French style – the epitome of beautiful dressing – is easier to master than you may think. For while French women have easy access to Parisian fashion, the reality is that most of them can’t afford couture apparel any more than any middle class woman in any country can.
So how can they still look so darn good?
By following the simple rules handed down from generation to generation to achieve that elusive French style:
Start With Basics
A crisp, white shirt. A perfect pair of trousers. A well-fitting jacket. If you stock your closet with clothing staples, you build a strong foundation for a go-anywhere wardrobe. Classic styles in solid colors and simple silhouettes offer both economy and versatility, because when you can wear one piece many different ways, you can get a lot of “bang for your buck.” It’s like the difference between painting a room beige and painting a room red: to transform the beige room, you can rearrange the furniture and change the accessories; to transform a red room, you have to buy new furniture or repaint the walls.
When you’re surrounded by rolling countryside, centuries-old architectural marvels, world-class museums, haute cuisine and haute couture, you can’t help but develop an eye for aesthetics, for learning what’s visually appealing in terms of color, shape, and proportion. French women aren’t taught to mold themselves to a certain look; they’re taught to assess themselves and seek what pieces work best for them aesthetically. This independence and self awareness makes them fascinating, brainy, and sexy. It’s part of their mystique, their je ne sais quoi.
Opt for Quality Over Quantity
“I love America, and I love American women,” French interior designer Andre Putman once said. “But there is one thing that deeply shocks me – American closets. I cannot believe one can dress well when you have so much.”
French women edit carefully and opt for a few good-quality pieces instead of a lot of junk for two main reasons:
France is an old country with ancient buildings and small closets. There is simply no space for a lot of stuff. So they opt for a handful of good-quality pieces that they can wear in a variety of ways. Moreover, good quality lasts longer than bad quality, so while you may pay more up front, you replace it less often down the line. A Hermes scarf may cost a fortune, but with proper care, it can be worn for decades and handed down to daughters and granddaughters.
Differentiate Through Accessories
Once you have your classic clothing foundation, you can make things interesting by getting creative with accessories. Cool shoes, wild hair decor, funky hosiery, unusual jewelry – this is where French style shines. You don’t need a lot of accessories to create a head-turning signature style; you just need to get creative with what you do have. How can wear a scarf? As a headband, around your neck, draped over your shoulders, tied as a belt, twisted around your wrist, tied on your handbag – well, you get the idea. One great piece, TONS of possibilities. French women excel at this.
Strive for Flawless Grooming
Beautiful skin and a great hair cut make you look chic at any age. French women understand this, which is why they follow their beauty regimes religiously and have a talented hair stylist on speed dial. No picking at pimples or spackling on tons of makeup. No way! Just a competent facialist and a standing salon appointment.
Stay Out of Debt
This is one of those “old country” things that got left in the old country, unfortunately. While many Americans don’t think twice about using credit cards, most Europeans shy away from debt. French women are no exception. They plan their purchases and pay cash for everything, which means they make their choices carefully. It’s an “old school” habit we should all adopt.
So what’s the bottom line?
French style essentially means knowing what looks good on you, finding clothes that suit your lifestyle, making choices wisely, living within a budget – and making everything visually appealing while doing it. You don’t have to be young, thin, or French to give off that French style vibe – you just need to master these basics to create your own je ne sais quoi.
Want some more tips in building a French style wardrobe? Download a copy of Accessory Magic to see how easy creating a head-turning look can be.