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Dear friends,

There’s nothing like a walk down any street, boulevard, or avenue in Paris to teach you that everything you thought you knew about dressing yourself is wrong.

This seems especially to be an issue for Americans. We, as a nation, have a long-standing tradition of arriving in Paris and finding that we suddenly long for personal transformations: professional, cultural, sartorial.

On my previous visits as a tourist, I was astonished by the ability of the average citizen to look like a million euros at any moment of any day in any season.

You can summon my Parisian friends with forty seconds’ notice for a picnic, window shopping, or a night at the opera and they will show up dressed as though they’d been waiting for your call already decked out in absolutely the very thing you want to be seen in for a picnic, window shopping, or a night at the opera.

Meanwhile, I was spending at least two hours each day getting dressed and still felt either like a gift-wrapped Rococo porcelain pig (too much) or a bipedal basket of dirty laundry (not enough).

Unless you are possessed of unshakeable self-confidence (in which case: good for you, sweetie, here’s your medal) this is especially tough on the ego in Paris, because stepping out your door in Paris means stepping onto a stage with an audience of thousands.

The city was transformed (painfully, expensively) in the nineteenth century to make it the most modern, elegant capital in the world. The new boulevards, with their long vistas and wide sidewalks, became ideal places to see and be seen. Ditto the parks and squares, the cafés, and even the indoor public spaces like museums, department stores, and theaters.

And because most of us here live in shockingly tiny apartments, daily life has to happen largely in public, all the year round. (If you can seat five people in your Paris living room: good for you, sweetie, here’s your medal.) 

I became determined, through careful observation and shameless imitation, to crack the code and fix myself up. This is more difficult than you might think.

Because here’s the thing. It’s not as though all Parisians dress alike. There are types here, as in any city. You have your breathtakingly rich people, your middling sorts, your bohemians, your rich people pretending to be bohemians, the ultra-fashionable and the people who really, truly do not appear to give a damn about fashion. And yet they all, in their own way, make it work.

Also, please don’t think that Parisians get all dolled up every day. They don’t. A lot of what Americans think they know about Paris style comes from watching Funny Face, that 1950s musical in which Audrey Hepburn is, improbably, a frump from New York who comes to Paris and, even more improbably, falls in love with Fred Astaire.

Audrey and Fred have moved on, and so has Paris.

Take the matter of sneakers. I’ve seen so many warnings online that if you’re American and heading to Paris, for heaven’s sake don’t wear your sneakers. Because no self-respecting Parisian would be seen on the street in sneakers! 

It’s just not true. It may have been so once; but now sneakers (albeit, generally up-market sneakers kept in immaculate condition) are extremely common and utterly à la mode.

So, if it’s not about dressing alike or dressing fancy … what’s going on?

I can’t say I have it all figured out, but here’s one thing I’ve noticed.

The famously “effortless” chic of Paris is not at all effortless. It results in part, I am convinced, from all the people-watching. Behind the famously blasé facial expression is a French brain lit up like the Champs-Elysées, analyzing clothes that pass by. What works … what doesn’t work … would that hat work on me … where can I find that coat …

Over time, the constant observation of a dazzling amount of input leads to a finely-tuned sense of what sort of clothes will make you, yourself, happy in your own skin. It’s almost never about spotting the latest handbag and then rushing to get it. It’s more about realizing that when your trousers are a certain length and you pair them with this kind of shoe, you feel a little bit like a superhero. And that makes it so much easier to stand your ground while you fight with the clerk at the post office until they grudgingly hand over the package that’s been sent to you.

My first useful observation, my first baby step into dressing more comfortably in the city, was that a solid outfit often has one–but just one–thing that stands out and makes it sing.


Most clothes here aren’t flashy. In fact, sketching things that I’ve seen, then reviewing them later, has shown me that usually all the elements in a great outfit (hat, scarf, coat, shirt, pants/skirt, shoes) will be on the quiet side. But one of them, just one, will make you stop and look. The pants will have an amazing print while all the rest is solid, or the scarf will be brilliant silk when all the rest is mud-colored wool, or the hat capping an otherwise unremarkable ensemble will say HEY WOW MON DIEU I AM QUITE ZEE HAT, NON? 

