The Golden Rule of Parisian Fashion and How I Broke It

I smiled politely at the waiter who brought me my almond pastry. I had yet again found myself seeking sanctuary in Angelina’s, home of the most delicious hot chocolate in all of France. Given the dreary weather and cold winds, it was not surprising that half of Paris was trying to get a table. Tourists and locals alike clamored into the restaurant, adding their names to the growing wait-list.

I bit into the almond fluff, suddenly very aware that I was alive. I licked my lips with a little too much satisfaction. Paris was going to make me fat and I was totally at peace with this.

My phone vibrated against the spoon on the table, signaling receipt of a text from Clarisse. She was running late so she was sending a good friend to meet me. I didn’t particularly need to be entertained, especially since I had a succulent pastry to keep me company, but I was always up for meeting new friends.

I had only seen photos of Maureen so I tried to keep my eyes peeled while I waited. This proved much harder than I thought, what with my eyes rolling back into my head each time I took a bite. I looked around suspiciously, wondering if anyone else was having a party in their mouth.

I observed my fellow pastry lovers, silently judging each table’s choice of beverage and baked good. Having now visited Angelina’s on multiple occasions, I was aware there was really no wrong choice, but I gave more kudos to those who chose the hot chocolate. I started weaving complex back-stories for the American women seated adjacent to me.

My phone buzzed again with a phone call from an unknown number. It was Maureen. She spoke with such joy you could hear her smile through the phone. “Hello, miss Hilary! I am heeeere!” I turned around in my seat to see her waving through the window. Her warm smile matched her bubbly voice. I paid my check and went out to meet her.

She danced down the sidewalk, asking me a slew of questions about my stay so far, the things I’d seen, and what I thought of her city. I loved how each Parisian I met took such pride in their city, claiming it as their own. “I absolutely love it here.”

She took my hand and led me down a side street. “Well, we have to make sure you see more wonderful things! Come, I have a surprise for you.” I happily obliged, wondering where she could possibly be taking me. I saw Clarisse emerging from the underground about a block ahead. Maureen flagged her down and she joined our proceedings to the unknown location. She and Maureen prattled on in French, obviously in agreement as to where we were going.

“Look, there it is! The very famous Palais Garnier!” Maureen pointed to the opulent building that sat in the center of the road.

“This is probably the most famous opera house in the world,” Clarisse remarked. I agreed, recalling that it had been the setting for Leroux’s novel, The Phantom of the Opera. It was also noted for being the most expensive architectural achievement during the Second Empire. After viewing the lavish interior, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Photo courtesy of

We didn’t spend much time at the opera house since Maureen wanted to make another stop before dark. “Quick, the city will be rolling up its streets soon,” she commented. We left hastily in pursuit of more things to marvel at.

We rounded a corner and were met with a gust of chilling wind. I pulled my coat tighter around my body and shivered. Maureen didn’t miss a beat. “Why, Hilary! Why aren’t you wearing a scarf?” Maureen turned to Clarisse. “Why isn’t she wearing a scarf?”

Clarisse shook her head in disapproval. “She does not have one.”

“It’s no big deal,” I interjected. “I’ll survive.”

Maureen grabbed me by the shoulders, squaring my body to hers. Her eyes were suddenly very serious. “Hilary, you must always wear a scarf in Paris! Especially in such weather.” Another gale hit us broadside. I had no justifiable argument for my fashion faux pas. As a Vegas girl, I had never had a use for such an item and therefore never thought much about it. Maureen continued. “A scarf is ultra feminine and high fashion! Plus it will keep you from getting sick! You must always wear a scarf in Paris!”

She let go of my shoulders and continued walking, her black curls bouncing in time with her stride. “This is the fashion district of Paris. See? Scarves everywhere! All Parisian women wear scarves. It is a law.” Clarisse laughed but agreed with this. Maureen was emphatic. “You must get a scarf!”

It was hard to argue as we passed multiple stores with models donning the colorful material wrapped around their necks. The stores had all locked their doors for the night, but I promised Maureen I would invest in a scarf the next morning. I couldn’t break such a sacred commandment of Paris, especially since it was so pragmatic for the weather.

