Model answer to myth of perfect Parisian woman
EMBRACE your inner snob. Wear red with pink. Eat oysters at home and go to bed before midnight on New Year's Eve. Just some of the advice meted out by four Frenchwomen in a new book on "how to be Parisian".
In their 240-page tome, the four covered everything from bad habits and what to display on your mantelpiece to sulking and how to wear a miniskirt.
According to model Caroline de Maigret and her co-authors, Parisian women never try to be friends with their children, work too hard on their appearance or have overly white teeth. They love navy blue with black, bags that don't match their clothes and wouldn't dream of getting married in a "poufy meringue" dress, opting instead for a black or navy tuxedo.
When pregnant, Bloody Marys can be replaced by Virgin Marys, a Bloody Mary without the alcohol, "but that's it - you're no saint", and high heels should be surrendered only "the day you walk into the delivery room".
On hosting a dinner party, the objective is to make it look effortless no matter how stressed you are, and after politics has been discussed, to redirect the conversation to Parisians' "second favourite dinner topic: sex". Faux pas include using corporate jargon, having a wedding photo in your living room or more than two colours in your hair.
As for infidelity, the golden rule is denial. "What is good for you is good for your relationship - basically you're just being a thoughtful girlfriend," they suggested.
In a cafe in Paris, de Maigret looks every inch the stereotypical, chic Parisian. But the 39-year-old, whose various jobs include being an ambassador for French fashion house Chanel, insisted that the book is about dismantling - not fuelling - stereotypes.
How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are, Love, Style And Bad Habits, is co-authored with Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan and Sophie Mas, and came about after de Maigret found herself being constantly quizzed about Parisian women on trips abroad.
"I was travelling a lot and was being asked all around the world about the Parisian girl. It was the only thing people asked me about," she said.
While she hoped that the book, just published by Doubleday in the United States and Britain, is fun and shows that Parisians can send themselves up a little bit, she also saw it as something of a self-help manual for the stressed-out modern woman.
As someone juggling motherhood with several part-time jobs, de Maigret said time is her ultimate luxury.
"I love taking my time for lunch, dinner and Paris gives me this," she said. "I think there is a big pressure on women nowadays so, although it's a light book, there's still some feminism there," she added.
Above all, she said, she wanted to debunk the myth of the perfect Parisian woman.
"It's just a cliche of being this ideal woman who cooks, who raises perfect children and is amazingly stylish," she said. "It is an illusion to think you can be all these women at the same time.
"That's what this book is all about: to explain that you are this woman - but not all on the same day - and to tell women to give up running after an ideal."
Instead, de Maigret advised women to "find out who you are" and concentrate on that. "That way, you have time to do other things," she added.