It would be almost impossible to talk about France, especially Paris, without mentioning fashion at least once. Paris has long been associated with the “haute” of haute couture. As everyone knows, the famous fashion houses and their biannual runway events dictate what we will all be shopping for each season. If you are really into having famous label clothing and accessories, you can certainly find them all over Paris. While I admittedly LOVE to shop, I don’t have a budget for this kind of high-end shopping nor do I particularly care about labels. I’m more interested in style.
Six years ago when I first visited Paris, I immediately noticed that the majority of the women were wearing scarves. Of course, it was a rainy, cool April so this didn’t seem too unusual. I had started wearing them more often myself since I had recently moved to a cooler climate. It was more about staying warm in cool weather than making a fashion statement though. At the end of this first trip, I realized that scarves served both purposes for French women and men as well. Scarves kept them warm while at the same time adding a lot of style to their ensembles. Everyone seemed to be wearing them and they had this really great way of tying them I couldn’t figure out until I made an observation one evening while waiting for the Metro. I watched a man re-tie his scarf and realized that it was ridiculously easy. By the time the train arrived, I had tied my own scarf in the same manner and was very pleased that I had so subtly picked up a French fashion tip. Scarves are a very common item in souvenir shops, so I bought a couple to add to my collection at home.
Shortly after that, the hobby of knitting had a bit of a resurgence. My grandmother had taught me how to knit when I was very young so it was fairly easy for me to get back into it. Not having much time or patience, however, I quickly discovered that the easiest and perhaps most rewarding thing to knit is a scarf. So I invested in some serious supplies, created quite a few scarves for myself, and made a few as gifts. My focus was still primarily on winter and wearing them in cold weather though. As time went on, I noticed scarves appearing more frequently in stores throughout the year and was attracted by the many varied fabrics and colors. I purchased some and enjoyed wearing them into other seasons.
During this year’s trip to Paris, I observed that the scarf scene was pretty much still in full swing. This time I came prepared with my own favorites appropriate for summer weather and my travel wardrobe. I wore them everywhere and, as long as I didn’t say anything, I fit right in with the Parisians. No one was the wiser until I tried to speak French. I kept wearing them throughout our entire journey. While they had plenty of scarves for sale in every region, I began to notice that few French people were actually wearing them. Once you leave Paris, life is much, much more casual especially in the summer. It was interesting to note that when I wore a scarf outside of Paris, it attracted a bit of attention and people were not sure where I was from… particularly as Norman’s French improved. By the time we reached the Basque country in Spain, the Spaniards were sure we were French tourists. The fact that we were also driving a car with French license plates definitely aided our masquerade. It was a lot of fun pretending to be French… if only for a little while.
By now I have seriously adopted this trademark of Paris style — the scarf. With help from various online sites, I’ve learned how to wear them in a multitude of ways and identified some great resources for (Oh no! Oh yes!!) buying more scarves. Ironically, they aren’t much different than the ones you find Paris except that you can’t tell people you bought them there. It’s not easy to buy a scarf that’s actually made in France unless you search out specific places and shell out a lot of money. Most of them come from… you guessed it — China. Thanks to the Internet, Americans have the same ability to achieve sophisticated style as the French. Currently, my favorite site is Scarves Dot Net where you can not only find some great scarves at reasonable prices but also video tutorials on 37 ways to tie a scarf. So get your scarf on and follow this very iconic Paris trend.