There’s a lot wrong with Emily in Paris. By now, most of us are familiar with the show’s more troubling aspects: the retrograde notion that Emily’s boss simply can’t take her dream job in Paris because she’s pregnant; the rampant fatphobia and allusions to smoking instead of eating; the cartoonish depiction of French people en masse; the entirely uncalled for Lou Malnati’s diss! (Emily, how could you? A true Midwesterner knows Lou’s is the best, this Emily included.)
And then there’s the fashion. If I’m being honest (and appropriately melodramatic), it’s what bothered me the most. Many a screed has been written about Emily’s perplexing tastes: her earnest berets and Eiffel Tower prints, those five-inch stiletto boots, a seemingly endless cache of statement outerwear. (Exactly where is she storing all of these faux furs and holographic moto jackets?) It isn’t just that her clothes are “exquisitely tacky” or, in many cases, totally unprofessional; in our first glimpse of our protagonist, when she’s still Emily in Chicago, she’s wearing a teeny-tiny miniskirt in her corporate office.
What really strikes me is that Emily’s outfits don’t come close to reflecting how young women dress in 2020. (Before you fact-check me on the show’s ambiguous time frame, that “guerrilla fashion show” Emily stages was a spoof on Viktor & Rolf’s spring 2019 couture collection, which took place shortly before Netflix likely started filming. Vis-a-vis, we can assume this is modern-day.) Throughout the show, we’re repeatedly told that Emily is not chic and are even led to believe she doesn’t really care about fashion at all (lest you forget Sylvie’s devastating burn: “She has no references”).
Even if I level with Netflix and accept that she isn’t supposed to be good at this, Emily is still a savvy, observant woman and a demonstrated social butterfly. She wouldn’t just miss the nuances and shifts in how her friends and peers are dressing. A so-called social media expert, she’d likely spend a lot of time on Instagram, following parisienne mega-influencers like Jeanne Damas, Sabina Socol, and Laia Sfez. And as a press and marketing wunderkind, Emily would surely read her fair share of magazines and websites, and would probably rely on the Vogue Runway app to stay up-to-date on Paris fashion week.
All to say: She would have a pretty good handle on what (and who) is relevant right now. Yet her wardrobe is a mish-mash of unrecognizable, dated-looking clothes and outlandish accessories. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Paris, Chicago, or New York—you just don’t see women teetering around in stilettos these days. They’re more likely in sneakers, flat boots, or even Birkenstocks, styled with a slipdress and a wink. There’s a casualness and irony in the “look” of now, one you can glimpse in Emily’s French friend Camille: She pairs wide-leg jeans with boxy blazers or minidresses with lug-sole boots, and even in a party dress, she doesn’t look overdone. Camille’s style isn’t always incroyable, but it does feel tethered to reality.
It’s certainly possible that Darren Star and Patricia Field did all of this intentionally. But now that we know Emily in Paris is returning for a second season, we’re hoping for a more grounded, inspiring wardrobe for our perky protagonist, one that includes on-the-rise designers that young women are excited about right now and pieces you’d actually find in their closets.
Guillaume Henry’s reinvention of Patou comes to mind: His Provençal collars and puffed sleeves are fun, feminine, and right up Emily’s alley, but have a sense of practicality and ease. For the office, Emily might consider trading her miniskirts for relaxed suits and easy cotton dresses (styled with flats or low heels, not pointy booties), and she should definitely be wearing more Off-White, given her shared Chicago roots with designer Virgil Abloh. For her next cocktail party, one of Caroline Hu’s romantic, artfully ruched dresses would capture the romance Emily was going for with those massive tulle skirts. And if she’s going to invest in a four-figure designer bag, it should be one of Hedi Slimane’s chain-link cross-bodies at Celine. In fact, if money were no object, a more with-it Emily would probably want Celine’s entire spring 2021 collection. (If Emily in Paris can’t capture how young women are dressing these days, Slimane can.)
We can only hope this kind of style evolution has secretly been the plan all along. Star suggested Emily will come into her own in an interview with O: The Oprah Magazine: “In season two, she’s going to be more of a part of the fabric of the world she’s living in. She’ll be more of a resident of the city. She’ll have her feet on the ground a little more. She’s making a life there.”
Here, we’ve rounded up 15 looks Emily should consider for season deux.
There is entirely not enough denim in this show to make me believe it was filmed in this decade. Emily needs to find herself some vintage jeans, then should style them along the lines of these quirky, high-low looks by Valentino, Celine, and Paco Rabanne.
Instead of her micro-miniskirts and clashing blouses, Emily should opt for easier (yet equally pretty and whimsical) day dresses, like these by Patou, Chloé, and Rachel Comey.
Another smart option for work: a relaxed suit, like Off-White’s drapey cream version, Jacquemus’s youthful shorts suit, or Christopher John Rogers’s top-stitched ivory tailoring.
We know our girl Emily loves a statement coat. For season two, she should invest in Bottega Veneta’s lilac shearling, Marni’s painterly topcoat, or Stella McCartney’s upcycled faux fur.
Emily’s giant tulle skirts make a statement, but they aren’t exactly practical. Caroline Hu’s ruched lace dress feels a lot more modern, ditto Molly Goddard’s crushed taffeta frock and Cecilie Bahnsen’s floaty, asymmetrical number.