Kiss My Mitts

I realized that I ought to revise my list of knitting projects. I needed to shuffle the order to immediately address my problem area: Accessories, subcategory Hands. Sweaters, of which I have plenty, could wait.

Twenty years in Chicago had led me to see hand coverings as survival gear, completely divorced from frivolous concepts like fashion. Or happiness. I didn’t care what I put on my hands, so long as I could still feel them by the time the bus arrived. 

Now, with winter coming on, I looked at my supply and realized my choice was between ugly ski gloves and uglier ski gloves. You know those supercute mittens that are fun to knit as holiday gifts? I didn’t have any, because those aren’t warm enough for Chicago. In fact, if you want to know if something is warm enough for Chicago, check to see if it’s supercute. If it’s supercute, it’s not warm enough for Chicago.

Paris is mild in comparison. It doesn’t snow very much. My heart leapt at the thought that I could finally knit and wear something I’d been longing for: fingerless mitts.

Riffling through my queue, I settled on a mitt pattern I’d never knit, but had photographed–in Paris. The pattern (“Twist in My Sobriety”) was written by a friend who owns a sweet yarn shop here, Les Tricoteurs Volants. I shot the original pattern photos in Père Lachaise Cemetery, and he gave me the pattern as a thank-you.

His were in a quiet grey. I knit mine in a vivid green that would make Paris stop and look. Most of my outerwear was on the plain side. I’d invested in a new, trimmer coat in brown corduroy, and I usually wear a brown Shetland tweed cap and brown leather shoes. 

They’re a quick knit, and fun. I had them ready for my first toodle around the garden of the Palais Royal after the early November chill hit. Sitting on a bench with a book in hand, I noticed a passing woman glance at my mitts and, in a flash, give them a near-imperceptible blink of approval.

It’s working.

More soon.



About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • I love the illustrations. I think you’re right, Parisian style isn’t effortless, but at the same time I don’t think they overthink it. And I’m sure some of the stylishness just comes from knowing you’re Parisian so must be innately stylish :-).

  • Such a fun read! Merci beaucoup!

  • This was a truly charming and uplifting way to start a new week. Bravo

    • Thank you for this truly delightful article! Please keep them coming as they light up my day!

  • I don’t know how you do it, Franklin, but every missive is better than the last (and the last was a very high bar, indeed). The sketches are wonderful!

    • Nailed it.

  • “If it’s supercute, it’s not warm enough for Chicago.”

    The absolute accuracy of this statement!

    • Ah yes, Detroiter here completely agreeing! You get all those cute, fashionable wool coats but end up wearing your down sleeping bag coat all winter. You can only wear fingerless mitts UNDER your real mittens. LOL!

    • Oh, but you’re wrong! I’m a lifelong Chicagoan. We just wear them in October and then again in April. Actually, I try not to wear my parka until Christmas, and I have fingerless mitts in the pocket of my lighter jacket, so I usually wear them into December, and then on those random days when 40 degrees Fahrenheit seems warm.

      • Like going to the U.S. south in the summer – need to keep warm in the air-conditioned meeting rooms!!

      • Very funny. And some of us occasionally need to wear them indoors during the winter.

        • And wear them at work because the rooms are so cold!

  • What a fun read! My strategy in Paris was to stick to my NYC all-black with a good scarf. If I ever get back, I’ll visit that store … I’ve downloaded the pattern for the mitts and will have a little giggle when I work on them!

  • Early morning smile! Thanks!

  • This was the perfect way to begin my day. Thank you, Franklin!

  • Enjoyable article, lovely illustrations. Well done. Bravissimo!

  • Mon Dieu!! Tres chic! Great illustrations! And those mitts are spot on. My climate is mostly uglier ski mitts

  • Fabulous and so true of Paris.

  • Merci! Votre écriture (et vos dessins) sont un trésor!

  • As we say here my neck of the ‘hood: You go! I like your ‘fit!

