Trench coats, sailor stripes, little black dresses- these are all ingrained in my mind as characteristic Parisian couture. French women are notorious for their effortlessly chic style, which is at the same time both current and classic. I was fortunate enough to spend a semester living in, arguably, the world’s fashion capital, Paris, during high school, and ever since, French fashion has captivated me.
When I picture the streets of Paris, the people I see wear understated, truly timeless items of clothing. Paris is the birthplace of nearly all of the most recognizable, established, and notable names in fashion, such as Chanel, Vuitton, Givenchy, Gaultier, and Hermès: all couturiers responsible for launching the trends in women’s fashions present to this day.
Since Louis XIV’s reign, France has been associated with luxury and style, and through the influence of leading figures in the court coupled with the creation of the fashion press in the 1670s, haute couture became closely associated with the French, and has not ceased to be. For most of us, Chanel, Dior, and YSL are luxuries our tight college bank accounts cannot handle. Luckily, there’s more to the French fashion spectrum than just this high end.
On my first night in Paris, my French host sisters and I were hard at work getting to know each other. Questions were being thrown at me in French far speedier than I had ever experienced. They patiently repeated nearly every word to me, and I did my best to keep up. The older of the two asked if I’d heard of Zadig and Voltaire. Of course I had, I replied. As they began pulling out their favorite sweaters, I understood that no, in fact, I did not know to what they were referring. I then learned that the Zadig et Voltaire I was familiar with, or the famous philosopher and his novel, was also the name of one of France’s most popular clothing brands for young people.
French style has undoubtedly permeated global fashions; however, many of the trendiest French labels have not become widespread across America, having U.S. locations primarily in New York alone. Fortunately for French fashion aficionados, international shipping can bring the styles straight to you. For simple prints and classic tailoring, Comptoir des Cotonniers is the place to go. Sandro is perfect for bolder prints and unexpected details, such as cutouts and fringe. If you like a more neutral palette, with crisp, minimalist designs, Berenice is perfect. I am eagerly awaiting The Kooples’ U.S. e-shop for their hip, menswear inspired silhouettes.
Anytime I get a whiff of the Chanel perfume my French host mom wears, or see an Hermès scarf like the one my French sister always has around her neck, my mind immediately returns to the perfect, pastry-filled months I miss so frequently. For anyone who has traveled or lived abroad, you will surely understand the joys of seeing the name of a country-specific brand, or a distinct shoe style not yet popularized in America. I am impatient to someday return to this fashion capital, but for now, I will have to content myself with the plethora of online options that export the most hip and timeless styles all over the world.