The Day I Went to Paris to Be Taught How to Dress Like a Parisian
After six years of commuting on the tube every day and a lifetime of talking about the weather, my style is very "London." Something I hadn't ever considered until I got an email from my boss telling me I was going to go to Paris in five days time to be, and I quote, "Frenchified" by the personal stylist for Sézane. Any assignment that helps me to channel my inner Jeanne Damas (or, more honestly, brings me closer to Paris's croissants) is worth getting a 7 a.m. Eurostar for.
In brief, here is what I learnt:
- If you're being "Frenchified," you will probably be asked to remove your bra at least once during the process.
- Summer daytime dresses should always be belted to add definition.
- Wear your sexiest outfit for brunch, rather than for a date.
- Jeans with gold buttons are always a Parisian staple.
Want to see how a Parisian dressed me for work, a date and for brunch? Keep scrolling for the full story.
The brand Sézane is so loved in Paris that you will regularly see long queues outside its showroom, L'Appartement, as Parisians are prepared to wait to try on jeans or buy a pair of white trainers. They might be basics, but this is what sells out at Sézane—its white-and-red L'Amant slogan T-shirt sold out in all sizes in less than a week. To really understand the "Sézane effect" that is happening in the city right now—and to sate our entire office's obsession with all things Gallic—I was given a French makeover by one of the brand's most stylish employees, Adèle. And so we set off on the process of her explaining to me how Parisians build their outfits and what they would wear for work, weekends and dates.
On Emma: Sézane Lila T-Shirt (£45), jeans (£95) and shoes ( £135).
For my first Parisian outfit, Adèle starts with an item that she says couldn't be more French—a pair of indigo flares with gold buttons in a square, creating a bib-front, sailor-style fastening. The French way to style them is to have an oversize T-shirt tucked into the waistband, making the buttons the focal part of the look. When we get to the all-important shoe choice, Adèle tells me that Parisians would never coordinate their shoes or accessories with their outfit, so we avoid red or brightly coloured shoes and opt for a pair of gold peep-toes instead.
On Emma: Sézane Lila T-Shirt (£45) and jeans (£95).
The verdict: I would never pick up these jeans to try on, but this outfit makes me feel the most confident when I'm out on the street. When I WhatsApped my transformation pictures to my Parisian friend, she confirmed that this is a classic, tried-and-tested French uniform—"I owned that exact outfit when I lived in Paris," she said.
On Emma: Sézane knit (£85), jeans (£95) and Eva shoes ( £155).
Next up, I'm handed a white jumper with a three-inch wide sheer panel down the front. "So what would a French girl do about the bra situation here?" I ask like a true prudish Brit. "You can wear a white one, but usually the French just wouldn't wear one," Adèle shrugs. Apparently even brunch is an opportunity to free the nipple in Paris.
After I've put on my jumper and jeans (and reluctantly taken off my bra) Adèle starts her Parisian magic. She rolls up the cuffs of my jeans, telling me that this is how all the girls style their denim right now, and she hands me a pair of red two-strap stilettos. These are heels that a Londoner would most likely save for a smart event or for going out-out, but she tells me over Le Channel that it's far cooler to wear white trainers on a date and save heels for a Sunday morning coffee.
Then we approach a family of basket bags, and she hands me the one that looks like it could house my fortnight's laundry. "It's best to go super-big with your baskets…" even if it's just to carry my credit card, keys and a token bunch of straw, emphasising the "It's a Sunday and I'm running errands" vibe. I'm carrying some wheat—the French are not gluten-free yet.
On Emma: Sézane knit (£85) and jeans (£95).
My verdict: It only took me about five minutes (okay, 10) to stop asking about whether you could see my side boob/my middle boob/all of my boob through the risqué knit. But once I came to terms with the idea of potentially flashing everything over a café au lait amongst friends who were doing the same thing, this felt like the coolest and most French outfit of all.
On Emma: Sézane Clara dress (£125), Bridget belt (£35) and Jack sneakers (£90).
The date outfit is what I would have guessed would be for weekend, but it turns out the French evening look is the least overtly sassy of all. I would usually wear a summery day dress like this, but I would never think to belt it at the waist—I'm told by Adèle that this is the key to styling a sundress like a true Parisian. And instead of simply feeding the belt through the loops, you twist it around itself to make it look more interesting. Et voilà.
On Emma: Sézane Clara dress (£125) and Bridget belt (£35).
My verdict: This was an easy throw-on summer look that I could easily see myself wearing, but I think I'd lose the belt in London. I was surprised that these white leather pumps were the number one hit in Sézane, but I can see how they have become a stealth cult buy, as they looked so much more expensive.
Ready to shop the outfits? The summer collection drops on the revamped Sézane site on 12 July.
Next up, meet the new French brands on our radar right now.