With a global rise of the phenomenon that are Netflix’s shows, marketing moguls have obtained a powerful tool for product placement. And while the Kardashians still hold the first place in presenting the rest of the world with what the latest fashion is going to be, the power of emotional attachment we develop with characters from beloved shows cannot be (and is not) taken for granted.
While I was enjoying the ambiental TV quality of Netflix’s Emily in Paris, I paid just a little bit more attention to how the characters were dressed than to what was actually happening in the series. The three characters that piqued my curiosity the most were Camille, Sylvie and of course, the once-in-a-lifetime Emily. Not only are each of the fashion expressions of three women epitomes of certain styles, but the way they are juxtaposed in close quarters made this comparative analysis all the more fun.
The case of Camille
Camille’s family owns its brand of champagne kept in a chateau in Provence and it is evident that the old money aesthetic that has been raging on TikTok served as inspiration for her fashion style. The message is: I’m rich but not a nouveau riche and it is paramount that people know it. She mostly wears black and white, on occasions red or another shocking color such as that gorgeous fluorescent green Jacquemus.
Camille is a representation of the modern feminist which is reflected in her gender neutral style. She styles boxy blazers, chic but utilitarian (mostly) the key being bold fits and sassy textures, and most of all how these pieces come together. As far as Camille is concerned, it is not about sequins or feathers, and it never was. It’s a concept as old as time that Emily just won’t grasp – less is more.
Also, a big part of her look is the androgynous quality that it retains. The stylist is playing around with feminine dresses or blazers that serve as dresses paired up with something no guy would ever tell you is sexy – loafers.
It brings out the duality, the dance on the edge, the ‘I’m confident about my sexuality, and don’t need a man to validate it’ that Camille’s character definitely has going on.
Camille is effortlessly elegant – all the way from her style to her loose curls. And, in comparison to Emily who carefully coordinates her outfits and even more carefully her perfectly symmetrical curls, we get a picture in picture: A strict, American capitalist momentum versus the Bon vivant, I-woke-up-like-this, artsy joie de vivre that the French have cultivated.
The case of the beret
Camille is able to overturn what is considered to be the most obvious French cliché – the beret. Originally worn by shepherds on duty at the foot of the Pyrinees, and presented to the world as fashionable by Coco Chanel, it has become one of the most copied paragons of French style. Even though it originally served a purpose, like many things, it became mostly a trinket you wear when you are a tourist in Paris or if you want to relive the Parisian magic a little bit longer after you’ve come home.
Over time, this historic piece of headgear has somehow become synonymous with a soft and feminine appearance (even though historically, Napoleon’s soldiers used to wear it), but the way Camille sports it gives it a new feeling.
She styles a black, faux leather beret with a chunky military green jacket and in doing so, becomes a personified edginess. The fashion lesson? We can still wear berets without looking like an enthusiastic tourist painting the town red, but it needs to be of a tune down color paired up with something equally on the down low.
Emily on the other hand, seems to have one in every color. It almost makes you wonder whether the first thing she did when she landed at Charles de Gaulle airport was going shopping for berets. All of them.
When Emily wears it in bright red or yellow, and combines it with her annoyingly on the nose Eiffel tower shirt, I can understand why the show is heavily criticized about the amount of commonplaces it uses.
Okay, I exaggerated in order to prove a point, she doesn’t actually pair the beret with the Eiffel tower shirt. Because that would be too much.
The case of Sylvie
Sylvie is a woman in her 50s that incorporates classic Parisian chic. She’s living it – she is it. While the same can not always be said about Emily, Sylvie is always the one wearing the clothes, and not the other way around. She’s had enough time to build her signature style, and as a woman with abundant life experience, understands that the secret lies in clothes that are perfectly tailored to fit precisely her body type. No matter if she’s wearing mostly black, white and gold in the first seasons, or bold orange and fuschia in the last one, one thing stays true: a well-thought out capsule wardrobe is the way to go.
It is not until we see Sylvie wearing silk shirts, classic cut trousers or pencil skirts that we truly understand that the proof is in the pudding.
Same as Emily, she is never without high heels which makes me think these people definitely don’t use the metro for going to work. They must be living a block or two away from the office…and, now I come to think of it, from anywhere in Paris, really because they’re always in high heels.
Sylvie is everything we aspire to be; having seen many trends come and go, she doesn’t pay much attention to anything but the classics anymore. This by no means makes her boring; au contraire, her ability to transform a presumably simple outfit into a breathtaker by adding an accessory (usually a piece of statement jewelry or a belt) is nothing short of art. Sylvie sends out a message everybody should hear: You don’t need to draw attention to yourself, you are doing you.
The case of Emily
Emily… takes a lot of chances when it comes to her fashion choices. Would I say this boldness is mirrored in her character? Not really. She strolls in, wearing her print on print, frills and rainbow-colored pieces like she has never heard of minimalist French chic. But, even though Emily gets herself into a lot of situations from which she always emerges Scot-free, I would have never pegged her as a risk-taker.
But then I thought: The way Emily dresses (and don’t even get me started on her friend Mindy), would never get the approval of her fellow Parisiennes, and there is no way she doesn’t get that. This got me thinking: is Emily actually really brave? She does adjust her style a tad as the show progresses, but her essence stays the same – maximalist. Is this the biggest cliché of the show; but also the one reminder which even the bravest ones among us should hear from time to time? That no matter whose cage you rattle in doing so, you’ve got to make your own kind of music?
Emily does care about clothes
Now, this is more of a plot hole than a style hole, but bear with me: Emily doesn’t seem to care about her clothes at all!
Not once during the show has she had one of those what-am-I-going-to-wear moments which are so common amongst us regular people, and yet she always emerges as a perfectly (sort of) coordinated butterfly in outfits from which she sometimes changes a couple of times per day.
This isn’t too realistic, and here’s why: We, people who are in love with fashion recognize each other on the streets. It takes a fashion lover to know a fashion lover, and we know just how seriously we take our outfits. Even if the look we are going for is the ‘effortless chic’, we ain’t fooling nobody. A lot of thought goes into planning an outfit, and that is just so.
Now, I am well aware of the fact that the biggest selling point of Emily in Paris isn’t its realness, but still. The Sex and the City was created by the same director, Daren Starr, and the girls were also styled by the legendary Patricia Field, but at least Carrie was openly obsessing about her outfits while spending her retirement on them, and we loved her for her honesty.
Are we really supposed to believe she just threw this on and casually walked out? Mmmkay Emily.
“Ooh thank you, I just grabbed the first thing”
What I love about the stylists’ attitude was using the show as a platform to promote smaller local brands such as Polène Paris whose bags are seen on Emily in all of the three seasons, and on Camille in season one. This goes to show that a good brand should be able to provide an item for both Camile and Emily, and, between us, that says a lot.
Also, as a shopper of preloved clothes myself, I delighted in the fact that the stylists used some thrifted and vintage pieces in season three, according to William Abadie who plays Antoine Lambert. He called it a “sign of the times”, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for the sustainable direction the world seems to be moving in.
To wrap things up, by analyzing the styles of the three women, I understood just how good of a job the stylists of the show did. They were great judges of character, both literally and figuratively, and attentively chose the clothes that, if Camille, Sylvie and Emily were real people, would definitely wear. Even though the show’s plots are… to say the least uncomplicated, its fashion tells a different story.
Just how irritated people were by Emily’s style goes to show that the world does care about clothes, no matter how frivolous it may be made out to seem. And while we shouldn’t define ourselves by our outfits, we do use them to send out a message to the world about who we are.