Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What we can learn from French girls

A view of Lyon from the top of Fourviére Hill.
All photos © Hilary Bovay.

You know how you meet certain people and immediately you want to be their friend? That's how I felt when I first met Hilary. She's a gal with a certain je ne sai quoi about her. Maybe it's the blonde pixie cut or the waif-like frame or her distinctive style. I told her the other day if David Bowie and Andy Warhol had a baby, she would be that incarnation. "Oh my God, that's like the biggest compliment!" she gushed. 

Hilary recently spent two weeks in France visiting her best friend, Kayla. She came back raving about her adventures, all the amazing food she ate, the gorgeous sites she saw and the impeccable style she witnessed. 

I asked her to write about Lyonnaise street style, especially since she was so inspired by how they do it so effortlessly. Without further ado, I am thrilled to present Hilary's guest post about what we can learn from French girls.

Happy reading and stay chic!


No Fussing Required: Street Style in Lyon
By Hilary Bovay for

Ah, Lyon.

I recently spent an incredible week in France visiting my best friend Kayla, who is teaching English to French students in the city of Lyon. Located 300 miles south of Paris, Lyon is France's second or third-largest city (this is a much-argued topic among the French, so whether it comes 2nd or 3rd depends on who you talk to). It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country's capital of gastronomy, but is far less well-known. It should be noted that all the locals I spoke with insisted that the city is "better than Paris" and truth be told, it was easy to see why.

Lyon has so many of the amazing qualities of Paris -- cultural happenings, incredible food, jaw-dropping landmarks and beautiful architecture everywhere you walk -- but without the overwhelming scale and ceaseless bustling crowds of the City of Light. 

The Lyonnaise also rival Parisians in their impeccable sense of style. As a photographer, I desperately wanted to capture every instance of fantastic street style that I came across, but was simply too awe-inspired by the sheer amount of fashion-forward city-goers. Instead, I decided to observe them from afar and noted that comfort, versatility and of course minimalist chicness were the crucial elements of Lyonnaise style.

No fussing required.

soft/slouch/harem pants
Call them whatever you please; soft pants are my new favorite fashion trend. I saw them sported in abundance on the streets of Lyon and the style is definitely catching on here. Being on the shorter side height wise, I prefer cropped, culotte silhouettes or soft pants with elastic on the bottom (so my legs don't get lost in a sea of fabric). The French were rocking every style of soft pant imaginable, but particularly ones with minimal patterns and more tapered forms.

Rather than going full-on 70s hippie, French girls seem to prefer these pants for their strikingly offbeat silhouettes rather than their possibility for swathes of colorful pattern. They also paid close attention to fabric choice, as no one wants to be caught looking like they're in sweatpants (I can almost feel Karl Lagerfeld cringing at the thought).

Forget the French stereotype of wearing heels everywhere. Nowadays, comfortable chic is key and shoes are no exception. There were incredible booties to be seen everywhere you looked in Lyon. The booties I ogled certainly had a fair amount of height to them, but nothing like a stiletto (think Cuban heel). Most had great metal and buckle details. 

There were even some bright pops of color -- cobalt blue, scarlet red. I love the idea of having a conservative, neutral color palette in the rest of one's outfit, then setting it all off with a great surprise of color on your feet.

multi-texture moto jackets

Never have I seen such chic moto jackets as those I saw in Lyon! The major trend I noted was that most of the jackets had leather or faux-leather fabric on the arms and canvas for the torso. Some jackets mixed colors on the arms and torso, while others didn't.

My favorite combo was the black arms/olive torso, but I also saw some great blue on blue and black on black. The mix of textures brought moto jackets to a whole new level (particularly when the full leather/faux-leather moto jacket trend is becoming a bit of a yawnfest). The moto jackets in France were a variety of lengths, which I also loved. They seemed very strongly influenced by parka silhouettes and traditional military style.

lightweight scarves
I'm sure you saw this one coming from a mile away, but scarves are the ultimate key to French style*. They are never fussed over. Rather, the scarves the French wear somehow look as though they were just magically swirled on like silk soft-serve. I love the scarf as an alternative accessory, in lieu of the big chunky necklaces that are so popular here right now. In fact, I saw minimal accessories (other than scarves). And feather-light silk scarves are still fun to wear, even in the summer heat! 

*How to tie a scarf like a Parisienne (Vogue).

The French keep it simple. Rarely did I see overdone eye makeup or intense blush on anyone. Instead, the current trend in Lyon seemed to be a bold red lip and nothing more. A clean, moisturized and overall well-cared-for visage is the most naturally elegant beauty statement. Since returning from my trip, I've found myself seeking out higher-quality facial products than I'm used to (but it's worth it, isn't it?). I've invested in a few Mario Badescu products (Acne Facial Cleanser, Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs & Rosewater, Drying Lotion and Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF-17) and have already noticed a great difference (plus, they never test on animals). I'd rather have happy skin that requires less makeup.

Hilary (left) and her best friend Kayla at the Ancient Theatre of Fourviére.

More photos of Hilary's French adventures. (Exposure)

36 hours in Lyon. (The New York Times)