  • So good!!!! “If it’s supercute, it’s not warm enough for Chicago.” That just cracks me up: That reminds me of folks who would visit me in the S.F. Bay Area and had to buy a coat after a day or two. I tried to tell them.
    Thank you … I so needed your sharp and lovely wit this morning before heading into my public life.
    Namaste to you my dear man

    • So true! That’s why all those shops on the Wharf in SF sell so many sweatshirts. Many of which are still not warm enough worn by themselves. People persist in thinking “warm sunny beach” when they think of CA! Then they discover damp fog that penetrates the bones!

  • Merci beaucoup! What a delight on a grey Michigan Monday morning! The illustrations are inspirational, too!

  • So funny. We are having a very cold snap (for us) here in NOLA right now. I am having to wear mittens rather than fingerless mitts and I do feel frumpy. My bulky handknit mittens, while lovely, are just not nearly as sleek and interesting as all my fingerless mitts. Your piece reminded me a bit of David Lebovitz’ hilarious stories of taking out the trash in Paris after donning an appropriately macrame-ed scarf.
    I am thrilled that I get to go back to Paris through your writing but am hoping the time change does not deter you from continuing to teach occasionally in the states. I still refer to the handouts from your custom dog sweater class – the class was both quite enjoyable and super helpful! How is your dog – Roxanne if my memory is correct – enjoying Paris?

    • I still use the handouts from the pet knitting class too. I’ve mad many a colorful chic sweater for my dachshund who (despite my NYC habitual black) still likes to step out and about on “walkies”.

    • Just wanted to let you know – his sweet dog did not make the journey to Paris, she is in Chicago with friends.

      • Thank you for letting me know.

  • OMG… Franklin, I just love you and your writing! “If it’s super cute it’s just not warm enough for Chicago!” I know that all too well. Enjoy those vivid green hand warmers. I bet you’ve got other ideas for more. Orange, purple?

  • Yup – I once spent a couple hours in my Paris hotel room trying to make the gorgeous scarf I had just bought look as fabulous as the French do. Gave up!!

  • Ah Franklin, I enjoy your writing and channel. Those fingerless mitts are great, drawings too!
    It’s your observations and honesty that I liken to a fresh breath of air. A very attractive quality to have in this current time. Thank you. I appreciate it!

  • Great article about Paris life. Hope you write and illustrate others for us in the future:))

  • Reading this has been such a wonderful way to start the day. Thank you!

  • Thank you! I will think about this article every morning. Can I be Parisian today? No? Maybe tomorrow.

  • The drawings brought a smile to my face…deb

  • What a grand way to start my day by reading your delightful letter. Looking forward to many more.

  • I love reading your articles. They always make me smile!

  • So glad you’re finding your fit in the City of Lights. Love reading your new post I feel like I’m there with you. Keep them coming.

  • What a delightful read. Your sketches are amazing! You are building a Parisian life….and a stylish one at that!

  • Lovely read. Looking forward to more on how they dress so stylishly. ❤️

  • Yes, the Parisians are watching every little thing.

    On my most recent trip to Paris, I brought along my new, robin’s egg/sky blue Hunter raincoat. Lightweight- perfect for travel. Water repellant-perfect for late spring, intermittent rain weather. My traveling companions appreciated the fact that it was easy to spot in a sea of tan trench coats. I am giving it high points for functionality. I do not know if the French would give it any style points.

    I wore this raincoat to the Picasso Museum. After I showed my ticket and passed through the admissions gate, the guard came running after me. Madam, Madame…. I had one of those brief (silent), “What now? What have I done? I cannot possibly sort this out in French moments.” He was running after me to tell me that the price tag was hanging out of the back of my collar. I fixed it. He smiled.

  • Love the green, love the mitts. Best part is that all the sketches do, indeed, show some pulled together people – but the sketch of yourself looks best of all.

    • When I stop to consider it, I have always thought your sartorial choices and overall vibe that way are very Paris-worthy. Not much to change! Thanks for the fun article.

  • After so many trips, so many Parisians, so many articles, this is the first that comes close to nailing the “secret” to Parisian style. I am so happy to see you enjoying Paris. You might enjoy “How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City” by Joan DeJean.

