Do you envy the effortless chic of Parisian women? You can easily channel that fabulous French style, and potentially save money doing it, with a few key fashion rules.
Here, I share the must-know style secrets that help you dress like a French woman. Allons-y, fashion lovers!
1. Ditch the Gym-Wear
You'll never see a Parisian wearing something that could be mistaken for workout gear - at least, not outside of an exercise class. When it comes to streetwear, French style dictates that you never dress in anything resembling yoga pants, sweats, or athletic shoes (except for cool sneakers you couldn't exercise in, like Converse or Prada). Sure, those clothes might be comfortable, but when it comes to comfort, consider the words of Project Runway fashion guru Tim Gunn, who could have been speaking as a French woman when he wrote, "You know what’s genuinely comfortable? Being dressed appropriately for your surroundings."
2. Stick to the Staples
Most chic French women keep a very small wardrobe of pieces that work for them, and repeat-wear them often. A French woman visiting America might shop at stores like H&M and Target, but only to pick up classic pieces that can mix in with everything else in their wardrobe, like a perfect white tee-shirt. French style is all about looking effortless, and that means skipping short-lived trends and not relying on designer labels for your fashion cred.
In fact, most French fashionistas have the exact same (mostly no-name) staples in their closets, that they rely upon to create all of their daytime outfits. These include:
- A classic trench coat
- A quality white tee-shirt
- A gray or black tank top
- Fitted dark jeans
- Slim black trousers
- A structured black blazer
- A cashmere sweater in navy or beige
- A waist-length jacket in wool or leather
- Quality flat boots or shoes
The trick to using these few fashion pieces to create multiple looks is all about accessorizing, which French women seem to be born knowing how to do. I'll share some basic tips on how they do this, below.
3. Stay Neutral
You may have noticed, when I described the staple items in a French woman's fashion arsenal above, I included color directions - and all the colors were neutrals (navy, gray, black, white, beige). You can see how having a wardrobe of neutrals would make it very easy to get dressed - everything goes with everything. That's why you'll never find pastels or primaries in a Parisian woman's closet. While French women will wear other colors besides those mentioned, these generally are limited to similarly muted tones, such as army green, dark brown or burgundy. French women save other colors for their accesories - more on that below.
4. The Perfect Fit
When you shop for your staple items, you should be laser-focused on finding (or creating) the proper fit. If you walk down the streets of Paris, what you'll notice is that all the women's clothes seem to fit them precisely - with nary a baggy butt, dragging hem or gaping buttonhole in sight. This attention to fit is a huge part of what makes French women look so frigging fabulous all the time, and the average French woman will commonly take everything they buy - even (or especially) the bargains - directly to their seamstress or tailor, for those little alterations that make all the difference in how the pieces look when worn. French women also take beautiful care of their clothing - so while the items may not be expensive, they look it because they are neat, ironed, and free of visible wear and tear. Take note, North American fashion lovers!
5. Take Care With Underwear
Another thing you won't see on a fashionable French woman is a sagging bustline. Because French women's style depends so much on simplicity and clean lines, they put effort into ensuring they're wearing bras that provide good support and structure. That they also typically invest in beautiful underthings, and match their panties to their bras, is simply more evidence that French women take this business of dressing well very seriously.
6. Scarves, Scarves and More Scarves
A French woman's favorite accessory is her scarf. Scarves are worn in all seasons in Paris, and the typical French women will own as many scarves as the average American women will have nail polish colors. French women also know a hundred different ways to tie their scarves, to create different looks - a skill that's definitly worth YouTubing. Scarves are where French women will add brighter colors to their outfits, and get playful with prints. A typical French woman's daytime uniform is a black blazer, neutral tee or sweater and dark jeans, with a chicly knotted scarf adding flair - and often cheekiness - to the mix.
7. If the Shoe Fits (It Must Be Flat)
In Paris, women walk everywhere, so they depend on quality shoes that won't fall apart on their city strolls. A pair of flat riding boots, ballet flats (either plain or with a buckle accent, men's-style loafers, and even chic sneakers (Converse are a favorite) are French woman's usual daytime footwear choices. High heels and strappy platform sandals are saved for occasions when they are called for because the rest of a woman's outfit is fancy, such as when she's dining out at a restaurant and wearing an elegant little black dress - probably a simple sheath - with her staple leather jacket.
8. Purses, Jewelry and Other Accessories
The practice of investing in accessories is as French as croissants and brie cheese. Since French women know that the right accessories can make even the most basic ensemble look chic, the typical Parisian spends much more on her sunglasses, watch and go-to daytime bag than she does on anything else in her entire wardrobe. Instead of buying a new bag at H&M every season (and then throwing it out a few months later when it falls apart), French women will save their pennies to buy one special bag - leather, in a neutral color and classic shape - that will last them forever. (Then they'll wear it with a simple outfit bought at H&M, including a fabulous scarf, and look like a million bucks. See how that works?)
When it comes to jewelry, French style dictates that you keep it simple, sweetheart. Pearls (real or faux) look great with just about anything, and can be worn in many ways, from choker-style to long, multiple strands. Small hoop earrings, sparkly studs, and thin stacked bangles are also great choices. If in doubt when shopping for (costume or real) jewelry, try to picture it in a Chanel ad. Can't? Then skip it.
Stylish At Any Age
If you dress like a French woman, you don't have to retire your style when you reach a certain age, because you were never dressing inappropriately young. A Parisian women in her 60s may wear the same dark jeans, blazer and scarf with ballet flats as her younger sisters, and look equally fabulous - especially if she keeps her makeup simple (and if not, there are always those sunglasses to rely on). Fashion that works for everyone - now that's what we're talking about!
For more style tips from Cathy, check out her website at Myjellybean.com!