Tomorrow I am going to Paris. Despite being excited by the prospect of a city break in the height of summer, and looking forward to a stroll along the Seine, a tasty croissant, and, God willing, a bountiful selection of fine wines to tempt my palette, I am, as I enter my 4th hour of packing and unpacking, becoming increasingly concerned about how one presents oneself in a city famed for it’s elegance and effortless style.
Let it be known, though achingly proud to champion the likes of Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet as home grown exports, I can’t help but feel slightly disheartened, that when googling ‘Top 10 Most Beautiful English Women', Holly Willoughby, Pippa Middleton, Cheryl Cole and Kelly Brooke make the top 5.
So, where the french have Carla Bruni in Yves Saint Laurent we have Samantha Cameron in Hobbs. Sigh.
To understand the phenomenon that is the 'chic Parisian' I decided to do some research.
Make no mistake, I am quite sure there is very little chance that I might be mistaken for a woman of French descent, (hot pink nail vanish will see to that) however, I was interested in how one might blend oneself into the background when perusing the boutiques of the champs Elysees.
Well-considered advice included-
- Do everything you can to ensure your skin is great.
- Do not over accessorise. Stick to black pants, a cute pair of flats and minimal jewelry.
- Be a little enigmatic.
- Eat a small dinner ... slowly.
- Don't smile unless you mean it.
- Always be polite.
Right you are.
You see, here’s the thing. To my mind, and I think I can speak for the majority of the female population, England is a country of grey and often miserable proportions. Meaning that, not only are ‘chic’ flats near on impossible to fashion, but impossible to wear for 8 months of the year. Likewise, limited Vitamin B, 10 Marlboro lights a day and a bottle of pub quality Sauvignon Blanc most evenings, puts stop to any fresh skinned intentions.
Dinner, comes second to wine, in top 10 pleasures of life, and where a French woman is no doubt happy to peck at a slither of Roquefort and 6 grapes an English women (after a bottle of pub quality Sauvignon Blanc) can commonly be found ‘fucking the diet’ and wolfing down a kebab or some such similar culinary delight at an hour most unconducive to small waist measurements. Consequently, whereas French women can famously teach the world how 'never to get fat', their English peers can teach the world how to 'get fat but distract all attention from your ass by wearing a florescent green bangle and a ‘vintage’ headscarf holding two 4 inch earrings to either side of your head'.
Our jewellery is plentiful, our scents heavy, our heels high and our nail vanishes neon.
And just as our country seems to be increasingly void of all sunlight for the majority of the year, so too, England’s desirable man count seems to be rather thin on the ground these days. The majority either being married, gay or both. Thus making the prospect of being enigmatic or polite quite pointless, the competition on the streets of London being both harsh and relentless.
A woman standing in the corner of a bar sipping water, wearing minimal make up, flat shoes and smiling politely might well be able to praise herself on channelling her inner Audrey Tautou so successfully but will inevitably return home empty handed.
The truth about English women is this.
We will never be effortlessly chic, naturally demure or sober for longer than 24 hours for most part of the week, but, what French women have in subtlety and elegance we make up for in British eccentricity and individual style. Who, after all, would swap Vivienne Westwood, Kate Moss, Tilda Swinton or Helena Bonham-Carter ... Not I.
You want to blend in in Paris? Wear a beret and stick a loaf of bread under your arm, they’ll never know the difference.
Or for Queen and Country ... do the right thing. Over accessorise, wear heels you can’t walk in, back comb your hair, eat too quickly, laugh too loud, swear like a sailor, knock back the wine and crawl back onto the Eurostar having virtually no memory of the previous 48 hours.
Now that’s how to do Paris.