With A Little Effort, Older Can Mean Better

Many women come to Paris wondering how French women do it.  How is it that they look so terrific and so much more fashionable than their often wealthier Anglo-Saxon sisters?

When I arrived in Paris in 1994 I had the same thought. At the same time, I didn’t imagine that my American approach to beauty and style had something lacking. Like so many women of my generation, I wanted to put brains before beauty, forgetting the old French adage: “A woman with intelligence is fine, but if she has intellect and charm, it’s even better.”

That piece of advice was told to me two years before I even thought of living in Paris, by a woman who had very little beauty, but a great deal of chic. She certainly seemed to know what she was talking about, telling me in a rather knowing way that Edith Cresson had been Mitterand’s mistress long before she became France’s first prime minister.

dddddStill, two years later, I was off to Paris with a very short wash and wear haircut dyed jet black to hide the growing number of gray hairs, and a wardrobe of Gap chinos, jeans, and blazers, tops and skirts from Ann Taylor. My goal was to learn about Paris after all–not to conquer it.

Even when I began working with a fashion photographer for Czech Elle, it never occurred to me to get a fashion makeover. I wanted to learn how the fashion industry worked from the inside, but I wasn’t committed to being a “fashionista.”

Moreover, as I was launching a career as both an author and a tour guide, who was going to being making more and more public appearances, it slowly dawned upon me that I was going to have make more of an effort.  And so I invested in some well-cut masculine-looking pin-striped pant-suits and some Hermès scarves and Agatha pearls, and assumed that I was set for life.