allure, and vice versa, yes? Without further ado, here are some tips on how to be sexy like a parisienne.
1. Never say anything disparaging about your own look, not to your friends, and especially not to your lover (oui, l’ amant).
This is something I very strongly believe in. I would never complain to my friends I feel fat or ugly–or ask my lover if my butt looks okay in something (oh the horror). It’s not that I have a perfect body. Of course I’ve felt the tinge of insecurity when said l’amant puts his hand on my waist and it’s soft rather than chiseled. It happens to all women, parisienne or no. But calling attention to your weaknesses is a lose-lose situation for all involved. The truth of the matter is, a body is just a body, whether it’s 10 lbs lighter or heavier, softer or harder, younger or older. No one really notices any “flaws” until you feel insecure and direct your attention to it. Any man who gets you in the nude will probably be thrilled about you already, so go with it, and own your body without self-critique.
2. Don’t give away too much, all at once.
Americans love to get to know people. It’s a genuinely positive national characteristic. On the other hand, the parisienne keeps her cards close to herself. She seems aloof, never eager to overshare, or to fall in love too quickly. And why should you become smitten with a guy just because he’s “nice” and asked you out on a second date? Why should you want to introduce him to all your friends and make him breakfast? No, a parisienne isn’t so easily understood and won. Her sense of pride won’t allow it.
This translates to not just her mannerisms, but also to her clothing, of course. Leaving a little to the imagination is far sexier than showing everything you have. Par exemple: If you’re showing legs with a mini skirt, wear an oversized white shirt on top. A soft sweater that just falls off your shoulder is so much sexier than a low-cut top.
3. Cultivate other interests besides love–but when you’re in love, you’re mad for it.
Literature. Gallery openings. The theater. Intimate dinner parties with friends. A drink by yourself at an outdoor cafe just because it’s so beautiful (bring a book). You’re a woman with an inner life of your own besides love, and you’ll never lose your sang froid over messages on OkCupid. But you’re also extremely passionate and will occasionally do crazy things for love, like book the next flight out of town. What can you say? You’re a study in contradictions.
4. Be sensual.
The art of being sensual is the parisienne’s specialty. You delight in taking time in the bath, with candles all around you. Buying yourself flowers, just because. Luxuriating in the feel of the softest cotton tee, your favorite perfume, the colors in the sky…It doesn’t matter if you’re alone or with someone–living life beautifully is what you do. La vie est belle.
5. Embrace your imperfections.
Even though many think her impeccable, the parisienne actually delights in imperfections. There is the famous messy, undone hair; the slick of red lipstick on a bare face. But it’s also the slight bump on her nose, an unusual mole, or a gap-toothed smile. Imperfections give you character–they make you seem more uniquely beautiful and less precious.
Overall, I think sexiness is too often, and wrongly, associated with depravity in our American culture. But embracing your own sensuality is a crucial part of self-fulfillment–and it has nothing to do with scandalousness and everything to do with confidence, knowing what you like, and appreciating and delighting in life. And if that makes you irresistible in the process, well so be it. 🙂
What do you think about the parisienne attitude? Do you find it as enviable as I do–or are you more into the honest-to-goodness American style? Share!
Also see: How to Dress Like a Parisienne
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling; Ronen Reyes via Flickr; Natalia Menez via Flickr