How to dress like the French {day three}

{day three} how to dress like the French
French women are so fashionable! French women look so classy! French women make it look effortless! French women make the rest of us look so frumpy! French fashion is so timeless and classic! OMG Chanel!


I don’t know how many times I’ve read these or similar words in magazines and articles over the years. It’s all that people can say about French women and fashion. What it fails to tell you is that it describes one particular type of Parisian woman who loves fashion and has loads of money. This ‘French women are fashionable’ thing is another enduring stereotype that doesn’t really live up to the reality, or the reality outside of Paris at least.


My one-woman experience is that I suck at fashion; I have a long history of sucking at fashion and I don’t know any French person who either cares or knows about fashion in more than the most basic ‘let’s not go out in my PJ’s’ kind of way so I’m not going to be much help. This may be because I grew up in a provincial town (i.e. anywhere other than Paris) to parents who couldn’t afford to clothe me in labels; or that my sense of style just, well, sucks. I don’t care. I like my jeans and t-shirts and Converse, dangly earrings and all the colours.


So whatever French fashion style advice I’m going to give you now, feel free to ignore it. I won’t leave you in the lurch however, and recommend that you read and see the work of French people who are much more knowledgeable, talented, and who actually care about fashion, such as:


Le Blog de Betty

Garance Doré

The Cherry Blossom Girl

Et Pourquoi Pas Coline

Miss Pandora


Now that I’ve warned you that you should not be taking fashion advice from me (ever), I’m going to give you fashion advice. It’s a topic I thought should feature in a series on how to be more French (arf), but instead of telling you what I have learnt (nothing), I’m just going to tell you what I think other people mean when they talk about French fashion, and it is this:


If you want to look classy, keep it simple, keep it streamlined and don’t overdo it with colours.


Forget combining different patterns and colours. When people think French fashion, they think of actresses like Audrey Tautou and Marion Cotillard, and they are describing that red-carpet classic elegance they seem to exude. Most of the time, they are wearing simple black outfits, a simple hairstyle and understated jewellery. The key to classic French elegance, as far as I can see, is understatement.


See what I mean about ignoring my advice? This is Chanel Spring/Summer 2015, and ‘understated’ is the worst possible descriptor for these, ahem, things.

Classic French fashion embraces black, white, navy blue, cream and grey. You can enhance your clothes with colourful jewellery but not too much. If you are going to wear colour, keep it to one thing and coordinate it with monochrome e.g. colourful top, monochrome bottom and jewellery. Choose block colour and accessorise with monochrome bag, shoes and jewellery.


If you want to look casual French, wear a scarf. In fact, if you’re a man, wear a simple v-neck or polo-neck jumper and a scarf and there you go, instant French.
Was this advice helpful? I would love to know (for future reference), so tell me in the comments!


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9 thoughts on “How to dress like the French {day three}

  1. Thank you! Thank you for reiterating what I’ve been telling my American women friends for years. YEARS! My better half is a Frenchman from Paris. We visit his family regularly and, as such, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to spend time both in Paris and the Cote d’Azur. I’ve actually taken photographs of many French women throughout Paris to prove to my friends that not every woman looks like Catherine Deneuve in Belle Du Jour! My thoughts run mostly to “Why do so many French women dye their hair burgundy as soon as they hit 50 years of age?” I also tell my friends who are visiting Paris for the first time, to NOT overpack clothing. Dark skinny jeans, a few solid colored t shirts (i.e. white ones and black ones) that are well-fitted, a blazer, ballet flats or boots (depending on the time of year) a trench coat, a little black dress and an umbrella will suffice. I also tell them that Paris in an incredibly comfortable city and easy to get around. It is safe and now you have me rambling on! Seriously–I’m glad you addressed this subject!

    1. Are you telling me I actually gave decent fashion advice? Well, I never… This makes me very happy 😀
      And you are so right about the trench coat, ballet flats and the red hair!

  2. I visited Paris in 2013, and I totally agree: neutral colors and classic styles were everywhere. The one area where I saw bright colors was lipstick! So I bought a tube of hot pink and tried to fit in 🙂

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