If you’re planning a visit to the capital, wear comfortable shoes…
When I was headed for Paris recently, for a business meeting, the one thing all of my friends kept asking me was: "What are you going to WEAR?"
It is interesting, and kind of amusing, that armouring oneself with the perfect outfit is something all women understand (I’m hoping they just all assumed I’d do my research, prep the vocab and come up with a decent question list…). And the truth is, I did arm myself with some options for outfits, including a shocking pink couture silk coat, a magenta satin 1960s dress suit, a 1960s silk and wool suit in blue and a magenta cotton vintage dress, none of which I wore.
Even my eventual choice of a 1960s lemon linen dress suit with hemstitching and a bow on the waist, I jettisoned at the last minute in favour of trousers, which for some reason make me feel more confident. I also didn’t want to wear high heels, because of the heat (it was about 27 degrees in Paris) and I feel you can get away with low heels more easily with trousers.
In the end, I wore grey flared chinos from Boden (my interview was conducted on a purgatorially uncomfortable Moroccan chair, only inches from the ground, so I was glad of the trousers which saved me waving my big fat knees at my interviewee), a plain white t-shirt and the jacket from the lemon linen suit, which has three-quarter sleeves and three big, covered buttons. It also has lovely hemstitching, which you can’t see in these photos.
I always wear a hat and took this raffia one (see top pic). Earrings were made by my jeweller friend Suzy, in silver fused with gold, and went with a pink pearl necklace; a cheap Hong Kong Cartier-tank-style watch from Ebay and some lemon leather vintage gloves with hemstitching, plus a screaming magenta pashmina tied to my bag handles.
I hate my hands, so I only ever wear a wedding ring (also made by Suzy), and I went for nail varnish for once, in iridescent pearl (as soon as I got home again, I clipped all my nails off, as I loathe long nails, which strike me as nasty and unhygienic).
My handbag was a big mint-green mock-croc leather tote with neon stitching from Di Cristina (I love this thing – it’s like a giant sweet and it holds all my junk), and I had a beige mock-ostrich laptop bag for my computer and papers. My notebook was magenta hand-made Italian buffalo leather with hand-marbled cream paper (a present from the DH from The Online Pen Company) and my pen was a cream and black marbled Parker Duofold fountain pen he bought me nearly 20 years and which I was shocked to find recently is now worth a small fortune (something to do with the rareness of the acrylic). I did also, of course, record the interview, with a small and discreet recorder that I set going well in advance, but it’s always useful to be able to make notes as well.
Shoes, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, are something that drive me a bit crazy generally, and I ended up wearing a pair of 12-year-old almond-toed courts in pale blue and gold brocade, with silver leather 2in Louis heels. I’ve worn these to several events such as weddings and parties, and I know I can stand all day in them if need be.
Interview over, elsewhere in Paris and for travelling, I felt very comfy in my pale blue linen Jasper Conran sundress (v-neck, v-back, fully lined and an asymmetric skirt), and a pale grey cotton cardi from H&M, teamed with navy Fly-Flots, or Boden chinos in navy, worn with Nike low-tops on which I’ve coloured in all the pale bits with a black marker pen.
With temperatures up in the high 20s, I didn’t need my Burberry polocoat, other than to lie on it in the Tuileries. It is ancient now, and there are holes appearing everywhere, so when I got back, I splashed the cash on a vintage trench from Aquascutum.
The French are marvelously stylish and I envied their nonchalance, but, I looked every inch the Englishwoman in Paris. Which is fine by me – because, believe me, the French find the English every bit as chic as we find them.