Mary Bly on Her New Memoir, 'Paris in Love'

The author tells us what she learned about France, food, fashion and family

by Lesley Kennedy • MORE.com Reporter
mary bly image
Mary Bly (Eloisa James) writes of family, food and fashion in her memoir, "Paris in Love."
Photograph: Photo courtesy of Bryan Derballa

MORE: You write a lot about food.
MB: Yeah, well, I challenge you to go live in Paris and not have food become one of the most important things to you. They love food, they think about food, they talk about food all the time. Now, I’ve been back in New York for a year and a half [the family now lives in New York] and I honestly have no problem with my weight here. Food is fine here, it‘s great. I have a rice bowl for lunch, a salad, and it’s all good and that’s what it is. But when you’re in Paris, they think about food in a very different way. They eat meals literally for three or four hours, and that was a very interesting experience to be part of . . . If you’re at a dinner party—and I went to a number of dinner parties in Paris—it’s going to be four to five hours and there are going to be numerous courses and a tremendous amount of conversation and talking about the food. They savor food, they see it not as something that gets you through the day or something that you use or abuse or restrict yourself from.

MORE: All that eating caught up with you, and you write that your jeans soon got tight.
MB: I found myself outgrowing my clothes, and I haven’t been someone who has had a lot of weight problems in my life . . . so it was kind of a shock. It was an eye opener. Yeah, I’d been eating all that crème fraîche and all this chocolate . . . I didn’t have a scale or anything, but then I was like, “Oh my God, look at this! I can’t get into my pants!” . . . Because I was 47, I was thinking, oh, this is probably my metabolism going down the toilet, and I was ignoring the fact that I was eating, basically, heavy cream in huge amounts every day. So what I did was, I kept eating, we kept going out to restaurants, but I just started eating less of whatever it was. But I kept ordering chocolate. It took a while, but by the spring I was back to normal.

MORE: There are several fashion moments in the book where you pledge to dress better. What did you learn about Parisian chic?
MB: I was coming up on turning 50 years old—I turned 50 in January—and I wanted to be a 50-year-old more in line with a French woman than where I was heading, which was kind of unkempt. French women are very comfortable with themselves, very comfortable with their bodies—and as I said in the book, they come in all sizes. They’re very comfortable with celebrating the parts of their bodies that they like and making sure that the clothes fit their particular type of body so as to flatter it. I thought that was a great lesson to learn and I really tried to follow that. Another thing I learned there was just not buying very many clothes . . . When I buy something, I go to a store where I know the clothes are going to fit me and then I have them tailored right there. It’s a different way of thinking about clothes than just, let’s go shopping. Although I still say let’s go shopping when it comes to shoes.

MORE: You write it’s not that all French women are thin, it’s that French women dress thin.
MB: Yeah. They’re not afraid of belts, for one thing. Older women in particular in America are really afraid of belts. And they’re not afraid of skirts. They wear a skirt and then they just wear them with black boots . . . You don’t want to be 50 and suddenly wearing miniskirts, by any means, but they have their pencil skirts, and then they have their skirts that are more comfortable and allow you to feel elegant and put together. I do think putting on a skirt and a pair of boots and a belt and a scarf can be a great thing.

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