Maureen seemed satisfied with my promise. She continued to float down the street, stopping occasionally for photo ops and to point out her favorite stores.

And though I was thoroughly enjoying the company and tour, I couldn’t help but feel very conscious of my bare neck for the rest of the evening.


79 thoughts on “The Golden Rule of Parisian Fashion and How I Broke It

  1. Pingback: Interview: Hilary with The Nomad Grad - Travel Fashion Girl

  2. Love this post! If it´s any consolation I made the very same fashion faux pas when I first came to Spain, have definitely learnt my lesson since then! Never leave the house without one now! Love you blog, only discovered it today, but really enjoyed everything I have read so far! Thank you for sharing your experiences and keep up the good work! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you liked it! And I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one learning =).

      And I’m so glad that you discovered and are enjoying the blog! I hope you’ll come back to read more!

      What are you doing in Spain?

      • I´m currently teaching English in Andalucía, Córdoba to be exact, a really beautiful city, very small and very Spanish!
        I will definitely continue reading your blog, it´s my cup of tea, everything I look for in a good blog! Covers everything that interests me in a very natural and humorous way! So well done! It´s not easy to find pieces where the writers’ personality shines through and yours definitely does in everything I´ve read so far! It´s a pleasure to read!

        • Oh wow, what a compliment! Thank you so so much! This blog has become my baby. I hope I can continue to meet your standards and share with you my adventures!

          And what an amazing experience! How long are you there for? What made you decide on Spain?

          Looking forward to staying in touch!

  3. Hi Hilary – have only just found you and might hang around you for a while 🙂 Must go to Angelina’s next time I’m in Paris (which I’m hoping is not too far away). Oh …. and must buy a scarf!!

  4. Nothing quite like purchasing a scarf in one of the world’s scarf capitals. I do it every time. Pretty sure my friends are tired of receiving scarf gifts from my travels. Especially since AZ is not always conducive to wearing them.

  5. Yes, kind of like the time I got pizza in India because the gal I was traveling with and I hadn’t had access to pizza in over 6 months- it’s not like I eat it regularly in the States, but you kind of miss the accessibility of certain things 🙂 (we did have to weigh this against the fact that we would look like “those Americans” ha!)

    I’m here on a short term study abroad program with 20 students! I really enjoy my job, mainly because I’m not a full on teacher, but a teaching assistant so I get walk the line between having authority, and just being friends with them and getting the students to speak in English without being self-conscious about it. Unfortunately, this is not the easiest thing ever… especially when they know you can speak Japanese!

    Please say hello to my hometown for me! Capitol hill has a few great coffee shops- Victrola (I like the one on East Pike Street) and Caffe Vita (also on E.Pike St) both roast at those locations so if you’re lucky, you can watch people in action. Fresh Flours (in ballard or Phinney ridge) has a fun Japanese fusion selection (if you go there, you have to try the matcha latte) and if you’re looking for a place with a lot of atmosphere, Panama Hotel Cafe in the International District is decorated with reminders of back when the area was actually Japan town (est 1910). Diva coffee is always a good choice and they have a lot of locations, too! The best thing about Seattle cafes- they ALL come with wifi!
    My general rule of thumb is if it looks pretty hipster, it’s probably going to be delicious. 🙂

    • Wow, it sounds like you are having the time of your life! I totally agree; towing that line between authority and student is a good place to be!

      And I will definitely give Seattle a hug for you. Thank you so much for all of your great locale ideas! I can’t wait to try some of them out and let you know what I think! =)

    • Hi Claire!

      I definitely encourage you to find a way to start living your dream! Paris is a beautiful city worth exploring. What other places have you always wanted to visit?

      And I’d definitely say I’m the unusual American girl in Paris, haha! It’s all good as long as you can laugh at yourself about it. Maybe one day I’ll get it right! =)

  6. Now I feel justified for having more than a slight scarf obsession. Though I’m a Midwestern girl, I can pretend to be a high-fashion Parisian woman whenever I wear a scarf now. I love me some accessories!

