‘Emily in Paris’ through the eyes of a Parisian (who has learnt not to be offended by the show!)
Ever wonder what a French person makes of Emily in Paris? Marie Shortt, a Parisian stylist based in Dublin, gives us her honest opinion and whether it’s ringarde or not...
While the first season of Emily in Paris was lauded from afar, in France, French people took affront to it. How dare Emily walk the streets of Paris in a pink beret, holding a bag with Eiffel Tower charms on it!? She may be successful, but she doesn’t speak a word of French and makes a habit of patronising her colleagues… not a lot to like there.
That said, Parisians have warmed to Emily in Paris since it first launched – it’s become a “petit Plaisir” that we’ve all binge-watched on Netflix.
Here’s what I like (and dislike!) about the character’s outfit choices and the show’s portrayal of Paris.
Emily is lucky enough to never have to use the metro – her micro-mini skirts and stilt-like shoes simply wouldn’t work if she did. She’d also get far too much unwanted attention wearing such outfits (which can be a very real issue). In season three, Sylvie tells designer Gregory Dupree that Chanel’s submission is understated and chic, which is what a lot of people in Paris want to achieve. This has been pointed as a reason why some people tend to find French style nice-looking but boring at times. People stare in Paris, and do not hold back if you are wearing something a little unusual. It’s not always done in a mean way, more in a curious manner, but if you do not want that, it can be easier to wear pieces that won’t make you stand out too much.
If Emily did take the metro, she’d need to lose the beret, wear a good pair of jeans, a pair of flat (yet still chic) shoes and one of her fun colourful coats. Her bag would also need to be more understated – something roomier, made from good quality leather by a local French designer.
Admittedly, I think French women might be jealous of Emily’s perfect waves. We do love that perfectly undone, tousled look… but most of us can’t be bothered to wake up and spend that much time away from our beds getting ready every morning! The berets she wears really needed to go though. They are reserved only for tourists who proudly wear them for the duration of their Parisian stay and, we assume, tuck them in a drawer once they get home, never to touch them again. There is one exception to that rule, which is when rugby fans from the southwest of France visit on match days.
The mix of prints she wears together often makes no sense and do not work (I’m a stylist, I know!). If you are going to mix prints, they need to be either different sizes of the same print or different prints in a closer palette. It’s important to remember that not all prints can be mixed. The very talented Patricia Field, the woman who created the iconic Sex and the City outfits, is the main stylist on the show but this is one element of the show’s wardrobe choices I find baffling. Carrie might not be known as ‘queen of discreet style’ but she is still generally considered to be a style icon in France, her bold style works… Emily’s just doesn’t. It doesn’t look charming and whimsical but rather too loud. The fashion in season three has been slightly better though. Emily’s trouser game is strong, which is a move in the right direction – most Parisian women live in wide-leg trousers and jeans – but I still think that they could have been styled differently. Thankfully, Camille and Sylvie were there to save the day for Parisian viewers. Their style is much easier on the eye and a little more realistic to life in France.
Sylvie is a very real depiction of a certain type of Parisian woman… she also gets the best one-liners to shut Emily down. As someone who has worked in a fashion house in Paris, I can vouch for some of the office life and style being true, thankfully I was never called a ringarde though!
Her style is said to be inspired by fashion legend and brilliantly funny lady Carine Roitfeld, with her pencil skirts, high heels and perfectly tucked-in shirts. Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu (who plays Sylvie) also brought her own flair to the character, noting that she was influenced by her own mother’s style (who is a fashion editor).
For day-to-night dressing, no one does it better than Sylvie. Throughout the show, she often swaps a white button-up for a silk shirt to make it more evening appropriate – this is something Parisians do a lot; we’re not into complete transformations for evening wear, we’re more into simple fixes like changing your top to something silky and adding some red lipstick, more perfume etc.
Her style has evolved over the course of the show and with her setting up her own business and finding balance in her private life this season, she seems more liberated in what she wears too. She’s opting for more colour, choosing cleverly tailored pieces that still seem ‘her’. She’s not done having fun yet but she’s not trying to look younger than she is either. Aging is done (mostly) gracefully in France – getting older is a privilege!
This season, her style has moved more into looser fabrics which are very flattering as you age, but still allow her to keep hemlines short and necklines low. In a recent interview for Vogue France, Leroy-Beaulieu explained that Darren Starr (creator of Emily in Paris) credited French women’s need for freedom as being why their style is so unique. This, I believe is the key to Emily’s style being at odds with true Parisian fashion… we like to walk and be able to go about our day effortlessly, so walkable shoes and a larger bag are key!
Mindy is an interesting character… but she would definitely not have been able to get away with her outfits as an au pair, anyone with children would be able to tell you that! As an artist though, her look is impeccable. It’s fun and glamorous but still pretty classy for the most part.
Camille is less present in season three than in other seasons, but her style has stayed mostly the same and is often very simple. Think black and white Chanel-inspired outfits. Season one was a great insight into a younger Parisian woman’s style. You can genuinely walk around Paris (especially in the arrondissements, or urban areas, favoured by the show) and see women dressed like that going about their daily lives.
Paris looks incredible in the show, Darren Star certainly knows how to write a love letter to Paris – the Sex and the City episodes set there, though not a true depiction of Parisian life, were still dreamy and made people all over the world want to visit (me included, and I lived there at the time!) Emily in Paris lacks a bit of that same magic. Parisians were shocked by the little diversity on the show, but also by the complete lack of building work going on in the streets. With the 2024 Olympics due to take place in Paris, the city is full of construction… some people even questioned if it was edited out of the show!
French viewers also found it quite implausible to see Emily walking around in such outfits, waving her iPhone around with no consequences – this could have to do with the areas of Paris she seems to keep to but still, as with any big city, Parisians know that you need to be more aware. At least Carrie was mugged for her Manolos in New York!
Gabriel’s style may be the most authentic of all the characters, the men on the show are styled very realistically (special mention for Camille’s brothers). Gabriel may just wear a hoodie and a t-shirt and jeans but he has taken the time to pick the right ones – i.e. ones that fit him and are flattering (although admittedly, Lucas Bravo, the actor who plays Gabriel, needs little help in that department in real life!). I think that’s the main difference between French and Irish men; French men will try and find clothes that at least look nice, while Irish men tend to pick the first item they see, try it on and walk out of the shop as fast as possible!
If you want to see more incredible style from Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, I’d recommend watching Call My Agent next. She plays another French character and the show is a more realistic depiction of Parisian life, in my opinion… even if they are agents to the stars. For more Parisian escapism, I also love The Parisian Agency, a French reality series about the Kretz family where a woman in her sixties and a woman in her eighties are the style icons.
Marie Shortt is a Parisian stylist, based in Dublin. Her approach to fashion is sustainably focused with an emphasis on shopping in a more mindful way, saving you time and money in the process. Her aim is to ensure picking clothes in your wardrobe brings you joy every day. She offers wardrobe detox, personal shopping and a unique Paris Shopping Trip service.