  • Getting dressed to be seen? As an over forty-year-old woman, I have sunk into the sloppy comfort of being invisible. And quarantine has only exacerbated my sloth. But going out in public and dressing to be SEEN? Wow. I think I remember how to do that. I might even give it a try. This is the Pacific northwest and it’s February, so it’ll have to shed rain . . . .

  • Tres bon. Tres chic.

  • I love the articles which, of course made me thank about my choice of clothing. Thank you Franklin.

  • So fun! Brings back memories. From visits from the late sixties to the early 2000’s it seemed to me the Parisians had become less stylish/less intolerant/less “Parisian” as time has gone by. However, judging from your experience it appears that it is I, in fact, that no longer a “newbie”, had become more relaxed about my Parisian surroundings and less aware of how different I was (helped along by a more Paris-bought wardrobe). In other words, Franklin, it won’t be long before you can walk down the street feeling as Parisian as they come. Or at least impervious to critical stares. (It did come as a shock, though, that sneakers had become “normale.”).

  • I love, love your articles, Franklin! You add a brightness to my day. Thank you!

  • Another funny, enlightening letter with your wonderful illustrations. Thank you!

  • You’re the Bill Cunningham of Porte St. Denis! Keep up the good work cracking the code!

    • D’accord!

  • A Twist in My Sobriety, A must knit!

  • I survived four winters in Chicago and couldn’t agree more. Super cute does not get you a medal while waiting for the bus. Ankle length puffy coats with hoods, headbands and neck gaiters touching sunglasses are a must!

    Stay stylish Franklin, you are doing great!

  • So true! Love to read your life in Paris snippets.

  • I live in northern New England and the adage of ‘if it’s supercute it’s not warm enough for northern New England’ is also true. I’ve never made fingerless gloves – when would I wear them? Possibly in July if I’m out at 11pm, or early September if I plan to be outdoors for 10 minutes. I’m green with envy over your green fingerless gloves!

    • I recently knit a pair for a friend who works from home and couldn’t feel her fingers typing on some days.

    • Writing this from Canada, where I find fingerless gloves quite useful when worn appropriately. Besides transitional seasons, as noted, they can be employed as layering pieces: as accessories to your accessories, if you will. In other words, under a pair of mittens, so that when you need your fingers to tug on a zipper, fumble with a key, etc, your hands are not exposed, naked and vulnerable, in their entirety. Or, a looser pair of fingerless mittens can be layered over a pair of gloves that are almost, but not quite, warm enough. (This also allows you to exhibit that flash of colour and pattern in true Parisian style)

      • Yes! I live in New England and always wear my fingerless mitts, starting in Fall and then either over my gloves or under my mittens. They are so versatile!

  • The sketches are so great and mitts just fun. Is the mitt pattern available in English and do you sell you sketches???? Thank you for sharing your talent of wit and art.

    • Hello, and thank you! Yes indeed, Enrico’s pattern is available in English via Ravelry – look for “Twist in My Sobriety” by Les Tricoteurs Volants. I sell my drawings and designs in two places: Society6 ( which has prints and also other things like apparel, mugs, and bags; and on fabrics at Spoonflower ( Thanks for asking 🙂

  • I’ve never been to Paris but loved your article. The sketches were wonderful.

  • Superb!

  • I’m constantly wondering how I can pull my look together. I work from home now and it certainly is a departure from my former uniform of different colored wool pencil skirts, and wool sweaters. We’ve moved to a more rural area and I’ve even taken to wearing leggings in public. The trick is comfort and ease while still looking put together.

  • Pardon me, Franklin, but some clarification is needed. “If it’s supercute, it’s not warm enough for Chicago.” This is true in winter, but not in summer. In summer, your antiperspirant will fail the moment you step outside, making the supercute rather soggy. (How quickly the mild Parisian weather makes one forget!)

    • I was a tourist in Paris in August when most Parisians vacation. It was a week of weather over 30C or at least in the upper 80sF. I did a lot of people watching, especially on the Metro which was way hotter than the outdoors. I was impressed with how well-dressed so many were and amazed at how many( men and women) had voluminous scarves wrapped around the neck. I was melting away and could not imagine adding a scarf around my neck. Must be the Parisian sang froide.

