Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange ~ On Perfume


I recently posted an excerpt from “A Guide to Elegance: For Every Woman Who Wants to be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions”, a delightful, little book written in 1964 by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux. Since there was a lot of interest, I decided to compile a series of other advice on selecting and wearing perfume. Some of it might be quite sensible, some–quite personal and esoteric, but I always find it interesting to learn how other women think about perfume and their fragrance wardrobes.

The following excerpt comes from a recently published book, Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange.

I change my perfume every ten years. I don’t like trendy perfumes, which I find often too aggressive. I prefer older, classic brands.

When you buy a perfume, test it on your skin, not a strip of paper. Define your initial choice using the paper strips, then test on the inside of your wrist, leave the shop and wear for a few hours before deciding whether it’s worth of your bathroom shelf.

Perfumes shouldn’t be treated like trendy clothes. Even if some perfumes become best-sellers calculated to appeal to everyone, choose a scent to match your personality. The Parisian never leaves a super-fashionable fragrance in her wake, preferring to cross town for that rare, individual essence!

Never wear too much perfume; you’ll give your friends a headache. Dab your body’s best scent spots; the neck and wrists, but also the ankles and behind the knees for maximum effect. Remember to keep an emergency bottle in your car.

Inès also gives the following as her favorite perfume houses in Paris:

Les Salons du Palais Royal/Les Parfums de Serge Lutens
Jardin du Palais Royal
142, rue de Valois, 1er
tel + 33 (0)1 49 27 09 09

68, avenue de Champs-Élysées, 8e
tel + 33(0)1 45 62 52 57

Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle
37, rue de Grenelle, 7e
tel + 33 (0)1 42 22 76 40

Maison Francis Kurkdjian
5, rue d’Alger, 1er
tel + 33 (0)1 42 60 07 07

34, boulevard Saint-Germain, 5e
tel + 33 (0)1 01 43 26 77 44

From Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Inès de la Fressange, p 121. Available from



  • Fiordiligi: I have the Ines de la Fressange book and it is charming – but it helps if you are 6 feet tall, slender, beautiful and rich! July 13, 2011 at 6:18am Reply

  • [email protected]: Loved this. I too think it’s interesting to see others views on scent. July 13, 2011 at 8:41am Reply

  • D: Obviously, some Parisians use super-fashionable perfumes which are best sellers; if no body bought or wore them, such perfumes would not be best sellers. And if no Parisian wore such perfumes, no one would recognize them, and no one think “Oh, she is just wearing what everyone else is wearing. She is too lazy and too un chic to chose something which is her own rare,individual essence.”

    And if Ms. Inez wears classic fragrances, than she is wearing commercial products that have been populuar enough over the last ten years to have become classics, and not custom “rare, individual scents.”

    Its like the more profound statement of Yogi Berra “Nobody goes to that restaurant, anymore-Its too busy.” Yogi, at least intended his “Yogisms” as jokes and paradoxes. Ms. de la Fressange seems oblivious to the self-contradictions in her snobbery.

    By the way, if Ms. Inez is wearing a classic fragrance, then she obviously wearing a commercial product which is popular enough to have become a classic, not a custom “rare, individual essence.” July 13, 2011 at 8:42am Reply

  • pklagrange: I don’t know where she’s parking, but perfume in my car would fry in the VA heat! Nor would I ever ever keep my perfume in the bathroom, but she’s dead on about making the effort to find a grat fragrance. July 13, 2011 at 8:46am Reply

  • pklagrange: That would be a “great” fragrance July 13, 2011 at 8:46am Reply

  • Suzanna: Oh, dear, one wouldn’t want to be thought of as not having the wits to travel across town to find the rare, individual essence. That just smacks of laziness, n’est-ce-pas? Bien sur, the smart gal takes a taxi to the starry boite of Monsieur Lutens and there buys one of his Morrocan wet dreams…instead of smelling, ho hum, of Coco Mademoiselle.

    I enjoy books like this quite a bit, even if I live in a place where crossing town would put you in a swamp. July 13, 2011 at 9:43am Reply

  • Emma: I bought the guide, Ines wears Ambre Sultan and apparently Mitsouko as well, she also loves Serge Lutens lipsticks and eye shadow and she’s right, Roger Vivier traditional flat shoes with buckle are stunning and so chic! (I love the boutique on Madison Ave) July 13, 2011 at 10:30am Reply

  • Ines de la Fressange is a style icon but I wouldn’t take her perfume advice without questioning. You know the classic argument: if you are not wearing the same outfit every day why should you wear the same perfume?

