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The Parisian Woman: Beyond Clichés

Luxembourg Palace

“We are not born Parisian. We become it. I was born in Paris and just took it for granted, until I flew away, lived abroad for a few years, and came back. Only then did I discover my hometown with new eyes, and found out at what point it was fabulous. My process of becoming a true Parisian had begun.” – Ana Quasoar

An Introduction from Heather

Fifteen years ago I was doing research for a very special guide to Paris just for women, “Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City”. More than a stereotypical guide to the best places to buy shoes or go dancing, I wanted to uncover the secrets of Parisian women and the mystery of what made them so alluring. For this, I turned to the most Parisian woman I know, the créatrice Ana Quasoar. More than just a couture designer, she brings her sense of beauty, creativity, and whimsical imagination to everything she touches, including the people around her. Even someone as dorkishly American as me. To celebrate the relaunch of her fabulous Art of Femininity workshops this winter, I’ve asked her to share some of her thoughts on a topic that never seems to get old: the myth vs the reality of the Parisian woman. Enjoy her article, and let us know what you think! – Heather

Ana and illustrations of women

Paris has a long history of being shaped and transformed, now and throughout history, by its adopted muses. Not by people who passed by to snatch something from her, invaders or tourists, but by the ones that tried to get to know her better and settled here for days, for months, for years, or for a lifetime. Marie-Antoinette came from Austria. Ines de la Fressange was born in the south of France. Josephine Baker came from the States, Coco Chanel from the Val de Loire, Elsa Schiaparelli from Italy…the list is huge. Most of the stars that shine in the sky of the City of Lights came from afar, from French provinces, or from the other side of the world. They had dreamt of Paris, they had desired her, and, therefore could feel her magic and give birth to a new vision of her.  Most of them did not fit the beauty standards of their time. Each of them has invented their own style, and through their boldness, changed the image of La Parisienne. Paris was never as beautiful and radiant as through her foreign talents:  Giacometti, Marie Curie, Yves Montand, Maria Callas, Yves Saint-Laurent, Colette, Picasso, Sofia Coppola, and many more.

What defines the Parisian Woman? Certainly not the pale, slim and aristocratic figure that the press, guidebooks and so many articles present to us over and over, out of pure lack of imagination. She will not be trapped in stereotypes. She expresses herself with so many different styles, silhouettes, skin colors and attitudes that she stands in opposition to any decree. Her beauty, as all authentic feminine beauty, is not a simple reflection in the mirror, but evolves all the time. It is alive, dynamic and ages well. So in your search for her, do not betray her by cataloging her, but open your eyes and heart to her elusive charms. She is no postcard. She is the athletic mixologist creating the cocktail of your dreams. She is the opulent and sexy lady that laughs too loud and wears a beautiful plus-size gown. She is the Asian DJ with long black hair that all the clubs in Paris fight to get,  or the mysterious black lady that organizes the best events in town. She is as diverse as Paris itself with all its small villages, its avenues, its hidden spots, its suburbs. Whether you think of her as a shy and romantic lady or as a daring and extravagant diva, she is a storyteller in a café in Belleville, along the Canal Saint-Martin, at Trocadéro or in the gardens of the Palais-Royal. She is a mix and match of inspirations and her definition of good taste includes a touch of humor or a hint of unexpected, like wearing a sequined top with a straw basket, a rock T-shirt with flannel pants, a vintage army jacket over a floral dress. She hates to wear a total look of brands or logos, but above all, she hates to look too perfect, too Parisian.

The myth of La Parisienne has no reality whatsoever. Yet, as from a delightful dream, we might pick up a few inspirations from it. Here are some hints. The Parisian refuses to follow trends. She uses them to enhance her personality. She loves to mix and match high-end items with cheaper ones in her wardrobe. She does not cover her face with makeup, ever, but puts the accent either on her lips or on her eyes. Never both. Although she is renowned for being understated, she also loves a touch of eccentricity, like Chanel wearing a flood of mixed real and false jewelry over her little black sweater, or eating and drinking like a pirate on the right occasion, with no regrets. She mistrusts anything that is too conventional, but loves traditions and “Le terroir”. In summary, we could say that the best reason to love La Parisienne is that she owns her contradictions.

But there is so much more to it. To be continued…

Ana Quasoar’s next Art of Femininity Atelier will be Saturday, December 4th, from 3-6pm in Paris’s Golden Triangle (8th arrondissement). If you’d like more information or to be informed when registration opens, send an email to Ana at prive@anaquasoar.com

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