پنجشنبه 9 مرداد 1393
Every few months, a friend from New York City will come visit me in Paris, and every single time, they will ask the obligatory question: “What should I bring?”
“Nothing!” I tell them, hoping that this will ensure jeans and a leather jacket while eliminating all other unnecessary cargo (and preventing a life-threatening trip down my fifth-floor walk-up in Gianvito Rossi heels). “But what if we go to dinner?” Still, nothing. “But what if I meet a guy?” Especially then, nothing. Granted, my friends are skeptical—how is it possible that the most glamorous city in the world does not require regular outfit changes? And what is this business of attending a date in your casual best? Like everything else in life, New Yorkers are used to approaching dating as a mission that they must be justly prepared for, putting in a legitimate effort and presenting the coolest, most meticulously arranged versions of themselves.
I suppose that one can attribute this comparative lack of sartorial effort to the French perception of dating (or lack thereof). After all, there’s only so much effort that one can make in a country that rejects the entire concept of dating, perceiving it as a contrived endeavor where true romance goes to die. And yet, all of Paris seems to constantly overflow with couples drinking and dining and indulging in disturbing amounts of PDA—activities that would most definitely be considered date-worthy elsewhere. So what, if not “dating,” is this mysterious pastime that they are all partaking in? And what are they wearing to do it? The other day, I asked a Parisian girlfriend what she typically wears on dates. After the usual “what is a date” debate (I often feel like bursting out in a Shakespearean “What’s in a name?” in these moments), she looked down at her knee-length shift dress and flat espadrilles, shrugged her shoulders, and simply said: “Today? This. Why would I wear something else? That would be pretending.” This, right here, is the French attitude in a nutshell. To the Parisian woman, meeting up with a man is simply an extension of her quotidien: a rendezvous with a person she may find attractive and interesting, one plan amongst a hundred others in her day. By seeing it as nothing out of the ordinary, she also does not consider it as an occasion that requires an outfit change. The vibe is something like: “My sweater belongs to my ex, and I’m not wearing a bra. My lips might be red because I was making out all night, but you will never know.”
The New Yorker will always have a more calculated approach when dressing for a date. And who can blame her? After all, this is one of the most competitive cities in the world, populated with spoiled men of unreasonably high standards and expectations. New York women are trained to put their best foot forward and come armed with bombshell hair and just the right hint of cleavage while still appearing perfectly effortless. If the Parisian’s lips are flushed because she was making out all night, the New Yorker’s lips are painted the perfect NARS Jungle Red. In Paris, getting dressed for a date takes me fifteen minutes. Acne Studios Skin 5 jeans, n’importe quel top, a Céline envelope clutch and I’m out the door. As most roads eventually lead to a terrace, great outerwear is a must. Lately, I stopped buying short jackets in favor of lightweight trench coats, the perfect way to add a touch of drama to any scenario. (Pro tip: Dries Van Noten makes the best ones.) But as much as I love the elegant simplicity of Paris, there are moments when I find myself longing to play dress-up, to express myself through fashion, to use my wardrobe to become somebody else for a day. Just last month, I went on a first date with a man I had been talking to on Tinder for quite some time. It was one of the first hot summer days, and I wanted to feel like a lady. I wore a pleated Vanessa Bruno skirt that bounced lightly as I walked, paired with a white tee and nude Givenchy stacked sandals (the shoe answer to the Wonderbra). At the end of the date, we started walking toward Rue de Rivoli, where my Uber was waiting. (Let’s just say the lady in me did not feel like taking the Metro.) Suddenly, an unexpected gust of wind blew up my skirt, exposing my distinctly un-Parisian Victoria’s Secret underwear in the middle of Place des Vosges. Flustered from my Marilyn moment, I ended up crushing the poor guy’s feet with my stacked heels before stumbling into the wrong Uber. In five minutes, I lost all semblance of cool I may have cultivated that night, and I never heard from the guy again.
I can’t help but think that if I had stuck to my Acne Studios basics, it all might have been different. (Point for the Parisians!) I’m not trying to say that a person who loves fashion and extravagance will never find a date in Paris: I think that Parisians appreciate a flair for beauty and color, and those who express themselves in the way that they dress. But, the truth is, I am not the kind of girl who can prevent her skirt from resisting the occasional gust of wind. Nothing scares me more than a curling iron, and I will never walk gracefully in a pair of Gianvito Rossi heels. But I’m finding that the beauty of Paris is that I finally don’t have to.