French Style – How to Get it Right

Much has been made of the French-woman’s ability to dress. She seems to have an effortless style, sexy without being overt, stylish without being a slave to fashion, smart without being too ‘crisp’.

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The differences become especially obvious as they mature – they tend to age better, spending less on invasive treatments and seem to try less hard on hiding ageing – walking with confidence and less of that insecurity that we Brits are so prone to.

Carine Roistfeld Quote

Us British women have striven for years to understand what it is that gives our French sisters their ‘Je ne sais quoi’ – so we’ve put together the ultimate ‘French style’ list to give you a start on that perfect French wardrobe.

“Elegance is refusal”

Photographer Garance Doré’s book Love Style Life, documents some interesting insights into French style, but all can essentially be distilled into one key concept – less is more.

Don’t overdo it in any area – food, fashion, accessories, makeup.  Keep it simple and you can’t go far wrong.

“Remember you’re a woman, NOT a clothes horse”

Commenting to Acne Paper, Carine Roitfeld reminds us that not only do clothes not maketh the man, they shouldn’t maketh the lady either.  Your choice of attire should be something you wear, it shouldn’t wear you.

“You are NOT an IT woman”

This is particularly true of trends – don’t stick something on that you hate just because it’s in style – wear what you want with confidence, and you’ll always look better.  Don’t aim to dress for being looked at.  It’s not French.

“Don’t dress for men”

Something Janey often shares from her time with stylists is that French women rarely dress for men, but for one another – it’s a subtle difference but it makes a big difference in outfit choices.

They’re more naturally comfortable with sex, and how to be confident in sexuality and as a result you see far less of the over-the-top slightly ‘tarty’ look that can happen in other countries.

Isabele Marant

“Stick with your style”

Once a French woman finds something she likes, she sticks with it, as explained by Clémence Poésy to Elle Magazine:

“I kind of wear the same thing repeatedly”.

Having a formula works – and it makes tricky morning dressing much easier when you’re running late.

“Channel your inner rock chick”

Lou Doillon and Emmanuelle Alt are great example of this – their pared-back rock chick style could be out of trend in a heart-beat, but their commitment to shaggy hair and cool jeans works for them throughout the decades – and can for you too.

“Ignore the Rules”

‘Don’t wear navy and black’, ‘denim after 40 look dreadful’, ‘sequins cannot be worn in the daytime’…

Nonsense.  A French woman makes her style choices for her. Not arbitrary rules.  The only one you need not break is the one about less-is-more.  Outside of that, go for it.

“Start with the Smalls”

You shouldn’t have gotten to any real age without understanding the importance of your undies but if you have now is the time to learn.  Expensive negligee and strongly supportive foundations are both critical components of the French woman’s wardrobe.

Three quid bras from supermarkets are not.  THIS is where you should spend your money. Start from the bottom (quite literally) and work your way up.  No one feels sexy in greying, tatty smalls after all…

“Mix it up”

French women understand that value of contrast.  An evening dress with tatty trainers, stripes against stark black, pearls on an otherwise contemporary outfit (in fact pearls with everything).

The French Icons to Emulate:

Coco Chanel: ‘The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud’.

Carine Roitfeld: ‘I need a lot of eyeliner, and a shot of vodka, because you’re beautiful when you relax’.

Vanessa Paradis: ‘I don’t think that much about fashion. I suppose I like putting together outfits without too much thought and seeing what the outcome is.’

Caroline Maigret: ‘The value of jewellery is not in its cost, but in its sentiment’.

Isobel Marant: ‘You can’t put together a formula to look gorgeous, it’s a question of personality’.

Juliette Binoche: I’m not obsessed by looks. I think you can become a prisoner of your own image.’


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