Sunday, May 8, 2011


*Dress Like a Frenchwoman

My Auntie and I are flying to Paris ten days from today and meeting my Uncle Ron from New Orleans.  And now that Matt's show is up and we had a successful opening night and good review by Kenneth Baker (scroll down to "Gil's Thrills"), I can start thinking about what to pack. We want to look like we belong there and not like tourists, although our cameras, Michelin Plan de Paris and confused looks standing on street corners could give us away. But at least we can dress well.

The concept of Dressing Like a Frenchwoman has been a long-time passion for me. One of the best compliments anyone can give me is, "You look so French!"In fact, I've used the phrase so often, I'm officially trademarking and acronyming it. DLFW implies dressing with an elegant, worldly style but with your own individual touches. In scanning my bookshelf, I realize I have a few books on the subject.

Suzanne Sommers, author of French Chic: How to Dress Like a Frenchwoman defines French chic as "striking, subtle, sexy, surprising, understated and overdone, witty, one-of-a kind and is certainly elusive. Yet, although it is composed of a variety of styles, there is only a single spirit: self-expression." And this quote from Azzedine Alaia, "French chic involves few items, a lot of fantasy in putting them together and a talent with accessories." Published in 1988, some of the details like exaggerated shoulders are dated, but a lot of the looks are still inspiring.

Then there's Veronique Vienne, author of French Style. Born and raised in Paris, she became more conscious of what it meant to DLFW when she moved to the United States. Reading her book is like having a french bestfriend who shares all her style secrets with you.

In 1990, an unbelievable twenty-one years ago, my friend Debra and I attended a one-day class at the Sewing Workshop in San Francisco titled "How to Dress Like a Frenchwoman." I kept my notes all these years.

Some of my notes:
  • Be hedonistic. FW nurture themselves from the inside out. 
  • FW like to look like they just came from someplace interesting. 
  • FW show their figure. 
  • FW are fussy about fit and the hang of clothes.
  • Maintain the ability to transform yourself. 
  • Tell yourself: no more so-so dressing. 
  • If you have five items, you want to make it look like you have twenty. 

And an idea I learned in the class and never forgot, that it's important to experience "coup de la coeur" or "beat of the heart" whenever adding something new to your wardrobe. That exciting feeling when you imagine wearing that new dress or blouse and you know you will look great. 

I could go on and on... but I better start my packing!


  1. Omigod, Lesa, this is fabulous. I am going to print out your notes from the class. I remember when you took it!!

    Bon voyage ... I am very jealous.

  2. So glad you like the story. And I'd be happy to send you a copy of my notes. But who is this? Your email is a mystery...

  3. I know, Lesa, I'm printing this out, too. LOVE. So inspiring.

  4. I am going shopping and I will buy nothing that doesn't give me that "coup de la coeur!"

    bon voyage mon amie!

  5. Lesa, I do hope you'll post a copy of your final Paris list.

  6. DLFW! Love this and the 'rules' that you took from the workshop we shared. Thanks for bringing it all back. I need the reminders.