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This post is not about my eyelids falling. Unfortunately, I can’t write about that because, although it has happened, I don’t know when it did. I’m just using that line to introduce a book that implies it doesn’t really matter—at all. (Thanks for that, Ines.)

Identifying the Perfect 20 garments for a fashionable woman’s wardrobe has taken me down some delicious reading paths. The latest is a new and clever book by Ines de la Fressange, a (surprise, surprise) French-born fashionista/model/creative director and onetime muse of Chanel who has spent her life in the fashion world. At 53, she walked for Karl Lagerfield’s Chanel show. Shocking! But then so is this book if you’re old enough that your Mom thinks it’s wrong to wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

Along with her co-author, fashion journalist Sophie Gachet, de la Fressange bottles and corks the je ne sais quoi of French style in Parisian Chic. Best of all, this little bible of chic (it even has a ribbon bookmark and a faux-leather, gold-embossed cover like a real Bible) is intended as a guide for busy women who are nowhere close to being runway models. Its philosophy is akin to advice you might get about caring for plants: skillful nonchalance, not to be mistaken for neglect. What I like best about the book is the humility de la Fressange brings to the subject, encouraging readers to ignore the dictates of fashion, even hers.

Here’s a woman who can make anyone feel good about aging gracefully. She’s no fan of botox or plastic surgery. (Easy for her to say.) Her description of a woman’s 40s is enough to make a 30-something girl wish her life away: “You’ve just finished the end of that fabulous decade when you feel comfortable with your looks, everything suits you, and life is full of possibilities and good things—an exciting career, love, children—when you feel young and mature at the same time, and you don’t want it to stop. In any case you haven’t got time to think about a makeover!” That’s me—young and mature at the same time, with the eyelids if not the behavior to prove it.

Shreds of counterintuitive wisdom from the fount of Parisian chic for staying fashionable at any age. I’ve reduced it to a less-witty compilation:

Combine expensive basics with cheap pieces.

Combine dressy garments with casual ones.

Fussiness and “outfits” are dead. (Nothing is more boring than self-conciousness.)

Wear good shoes. (One good pair is better than a closet full of cheap ones)

Never fall in love with a single look or designer. (Does that include, Coco, Ines?)


Don’t try too hard. Very uncool.

Never be bland or conventional.

Shop menswear.

Never wear a necklace AND earrings at the same time.

Wear the unexpected. (Think ballet flats with a pencil skirt.)

Parisian Chic is full of liberating news.

Wearing navy and black together is okay. Evidently Yves Saint Laurent was responsible for changing that aesthetic. Diamonds and jeans are good. Too many luxury labels is terribly aging. Anything uncomfortable is anathema to the Parisian concept of chic. Never match your shoes to your handbag unless you’re under 30.

Secret transformative weapons for the blazer–one of her Magnificent Seven essentials: Belt it and wear it with the sleeves pushed back or rolled up. (The Magnificent Seven is the French-minimalist cousin to our Perfect 20 Project.)

Only one cautionary note: if you read Parisian Chic before bed, you might be in for a restless night. My mind was so stimulated, I could hardly wait to dress for the following day!