I travelled to Paris last week with a colleague who is young, stylish and a professional fashion editor. It also happened to be fashion week.
Put all of those factors together, along with a basket of freshly baked croissants, and you have all your worst wardrobe fears and personal fashion neuroses come together in a perfect storm.
Nothing, absolutely nothing in my 21-kilogram, jam-packed suitcase was right. We arrived at our Airbnb in the afternoon, and after noticing that I seemed to have put on about 4 or 5 kilos by simply flying over Qatar, we dressed and went straight to a sidewalk café for a sancerre.
A photo posted by Kirstie Clements (@kirstie_clements) on
Paris was that temperature where it’s freezing when you are out of the sun, but stifling indoors, so unless you possess the knack of artful layering you already look Australian.
I had some ballet slippers ready to go because I knew my feet would appreciate them after a 24-hour flight, but my friend/editor/nightmare looked at them and said, “Do you have something chunkier?”
The next few hours were spent watching the parade of stylishness passing by and remembering that everybody in Paris looks amazing, the locals and the internationals.
What’s more, they also do it in doubles, shiny couples from around the world drawn to the city of light because they are nauseatingly good-looking and know how to dress effortlessly.
The mélange of ethnicities just adds to the overwhelming beauty.
I went back to my suitcase and started rifling through it, flinging things back over my head saying, ‘No, no, no, this won’t do’.
It turned out the only things I had that were remotely suitable to wear outside the apartment were one pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, a white cotton shirt and a khaki silk trench coat that the wind passed straight through. I needed to go shopping.
I was in Paris for reasons outside of the ready-to-wear shows and I certainly had no intention of going anywhere near them, with the attendant throngs of street style stars they attract, all dressed up to be photographed.
I find the whole thing simultaneously intimidating and vacuous.
I was more interested in watching the Parisian women going about their daily business and noting what they wore and how they wore it.
Especially the women on bicycles, with their trench coats and jeans and flat boots and perfectly insouciant scarves. It was a reminder that real style is so much more than clothes, and labels.
“I think I need these,” I said, showing a pair of black low-heeled Mary Janes to my friend/editor/nightmare while we were browsing in A.P.C in the Marais.
“No, I don’t think you do, we can do better,” she said cryptically. Fashion editors always do that. They are always convinced that the perfect item exists, tantalising, around the corner, which means you are still shuffling around in the shoes you hate for the next week.
Of course, when they do find the shoe that will change your life it’s $1200 and doesn’t really go with anything you have in your wardrobe, nor can you walk in it.
I decided to strike out on my own, and went shopping without her one chilly morning, feeling out of sorts and out of place.
And then I saw it. It was a cardigan, long, chunky, cool and low-key and exactly the style of oversized cardigan that all the French women were wearing that made them look so right.
I bought it, slipped it over my t-shirt and jeans, sat down in a cafe and ordered a café crème and everything suddenly felt perfect.