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How to Be Sexy Like a Parisienne

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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.

How to Be Sexy Like a Parisienne

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.

How to Be Sexy Like a Parisienne

A soft white blouse and a black skirt can be a statement, too.

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.

How to Be Sexy Like a Parisienne

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

How to Update Your Wardrobe

How to Embrace Your Sexuality in a Healthy Way

Yoga for a Better Sex Life

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Photo: Peaceful Dumpling; Ronen Reyes via Flickr; Natalia Menez via Flickr

Juhea Kim
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Juhea now lives in NYC with her Oreo cookie cat, Zeus. When she is not writing, she enjoys running in Central Park, yoga, and teaching Barre classes. Follow Juhea on Instagram @peacefuldumpling, Google+ and Pinterest.
  • Juhea Kim

    It worked!! (positive thinking / writing talking about it nonstop) Boyfriend booked flights yesterday evening. I’m going away 9/12-9/24–will be blogging from some sunlit appartement in Montmartre! 🙂

    • Jessica Sorvillo

      Yayyyy!!!!!!!

  • Tanti Ratnakusuma Sumitro

    Well done Juhea. I think sexy is proud of myself hehe. I love my body and what the heck with others think. Thanks for the post.

    • Juhea Kim

      😀 yes yes! exactly. so happy to hear you’ve got it and you know it 😉

  • Jessica Sorvillo

    I hope you get to go to Paris!! It’s a beautiful city–and the food is TO DIE FOR! Oh, sweet baguettes and the best salads you will ever have. There are tons of vegan options too! Everyone there has a wonderful style, but beware of the subway (some people don’t shower often XP ). <333

    • Juhea Kim

      that’s really encouraging re: salads!! (would it be really, really weird if i brought my own bottle of noush to restaurants??) i totally see already that everyone will have wonderful styles just based on apartments on air bnb….hel-lo, dream pad!! Also, i can’t imagine subway/hygiene issue can be worse than nyc. am well equipped to handle that!

  • I love it! I myself am such a francophile, and luckily enough found myself working in Paris for 3 months over the Spring. I completely fell in love with the city, became practically fluent in French, and most importantly, learned how to truly let go, slow down, and LIVE. Enjoying my own company on a sunny day in the park, taking small sips of une noisette at a café while watching the world go by, or taking an evening stroll alone by the Seine…all ways to spend time with yourself, embrace yourself, cultivate a personal sort of sensuality. Ah Paris, I miss you already.

    • Juhea Kim

      “cultivate a personal sort of sensuality”–I think that’s exactly it!! It sounds like you had the experience of a lifetime. 🙂

  • Lee Kaplan

    Juhea, is that you peeking out from behind that book? You are absolutely adorable! And wise beyond your years. Excellent article. We Americans (mainly women) make an art out of bashing ourselves. All that energy wasted.
    Where were you when I was 21? (40 years ago…yikes!)
    Btw, Portland is my favorite town, and vertigo can pound salt (I’m being polite).

    • Juhea Kim

      Dear Lee, aww thank you!! that is me from behind the book. (just realized how long my bangs were 2 years ago-wow!)
      Yes, I of course deal with the pressure to compare myself and feel bad, but it’s such an energy suck. I recognize that I’m not everyone’s top flavor, and that’s okay as long as I’m my own top flavor! (which is chocolate, obviously!) ;D
      All joking aside, thanks so much for your sweet note. it made my day!

  • Lee Kaplan

    How do you deal with your vertigo? I don’t do yoga because of it (can’t lay flat, or tip my head back).

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