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Special guest writer Kristin Wood, editorial manager for A Woman’s Paris™

“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” It’s a phrase attributed to Henry David Thoreau, the famous American author and philosopher who eschewed material excess and extravagance in favor of living an ascetic lifestyle in a tiny cabin on Walden Pond.

France Paris woman handbag fine art painting impressionist

Woman with handbag, Paris by Barbara Redmond

Perhaps paradoxically, it’s a phrase that is also gaining currency in today’s style and fashion worlds. As the Paris Pre-Fall shows commence today, I’ll be looking for evidence of two of 2012’s predicted trends: the “undone” makeup look, and the “de-blinging” of luxury items. And what better place to introduce these two trends on a grand scale than Paris?

One of the things I’ve always loved about the quintessential Parisienne is her apparent insouciance: she wears little to no makeup; she never wears anything overly fussy or complicated; one piece is a bit askew – an unevenly tied scarf, maybe, or a few errant strands of hair. But somehow, her imperfection still looks perfect.

Going out sans maquillage is, of course, nothing new for French woman (the “le no makeup” makeup look) is something that has long been part of the Parisian mystique. But I love the intrigue associated with 2012’s “undone” makeup. It starts with the storied “le bare face,” with its dewy skin and one mascara coat, but adds smudged eyeliner and leftovers of loud lip color. One expert says it’s more “coming home from the party” than “going out to the party.” Passers-by wonder where she was, what she was doing, whom she was with. Her understated makeup tells a story of its own, but it’s not overdone or precious. It’s a subtle seduction.

If “restraint” really is the buzzword for beauty in 2012, as New York Times columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom suggests, then “simplify” could be fashion’s. LVMH fashion magnate Antoine Arnault’s recently predicted the “deblinging” of luxury, saying that “in a world in economic crisis, you don’t want to be seen with evidently expensive products. Just something that is beautiful.” We’ll discover just how far designers take this prognostication to heart during Paris Fashion Week. The Parisienne loves her Chanel ballet flats, her Hermès scarves, and her Chloé bag, but it’s not just because of the name emblazoned on the product – it’s about the quality and the fit. Conspicuous consumption, like conspicuous makeup, is not de rigueur. There is, naturally, a time and a place for statement pieces and status bags, but for now, like my favorite Madelines, I’m more than happy to simplify, simplify, simplify.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris™ blog, What is a French Woman?, about a vague undefined notion of Frenchness, which at the very least is empatically not English or North American, but beyond that, generalizations break down. So it is not about appearances. Skin colour, body shape, clothing…much as we may like to imagine that Frenchwomen look a certain way. And yet…Frenchwomen are still different from us. First, of course…

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Text copyright ©2012 Kristin Wood
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond
All rights reserved.