Style Tips from a True Parisian | A Conversation with Author Nathalie Peigney
When it comes to effortless style, French women have a formula down pat—you know that intriguing je ne sais quoi that combines both effortlessness and elegance. To find out more, we talked with Nathalie Peigney, author of the new book Sophie the Parisian: Style Tips from a True Parisian (Rizzoli), who splits her time between Paris and Rome on all things Parisian, from style tips and the art of practicing moderation to her perfect day in Paris.
What inspired you to write the book?
Many books already exist around the topic of ‘the Parisian woman’, but none of them discuss the many aspects of ‘Parisianism’. Many books detail ‘how to get dressed’ or ‘how to be slim’ like a Parisian, but being a Parisian is much more— it is about understanding the Parisian culture with a 360 degree view! It is why I selected 103 topics to have a better vision of the Parisian life, so you can find in my book arguments like ‘How to Make the Right Wardrobe’ or ‘Gastronomy’, but I also talk about the Parisian attitude, seduction, education of children and other subjects like luxury, personality, etc. I wanted to create a book that was easy to read so I built it as a dictionary—you can read a chapter, that you are interested in, and close the book until the next occasion. It is also full of addresses and tips about Paris and Parisian life.
Women around the world are intrigued by the nonchalant elegance of Parisian women. What do you think are their most revered qualities?
The famous ‘French paradox’ is the art of mastering being stylish and natural. Refinement and moderation are the foundation of the Parisian woman’s clothing style and ultimately, less is more. For example, choosing between a dramatic red lip or dramatic eye makeup. To achieve an elegant Parisian look, you should act with moderation and choose what you want to highlight, like your neck, waist, or a low-cut dress or a flattering jacket that looks great on you, but not all at once.
What are the style essentials that are the building blocks of the French women’s wardrobe?
The basics or essential items of our wardrobe are the pillars of our dress code. These wardrobe essentials follow us everywhere, because they are timeless and easy to wear. The black basics include evening trousers to wear with high heels, a cashmere cardigan (ideal over any evening dress), a classic LBD, high heels and of course, ballerina flats. The blue basics include pieces from our childhood including a striped marinière (sailor shirt), cute jeans and a blue sweater. My basic items are in lighter shades, like a go-everywhere trench coat and an ultra-white high quality cotton t-shirt.
While researching and putting the book together was there anything that surprised you?
I did hundreds of interviews for the book and what I found is that most of the answers revealed a true love for the city. It is not easy to live in Paris because of its demanding, high standard spirit, but this is because the city itself carries centuries of stories and notable people living in it. Paris is the key part of the Parisian spirit.
I’m always fascinated how in America, some women are so adverse to freshly baked bread and cheese—two components that are essentially French. How do most Parisian’s approach indulging and healthy eating?
It is the argument in my future second book—how the Parisian girl can be a ‘gourmande’ but also slim and healthy at the same time. French girls love healthy food and having a healthy life, so it is a natural mechanism for her. I recently asked a nutritionist in Paris about this and he told me that Parisian’s do not come to him to get slimmer but get recommendations on how to eat better and how to help her body feel better. The Parisian woman in general:
• She eats with moderation.
• She eats small but varied portions.
• She eats three balanced meals a day with a lot of fruits and vegetables; she also drinks a lot of water.
• She does not snack between meals.
• She likes fresh ingredients with flavor.
• She cooks at home.
• She favors quality over quantity.
• She knows how to eat light but also enjoys a good gourmet meal.
You also split your time between Rome. Italians also have an appreciation for the finer things in life. How would you say they differ from the French?
Italy has a lot of high quality products and the cooking is more oriented on the ingredients than the final meal. So the result is simpler, healthier and you can really appreciate the taste of each ingredient. A lot of products are exceptionnal in Italy, in France what is exceptional is the gastronomy and the art of cooking.
What would be your ultimate day in Paris include?
Singing in the rain, on the Place de la Concorde.
What do you love the most about living in Paris?
Paris is very exciting, it is an old city but it’s still very modern. You have new thinkers everywhere, like at modern restaurants but also at museums and exhibitions. Parisian people are very demanding when it comes to quality—and the results are amazing.
Nathalie’s Parisian Favorites
The book includes many of Nathalie’s favorite Paris addresses. We asked her to name a few of her favorites below.
Favorite Café: Café de Flore
Favorite Streets: rue Saint Sulpice and rue Bonaparte
Favorite Florist: Stéphane Chapelle, rue de Richelieu
Favorite Garden: Luxembourg Gardens
Get the French Look
As told to Alison Engstrom; Conversation has been edited for clarity | Photography by Alison Engstrom