'Emily in Paris' Season 3 Fashion Recap
Emily is an Old Celine-wearing fashion person’s street style nightmare.
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The media discourse surrounding Netflix show Emily in Paris seems disconnected from real-world discourse. If you got all of your Emily in Paris information from the New York Times, you’d be under the impression that all real Americans in Paris deeply resent Emily, that the word all real Parisians choose for it is “ridicule,” and that real viewers in this country consider themselves “hostages” who “cannot in all honesty call [themselves] ‘fans.’” I’d read the sneering coverage when I tuned in during my second maternity leave around two years ago. The show didn’t take at the time and I left Emily for a while owing to sheer busy-ness. But I was happy to return to it after around five people I consider close told me that it’s the one guilty pleasure show they watch and really, genuinely just like a whole lot. Plus, many of you who read Back Row watch it, too.
One person who told me she loved it was a mom who cares for her three kids all day, works after they go to bed, and only watches TV when she’s up in the middle of the night nursing her baby. What surprises me is not that she picked Emily in Paris to watch, but that she wasn’t able to find any other shows that were just, as she put it, “light.” (Obviously I suggested she get into HBO Max’s Hacks, but if she’s not finding out about these shows otherwise, marketing is failing.)
After finishing all three seasons as quickly as I could, I get the appeal. Is it challenging? Of course not. It won’t make you contemplate world issues or societal inequity (well, maybe a little bit if you think too hard about Emily’s wardrobe which, according to one estimate, would cost around $155,000 a year). You can carry on three separate text conversations at once while watching it. Hell, you can turn away from the screen, make a mug cake from scratch, and then settle back in without missing an iota of plot.
I get why critics don’t like it. It has characters, not character development. It can be so obvious that the Eiffel Tower is the backdrop to a quantifiable percentage of the action. It’s a new Sex and the City but not really presenting the women characters on the screen in a surprisingly progressive way (the shows share a creator in Darren Star). It’s just good-looking people living in Paris, having minor dramas, making out, and wearing glamorous, entertainingly tacky clothes.
Critics don’t give the show enough credit for its commentary on the fashion industry and influencer culture — which is incredibly on-point! If the show was made right after Sex and the City ended in 2004, Emily would be working at a fashion magazine. Instead, it’s the 2020s, and the dream industry for nice, hardworking girls from the Midwest is… luxury marketing. (I actually think this is one thing that turns East Coast media people off the show — it’s a reminder that our industry is dissolving before our eyes like an Alka-Seltzer tablet.)
Emily applies her social media skills and advanced degree to a job at her company’s Paris office with American earnestness that endlessly annoys her chic French boss Sylvie. Emily somehow slays (a very Emily in Paris word) every campaign she touches, be it for couture or leeks. In season one, she goes to an influencer lunch, wearing both a hat and a silk neck scarf, where she gets a smaller gift bag than a golden retriever with more followers. If the writers wanted, they could have concussed her on one of the dozens of selfie sticks in the room. But this is light entertainment so the climax of the scene is her impressing the brand hosting the party by plucking a strawberry off the decorative strawberry bush wall (instead of a flower wall) and biting into it for a selfie video.
The mental energy one expends watching Emily in Paris mostly goes toward the fashion. Emily has never met a print or metallic boot or statement sleeve or fingerless glove or uncomfortable shoe she didn’t like, and her friends Camille and Mindy are the exact same way. Viewers possessing even the slightest hint of a fantasy about dressing up for work like an influencer going to fashion week instead of the average office woman now wearing a silk blouse and sweatpants for the day’s Zooms will find that Emily in Paris sure scratches a certain itch.
If you noticed an evolution in the show’s clothes in season three, that may be because this was the first time costume designer Marilyn Fitoussi had full oversight of the styling. She worked alongside Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field in season one, while Field served as a consultant on season two, per Fashionista. In season three, we see Emily evolve from the Chanel costume jewelry-wearing newbie she was the first time she stepped in French dog shit to a girl with boss-vibes statement jackets and — play dramatic music in your head — bangs. (Mindy calls them “trauma bangs.” Again: this show can be on-point!)
Fitoussi told Fashionista she worked with a lot of independent French labels this season. Whereas Sex and the City was flashing Fendi baguettes and Birkins, less identifiable pieces may make Emily in Paris’s clothes feel attainably aspirational to some young people. At least, I have no other way to explain the diarrhea of “shop the Emily in Paris looks” posts across the internet, where websites suggest exact copies or dupes of the show’s crazy clothes. Google is in on the racket too — search “green emily in paris boots” and the shopping ads will positively accost you. Who even knew there were so many green boots on the market?
