As a partially irrational, wholly self-indulgent 19-year-old college girl, I know a thing or two about romanticizing people, places and ideas. When I stumbled upon My Paris Dream, Kate Betts’ enchanting memoir of the post-collegiate Parisian caper that eventually catapulted her fashion career, my annual summer malaise went into overdrive — you can only watch Midnight in Paris,” live-stream haute couture shows and eat TeaHaus macaroons so many times before you’re hankering for the real thing. Betts’ storied soirée along the Seine accelerated my own, unoriginal Paris dreams.

As the winter semester died down, I opted to spend my impending summer in Ann Arbor. I figured I could conquer my nasty Natural Science credits, save up (to buy overpriced Fall footwear, probably) and edit the collective lovechild that is Daily Arts. And then, just as I’d felt live streaming the recent Valentino haute couture show, the FOMO ran deep, because deep in the soul a palm reader once told me I had, I felt as if I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. In that particular case, I needed to be in Rome’s Piazza Mignanelli, admiring the label’s extensive history rendered even richer by the collection’s Neapolitan pastels and marine motifs. Yet in the greater scheme of my Francophile existence, I was desperate for the experiences I’ve never had, the culture I’ve never explored, the learning my sartorial psyche has yet to absorb … I longed for the Champs Élysées. Sorry, Main Street.

I started alternating my stalk sessions between Facebook and Instagram, primarily those of my University acquaintances who were living out not only my Paris dream, but also my deep reveries of Rome, Barcelona and London during their spring study abroads.

And by the time I realized the seasonal wheels were in motion and I didn’t have enough cash to swing international travel (i.e. I spent too many paychecks on beaucoup de vin et fromage), I did the next best thing and bided my time with what I now refer to as the “non-annoying ‘Eat Pray Love’-esque fantasy”; I picked up Betts’ memoir — a petite gout de Paris.

As I tore through the pages, engrossing myself in the international exposures I’ve yet to experience, my subconscious surrendered to exhaustive wanderlust, (Case #1: maybe I didn’t actually need highlights and the faintly orange tint of Jergen’s, I just yearned for the sun-kissed cascades and bronzed glow that only a Brittany beach can provide). Betts painted the picture of the holiday I’ve always wanted — one of plenty of croissants and French lovers, but primarily a fortuitous string of events leading to an impressive fashion resume … and besides, like her, “I was (am) in love with fashion and culture, specifically French culture.”

Her story begins with her graduation from Princeton in 1985, a time when her aspirations didn’t match up to the trite realities of her college companions. As a history buff, she toyed with the possibility of war correspondence, but was ultimately disconcerted with her future. She had no desire to rush into entry-level positions at advertising firms like J. Walter Thompson and rather opted for the extended education of a Français foray. The memoir opens with a wistful retrospective of her primary exposure to the city a few years back — how she was moved in ways she couldn’t comprehend, high off of delusions of glamour and grandeur. She yearns for that potent je ne sais quois she knows she can’t find elsewhere. And so, as I wish I could, she flees to France.

She spends her days on the narrow streets, surveying the inherent chicness of the elusive Parisiennes, with panoptic nightly studies of the culture’s nuances, slang and mannerisms through the lens of her homestay family, the Deschamps — Bibiane and her husband Antoine, and their two enfants — Maxime and Guillemette. Yet perhaps the cocktail hour of gossip with Bibiane’s girlfriends is the most intriguing segment of her education.

Aside from the fact that any mention of careers or ennui of one’s daily minutia is absolutely off the table for discussion, the women possess an intoxicating allure that Betts’ can’t ignore. They’re walking hallmarks of stylish simplicity — fresh faced with a slash of red lipstick, dressed in perfectly tailored separates, sporting un-fussed coifs and topped off with minimal to no accessories — France’s quintessential, effortlessly chic breed of women.

I so desperately wanted to find a feminine, Française icon to guide me in my never-ending quest of stylish pursuits. But after a decent hour into the search, I knew it was far fetched.

And as I dwell on the minute details of my daily strolls along Main Street, I can’t help but recall the otherworldly, yet shockingly simple fashions I see each day. Sure I’ll return home to reread a chapter of Betts’ tale, transporting myself into a realm of chicness, class and champagne I can’t help but covet; but I take her tokens of truth and find my dreams of Paris in the stylish absurdism of the brazen Ann Arborites. I may not always have Paris, but for now, I have my quirky counterparts. 

Filips is desperately searching for Parisian boys. Hit her up at carofil@umich.edu.

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