Vicky Tiel’s Paris Journal “The New World Uniform”

Photo: Vicky Tiel

The total Paris look, a young lady coming out of Le Bon Marche department store a few months ago wearing “The New World Uniform” — black leggings. The accessories make her look new, chic, and totally French.

I’ll never forget the day in 1983 in Neiman Marcus/Beverly Hills couture department while fitting the Oscar nominees with my Parisien gowns when Shirlee Fonda entered the store. She walked across the main floor in skin-tight black stretch pants with a fitted striped Sonia Rykiel sweater and white tennis shoes without socks. The entire store gasped. No one had ever entered Neiman’s wearing gym clothes, let alone “skintight – you can see everything” pants in public.

The world was never the same. Jane Fonda with her famous exercise tape “Original Workout“ in 1982, and then the following year in 1983 joined by stepmom Shirlee Fonda, created what I call “The New World Uniform” – black ballet tights worn as actual “clothes.”

After the gym, chic women always changed into elegant suits (the 80’s trend) and many even wore hats. (think Dynasty). Shirlee took me to lunch in Beverly Hills wearing black leggings as a day outfit. No woman had worn leggings on the streets of Beverly Hills much less to Spago’s!

Paris streets last fall full of stretch pants men and women
Photo: Vicky Tiel

I have written in my last book, “The Absolute Woman It’s All About Feminine Power” , that the entire Planet Earth now has a single uniform for the first time since humans wore furs as cavemen. It’s the stretch pant, especially the BLACK STRETCH-PANT, called leggings or yoga pants and even men have succumbed to wearing the tightest possible pants ( called meggings) to show off their body parts and their pants are often black so when you look at the chic city streets you mostly see black legs moving.

Vicky’s spot Atlas Cafe on Rue de Buci, Paris 6.

As a designer following the trends (often to avoid them and create something new) I will sit and “people watch”. I have my preferred seated spots to follow fashion and have always sat about an hour in my favorite fashion lookouts. In Paris, it’s The Cafe Flore, La Palette and of course my local dinner restaurant The Atlas on Rue de Buci. Recently, I will sit and count 20 women ages 5 to 80 walking bye. Five years ago it was 12 out of 20 women wearing leggings. Today is 16 out of20 in leggings.

Men in “Meggings.”
Photo: Vicky Tiel

In London, I sit at Heathrow Airport and in New York on a bench at First Ave near the United Nations looking for an international crowd. These days the numbers at both locations are the same — roughly 16 out of 20 leggings and just one skirt. Two years ago before the full pant came in (thanks to Billie Eilish) the number of leggings was 18 out of 20 with black the most popular color followed by blue.

Photo: Vicky Tiel

Ladies with Bon Marche bags going to the Cafe Flore

The French puff pant and top with a saying.
Photo: Vicky Tiel

The Billie Eilish “full clothes” influence has added a pant puff with a gathered ankle and a knit cuff and the latest pant in Paris is generally worn with a “saying” T-shirt. Today it’s about women’s power, the coming holidays, and the word HAPPY printed on shirts in big letters.

With the emphasis on leggings worn with tshirt tops the COAT IS THE MAIN PURCHASE FOR 2020.

Furs are out, even faux fur and the main coat is tailored, classic either very masculine, often very long even to the ankle or very childish, mid-thigh ( more Billie Eilish), very fluffy, very quirky. QUIRKY CAN BECOME THE NEW NORMAL as I am wearing full clothes like Billie for the first time since I was pregnant.

Will the glamour fashion of the past ever return? Will couture return? I don’t think so and it was my life for 55 years. We, humans, are moving on to a digital world. An avatar on a digital wall in our “dressing room /closet” will spray on our stretch pants in the BRAVE NEW WORLD.

THE FASHION WORLD HAS CHANGED AND HOW WE SHOP HAS CHANGED. In 1985 I had 300 French couture dresses selling at once in America from Neiman’s to Bergdorf’s. Shirlee Fonda had the largest collection of mine about 180 pieces. Today there are over 300 Vicky Tiel dresses online to buy on multiple sites starting with 1stdibs. The prices are minuscule and I can not imagine selling $5000 dresses like crazy again. I took up selling my products in quantity on HSN and I took up writing.

I live to sell my designs and I started selling dresses at 12 growing up in Chevy Chase Md. If I was that 12 years old today I would be online making fashion product that you can buy with your personal avatar online to try on the clothes before you pay.

Today there is lockdown but when we can shop again most women will not want to relive the past. The time we are living in now highlights in our memories those crazy days when we spent $4000 on a handbag and didn’t really need it, but remind us of what is important – love and toilet paper.

Can I keep toilet paper?

Vicky Tiel

Vicky Tiel is an American born French couturier designing since 1964, when she went to Paris with her partner, Mia Fonssagrives. They created a storm with their miniskirts, hot pants and jumpsuits. Vicky did the costumes for 15 films and in 1975 she sold couture to Henri Bendel’s and 45 leading shops In 2011 she joined HSN TV, wrote her first book “Its All About the Dress” and has written a second book “The Absolute Woman It’s All About Feminine Power” which she recently launched on HSN.

1 Comment
  1. Always ahead of the trend, these comments also make so much sense. Fashion — like life — will be reshuffled and reconfigured. Thanks for the photos from Paris and insight from a legend.

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