    • See? There you go! It’s completely justifiable!

      Do you have a favorite scarf or type of accessory? Where in the Midwest are you?

      Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment!

      • I’m really big into lace and animal print scarves right now–and they must be long enough to do the “french style” fold around my neck!

        I’m in Minnesota, where neckware is necessary otherwise I’ll get a sore throat and/or frostbite because it’s so cold!

        • Animal print is definitely the way to go! Sounds festive. =)

          Oh wow, Minnesota sounds cooooold right now! I’ve only been there once, but it was mid May and everyone was laughing at me because I was running around in my coat, gloves and hats. Even though it was fifty degrees or so outside, it was still a forty degree difference from Vegas and I was freezing! But I had a great time there!

  7. I love this article because I hadn’t noticed that so many people wear scarves. Then again, I’m from Seattle, where everyone either wears a scarf because they are a hipster, or because it’s just so chilly all the time 🙂

    I just found your blog and am enjoying reading your articles- can’t wait to read more about your adventures!

    • Hi Erica,

      Haha, how funny! Seattle is one of my favorite cities. Do you still live there?

      I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying my posts. I can’t wait to continue to share my adventures with you! Please stay in touch!

      • I actually left a couple years ago and am currently based in Tokyo. I’m in England right now, but that’s just because I get antsy. Though I miss my hometown very much, I can usually quell those feelings with a trip to starbucks (which is where I just might be right now)!

        Definitely! It’s always fun to read the journeys of a fellow traveler!

        • Wow! Your life sounds so exciting! Japan to England… what a jump! What do you think of the two countries? I haven’t been to Japan yet, but I hope to one day. But something makes me feel like I need to mentally prepare for the high energy. I don’t know why…

          I laughed when I read your Starbucks comment. As much as I try to advocate for local Vegas coffee shops, I do all my best work at Starbucks. Finally saw the original one at Pike’s Place last year. =)

          • I’m actually just here for a month on business so it’s more like I’m embracing every day that I can speak English (non-teaching-English) until I go back to Tokyo. As a visitor the two countries seemed so different, but this is my second month-long stay here and after talking to a fellow American who is actually living here, I’ve found that they’re surprisingly similar!
            haha! It just seems like it because it’s so crowded. Kyoto is pretty down to earth in comparison to Tokyo. They’re both definitely worth a visit (though I’m biased).

            If you make it to Seattle again, be sure to let me know so I can give you a list of local Seattle coffee shops! 🙂 Or does Starbucks still count as local for Seattleites(doubtful)?

            • Haha! I felt very similar relief when I got back from Paris. I stopped through England and was so happy to be able to read a sign and understand the airport barista. It’s funny the things we miss.

              Thank you so much for the great advice! I will certainly have to add Kyoto to the list. What business brings you to England? Something teaching related? I keep thinking about teaching abroad, but I’m not sure if its the right choice for me. What do you think of it?

              I’m actually heading up to Seattle on Monday (more Port Townsend area, actually, but I do plan on spending a few days in the city). I would love your advice, as I don’t yet have any favorite coffee shops there (ice-cream and sandwich locales yes, but surprisingly no coffee). Lay it on me, sister! =)

  8. I saw that you read my “12:2 Chocolate” post and your Gravatar with the Eiffeil Tower, so I had to take a peek at your blog. I am leaving for Paris for a week in the middle of April and cannot wait, as it will be my first trip. Paris in spring, as they say! I’m a Texas girl…Houston…so I would have missed the scarf thing too. Thanks to you, I will tuck one in my bag and promptly dispense with having a naked neck. 😉 – Amanda

    • Hi Amanda!

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment! I am happy to encourage my fellow bloggers, especially when they have so many great things to offer like you!

      I think you’re going to have an amazing time in Paris! There are so many beautiful things to see, do, and experience. Have you ever been out of the country before? Are you going on vacation or business? You’ll have to keep me updated and let me know what you think!