Here, a look at the outfits that worked the hardest in season three. Harder, even, than a work-addicted American like Emily Cooper.
Emily is an Old Celine-wearing fashion person’s street style nightmare. The word that most aptly describes her personality is PLUCKY, and I’d apply that to her clothes, too. However, this is the perfect look for a TV character who does things like hit the flower market so she can Instagram her face next to bouquet. She is as earnest and devoid of cynicism as one would have to be to wear this:
She wears things that would embarrass most people, like the below zebra blouse with wings. This top actually appeared on the runway in Dolce & Gabbana’s spring 2022 show. Maybe if she flaps her arms, the top transports her across the venue where she can have her next meet-cute with one of Paris’s wealthiest and most influential people, all of whom somehow become a significant part Emily’s life basically as soon as she steps off the plane.
But Lily Collins truly plays Emily with aplomb! So much so that you can watch the show and not really think about how Emily manages to wear this stuff without any other character looking twice at it or commenting on it. She’s also one of the few women brave enough to attempt and pull off a variety of trends that seemingly only exist on the runway, like statement boobs.
Or dangerously high shoes when a flat espadrille would be absolutely lovely and appropriate. On gravel, at that — as though she has some sort of death wish.
Or these knee-high socks serving 90s Lisa Frank stationary vibes.
The only wardrobe crazier than Emily’s on television right now, is that of her best friend Mindy.
Emily’s look above is downright tame compared to Mindy’s, whose top appears to be an amalgamation of two bows. Paired with two-toned short shorts and pink knee-high boots that appear to be croc, her vibe is very much “put one more thing on before you leave the house.” In season three, her cutout game stepped up a lot. Like, as much as Tom Brady wishes his game had before he had to retire.
Mindy’s blossoming music career means we get to see her performance looks, which aren’t that ramped up from her regular looks. (How smart of the writers to make her a singer and work in an excuse for pop music performances at regular intervals — these people really get that TikTok is just a phone grab away.) If the average person leaves the house with their fashion dial turned up to 30 percent, Mindy leaves with hers at 140 percent, and when she performs it’s at 180 percent.
Her “I’m arriving glamorously late in my boyfriend’s helicopter” look was a perfect end to the season. Who dresses like this for a helicopter ride who is not J Lo? This girl.
Let’s get something out of the way because I know we’ll all agree: Sylvie is the best character on the show. She has the best clothes and the best attitude. She doesn’t walk, she sashays, and she makes it known she is sashaying because she always has her forearm out with a bent wrist and looks like she’s stomping out a cigarette every time she takes a step.
Though Sylvie’s clothes appear chic because they are understated, they are actually understated in comparison to Emily and would probably look much more maximalist in the real world.
That said, everyone watching this show who is shocked at the number of Google shopping results for “emily in paris green boots” will surely appreciate Sylvie’s approach to prints and jewelry, which she wears judiciously. Her clothes are the perfect combination of sexy, statement-making, and unfussy. Her look is less #girlboss trying to justify her place in her glamorous milieu than simply THE BOSS, no hashtag necessary.
The show doesn’t make a Whole Thing of her clothes the way it does with the younger characters. It also doesn’t make a Whole Thing of how intimidating she is, which is refreshing after The Devil Wears Prada canonized the idea that if a woman boss is intimidating it must define her at the expense of all else. I adore The Devil Wears Prada but I do not like the idea that a woman boss is so often a [insert synonym of “scary” here] instead of just a boss the way men are.
This is a side note to the clothes, but I wish Sylvie spent more time working from home because I could look at her apartment all day. If it were a food it would be one of those perfect eclairs or croissants you can only find in France that you tell your friends about for the rest of your life.
Madeline may be the most astutely attired. I can’t get over how the costume department made her look so perfectly tacky and American, right down to the puffy half ponytail. If Sylvie is a Parisian bakery croissant, Madeline is the packaged loaf of Panera bread on the shelf at a supermarket.
She is over-accessorized and overdressed in every scene, not in the “I can’t believe she’s making that work” way that Emily is, but more in a “didn’t we move on from waist belts and platform pumps in 2009” kind of way.
Whoever picked out her pitch-perfect brightly colored water bottles deserves an immediate Emmy.
One place the prop department screwed up, however, is with the cinderblock-sized binder she carries out of HQ. Madeline just had a baby and seems to be in her thirties? Maybe early forties? Anna Wintour is in her seventies and goes home with a bag full of papers every night. But Madeline? This woman is going home with a croc-embossed laptop backpack that has a side pocket for her water bottle.
What do you think of the clothes on Emily in Paris? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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