  • Lovely thoughts! Thank you so much!

  • Ooooh la la!

  • putting on scarf to take trash out. Thanks for the cue. Please keep on

    • I know for a fact that I’ve taken the trash barrel out while wearing pajamas and robe. One of my favorite neighbors tells the story of chasing the garbage truck down the street, full trash bag in hand, wearing his pajamas, robe, and slippers.

      Clearly we are not Parisians!

  • Ahhh…another Monday Missive from Franklin. Let the week begin. Let me just say, you will always stand out in a crowd. ‘Great Style’ is written all over you, your photos and your illustrations.

  • I am like Gilda Radner who said,”I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.”

  • This is thrilling! What fun to have a hand-knit that perfectly accentuates your chosen vibe. As a Minnesotan, I am well familiar with the warm=ugly phenomena. Also, we just outfitted my daughter for her study abroad in Spain, and your comments here have me feeling like our attempt to Euro-fy her wardrobe were probably headed in the right direction.

  • Love this commentary on your observations. Looking forward to more.

  • I’m new to this site and would love to know how one may obtain this glorious fingerless mitt pattern. I really enjoyed reading your piece on dressing in Paris and will definitely be reading more of your pieces. Thank you!

  • When leaving Paris to go to Monet’s garden, It I was happy to wear my beret..

    • It snowed,

  • I have a college kid in Chicago. Wow, those winters! They have adjusted, and love the cold now, but it was tough the first year. So glad we got one of those long down coats, and I loaded them up with knits!

  • In my visits to Paris over the years, I’ve never quite cracked the code. One thing that hit me like a ton of brooches, though: Parisians wear their jewelry—and other nice things—daily, they don’t save it for special. I think one element of what Americans perceive as French chic or special stylishness is that they tend to wear clothes that fit well, they will tailor not just a jacket but a dress shirt or jeans. They will replace buttons with nicer ones.

  • Thanks Franklin…I’m already visualizing and rejecting all my wardrobe plans for a week in Paris in May. I may have to humbly accept being a frumpy American tourist, but first I’ll do my best to find one acceptable accessory…

  • Perfect mitts, Franklin! Such a great accent piece.

    I love dressing in black or navy, and having the one knit accessory in a pop color. I’m starting to think about wardrobe for Red Alder this month. Black and pop! Will miss seeing you there.

  • Merci, for the great letters from Paris, tres bon
    Your mitts are wonderful and I love the color, but I’m in Florida and it’s no mitts here, we have about 2 days each year when it’s cold enough for mitts let alone a sweater.
    Have you been to Maison La Sage, in Paris for a visit – a place where they make the most beautiful fabrics and decorations for the couture houses in Paris, mostly Tambour Embroidery. Took a class there several years ago and their archive is amazing. Another place you should visit in Paris is the shop of Lorina Balteanu – the most beautiful Tatting I have ever seen.

  • Adore the sketches ( and the advice!)

  • Franklin, how lovely to see your drawings again. The world seems better with them.

  • Alas, mon Cher, your comment about Chicago was all too true. Brrr!

  • I’m from Chicago and completely agree about the mittens. Someday I may live somewhere where fingerless mitts are reasonable options and not useless curiosities.

  • Send more updates please!

  • Hi Franklin! This resonated with me so much! On my first trip to Paris in the early 80s, I bought a large square scarf (sturdy rayon) from a corner street stand downtown…I’d seen so many women wearing similar items as shawls, head coverings, belts, cross body tucked in belt, etc…tossed it on with my black knit dress for dinner that night and I have been wearing it with everything ever since! It brings back such memories and gives me confidence too!

  • I loved this!! And it totally explained why, several March’s ago, I was stopped in the street in Paris by a woman who asked me, in French, what was going on (apparently a commercial was being filmed). I couldn’t figure out why a middle aged American was mistaken for French. And now I know! Black coat, black skirt, black boots, black gloves, bright pop art design, artsy type, rayon scarf twisted around my neck! Thank you Franklin! And enjoy your mitts, they’re great!

