It’s spring in Paris and I don’t have anything to wear. That’s not in a “I can’t decide” kind of way, either. I left my ex with two suitcases and a preschooler and moved into a fully furnished apartment in Paris. Since we arrived in the late fall, I only brought what we needed at the minute and everything else is being replaced, slowly, as we go. It’s not a problem for Hidalgo because he’s growing so fast I’m buying every season for him anyway. Not so for me.
I’ve been busy thinking about more practical things and fashion isn’t high on the list. Court dates are for the end of April, Hidalgo’s birthday is coming, I need to find a job…but I also need some clothes as the season changes since almost everything I own is in another country. So, I’ve been doing a bit of shopping which is retail therapy – replacing any actual therapy budget – but I have to admit I feel more confident walking around in new clothes.
I wanted to live in France for the history and art, not the runways and movie stars. However, being newly single, living in a stylish city and being mistaken for the nanny unless I look “presentable”, I need to invest my small budget wisely. My number one rule for everyday dressing: No ironing, drycleaning or special care fabrics allowed. I want to look put together but everything gets washed together with the kid’s stuff.
Here are the basics I’m buying to replace my wardbrobe and to dress like a Parisien without having the time, money or energy to spend on my appearance.
1. Comfortable stretch jeans and stretch cotton pants. We all put our pants on one leg at a time but the French would never be seen in sweats, pajama bottoms or yoga pants anywhere outside of the house or gym. Yes, they are comfortable, but they don’t flatter anyone’s figure. A couple of pairs of pants made of denim or cotton twill with 1% spandex are comfortable for every day and are very fashionable here. Skinny leg or a straight cut look good on just about anyone as long as they fit correctly.
2. Two pairs of flats. Ballerina type are easy, inexpensive and go with everything (one black, one taupe to match a whole range of outfits. No one wears jogging shoes unless actively engaged in sport. Even the very old ladies still wear a little heal. The least I can do to look put together is slip on some comfortable flats.
3. An beautifully colored and patterned scarf. Buy one you really like and with colors you have in your wardrobe, so it will already match. It will go with everything and adds interest to otherwise basic pieces. If you aren’t sure about wearing a scarf for everyday, keep in mind it’s also practicle. It has the benefit of keeping you warmer as the sun goes down in the cool spring evening.
4. A structured jacket/blazer. With a little detail like a high waist, diaganol zipper or oversized collar, it adds interest to an everyday basic. I’ve been watching ‘Scandal’ lately and the character Olivia Pope does this one perfectly. Her clothing budget is a lot more than mine but I’ll keep my eyes open for a nice one and wear my winter cardigan until I find one.
5. One mid length, a-line skirt. Skirts are not just for special occasions and they are very comfortable if not too tight or short. An a-line skims the hips and drapes on the leg so you don’t need a perfect figure to wear it. A good quality fabric with some subtle detail (piping, overlap stitching, ) will last through several seasons.
6. Simple cotton shirts. Cotton t-shirt material shirts are inexpensive, can be washed with all the normal laundry and never need ironing. However, simple doesn’t have to be boring and beside sleeve length (3/4 is , look for other detailing. An unusual neckline (scoop, asymetric, boat, cross over, etc.) or fabric layering, gathering, or design adds interest. Even a couple of v-necks with a few buttons which are well fitted and not oversized is acceptable. I look for interesting colors to brighten up a spring wardrobe.
The good side of having to start all over is that at least I can buy some new clothes for myself without feeling too guilty. The practicle part about the six basics above is that all the pieces are interchangeable and with one piece of statement jewelery, it’s even fashionable.
These bits are comfortable, easy to maintain, and accessible on most budgets. Feeling good and being happy are the more important that what you wear. But having