    I haven’t smelled her eponymous perfume but I don’t remember it getting great reviews either. July 13, 2011 at 7:07am Reply

  • Victoria: I agree! I checked out some of the “reasonably priced” lines she recommends, and well, I suppose that they are reasonable for some… July 13, 2011 at 9:38am Reply

  • Victoria: Completely agree! It is just fun to read, that’s all. July 13, 2011 at 9:38am Reply

  • Victoria: That’s what I find too. Everyone has such personal ideas on how to wear perfume. July 13, 2011 at 9:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Same here! It would be vinegar in two days. July 13, 2011 at 9:41am Reply

  • Victoria: D, I was thinking the same thing. What about being suffocated by Angel and Coco Mademoiselle in Paris? I vividly remember this. July 13, 2011 at 9:42am Reply

  • Victoria: The main reason I picked up this book were some shopping addresses she provides (and some off the beaten track museums, areas, etc.) But I have to say that reading advice like the above made me chuckle quite a few times, so I ended up keeping it. It does not take it itself too seriously.

    Her recommendation to visit the Musée Cognac-Jay in the Marais district of Paris was great. It is a small (and free) museum that recreates the 18th-19th century interiors. Very elegant. July 13, 2011 at 9:47am Reply

  • Eric Brandon: I have more samples in my car than my house, so I am always prepared for an emergency, though boy do I hate if I forgot a sample I was in the mood for. July 13, 2011 at 2:54pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: I’d be interested in reading her book, because after all, she was the house model for Chanel for a long time, and she must have a lot of insider knowledge about fashion and style, but when she was modeling, I thought she was one of the most unattractive women I had ever seen: the huge nose, flat chest and scrawny body always looked starved and sexless and insectile to me; more repulsive than chic. But, the fashion industry loves to make “edgy’ transgressive choices like that: remember those mid-nineties “heroine chic” models, and the woman with no eyebrows who either looked like an alien or someone undergoing chemotherapy? Grotesque hair colors and homely faces atop attenuated skinny bodies (Alek Wek, anybody?)I thought it was hilarious when Lagerfeld canned Ines for agreeing to be “Marianne” the face of the Republic because it was too bourgeois and ordinary. (The previous face had been Catherine Deneuve, a beauty for the ages). Ines was really just a skinny pituitary freak who wore clothes like a clothes hangar, without any distractions of beauty or sexuality. July 13, 2011 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Emma: Lynn, Ines de la Fressange was not a “regular” model, karl Lagerfeld chose to work with her because she had this aristocratic french name that’s out of this world! She was also a somewhat rebellious Coco Chanel of her times, the jolie laide of the 80’s.
    Even by todays standards, to the exceptions of models like Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford etc, many designers want to work with very asexual tall skinny girls. I was at a casting monday, the most beautiful girls by men standards were not chosen because in photographs they look too sexual and short. I’ve seen the difference between the portfolios of cadaveric girls who have great bone structure for fashion, they look stunning with makeup in photographs, however “beautiful”, healthy looking girls with the same makeup tend to look like high-paid escorts in photos, this is not what the fashion industry is looking for. You’ll never see curvaceous girls in the W Mag or french Vogue. If you open the Barneys catalogue, girls are photographed in B&W and they look like they’re suffering, totally in pain selling Balenciaga! That’s the world of high end fashion but if you want to see healthy girls who are very happy with a big smile on their face you have to open those very “cataloguey” catalogues like JC Penney, maybe they smile because their shirts cost only $9.99 ;-)) ha! July 13, 2011 at 7:44pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also love Roger Vivier boutiques, both in NYC and in Paris. Never bought anything from them, but admired plenty! July 13, 2011 at 4:41pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds like you are indeed ready for anything! 🙂 I used to carry samples in my purse, but after Shalimar parfum spilled all over my handbag, I’ve stopped. July 13, 2011 at 4:42pm Reply

  • D: Silly me, I half suspected that designers liked to use women with no curves because it is alot easier to design, and tailor for “asexual tall women” then for women with more typical figures. I also suspect that one reason they prefer tall models is to make it easier for the photographers and buyers who don’t have first row seats at a runway show to see what the heck is going on.

    Slim or curvey, why can’t the models smile? July 14, 2011 at 9:26am Reply

  • columbine: yes, it’s personal so i don’t like immodest people telling you what is right or wrong…i’d like it much better if she said, i like to do this or that but not that she says “to be classy you have to do this or that”… July 14, 2011 at 10:00am Reply

  • columbine: hum, i (very) occasionnally wear Coco Mademoiselle 🙂 and yes i am Parisian but i hope i never suffocated anyone with it…now Angel is another kettle of fish, i guess you must be super young to enjoy that kind of perfume… July 14, 2011 at 10:03am Reply

  • columbine: she probably parks in garages (it’s the easiest in Paris), they are usually underground and rather cool…i keep perfume in my handbag, what an odd thing to keep it in the car… July 14, 2011 at 10:05am Reply

