An American In Paris

This old Vanity Fair spread starring Gossip Girl's Blake Liveley (photographed by Michael Roberts and styled by Jessica Diehl) makes me want to hop on a plane to Paris right now.

On a bit of a sidenote, yesterday my friend N lent me a quaint little book called The Well-Dressed Woman's Do's & Dont's, written by Elise Vallée in 1925. I was delighted to discover that a lot of her advice remains relevant more than 80 years later! For example, she observes that:
The Frenchwoman, and more particularly the Parisienne, holds the undisputed position as the model for women of all other countries ... We can, therefore, do no better than try to fathom the secret of the Parisienne's unassailable supremacy. As a matter of fact, there is no mystery in it. It lies in the careful study she gives to the material that Nature has provided before she turns to the question of the trimming with which she will adorn it.
In other words, French women have the well-deserved reputation of being stylish creatures, not because they are thinner or prettier than everyone else but because they dress to emphasize their best features and downplay the aspects they dislike. In her book, Ms Vallée adds that:
I suspect that you have all, through the medium of fashion articles and the lips of your artistic friends, received the oft-repeated advice, "Do not be a slave to fashion, but wear what suits you." ... Do not conclude that "the fashion does not suit you." Whatever your type it will suit you if you learn to wear it properly and arrange for those invisible adaptations that make all the difference.
How refreshing! I always hated sitting on the sidelines for trends that I thought didn't suit me. According to this school of thought, you can make any trend your own if you tweak it appropriately. A few other words of wisdom that I drew from the book include:
  • Wear clothes that flatter your figure. A waist-cinching belt will work wonders.
  • Perfect your makeup regime. Find a moisturizer, powder and lipstick that complements your complexion.
  • A nice wardrobe starts with nice underwear. Nothing beats lace in flirty colors (hello, pink!).
  • A good tailor is a gift from the fashion gods. He or she can adapt the latest styles to enhance your best qualities
  • Don't blindly follow fashion. Take the time to pick and choose which trends to follow.
  • Buy one high quality garment instead of 4-5 cheap ones. The cut and the material are guaranteed to be better and last longer.
  • Black is the new black. Save bright colors for indoor occasions, when the light is softer and more flattering.
  • You only need a few dresses. Go for a neutral palette and a simple shape; add interest through the choice of fabric and detail.
  • A girl can't live without a string of pearls. They add an instant touch of sophistication to any outfit.
  • Take good care of your clothes. When they're in good condition, they'll take care of you!
What do you think? Are there lessons to be learned from the ladies of last century?
Photo credits:


  1. the rules still rule! ;)

    living in paris is the dream isn't, it doesn't help the city is so so beautiful and elegant too, i've been to paris twice but both in the winer time. love to go in the summer, would be so romantic!

    ps, i've never dyed my hair either! was always scared the quality will go down if you dye it too often, i'm got near black coloured hair so love to go lighter to a light brown or dark honey blonde if i'm feeling brave!;)

  2. Okay, first of all Blake is such a goddess in those shots. What I would give to wear gowns like that, even for an afternoon!

    And secondly, I love that the advice in a book from almost 100 years ago is just as relevant today. My favourite tip? Buy one high quality garment instead of 4 or 5 cheap ones. And I love that tip because I can always use an excuse to pop into Marc Jacobs instead of Forever 21 ;)

  3. She looks stunning doesn't she. Oh to have hair like that!

    Love those rules, especially the one about adapting a style to make it suit your shape/personality.

  4. LOVE this post, Blake looks amazing, and I totally agree with the rules :)

    Hope 2009 brings all you hope for and more!