      All the best,

  9. This is my first visit to your blog, and I love it! You checked out my site, so clicked onto yours to see what seems to interest you. You have a lovely personality that shines through your posts. You remind me so much of my nieces. My sister and her family travel a lot, and France is their favorite destination. You have had many exciting adventures, with many more to come! Don’t stress the “What do I do now?” question. Live life to the fullest, and I’ll tell you what I tell my nieces and nephew: “Do like the song says – when you get the chance, DANCE!” If you do, you will not grow old and sit in a rocking chair wondering “If only I had _____.”. You’ll find your niche. Keep your eyes and ears open as you travel and investigate new places. The right opportunity will find you if you actively seek it. No reason not to have some fun while on your quest!:D

    • Hi Kate,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and write me such encouraging and sage words! I am doing the best that I can to savor everyday but it always helps to have reminders along the journey. For that I thank you =)

      Your nieces sound like adorable girls. How old are they? Have you ever been to France?

      Looking forward to staying in touch!

      • Good evening! My oldest niece is a junior at Tulane in New Orleans. Her sister is a junior at a private school here where we live on the Gulf Coast. They have traveled quite a bit, mostly to France. They went to England right after Christmas. Me? No, afraid I haven’t made any trips out of the southeastern part of the country. England is where I want to go first. It is on my “Bucket List”. I would love to go next Christmas for the premiere of “The Hobbit”. That would be a dream for sure! Love Jane Austen country (based on her books!):) My younger niece has created a travel blog that you may want to visit sometime. It is “”. She hasn’t posted much as she is always studying, rehearsing for the high school musical, and a member of a choir that tours every spring and does some mission work wherever they go. My older niece is interested in photography,and old artifacts and antiquities. I think she dreams of being a curator at a museum where she can immerse herself with ancient treasures. They are so much fun, beautiful, and vivacious, with endearing personalities (that is not just the aunt in me talking!). Proud of you taking advantage of all the opportunities you are being afforded at this time in your life!:)

        • Hey Kate,

          Your nieces sound like such strong, intelligent, and vivacious women! I can feel the pride emanating from your words and rightfully so! They sound like delightful girls (but it’s possible I’m biased because you made a parallel ;). I think your dream to go to England next Christmas sounds like a fantastic goal to work towards (and far enough away that it’s totally do-able)! I am a Jane Austen fan myself and love the English countryside. I think you would absolutely love it.

          Thank you so much for taking the time to write back to me. I always love learning about my readers, especially when they have stories as cool as yours! Please keep in touch!


    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who witnessed such a cool fashion trend.

      And thank you so much, Denise! I am so glad that you enjoyed the post =). Looking forward to following your blog!

      All the best,

  10. Hi! I love the warmth and energy of your writing style; you sound like such a fun person to be around! Loved the pictures too! Just before Christmas, my local Hallmark store began selling scarves–gorgeous things–at ridiculously low prices (averaged about $12.00!). They had gauzy, floaty ones shot through with gold and silver threads, pretty flouncy ones with long fringing for party-time, and thick warm woolly ones with same-color sequins. I ended up buying several of them, keeping four and giving the rest as gifts to friends who normally shop at only the most expensive department stores, but who fell in love with these beautiful things the same way I did. I was never a scarf girl before, but now I get it. I’m from England, so maybe it’s a European thing?

    • Hi Roberta! Thank you so much for taking the time to write me such a beautiful comment! I am so happy to hear you like my writing!

      And I totally understand your love of the light and airy scarves. The fabric just seems to whisper around your neck. I love that!

      What part of England are you from?

      • I’m originally from Hull, in Yorkshire, but spent several years in Liverpool. BTW, one of the things I really like about your writing is your vocabulary. I was so impressed to find a blogger who uses the word “elucidate” and uses it correctly! I hate how the spell/grammar check programs jump on great words like that and try to dumb them down. I love the $20.00 words. Keep ’em coming! 🙂

        • Oh wow! How cool that you were able to live in so many cool places!

          And thank you so much. It bothers me as well when the grammar check tries to dumb down my words. What’s the fun in that? Now if only the $20.00 words would make me money, haha!

