French fashion may be mysterious and masterful, but it’s not entirely unattainable. The women of this highly chic country are forever at the top of the tree when it comes to effortlessness—no other nation could possibly contend for the title. Speak to any stylish French woman though, and she’ll probably tell you that this level of effortless does, in fact, take some work. I recall Isabel Marant telling me that the concept is something of a very well-guarded myth. Constructed or not, there is just no denying that Parisian style in particular is coveted and emulated across the globe.
As well adopting their relaxed attitude to getting dressed, there are style cues you can take and tweak to incorporate into your own wardrobe and bring in un petit peu of that coveted je ne sais quoi.
It’s highly likely you know some major French fashion rules by heart already: For example, brushing your hair is a sacrilegious act, one should never scrimp on the day-to-day pillars of a closet and everything is best worn thrown together to encourage the perception that you’ve probably had a really wild time the night before.
French girls are having fun and living life to the fullest—or at least that’s what their outfits tell us—but there are other, more nuanced factors that play into a Gallic woman’s wardrobe as a whole. And that’s where we step in. So enrol in our French style school, where you’ll learn everything from the grade-one basics through seriously advanced stages of being super chic.
Our Gallic obsession knows no bounds, so we’ve already charted the best French fashion brands to have on your radar, documented their pharmacy buys and even snapped up a columnist in the form of a cool Brit girl who lives in Paris to tell you all about the differences between our two countries and their personal style preferences. But if you want a fast-track to getting that je ne sais quoi each morning, get scrolling to see and shop the takeaway French-fashion guidance we’ve noticed after years of studying.
#1: Your ultimate style icon is your mother
And yes, it’s a totally normal—nay, brilliant—thing to dress similarly or even in the same outfit as your maman. Great style and wardrobe classics never fade, so why can’t you wear them now and in four decades’ time? It girl Jeanne Damas proved the point recently, snapping herself alongside her mother, both wearing the same blue ribbed tee (from her collection on Rouje) and high-waisted jeans, but Lily-Rose Depp and her French mother, Vanessa Paradis have been doing this for some time.
#2: Whenever possible, bare your legs
Ellie from Slip Into Style is a perfect example of this dedication to legs-on-show: Even in the depths of winter you won’t find her in tights. Many a French woman seems to know the art of wearing a slashed-to-there hemline and not looking overdone. We love the flirty, casual ratio of a marl tee and flats with a revealing skirt.
#3: Only wear heels that you can walk in
As any well put-together French maven will tell you, there’s nothing less attractive than hobbling around in high heels. It’s all about looking cool and breezy. It’s no wonder many French girls (like influencer Anne-Laure Mais) turn to classic brands for classic pieces. For example, Karl Lagerfeld never produced sky-high stilettos at Chanel—just clever ones like the toe-cap mules you can slip on and off and last in all day.
#4: Tailoring is the source of all greatness
No self-respecting French girl would consider their wardrobe complete without a blazer (or 10). They are the beautifully tailored glue that holds all looks together.
#5: Subtly define your waist at all times
We’re not talking about waist-cinching of the extreme variety, but French women always make sure that their figure is in some subtle way noticeable—even when wearing loose-fitting clothes. Super-editor Carine Roitfeld provides a very casual and chic example here with her knotted shirt.
#6: Never be afraid of wearing something flirty
Camille Charriere has a similar approach to Carine Roitfeld when it comes to sultry dressing: It’s all about a 50/50 ratio. Yes, you can see she’s wearing a micro shorts, but the rest of her look is dishevelled and relaxed. Walking this line successfully? It’s all down to confidence.
#7: Always invest in great outerwear
From biker jackets to trench coats, bombers to blazers, French girls invest a heavy amount of cash into great outerwear. It means that your simple jeans, tees and shirts never have to work hard since the cover-up does all the talking for you. Let’s face it: In our climate, you’ll get the wear out of a well-chosen piece.
#8: If you’re set on accessorising, keep the clothes simple
In a similar vein to the sassy/sensible ratio we mentioned earlier, there are French fashion rules that apply to the level of accessorising set against an outfit. Want to wear your new shoes, bag and hat at the same time? Then you’ll need a clean, simple, super-plain outfit underneath—preferably in a neutral colour.
#9: Wear your holiday clothes wherever and whenever you want
From espadrilles to beachy cotton tops, it’s completely acceptable to bring a little seaside style to your city look en France.
#10: Be nonchalant at all times
The rule? Just. Don’t. Pose.
Shop Our French-Style Fashion Picks:
& Other Stories Flowy Puff Sleeve Midi Dress (£85)
By Far Lenny Crinkled Glossed-Leather Mules (£325)
Musier Paris Shirt Sol (£96)
Who What Wear Mallory Bag (£91)
Coperni Extension Asymmetric Crepe Mini Skirt (£255)
Chloé Belted Cotton-Blend Canvas Jacket (£1605)
Castañer Carina 60 Canvas & Jute Wedge Espadrilles (£85)
Isabel Marant Tehora Studded Leather Belt (£350)
H&M Frill-Collared Shirt (£18)
Arket Oversized Wool Blend Blazer (£135)
Le Specs Outta Love Oval-Frame Tortoiseshell Acetate Sunglasses (£40)
Thomas Sabo Hoop Earrings Large (£98)
Eres Asia Panelled-Front Swimsuit (£300)
Next up, the biggest spring/summer 2021 fashion trends you need to know.
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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