I spent three glorious weeks in France this summer. And, whether I was in Provence, in the mountains, on the coast or in Paris, one thing was clear: French women are not slobs. In fact, they always look stylish and confident. It’s not about designer clothes. It’s not about glitziness. And, it is definitely not about showcasing the flash-in-the-pan trends. To French women, style is a matter of keeping things simple. By simple, I do not mean slovenly. A French woman would never-even to buy an emergency pack of Galoises cigarettes at 11pm-leave the house in sweatpants. There is a distinctive elegance about the French that stems from a commitment to looking one’s best. The secret? Taking pride in one’s appearance. They pull a look together by thoughtfully blending classics with, perhaps, one standout accessory. So, a black A line dress is paired with patent leather ballet flats and a gold cuff. Or, for summer, white jeans, a blue and white striped cotton tank top and espadrilles will be set off with oversized hoop earrings.
French women like to flatter their figures (even if they are not stick thin) and avoid baggy clothing. Thus, close attention is paid to tailoring and proportion. If it is drapey on top, it is fitted on the bottom and vice versa. A form fitting style dress should hug the curves, not squeeze them. In this country, sexiness has everything to do with confidence and elegance. Subtlety is revered.
Worn with jeans and suits alike, French women love their scarves. Why? Quite simply, this silky, lightweight accessory is the ultimate layering piece. An orange scarf adds color to a neutral outfit. A black and white houndstooth scarf adds contrast. A polka dot scarf worn with a blouse and pencil skirt is on-trend. When worn correctly, scarves are that chic piece de resistance that add polish to one’s overall look.
A note on footwear: First impressions are everything. When meeting someone in France for the first time, you will get the once over, eyes lingering below your ankles. You have heard the mantra Shoes make the man? Well, in France, shoes make the woman also. Unless she is headed to le gym, you will never see a woman in sneakers. Even when walking the dog. Shoes are stylish (flats are acceptable: ballet flats, espadrilles and leather loafers) and fastidiously maintained with frequent shines. It’s a Gallic thing.
Check out the signature styles of Franco-fab muses like Audrey Tautou, Vanessa Paradis, Jane Birkin and Coco Chanel. Then test drive my tips. Voila!
GET THE LOOK
- LOOK TO THE FUTURE: Classic trumps trendy. Ask yourself, “Will I still wear this in five years?” Don’t waste money on flash-in-the-pan looks
- DRESS TO IMPRESS: Dress for your body type. Just because skinny jeans are “in” does not mean that they will look good on you. Understand what shapes flatter your figure and stick with them. Always.
- AVOID THE DUMPS: Never wear sweatpants or other “loungewear” in public.
- CELEBRATE YOUR AGE. Don’t dress as a teenager if you are a mom. And, forget the plumpers and botox. If you take care of your skin, you will age gracefully.
- TIE ONE ON: A scarf adds polish to any look
1. Gucci Monogrammed Silk Scarf $255
- THE SIMPLE LIFE: Keep it simple with one eye popping accessory like a gold cuff, a gold pendant or a structured bag
2. Hive & Honey Seven Row Bracelet $22
3. Michael Kors Buckle Huggie Earrings $65
4. J.Crew Edie Purse $238
- FOOT NOTES: Always wear fab footwear. Sneakers? Reserved for gym visits
5. Kiwi Black Shoe Polish $5
7. Gap Scrunch Flats $44.95
- GO AU NATURELLE. French women never apply makeup with a heavy hand. It’s all about evening out the complexion, some blush, some mascara and a soft lip
6. Benefit Benetint $29
- QUALITY CONTROL: Invest in quality basics-a cashmere sweater, a classic leather handbag, good shoes, a good coat, great skirt and trousers- that will last forever. It’s better to have a few quality basics than many poorly made garments
8. Saint James Minquiers 10 T-Shirt $70