          Thank you again for your continued support! =)

      • I am currently studying in Oxford & loving every second of it. Gosh, it’s hard to choose. There is a live jazz club called Le Duc des Lombards that I really liked & in the summer they had a deal where there was no cover after midnight. If you get the chance definitely take a day trip up to Giverny where Monet lived–its stunning (maybe wait until the spring if you can) Both the d’Orsay and l’Orangerie are breathtaking. What I miss most though is the smell of the boulangeries in the morning and being able to visit the markets. I lived in Neuilly sure Seine (just north of the Arc de Triomphe) which is a lovely area for brunch and late night coffees. So many wonderful cafes and places to be.

        • Wow, what an amazing experience! How exciting that you were able to live so close to so many wonderful things! What are you studying at Oxford?

          Thank you so much for your advice and recommendations! I will certainly see what I can do!

  11. Can’t wait to try that hot chocolate!! I laughed when I read your headline about trying to find a use for a psychology degree…I am in the same boat! I am convinced it’s useless…

    • Hi Christina,

      I’m glad you can find the humor in my situation… It took me awhile to actually laugh at myself but it is kind of funny.

      I don’t necessarily regret getting my degree in psychology, because I believe a lot of what I learned is applicable to my travels and daily interactions. However, I wish I would have taken more time to get through school and feel around. What are you up to these days?

      Keep writing!

  12. I love how the exuberance of the day just jumps off the page! So, the next question – have you a photo of your new scarf!!!! (Huge fan of scarves – I pack at least 3 if travelling when it is cold – fashion and comfort and a flash of colour!!!! What can I say!)

  13. Sheesh, doesn’t the rest of the world know they are supposed to accommodate Americans?
    That’s a great story.
    Did you get the scarf the next day? (And if so, do you display it in a place of honor?)

    • Haha, right? I blame the weather. Doesn’t it know that I am a girl used to 110 degree summers? 😉

      I did get a scarf the next day. It now sits in a pile with all the other scarves I have since accumulated. I’ve never been one for accessories, but I’m really not sure what I did without scarves.

  14. Loved this edition of The Nomad Grad- It’s great to live vicariously through you. I’m not sure you know, but I had Maureen as a student as well- it was great to see the pictures and hear that her positive attitude continues to be infectious. Enjoy!

  15. I’m a scarf kind a gal. I have quite a few and must admit I long for the days when it is cold enough to wear one. I use to wear them much of the time when I lived in the UK. Here in Aus there is little use for them except in the few colder months when I go all out and wear a different one each time I leave the house. They are the colour in my normally drab wardrobe. They make me happy.

    I’ve not spent any time in Paris (I just went from one train to another, traveling through) but I really did enjoy my time in the Alsace and cannot say enough nice things about the people I met. They were the best!

    (Many thanks for stopping by my blog)

    • I hear that the people in Alsace are very friendly! Thanks so much for sharing with me. =)

      How long did you live in the UK? What part of Australia are you in now? I’m headed to Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns late this spring. I am very excited about it!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Keep posting!

      • I grew up in Canada. I lived in the UK for nearly 7 years before finally moving to Aus. I live in Queensland now, about an hour out of Brisbane. Late Spring (northern hemisphere) is an ideal time to see Aus. It should be cooler by then. Try to get off the beaten track a bit while here if you can. I have a few suggestions on places to see depending on your interests and what you want to see/do while here.

        • Wow. What made you decide to move to Aus? I have some friends on the Gold Coast who say it is just beautiful…

          And I would happily heed any suggestions you have! I am all about having a unique experience wherever I travel (especially local hangouts, mom and pop places, authentic food, etc.)

  16. And I thought Germany had an obsession with scarves! Everywhere I went, even though I was there in the summer, girls were wearing scarves. Every store had cute little scarves on sale, even at the open-air markets. I ended up buying three while I was there, even though, like yourself, I never wore them at home!

    • Haha, yes it seems like a staple throughout all of Europe.

      I have since become quite the fan of scarves. We’ll see how I fare with wearing them when I get back to the states. =)

      Thanks for stopping by to comment! Can’t wait to read more of your posts!

Give me your two cents!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s