This Blogger's Secrets To Styling Menswear Are Everything

Clelia Montali shows us how to #dresslikeawoman in 2017.

The light is warm, and particularly dewy on the morning I meet up with fashionista, Instagram darling, and overall menswear-master, Clelia Montali. We sit down for a café au lait at The Broken Arm, one of those concept stores in the Marais district that looks like it rolled right out of Kinfolk. We get to talking about our fashion, our winter-denial, our opinions on NYC versus Paris (the two hometowns she straddles), and what it means to #dresslikeawoman in 2017. 
“I feel a lot sexier in this,” she says of her outfit, which is an oversized suit with a pair of loafers. “When I first moved to Paris from New York two years ago, I had my bleach-blonde hair, I had the short dresses, the heels, the habit of wearing too much makeup – I was the typical American for a lot of people, I guess.”  
Montali's father is French and her mother is American. They both had untraditional careers (he was a photojournalist, and she was a ballerina) with off-the-clock hours, and their gumption and creativity has helped Montali in developing what she calls “a sense of aesthetic understanding.” She grew up in the concrete jungle of New York City, but Paris was her backyard playground. “I had always been coming back and forth between the two,” she says, “and then I came for an internship at an art gallery a few years ago just ended up staying.” Currently, Montali is interning at a major Parisian fashion house. 
It’s not that Montali is quick to condemn her old sense of style – it’s just that, for her, life in the City of Light put her on a path towards feeling more comfortable in her own skin via a “less is more” mantra. “If you feel fabulous in a full face of makeup and super high heels, that’s great,” she says, “there are endless ways to feel feminine. But I evolved, really matured, away [from that style] once I started taking notes on Parisian women... a lot of my friends here, for example, just have this effortless, understated style.” 
“What I love about the Frenchwoman is that she can go on a date in a turtleneck, and make that turtleneck seem like the most sensual thing ever. Her confidence and sex-appeal are something that come from her general outlook on life.” 
I chew on that statement for a second. I think about the Jeanne Damas-es, the Louise Foillons and countless other women in the French capital who all seem to be various reincarnations of Jane Birkin (who the French have taken in as one of their own and placed on a pedestal to be the Patron Saint of Nonchalant Seductiveness). It’s kinda true. “Incorporating simpler pieces and menswear, well, I think those no-fuss pieces are just a part of the French identity and lifestyle at this point,” she explains, “and that’s why I think my Instagram account and blog about my life here blossomed into this whole thing.” 
Montali was understandably shutter-happy when she moved to Paris, so much so that, one day, posting dreamy pictures of Haussmannian boulevards revealed itself as a means to create a name for herself in both the fashion and blogging spheres. “I kind of zeroed-in on my goals, in terms of content, and started engaging with other users and posting daily,” she says when I lean in and ask the secret to her success. “I really enjoy it, and it helped me realize I also want to work for myself one day.” 
Finally, we talk about the (metaphorical) GOP elephant in the room: Donald Trump. We’re both American women abroad, and I’m curious to know what she thinks of a man who with such didactic, archaic standards of what is and isn’t feminine. “You know what,” she says, looking down at the table, “I don’t waste too much of my energy on him. I don’t want to give him the gratification of taking up too much of my brain, if that makes sense. But I imagine that he just thinks every woman ought to be smiling in some pastel peplum dress.” 
The reality is, we agree, that “dressing like a woman” means dressing in a peplum dress, but it also means dressing in a pantsuit, a romper or a giant ball of paper maché. In other words, whatever you darn well please. “In terms of those who want to start incorporating more menswear into their looks,” she says. “I would say, yeah, invest in a solid blazer first. And just be natural. It’s all about confidence. At first I would look at things on the runway and think 'I can’t pull that off'.  But, surprise, you can. I’d say style an oversized blazer with a large pant and a loafer, or if you’re not comfortable yet with menswear, pair it with pointed-toe shoes and high-waisted jeans – and if you’re going out at night, just wear a silk camisole underneath it with some great jewelry.” 
As the clock ticks on, and the light fades further and further away from its Thomas Kinkade glory, I ask if she has any finals pearls of wisdom for young fashionistas. “Just go for it,” she says, “find out what makes you feel confident and feminine and do it on your own time. That’s the only person’s time that matters.” 

Here are 10 pieces inspired by Clelia Montali's fresh takes on menswear: 
Cos Blazer With Raw Edge Pockets - $175
Cos Long Slim-Fit Blazer - $70
La Perla Silk Satin Top - $158
Topshop Oversize Turtleneck Sweater - $75
Equolii Studio Wide Leg Crepe Pant - $90
American Apparel Straight Leg Jean - $44
Forever 21 Plus Size Moto Jacket - $33
Halogen Fishnet Tights - $19
Derek Lam 10 Crosby Pointed Toe Loafers - $350
Givenchy Pointed Toe Pumps - $650

All photos courtesy of Diana Liu. You can follow Clelia Montali on Instagram @ruedeprovence