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Paris Travel Tales


Chapter 5 (cont): Café Life and the Eternal Question - What Makes Parisians So Stylish?

Another day, another cafe. This time one of my favorite hangouts, Cafe Trésor, on a small dead-end street, rue Trésor in the heart of the Marais.


Once when my wi-fi wasn't working at my apartment, I literally spent hours each day in Trésor working. The staff began saving the red velvet couch with the best wi-fi signal for me. I love the decadent crystal chandeliers and the velvet accents at Trésor and their "claim to fame" as having the only toilets in Paris with goldfish living in them. You have to see it to believe it.

Samantha and I sip our cafe au laits, then decide to go window shopping. We literally walk a few feet, "ooh and ahh" at the window, and walk into TrÈsor By, an adorable orange boutique with funky shoes, scarves and beautiful clothes.


Samantha stops by a manakin wearing a black, trapeze, empire style wool coat. The coat is similar to these below only it was all black:


"You'd look great in that." The proprietress walks up and nods her approval, "Would you like to try it on?"

I feel like running out of the store. The coat is a trendy, flowing style and reminds me of the disastrous "bat cape." No way do I want to be humiliated in the middle of an upscale Parisian boutique.

"Come on. Try it on. Trust me.", Samantha says. I nod OK. Only because Samantha has this uncanny ability to pick out clothes that look great on me. Despite, my initial protests.

The sales lady holds the coat for me, and adjusts the shoulders. I am surprised. The coat looks great, and the black wool material makes the cashmere/blend wool overcoat I was wearing feel like a cheap rag. I can't believe that I don't look bottom heavy with this trapeze cut.

I am just beginning to like the way I look in the mirror. I twirl around and smile. That's when I notice the sales lady's frown.

"Oh No" I panic. "Am I having the same sort of cognitive dissonance were I thought the Batgirl jacket looked good on me? I knew I was going to make a fool of myself." I begin to hastily take the coat off.

The sale lady takes it from me and says, "Yes. I thought so too, you need a smaller size." I smile in relief and choke out a nervous giggle. She runs off and returns with a size 36.

Wow. I can't believe how great this coat looks on me. it makes me look voluptuous and thin at the same time. It is a miracle coat. I check the price tag and it is less than I thought for a boutique like this one. 300 euros. I am tempted. Then, I do the math. Around $450 USD. That ends it. Too much for an impulse buy no matter how smashing it looks.

After more window shopping and whining about how the dollar could drop 45% in just a few years, Samantha and I sit at Cafe Hugo, another one of my favorite Marais cafes in the Place des Vosges. The large arcade outside is a great spot for people watching. I, of course, love the idea of sipping Kir Royales in what once was a royal residence, and that the spot "right above our heads" was where Victor Hugo lived and wrote many of his masterpieces.

It is a Wednesday, so the French children do not have school. We watch mothers running after toddlers, pushing baby carriages, and chasing older kids through the park in the Place des Vosges.


Even at the park taking care of kids, the Parisians mothers look fashionable. Not a sweat pant or hoodie in sight. Instead, the women are dressed in riding boots paired with skirts and tights, and long flowing sweaters. Being from Colorado, they look really dressed up to me.

"Samantha, you live in New York." New York City is to me the US center of style. One of the few cities where you see real women look like they just walked out of the pages of Vogue. "Are the Parisians that stylish compared to people where you live?"

Samantha pauses and looks around. She is giving this more thought than I thought she would. I lean forward expectantly to hear her answer. Samantha is my fashion goddess for three reasons. One, her mother owns a boutique so she knows the designer trends. Two, she always looks great. One of the few people that I know that can mix "Target" with vintage couture and get away with it. Three, she lives to accessorize. Knowing how to dress an outfit ten different ways with great accessories is a mystery to me. It is something that Parisian women are also great at.

"Yes. After watching people all over Paris this week..." Samantha says slowly, " The Parisians are definitely more put together. "

"Yeah, clothes look great on them because they are all size zero." I say.

"No", Samantha shakes her head, " Look around you. There are plenty of average size women walking around. Lots of size 12 and 14s. Besides, once you start pushing forty and pop out a few kids, no woman is going to have flat abs and no hips." I nod knowingly at that statement. "I think they just know how to play up their assets. To conceal what isn't flattering and focus on what is. "

She points to the mothers in the playground playing with their kids. "Notice how they are wearing tight skirts and sweaters, but overtop they are draping scarves and long, flowing, lightweight sweaters. The sweaters are hiding the hips and tummies, but drawing attention to their legs and the scarves their face. The sweaters are really lightweight, giving their bodies movement without bulk. "

"And, more importantly. I think they have better choices than American women."

"What does that mean?" I'm confused.

"Look at that coat you just tried on." Samantha explains. "It looked fabulous on you. But, you tried lots of coats on in the US with that same style, and they looked terrible. The quality and the cut are different from clothes that you find easily in the States. Even Monoprix, (which we've dubbed the French Target), has clothes that are styled to fit the average size body better than Target's in the US."

Samantha sums it up. "Its just harder to be a fashion victim in Paris."

I'm still not convinced. I think that Parisian woman demand quality in clothing and are willing to pay for it. In the US, most women view clothes as disposable items and don't invest in a wardrobe that they will wear for years to come. We value novelty over fit. Function over Form.

And, if most Americans spent what Parisians do on their clothes, we'd look absolutely fabulous too.

Later that day, as we are walking down Rue de Rivoli across from St. Paul metro in the Marais, Samantha grabs my arm and pulls me inside a shop. The shop doesn't have a name. It is very basic and kind of beat up looking. Inside there are rows and rows of the long sweaters we saw in the park in shades of brown, cream, black and gray. The styles are interesting - long and varying in length, some are cut on an angle, and others have flowing ruffles. I've yet to see these styles anywhere in the States.

Small strollers are parked along the wall, while mothers grab the sweaters off the rack and try them on in front of the propped up mirrors.

The soft, lightweight angora blend sweaters run in price from 12 to 20 euros. Samantha is right. It's harder to make a bad, fashion choice in Paris. No matter how small your budget.

Addresses: Cafe Tresor
7 rue du Trésor 75004 Paris

Tresor By
6 rue du Trésor 75004 Paris

Back to Chapter 5 Continue to Chapter 6

Photo Credits: Trapeze Jackets Nordstrom, Inc. Cafe Tresor photo All other photos property of Paris Escapes.

Author: Cheryl Montgomery

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