  • columbine: it’s is really such a treat to go to the Palais Royal to buy a fragrance there that it’s worth crossing Paris for it (though i don’t take a cab,but walk or use public transport). first, the square is beautiful (except now because they are renovating it so it’s full of scaffoldings), then the shop is a little jewel and last all those pretty bottles you can smell from, yummy.
    not that i like that kind of book (really far too snobish for my taste but then she was Lagerfeld’s top model) but i love Paris and i guess for those who don’t live there it’s like looking at a nice cake you can’t it…rather frustrating. July 14, 2011 at 10:10am Reply

  • columbine: i like Vivier’s shoes, to look at, but they are so uncomfortable when you try them on, very rigid, can’t understand how anyone can walk in them for long. there is no doubt about de la Fressange having good taste but i’d respect her more if she would have good taste with a smaller budget, now that is real class when you achieve that…. July 14, 2011 at 10:14am Reply

  • D: Alas, I can think of several industries (mortgage foreclosure processing,) where the entire industry seems incompetent at their jobs. July 14, 2011 at 12:48pm Reply

  • dee: That was a fun little snippet V! Thank you for sharing it with us; I saw (in Vogue) that the book had been released, and it looks like a fun guide—I might see if I can pick up a Kindle edition 🙂 July 14, 2011 at 11:38am Reply

  • Ari: Lynn, I have to say that I am uncomfortable with your comment about Alek Wek. In light of the astounding lack of diversity in the fashion industry, I find it a bit suspect that you chose Wek as an example of “homely faces atop attenuated skinny bodies”. Wek is a size 4, while most models these days are a 0, so she is an unlikely representative for “skinny bodies”. As to her “homely face”, of course everyone has their own aesthetic preferences, but a preference for white features over black features is very deeply ingrained in American culture and is therefore most likely a culturally learned preference rather than a natural one. I think that Alek Wek is a beautiful woman. You do not have to, but please do not disparage her as ugly. July 14, 2011 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Ari: Yes, this is correct. Designers do not use thin models because they are “asexual”, they use them because many designers are not particularly good at their jobs. They are unknowledgeable about the technical skills involved in making clothing, and dressing larger women requires a greater knowledge of those technical skills than they posses. I can’t think of another industry where you can get away with knowing so little about your own damn job. So the next time your clothes aren’t fitting, just remember: it’s not you, the designer just sucks. July 14, 2011 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also find them very uncomfortable, but since I have dancer’s feet (high arches, difficult to fit shoes anyway,) I just assumed that it was just me. Still, the styles are so beautiful. July 15, 2011 at 10:25am Reply

  • Victoria: I don’t think that she shared much of her insider knowledge in the book, but it is a fun, easy read.
    I find Alek Wek beautiful! She is also not the skinniest of them all. July 15, 2011 at 10:26am Reply

  • Victoria: Take a look at it, it has some very nice Paris recommendations. I ended up buying it used for a couple of dollars, so I don’t regret the purchase. July 15, 2011 at 10:28am Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: It looks as if I have to defend myself again. For the record: I am African American, so I can hardly be accused of having a preference for “white” or European features above the more exotic- I think thin lips are one of the most hideous traits a human face can evidence, and I am eternally grateful for my complexion which always looks good, even when I am sick or exhausted, and is practiaclly crow’s feet-proof! I think Alek Wek looks like Shaquille O’Neal, minus the delicate femininity.If you do not think that size four is exceptionally skinny, you clearly never leave the house and look at actual human beings. The average woman in American wears a size 14! I have a theory that the fashion industry’s obsession with barely adolescent women who are built like barely adolescent boys is that is it dominated by gay men and women who don’t want to actually deal with the idea that other women posess sexual characteristics. A few years back, W did a fashion layout and used women who had been Penthouse centerfolds as models – i.e.- women with discernable hips, {implanted} breasts, curvaceous behinds, etc- and the reader mail was vitriolic! Readers ranted and reviled the women for their “whorey” looks and and took the magazine to task for featuring such “sluts.” I think they were just feeling theatened. Magazines get similar but more toned town responses for featuring sexy actresses like Charlize Theron, Salma Hayek, Halle Berry etc. “High fashion” is dedicated to female asexuality, and therefore, powerlessness and immaturity for any number of unhealthy reasons. I stand by the statement that Ines de la Fessange is areally unattractive women, and I a so glad Karl Lagerfeld is now into Blake Lively: she is genuinely lovely, as well as stylish. July 20, 2011 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Ari: Hi Lynn- I agree with all of your points! A size 4 is of course exceptionally thin, but in Model Land (a crazy place to be if there ever was one), it is considered big. The gorgeous Lara Stone was once considered a “plus-size” model at size 4. That is all I meant, that Alek Wek isn’t the first model who springs to mind for me when I think about the ultra-thin model trend. I apologize if you felt that I was attacking you, and I enjoyed reading your response. July 28, 2011 at 10:07am Reply

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