Meret Von Graffenried, a sophomore at Wake Forest University, has called Paris her home for most of her life.
Born in Switzerland to Swiss parents, she speaks four languages, has lived in three countries, and has spent her life traveling the world. Her style inspiration mostly originates from her French roots. After living in two distinctive parts of the world, she has drawn a few conclusions about the differing definitions of fashion.
One notable distinction, she says, is the drastically different ways that Americans and French choose to stand out. While “glittery” can be used to describe the ways in which Americans accessorize, French women are much more reserved in their style. Meret attributes this partly to the differing “physiology of French girls” which ultimately “plays a role in the way they wear their clothes.” While American style tends to associate glamour with sparkles and shine, French style can be seen as modest and toned-down.
This can also be seen in the way French women style their makeup. American labels often emphasize bold eyes and coated concealer, while French women opt for natural makeup. Meret stresses that “the goal of French style is looking effortless.” Instead of playing up the face, a typical makeup routine in Paris might include light mascara, a hint of blush and eye-catching red lipstick. These makeup habits stay congruent with the emphasis on organic beauty.
While French women may sport simple accessories, they are anything but plain. Meret feels that the unembellished aspect to French style brings out femininity. Though American women tend to show more skin and revel in the charm of sparkle, femininity is brought out in the masculinity of French women’s clothing. Meret explains that one major difference between the two fashion worlds are the factors that bring them influence. She explains that in France, “It’s not about what men want, it’s what fashion wants.” Women dress for fashion, not for the men around them. This even translates to the undergarments worn. “Push-up bras aren’t really seen in France,” states Meret. Women embrace their truest forms and communicate it through their clothing.
Though French women highlight understated and effortless fashion, it is anything but easy. After living in America, Meret immediately noticed a formality difference. American women commonly throw on leggings and a sweatshirt to run a few errands—a habit unheard of for French women. Meret notes that leggings are a major fashion faux pas in Paris. In Paris, Meret would opt for skinny jeans and a trendy sweater for a casual outing. “Even in high school, everyone has a fancy bag rather than a backpack,” she observes. While French women might be humble with their clothing, the two countries have different definitions of “casual.”
So, what are some of Meret’s favorite items? “A neck scarf is a staple” she remarks. While the neck scarf is slowly making its way into American stores, French women take credit for this trend. Also, while it seems as though every American woman owns a pair of over-the-knee boots, French women typically sport booties as their winter go-to. Though France and America have their fair share of style differences, one item the two countries can agree on are Stan Smiths. Meret notes that everyone in Paris has a pair of these classic white sneakers that can go with any outfit (and apparently, any country).
While Meret often sticks to her French roots, she has learned to blend her style with American trends (yes, she does occasionally sport a pair of leggings). She brings style diversity to Wake Forest and introduces her peers to a completely unfamiliar realm of fashion. Meret shows us how clothing can bring the world closer, while also establishing beauty in the uniqueness of different cultures.