I love the way the women in France dress. They always look so put together, classic, and elegant even when they are in a casual setting. My wardrobe was getting frumpy after almost 2 years of lockdown and because I’d lost a few pounds, so I decided to upgrade my look by adapting some of the French style rules I learned from Parisian stylists.
Up until now, most of the clothing in my closet was randomly chosen. There were old blouses that no longer fit, leggings, oddball tee shirts, wild Boho tunics, and even clothes I inherited from my mother. She was a fashionista, but they didn’t fit well and weren’t me.
Another thing I love about French Style is that it is timeless and always fashionable despite current trends. And just a note! Emily in Paris is a horrid example of how to dress like a French woman. Emily is dressed in wild colors, mixed patterns, and bizarre accessories that are more embarrassing and clownlike than chic. Of course, she is young and cute and can pull it off, but most French women online have been laughing their asses off.
The only exception on the show is Sylvie, Emily’s boss, who is really French. Her wardrobe is stunning, classic, and subtle but still sexy. In essence, most French women dress in a way that is simple, doesn’t go overboard, is mainly neutral-toned, and accentuates their best assets.
The key is to develop a capsule wardrobe
You don’t have to have a large closet full of clothes to dress in the French style. All you need is a small selection of interchangeable and matched items to create what is known as a capsule wardrobe. For instance, your pants go well with your tops and can be layered with your sweaters or blazers. Pops of your favorite colors can be added with shoes and accessories. That way, you can have the tiniest closet and always be well dressed and chic.
Start with a neutral color palette
Neutral colors are your friend and should be the foundation of your wardrobe. But when choosing your palette, select neutrals that go best with your complexion, hair, and personality. Basic neutrals include black, white, cream, tan, navy, gray, taupe, and brown.
Collect clothing pieces in your neutral palette that include:
- Slacks in a style that are mid-rise or high-rise that looks best with your body shape.
- Cotton, linen, or silk blouses. Choose necklines that suit you. For instance, if you are busty, you may look better in a v-neck or scoop neck rather than a high neckline.
- Dark jeans that are not torn or faded and are straight-leg, boot cut, or flared. Dark colors are more figure-flattering. High-rise style jeans are very French. Although you may see some French women in torn or distressed jeans, most do not as it is a trend that can soon “fade.”
- Cotton or silk tee shirts without images or logos. The exception might be a tee-shirt with the logo of a vintage rock band, which is very chic, or an artsy print as long as it is not overwhelming.
- A striped Breton shirt. A Breton top is a classic sailor-style horizontal striped shirt. However, if you have a large bust or belly go for vertical stripes instead.
- A silk or cotton camisole top. A cami with a little lace always looks feminine and sexy and can be worn by itself or with a blazer.
- A tailored blazer is very French. Classic black is popular but you can also wear other colors and patterns you love like plaids or herringbone. If you have a large chest stay away from double-breasted blazers and go for single-breasted or no button instead.
- A trench coat in camel or black is quintessentially French and always timeless.
- Cardigans and pullover sweaters in cashmere or wool.
- A leather jacket will give you an edgy look and always looks sharp.
- Denim jackets are popular in France but, as with jeans, are not normally torn or distressed.
- A knee-length pencil or A-line skirt always looks classy in all-natural fabrics including leather or denim.
- A knee-length shift or slip dress can be worn in the day or evening depending on what is layered over it. For instance, you can wear a denim jacket over your dress in the daytime, or an elegant silk jacket or kimono in the evening.
- A structured handbag proportional to your height without designer names blatantly stamped on them. French women disdain flaunting wealth so you do not have to spend a fortune on a handbag as long as it has a classic style.
- Simple gold or silver chains with delicate medallions, pearls, an analog watch, and small earrings.
Add color to accentuate your neutral wardrobe with print scarves, shoes, and accessories.
Lose your leggings and mom jeans. I know, it’s hard especially if you are over 50, not skinny, and love how they stretch. Take it from me, stretch waistbands help you gain weight.
Shoes should be stylish but also practical
Contrary to the stereotype of French style, women in France prefer practical shoes as opposed to 6-inch Louboutins. That is partly because they do much more walking than American women and often on cobblestones. It’s important to wear comfortable shoes especially if you are over 50. A French woman’s wardrobe will almost always include:
- White, tan, or black sneakers – Tip: if your shoes match the color of your pants, it makes your legs look longer.
- Loafers – all styles including Lugz.
- Ballet slippers – tres French chic
- Ankle boots or knee-length boots depending on the weather.
- Medium to low heels.
What about wearing colors and prints?
Just because the French style is mostly neutral, doesn’t mean you have to look film noir. But, it’s best to pick out pieces in one or two of your favorite colors rather than multiple tones for ease of mixing and matching.
Print summer dresses are popular in France and are lovely. However, French women tend to stick with small prints that are geometric, gingham, or polka dot rather than large, bold prints. If you are petite or overweight, a large print can be overwhelming but if you are tall and lanky, go for it.
Quality over quantity
French style is all about quality and attention to detail. French women will spend money on high-quality and well-made clothing that will last for years. Many keep clothing pieces for decades but diligently take care of them. They also purchase clothes in natural fabrics like linen, silk, and wool and stay away from man-made items made of polyester or spandex. You can often find extraordinary and affordable pieces in thrift shops especially if it is near an affluent area. I’ve found items there that were never worn.
It’s all about your undergarments
Have you ever had someone measure you for a bra? I’m not talking about getting fitted by a Victoria’s Secret saleslady or a newbie at a department store. If you can find someone who is an expert in fitting undergarments it will make a huge difference in how you look in your clothes. Wearing quality underwear may even eliminate the need to wear uncomfortable shapewear.
Makeup is minimal
You won’t see a French woman wearing a heavy foundation with powder or dark smoky eye colors especially if she is older. She may wear a light foundation or BB cream, bronzer or light cheek color, mascara, possibly a thin line of eye pencil on her upper lid, a light sweep of eyebrow pencil, and lipstick. Although bright red lipstick is popular in France, especially in the evening, nude or subtle tints are most common.
My favorite French fashion YouTubers are:
Below are some examples of chic French style
Shoes and Accessories may include:
Are you ready to add a little French style to your life? Please leave a comment below.