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Your guide to spring style abroad

Look chic this spring with style tips from London, Paris and Rome

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Think of London fashion and two Kates come to mind: Kate Middleton in a dress and mid-heeled pumps; and an artfully dishevelled Kate Moss, a coveted “It” bag dangling from her arm.


Kate Middleton’s well-bred preppy style has charmed the media and the masses-and sent fans swarming stores and e-commerce sites to snatch up her favourites like L.K. Bennett pumps, or her blue Issa engagement photo dress. “Kate’s style has a massive influence,” says Polly Vernon, editor-at-large for U.K. fashion magazine Grazia. “Her clothes, most notably from affordable Brit labels Reiss and Whistles, consistently sell out.” And classic British pieces are again fashionable, although fascinators are still for royal affairs only.


Then there’s paparazzi magnet Pippa, navigating London’s streets in skinny jeans or demure knee-length shift dresses, with perhaps a red Prada bag thrown in for punch. It’ll be interesting to see what the sisters will be sporting from the sidelines at the Olympics.


Kate Moss is the high priestess of the fashion mix, combining functional items (like the Hunter wellington boots she casually wore with a minidress to the Glastonbury rock festival in 2005) with designer pieces and more mainstream, or “high street,” finds. And she sexed up the venerable Burberry trench coat. (One of her style heirs could be MTV host and Chanel ambassador Alexa Chung, who wears Peter Pan collars and oxfords so artfully that they instantly become covetable.)


Former Torontonian Afsun Qureshi-Smith, a London-based writer at, says her London must-haves start with “a pashmina-essential for London weather,” and a pair of stylish cropped boots for walking everywhere. Any bling-free satchel is right on-trend here, but the cult bags are British brand Mulberry or a Balenciaga City “in a pop of
colour to offset all the black and grey” of London, says Qureshi-Smith.


Bridget Jones, the fictional patron saint of singletons everywhere, also has a style that endures. When London girls hit the wine bars and pubs after work, many have Bridget’s good-girl-gone-sexy look of heels, pencil skirt and a camisole peeking out from a snug cardie.


As for beauty, Kate and Pippa have boosted the popularity of well-tended, and most definitely dark brown, locks. Kate famously did her own makeup for her wedding, with defined eyes, sheer pink lips and healthy flushed skin. Throw in nails polished in a trendy shade, and it’s a look that says London.

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True Paris cool is not about scoring the latest trendy item, but adding carefully chosen pieces to the cherished items you’ve had and worn forever.


Outdoor café chairs in Paris are arranged facing the street, thus allowing patrons to better watch (and mercilessly evaluate) the passing fashion parade while sipping café crème. Montreal transplant Laura Lovasik, who moved to Paris two years ago to work for L’Oréal Paris in media relations, learned this quickly. “The week I arrived, one morning I wore my pyjama bottoms and a long coat for a quick trip to my local boulangerie. The looks I received ranged from pity to disgust.”


While we’re hitting the mall in Canada for that next great thing, Parisians are hunting down trim blazers (navy or black), well-fitting jeans, the elusive perfect neutral T-shirt in a soft drapey fabric, and expensive shoes (by Lanvin, Repetto or Roger Vivier). The bag? A bit beat up and well-loved. In her book, Parisian Chic, style icon and model Ines De la Fressange touts the brilliance of simple navy cashmere sweaters that she wears with black pants and heels for a very Yves St.Laurent colour combination, or more casually with ankle-cropped white jeans and flats.


A Parisian’s innate ability to create multiple looks from a small wardrobe can confound the uninitiated. It’s the accessories that put a personal stamp on everything a Parisian woman wears-a treasured pendant from Grand-mère on her 16th birthday, or a Moroccan leather bracelet bought on holiday. And Parisians always have a scarf close at hand, even during spring and summer. An expensive silk Hermès carré is lovely, but a vibrant, lightweight printed scarf made of cotton or silk that was picked up at an ethnic market makes a much more personal statement.


When Lovasik started working in Paris, she learned some other key facts about Paris-versus-Montreal fashion. “For my professional role, I had stocked up on office wear like skirts and pantsuits,” she recounts. “I wore them once or twice, but quickly realized that loose feminine dresses with a pair of bottines [booties] were the way to go.”


A Parisian’s beauty bag is rather light. She has a disciplined skincare regimen and eschews foundation. She might wear a vivid red lipstick for a colour hit with her neutral wardrobe. Eyes get a hint of mascara and a smudge of eyeliner. Hair is slightly wild but has shine-nothing too “done.”

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Sophia Loren once said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” This la dolce vita (the sweet life) attitude shows up everywhere – in cooking, fashion and life.


A modern Italian style icon who carries that dolce vita DNA is actress Monica Bellucci, who played the sultry Persephone in the Matrix movies, and whose womanly figure and soulful dark eyes are reminiscent of the legendary Loren.


Romans live in public, and get dressed up each day for being out and about in their beautiful city. Perhaps it’s an ingrained habit reaching back as far as ancient Rome, when the carefully codified public display of one’s rank (long togas: wealthy; short tunic: slave) was essential to one’s ability to move through society. “For a Roman, looking good is paramount,” says Marilisa Racco, an author and a fashion and beauty journalist who shuttles between Toronto and Rome.


In the Eternal City, you’ll see plenty of girls on Vespas in skirts, their long hair flying in the wind. But Casual Friday? Never. “You won’t see Roman women wearing shorts,” Racco states firmly. “Shorts are resort wear and are worn only in beach towns.” An easy summer city look for Roman women, she observes, is relaxed,cuffed jeans or trousers, a loose floaty top and wedge sandals-but never athletic sneakers. When Italians need comfortable walking shoes, they’ll find ones with a designer label, asserts Racco.


Roman women adore luxury, from enveloping themselves in a bold signature fragrance-one that lingers-to wearing branded items. For bags, both Fendi and Gucci hit the mark as enduring leather brands whose items all sport proudly oversized, bold logos and hardware.


The women of Rome also don’t let jewellery languish in a drawer. They wear either a lot of rings, or a lot of bracelets-multiples for impact, says Racco. Yellow gold can be mixed with white gold or silver because Romans don’t worry about mixing metals. A pair of logo’d sunglasses (like D&G or Persol) are the finishing touch when sitting on the Spanish Steps enjoying a gelato and a spot of alfresco people-watching.


As far as what’s in their cosmetic bags, Roman women are big on bronzer, nude or pink sheer lip gloss, pale pearlescent pink nail polish, and a defined eye-courtesy of a lengthening mascara and a sweep of dark eyeshadow close to the lash line. Molto bella.


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