Ah, Paris!

It has been a while since I’ve posted in my role as Fashion Icon.  My long silence is primarily due to the fact that  I have had nothing to say.

But I do need to post now.  Because I have recently returned from Paris, where everyone looks extremely put together, all the time, and I am inspired.   

One of the keys to fabulousness adopted by every French person, of any gender or none at all, is to wear a jaunty scarf around the neck, tied just so.   I love scarves!   I have a big drawer of them.   

Yet I rarely wear them.   Things around my neck irritate me. I blame this on middle-age changes in skin chemistry; but perhaps it is just my general nature to be twitchy.   And scarves – on me, in any case – seem to be magnets for stains.   I don’t really understand how the Parisians eat croissants without ending up with a silk pouch full of buttery crumbs.  Though perhaps the Parisians don’t eat croissants at all – they leave them for the tourists.  (For which: thanks, France!)

During my Parisian sojourn, however, I was not scanning anyone’s ornamental neckwear for errant bits of baguette.  No – I was looking at feet.   I had prepared my own pair by getting my toenails painted shortly before departing the states.   I did so because it was my plan to wear Really Ugly Shoes.

See how much more elegant they look with properly prepped toes?

OK.  These are still Really Ugly Shoes.  But they are crazy comfortable, perfect for a late spring day tromping around a city.

Watching the ground is well-advised in Paris, as in many cities – all those French poodles poop with abandon, and it was my goal not to bring any Gallic dog shit home in my suitcase.  A side benefit of this strategy is that it gave me a chance to scan the French capital’s preferences for footwear.

Paris and footwear: it is a connection that goes back a long way in my consciousness.   Fifteen years ago, my daughter went on a month-long school exchange program in Paris; shortly before the trip, I had a preparatory meeting with her teacher.   The teacher explained that she expected each student to choose some small aspect of culture and write a short paper contrasting what they saw in Paris with American practices.   “You can learn so much from the littlest things!” she enthused.  “Shoes!   Just sit on the Metro and look at what shoes people are wearing!”

At which point, we both looked down at our own feet.   The French teach was wearing an elegant little pair of ankle boots.  I was wearing particularly scruffy, duck-like pair of Merrells.   Et voilà.

In my recent study of Paris from the knees down, I did indeed see more than a few elegant little pairs of ankle boots.   But mostly what I saw was sneakers.  Sneakers with jeans, sure; but also sneakers with dresses, business suits, pretty much anything. Occasionally these sneakers are sparkly; but mostly these sneakers are white.

I realize I am the last person to get this particular fashion memo.   I have seen pictures of brides in formal gowns wearing white Converse high-tops.   But to the extent I was paying attention at all, I wrote this trend off as the province of the very hip – and to be fair, sneakers-with-everything has yet to land in a big way in Boston (which is definitely NOT the province of the very hip).  In Paris, though, I bothered to pay attention:  and I can verify that sneakers are the modal form of footwear for pretty much everyone.

Paris is full of wonderful little shops full of wonderful little things, and in one of them I scored a dress.  The very hip and stylish sales guy suggested it would look good with a set of ballet flats (check):

Or, he said, with white sneakers.   Because everything looks great with white sneakers.

I am ambivalent about this white sneaker thing.  On the one hand, I have gained wisdom in my nearly 60 years on the planet.  There are things I have learned, knowledge hard-won from life experience.

Such as this:  Wear white below the waist and you are looking for trouble.  Dirt will find you. 

And this:  Sneakers look ridiculous with dresses.   Pullleeeeeeze.

Although I do rather like that bridal gown-Converse hightop pairing:   it exudes youthful insouciance.  Without a doubt, my own youthful insouciance is long past its sell-by date.  On the other hand, fashionista permission to wear sneakers with everything is a gift to my demographic, we of the wonky knees and bunions. 

And – ah, Paris!   I did return inspired.  I am not about to start wearing scarves.    I do, however, need a new pair of sneakers, and they may as well be white.

As long as I have the sneakers, I may as well pair them with the dress, if that’s all it takes to exude up-to-the-minute continental flair!   A bonus:  it gives me the perfect opportunity to show off my Where the Wild Things Are socks.

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