Fashion & Beauty

Falling in Love with Paris in the Fall

ForeverChic-600x949Who better to write about Paris—in whatever season of the year—than Tish Jett . . . our Tish? More than 25 years ago, she moved to France for work, and stayed for love. Happily for us, she has sent Women’s Voices a stream of engaging “postcards from Paris”; click here to peruse her savvy insider’s takes on the city’s magic, its mores, and, most of all, its admirably sophisticated, disciplined, friend-cherishing, and (needless to say) fashionable women.

And click here for our review of Tish’s book Forever Chic, which lets us all in on “Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance.” Who’s in a better position than fashion journalist Tish Jett, after 25 years in Paris, to pass on to us the secrets of those mysterious, alluring, and seductive women of France? —Ed.

 

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Never mind about April when it drizzles. I love Paris in autumn, when it sizzles.

The city comes alive when the weather turns sparkly crisp. With the sun high and bright, a shimmery light makes everything glitter with an almost palpable excitement. It’s impossible to explain—it’s in the air, it’s electric, it’s irresistible.

Every year I fall in love with fall in Paris.

The city sizzles, not with heat, but with anticipation. Scores of new books arrive in libraries and are met with classic Gallic enthusiasm, sparking passionate debates about the merits of the written word—on paper.

Captivating exhibitions debut. At the moment, tout-Paris is raving about the retrospective of extravagantly joyous sculptures by Franco-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, at the Grand Palais through February 2, 2015. [Our writer Toni Myers is a Niki de Saint Phalle devotee. The highlight of her recent trip to Paris was this wild and wonderful exposition; she will review it in an upcoming post.]

To each thing there is a season. Patisseries stop selling ice cream in outdoor stands; crème glacée means summer in France. No more cones while strolling down the street window-shopping. If you want ice cream before spring, you eat it sitting down from a dish with a spoon. At markets, apples, pears, plums, figs, and grapes–all grown in France—usurp space from out-of-season melons, raspberries, and strawberries flown in from Spain.

Mushrooms are sprouting in the forests around the city, making for one of France’s great weekend expeditions, foraging for champignons. The less adventurous will find them, in all their varied glory, at the markets.

Now is when we take the lavender out of the planters on our front porch and replace it with gorgeous, blue-y mauve hybrid pansies that last through the winter. Any day, bouquets of anemones will be arriving at florists. I love anemones.

Dinner parties will feature hearty cool-weather fare like pot-au-feu, boeuf bourguignon, cheese soufflé, cassoulet, gratin dauphinois (swoon), choucroute garnie, coq au vin, simple and simply delicious roasted chicken, and on and on. Family dinners will start to include healthy vegetable soups with leeks, carrots, celery, baby turnips, and potatoes.

By tradition, the French eat the fruits and vegetables specific to the season. It’s the ever-important pleasure principle, of course. Everything tastes better when it’s in season. That even applies to cheese. The best, connoisseurs will say the only, months to eat goat and sheep cheeses, for example are from March through October, so all is well for the rest of the month and probably into November if we like our cheeses hard.

Lighter summery wines are replaced by more robust reds from Bordeaux. Beaujolais nouveau and the celebration that surrounds it will officially begin the third week in November, something else to look forward to.

And then there is autumn’s tour de force, the fashion magazines. Suddenly they are thick and beckoning: “Nos Favoris: La Mode d’Automne et Hiver!” (Our Favorites: Fall and Winter Fashion) full of promise, suggesting what we might like to wear right this minute—the new colors, shapes, lengths, inspirations, temptations.

I wait all year for these issues.

Finally we can toss the skinny, unfulfilling summer editions for these replacements offering substance and desire.

Always there are “serious” beauty articles tucked in with la mode, telling us to do something new with our hair, spiff up the color and apply an at-home deep, deep conditioning mask after vacations in the sun and sea. As for our skin, we’re advised that it’s time to slough and buff, maybe consider a professional facial. Autumn deserves to be taken seriously. It calls for pampering and polishing.

How about starting slowly if we haven’t quite decided what to add to our wardrobes? That would call for a manicure, the magazines suggest, maybe in a real pink that’s not quite neutral, but not timid either, or a nude that has a little apricot going on. And, for those less faint-hearted, a sangria, a red-red or Bordeaux, maybe mauve (French bleu?)—all on the hit list.

Now that my nails are polished (in pink), let me tell you what I love to do in Paris: Take a book and sit outside in a café snug in layered sweaters, a warm scarf and ballerinas newly paired with socks (in French bleu), and sip a café au lait or even better a thick chocolat chaud and observe what Frenchwomen are wearing and how they’ve put it all together. How they put it all together is the world’s best street theater, and no other time of year compares with autumn in Paris.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Maybe he was talking about Paris. I would like to think he was. After all, he and Zelda lived and played here for many autumns.

 

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  • D. A. Wolf October 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

    As always, Tish, you most eloquently pull me straight inside your world – and make me miss Paris!

    Bisous.

    Reply
  • Tish Jett October 18, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Actually what I meant when I said “socks” was opaque knee-highs that are really in the hosiery category weight-wise I guess. But, they come in wonderful colors and even patterns if one desires. They slip beautifully into ballerinas.

    And, yes, I’m with you Lori, I do love loafers in the fall or the very French option of bottines (short boots).

    Reply
  • Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life October 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Oh, please talk to me about ballet flats WITH SOCKS!!! Do we go for contrast or matching colors? Autumn to me has meant switching my ballets for loafers or other shoes so I can wear socks.

    Reply
  • Andrea October 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Great article Tish! Makes me want to jet off to Paris right now!!

    Reply