No, French Girls Don’t Wear Berets! Jeanne Damas Delivers 7 Easy (And Shoppable) Lessons in Parisian Winter Chic
Over the weekend, snowbound, patiently waiting out Winter Storm Jonas, a pang of envy took over as I peered upon my French sistren in Paris attending men’s Fashion Week. Sure, gusts of chilly wind were likely blowing off the Seine, but how could you tell, watching those effortlessly chic gamines flit about between shows in thin statement-making floor-dusting overcoats, oversize flight jackets, and suede trenchcoats? No dipping temps could curtail their style, a lesson those of us stateside could use as a refresher in the throes of winter. We consulted the chicest of the chic, model Jeanne Damas, who gamely let us in on the French girl’s winter uniform, from the essential coat to the coolest knits—and, for once and for all, finally debunks the beret myth! Here, seven easy secrets to perfectly Parisian winter style—shop the looks in the slideshow above.
1. Winter Essentials: Borrowing From the Garçons
The caban—peacoat—is a timeless classic, like the long men’s trench or the pour la peau coat, but each has to reinvent itself each season. I love men’s coats, especially because they’re so large and they give plenty of room; the man’s coat remains one of my favorite classics.
2. Let the Fur Fly—To an Extent
I have a few vintage furs and have a particular weakness for Mongolian lamb fur—it’s quite ’70s—and I like the volume fur gives. Parisians wear less fur than New Yorkers, I think, because it’s not always well received in Paris. People here prefer restraint, and you do not necessarily feel at ease in furs. Personally, I do wear fur if it is very cold, because admittedly, there is nothing warmer. I like to wear them with jeans and flats—not too sophisticated for the day—and at night I love to wear very colorful or Sonia Rykiel dresses with them.
3. Sweater Chic
I have a passion for sweaters. Besides jeans, they are the clothes I have the most of in my closet. I must have a hundred! I cannot resist a nice sweater. My favorites are by Nathalie Dumeix, a Parisian designer. She makes perfect cashmeres, and this season she made a very wide V-neck cashmere menswear-inspired style: I bought them in every color. They are soft and go with everything and are perfectly cut. I love turtlenecks, they are very chic, but I don’t wear them very often because it bothers me to have something around the neck. For the colors, I love a navy blue sweater, red, pale pink, beige. I’m also a big fan of sweaterdresses. They’re so super comfortable, warm and sexy, With flat cuissardes—knee-high boots—it’s a very ’60s look.
4. A Scarf, Naturally! But Gloves? Not So Much
Beautiful dark gray or navy blue scarves are best when it is very cold—especially in cashmere. Otherwise, personally, I never wear hats, gloves, or other winter accessories. I find it is not cold enough in Paris. But I do find it quite chic to wear a wool scarf over a silk one.
5. How the French Do Winter White
Personally, I like the classic blue jeans, a little darker in winter and summer. But actually it is very chic to wear white jeans with a big man’s winter coat; in winter it’s more stylish than in summer, I think.
6. Comment Dites-Vous “Snow Boot” en Français?
To be honest, women do not wear snow boots in Paris, as it’s snowing no more than two days out of the year. But for skiing I have a pair of classic navy Moon Boots. And to be honest, I bought a pair of Ugg boots eight years ago in Australia. I wear them at home and very rarely—incognito—to get my baguettes. Don’t tell anybody!
7. And for the Love of God, No Berets!
I do not know anyone who wears a beret. The other day on a special “Parisian-style” shoot, there was an outfit with a beret, a trench, a marinière shirt, a cigarette, and a red lip, all of this photographed in front of Notre Dame—“hardly” cliché—and we realized that nobody knew how to place the beret on my head correctly. The French stylist had to look on the Internet to check how it is supposed to be worn!