Paris Take 1: A Lesson in Fashion

I was only sixteen.  I knew nothing of skinny jeans, long sweaters, cinched blazers, and a nice pair of heels.  I was in these teens’ world dressed as an imposter; it was clear.  I wore boot cut jeans, a ripped grey hoodie, and flip flops.  Who knew Paris, France would hold me to such high standards that I would fall completely short of?  I should have known by the stares alone that I was not dressed the part.  I looked nothing like a native Parisian, as my long, pin straight hair was nudged back by the passing wind.

I had never seen anything like the Palace of Versailles, but its pure beauty was radiating from every corner.  I definitely had not dressed the part of royalty, so I admittedly felt awkward walking through the previous home of Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette.  However, the people around us seemed distracted enough by the Palace, so I was not too worried.  Their smiles were wide as they looked up upon the detailed, painted ceilings of the Hall of Mirrors.  One could tell that this place was admired and appreciated by the people of France, and by all those who are lucky enough to experience Versailles’s magnificence in person.

Days later, my outfit to walk along the Champs-Élysées, remained mediocre.  It did not matter, for my clothes packed for the entire trip had shown I was an American.  In a country where fashion was such a big element of the culture, I stood out like a sore thumb.  To this day, I picture myself walking down the street lined with top designer stores and populated by the fashionable, wearing anything else but sneakers.  A black zip-up gave my grey hoodie a day’s rest, but it still showcased my lack of knowledge for fashion. 

Paris has been a hub for fashion and upcoming trends for years.  It is truly a city that embodies the French culture and elegantly portrays luxury fashions that everyone dreams of wearing.  Paris Fashion Week is an event that spectators look forward to in advance, and why would they not?  Paris is the epitome of fashion culture; trends begin there, are seen there, blossom there, and die there (Parker, 2012).  In the early eighteenth century, “fashions displayed the innovative climate of that time – markets, styles, trends, and philosophies toward clothing were a direct result of the changes taking place. Eighteenth century French attire reflected, both positively and negatively, the ever-evolving culture of France, and has remained an inspiration to fashion ever since” (Jones, 2009).  Prior to that century, most clothing was plain, homemade, and lacked luster and appeal.  “During the seventeenth century, King Louis XIV changed the dynamics of ceremonial dress among the nobility. After building Versailles, he yearned for his power and dominance to radiate throughout the world… [He] spent a large portion of the income on opulent and extravagant fashions for the nobles dwelling in Versailles” (Jones, 2009). 

Through the years, it has become evident that the initial foundation for the appreciation of fine clothing was brought on by King Louis XIV.  Since the times of his ruling, fashion has continued to grow and flourish throughout the country.  My trip, now years back, is a prime example of how cultures from country to country can differ so much.  It was immediately evident that I should have discarded my torn jeans for tailored ones, and thrown out my sneakers to welcome some flats into my journey.  Although, having only tourist status, I held onto my relaxed outfits.  Coming from a society where wearing a hooded sweatshirt to shop is considered comfortable, to being thrown into the fashionable air of France had most definitely opened my eyes.  To say the least, my next trip to France will be planned very differently.

Jones, J. (2009). The fleeting art: Fashion and culture in eighteenth century france. St. Leo University Regional phi alpha theta conference. Retrieved from http://www.lagrange.edu/resources/pdf/citations/2009/18History_Jones.pdf

Parker, J. (2012). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://jackyparker.articlealley.com/french-fashion-culture-895328.html

Stay tuned,

Rachel

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