  • I love the green! What a beautiful color. I have the same problem with fingerless mitts. I’ve given away all the ones I’ve knitted. The only pair I have left still needs me to finish the last thumb. It’s been like that since January 2021.

  • It sounds like the key to the fashion code is to id/match one statement piece -be it an accessory or a foundation piece- to give the outfit that zing… that sets you apart in a smart fashionable way.

  • I can’t believe you didn’t mention the scarves. Everyone in Paris, especially in the winter, wears a perfectly styled scarf every time they leave la maison.

  • Loved your article and sketches
    Your comments about Paris reminded me of similar fashion styles in Northern Italy – Milan, Turin, Bologna. The French and Italians pull these incredible fashion looks together particularly scarves facilemente (Italian for easily).

  • A truly enjoyable and fun read! However – and here my lack of style shows – I absolutely don’t understand fingerless mitts. I mean, it isn’t my palm or back of my hand that gets cold. I have a bit of Raynaud’s Syndrome, and even gloves with fingers are often not enough, and I’ll pull my fingers into the palm of my handwear if necessary. Fingerless mitts are like wearing a visor when you need an insulated hood.

    • I’m right there with you! Although I do wear my fingerless mitts in the office once my fingertips get warm, it’s much easier to type that way!

  • “It’s more about realizing that when your trousers are a certain length and you pair them with this kind of shoe, you feel a little bit like a superhero.”

    Beautiful, funny, and (for me) wildly accurate. ❣️

  • I am a little behind in my reading this month, of course due to projects. I have to say Franklin I look forward to all your stories, and loved the sketches this time. Thank you for all you wonderful words.

  • Keep ‘‘em coming, Franklin!

  • I’m missing Paris dreadfully right now. Thanks! This was exquisite.

  • Great article and insight Franklin Although I have never been to Paris, from what I know, I agree that it’s the one defining piece that pops and makes the ensemble ❤️

  • A friend of mine has been living in Paris for the past five years so I have been MOST interested in her take on fashion and how the everyday Parisians dress. Less really is more, we’ve learned! But what we really want to know, Franklin, is how do Dolores’ fashion choices play out in Paris? 😀

  • Such a wonderful, fun read. It’s always a treat to see your posts. By the way, I actually got supercute really warm mittens in Minneapolis a few years ago at Ingebretsens (Scandinavian shop). Living in Atlanta, Georgia I only get to wear them when I am in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

  • I adore your observations, your wit, your spirit!

  • There is one kind of knitted and cute mitten that will work in Chicago, but they take FOREVER to knit! Norwegian mittens on size 000, with a tight pattern so they’re double layered from carrying the floats across the back…but to make it they have to be mostly wool. Since moving away from Chicago, I too have enjoyed wearing cuter mitts! Lol!

  • Haven’t enjoyed an article so much in ages. More, more, more, please!

  • Loved this article! Plus it took me back to a vacation in France with my cousin about 5 years ago. We found Les Tricoteurs Volant, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours there. Came out with some squishy and pretty souvenirs that helped make a great vacation even better.

  • Wonderful read! Thank you

  • I would love the pattern for those Parisan mitts. Any chance.

  • love it…the article, the humour,

  • Such warm, witty and wonderful words. And I need those bright green mitts!

  • Tout à fait exact, Monsieur!

  • Spot on !

  • I look forward to Franklin’s posts. This one made me smile and did not disappoint! Merci, Franklin!

  • Tres chic! You inspired me to cast on a pair for myself, in a multi tonal pumpkin color. I love that the thumb gusset is also in twisted rib.

  • I love your style, Franklin! YOU are Franklin, and your words and creations are enough, hooray! Thank you for sharing!

  • My parents traveled a lot and I would always end up with the mug or a cheap piece of jewelry. They were going to Paris and I asked my mother for an Hermes because there was a another mother in car pool line who had a different one each day. My father said that it was hysterical when she purchased my scarf because she wasn’t good with the currency but she knew it wasn’t the price of a mug and 30 years later, that scarf is still beautiful beyond words.

  • Beautiful I love the mitts and as always you had me laughing So for that You do get Ta-da the first ever Medal ️ of Laughter

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