By Kristin Wood

La Parisienne, by Barbara Redmond

Barbara Redmond

“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” It’s a phrase attributed to Henry David Thoreau, the famous American author and philosopher who eschewed material excess and extravagance in favor of living an ascetic lifestyle in a tiny cabin on Walden Pond.

Perhaps paradoxically, it’s a phrase that is also gaining currency in today’s style and fashion worlds. As the Paris Pre-Fall shows commence today, I’ll be looking for evidence of two of 2012’s predicted trends: the “undone” makeup look, and the “de-blinging” of luxury items. And what better place to introduce these two trends on a grand scale than Paris?

One of the things I’ve always loved about the quintessential Parisienne is her apparent insouciance: she wears little to no makeup; she never wears anything overly fussy or complicated; one piece is a bit askew—an unevenly tied scarf, maybe, or a few errant strands of hair. But somehow, her imperfection still looks perfect.

Going out sans maquillage is, of course, nothing new for French woman (the “le no makeup” makeup look) is something that has long been part of the Parisian mystique. But I love the intrigue associated with 2012’s “undone” makeup. It starts with the storied “le bare face,” with its dewy skin and one mascara coat, but adds smudged eyeliner and leftovers of loud lip color. One expert says it’s more “coming home from the party” than “going out to the party.” Passers-by wonder where she was, what she was doing, whom she was with. Her understated makeup tells a story of its own, but it’s not overdone or precious. It’s a subtle seduction.

If “restraint” really is the buzzword for beauty in 2012, as New York Times columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom suggests, then “simplify” could be fashion’s. LVMH fashion magnate Antoine Arnault’s recently predicted the “deblinging” of luxury, saying that “in a world in economic crisis, you don’t want to be seen with evidently expensive products. Just something that is beautiful.” We’ll discover just how far designers take this prognostication to heart during Paris Fashion Week. The Parisienne loves her Chanel ballet flats, her Hermès scarves, and her Chloé bag, but it’s not just because of the name emblazoned on the product—it’s about the quality and the fit. Conspicuous consumption, like conspicuous makeup, is not de rigueur. There is, naturally, a time and a place for statement pieces and status bags, but for now, like my favorite Madelines, I’m more than happy to simplify, simplify, simplify.

Kristin Wood bio photoKristin Wood graduated from Duke University in 2006 with a major in European History and a minor in English, then moved to New York to receive her MA in Modern European Studies from Columbia University. An enthusiastic traveller, Kristin has lived abroad in Australia and New Zealand and has studied abroad in France and England.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Beauty Confessions from a Globe-trotting Parisienne. Parisienne Bénédicte Mahé shares a French woman’s approach to beauty and makeup; and how the relationship Americans have with beauty is very different from that of the French. Including her list of Beauty Resources in Paris and a vocabulary of French to English translations. (French)

French women do get wrinkles, by Parisian Eva Izsak-Niimura who writes about the super French myth of the coquettish French nymph—her “je ne sais quoi”—in her ballerina shoes, hair effortlessly tied in a messy chignon blowing in the wind, large sunglasses over her naked, no make-up, nevertheless beautiful eyes, and she then continues to define how we are all measured by it.

l’Américaine, by Parisian Eva Izsak-Niimura who writes about the myth of the unsophisticated and pathetically naïve American where book after book and article after article there is the lament of the hopeless quest of the American woman to resemble her French counterpart. 

The challenge of business casual, by French woman Bénédicte Mahé who shares suggestions for business casual with those beginning their work careers in Paris. Included are fashion brands and stores that are favorites of Bénédicte and her friends.

Ballet Flats in Paris: And God made Repetto, by Barbara Redmond who shares what she got from a pair of flats purchased in a ballet store in Paris; a feline, natural style from the toes up, a simple pair of shoes that transformed her whole look. Including the vimeos “Pas de Deux Coda,” by Opening Ceremony and “Repetto,” by Repetto, Paris. (French)

French Lingerie: Mysterious and flirty, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience searching for the perfect lingerie in Paris boutiques and her “fitting” with the shop keeper, Madame, in a curtained room stripped to bare at Sabbia Rosa. Including a French to English vocabulary lesson for buying lingerie and a directory of Barbara’s favorite lingerie shops in Paris. (French)

Text copyright ©2012 Kirstin Wood. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2012 Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.