Coco Chanel said that simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. Something about the French girl style makes all of us want to dress exactly like it. Words like ‘effortless’, ‘messy’, ‘casual’, and ‘chic’ come to mind when we talk about French fashion and their lifestyle in general.
French style is not about current trends. It is also not about wearing bold colors and expensive designer pieces. It is about a balance between classic and chic pieces, between being all dressed up and nonchalant.
If you are among many women who find the French girl style inspiring, we have great news. We have prepared an ultimate guide to not only style, but also fashion rules, brands that French women love, and inspiring French women.
French Style Throughout History
We all know about Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Christian Dior. But what about the French style that goes back to the 17th century?
It is fair to say that the French owe much of their fashion fame to Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’. He introduced France to the textile trade, while also being known for his elegant attires and extravagant taste. Soon, France became a place where you would go shopping for the best quality materials.
The 19th century is the period where haute couture was born in France. Special clothing fittings for wealthy clients that could pay became very popular. Some of the important designers were Charles Frederick Worth, Jaques Doucet, Madeleine Vionnet, and many others.
One of the greatest designers in France during the 20th century was certainly Coco Chanel. Her influence in fashion was untouchable and still ever present. She was the one who introduced French women to a sporty, casual chic silhouette as opposed to the feminine standard of waist cinching corsets.
Christian Dior became an iconic fashion figure during the post-war period. He created feminine clothes, mid-calf length, made of expensive materials, and perfect for post-war women.
French-style experienced changes throughout the late 20th century. That is when Yves Saint Laurent, adopted the changes going on in the world and created cocktail dresses, mini skirts, and classic tuxedo suits for women. All these items are now considered to be art pieces.
The Best French Girl Style Rules
If you ask any Parisian woman about style rules, she will tell you that these are the most important ones. Make sure you remember them well. You will see that they are not strictly about fashion, but a lifestyle in general.
Invest in Timeless Good-Quality Pieces
If you are on your way to creating a French capsule wardrobe, then you need to know a few things. French women always prefer quality over quantity. Pick high-quality materials like cotton, silk, cashmere, or wool. They will last forever and feel luxurious on the skin.
These are some questions you need to ask yourself before buying something. French women do this often when they are shopping.
- Does it fit my style and match other items in my wardrobe?
- Can I wear it on a daily basis?
- Is it made of high-quality materials?
- Is it comfortable?
- If I buy it now, will I wear it in a month?
Consider buying pieces in vintage and second-hand stores. You will find unique, high-quality clothing, at a more appealing price and saving money is always in-style. Consignment and Vintage stores keep real closet treasures – designer pieces can be found easily! Check out these pre-loved gems.
Neutrals Tones are Must-Have
French girl style contains mostly neutral colors. They are not afraid to wear bold colors by any means but always, their closet is stocked with beige, black, white, navy, camel, grey, and khaki. The great thing about these neutral shades is their versatility. You can mix and match them endlessly.
When you are in doubt about which colors to combine remember these two rules. Go for two colors per outfit only. If you are not in the mood for mixing, try wearing an all-black-everything look. It will show off your sophisticated side perfectly.
Start with Basics
Many think that there is a secret to dressing like a Parisienne. However, it all starts with the basics. And if you want to dress like a French girl, then you need to look polished, casual, and clean.
French women combine basic items with one or two statement pieces and that is how they get their perfect look. Look for simple designs, classic T-shirts, button-downs, sweaters, and a great fitting pair of pants.
Wear Color, But Don’t Overdo it
When you become more confident with your Parisian style, you can add more color to your outfits.
According to Marissa Cox, when she moved to Paris, the color palette she was wearing was mostly black, white, and grey. However, she discovered that the French style is more than that. You can wear more than one color, but don’t wear more than three shades at a time.
Avoid Flashy Logos
You will never see a French girl wearing a Chanel or Louis Vuitton bag with a huge, flashy logo. For them, labels are not that important. They have to be discreet and tiny. Otherwise, they will likely be wearing something else.
It is not tasteful to show off your wealth. Moreover, it is not tasteful to wear clothes that show off the brand name too loudly. So, instead of trying to look rich, try to look classy and sophisticated.
Pay Attention to the Fit
No matter what your personal style is, if you want to dress like the French, you need to pay attention to the fit. Clothes need to fit perfectly to your body type. They shouldn’t be too big, nor too tight. Dresses need to have proper length, while shirts can be oversized if matched properly.
French women are taking their clothes to tailors. Believe it or not, tailor boutiques are still very common in France. That is how they get their clothes perfectly tailored for their body types.
Choose Style and Comfort Over Trends
French style is more about practicality than trends. You won’t see a Parisian woman in super high heels pounding the pavement. Instead, the French girl style consists of sneakers, low or block heels, and flats. Paris is a walker’s paradise! You can walk the entire city in less than two hours. Parisian women are known to walk everywhere- work, grocery store, art galleries, cafe’s and comfort is king.
You can notice that the French will always choose comfort over trends. They pick items that they can wear daily, no matter if they go to work or a brunch with friends.
Find Your Own Style
French women have their own style and they stick to it. They don’t like trends – trends come and go. Instead, the goal is finding their own style and trying to upgrade it with accessories.
It is all about the right fit, timeless and classic wardrobe items that you can combine. Once your wardrobe looks like that, you will know – you can say: I dress like a French woman.
How to Achieve French Girl Style: 12 Wardrobe Essentials
The French fashion philosophy is simple. You need to fill your wardrobe with classy, timeless, and high-quality pieces. These items last long, they are versatile, and most of all utterly chic.
If you are wondering which are the pieces French girls can’t live without, then you need to check these out.
1. A Little Black Dress aka LBD
The little black dress is definitely a must-have in any closet, no matter what style you have. It is a perfect piece for cocktail parties, weddings, date nights, and night outs.
There are no rules about the little black dress. You can have it long or short, with or without sleeves, V-neck, or turtleneck. French women will usually opt for the short length, that they layer with a long coat or a jacket.
2. Button-Down Shirt
One of the pillars of French fashion is a button-down shirt. Whether you have a white (which is classic), blue or striped button-down, you won’t have to worry about getting dressed in the morning.
For a casual look wear your button-down with jeans, trousers, sneakers, or flats. If you would like to switch to something more elegant, simply add your favorite piece of jewelry, pair of stilettos, and drape a blazer over your shoulders.
3. A Basic Tee
One of those items that many women are avoiding or wearing only at home is a plain T-shirt. If you ask French women about it, they will say it is one of the best wardrobe essentials that you need to have.
The charm of the plain white, grey, black, or beige tee is its versatility. French women wear a T-shirt with jeans, blazers, skirts, and a pair of white sneakers.
4. Silky Camisole
A camisole is a perfect top that you can wear under a sweater, cardigan, or blazer. No, it is not the part of your underwear – French women wear it as an everyday fashion item.
Silk is one of the most comfortable materials, so don’t hesitate to wear it daily. You can pick a camisole with delicate lace trims, tuck it in your jeans, drape a blazer, and voila! You look like a real French lady.
5. A Mariniere Top
Stripes are unavoidable print in French fashion. In fact, stripes came from the shirts worn by Bretagne sailors in the north of France. They found the way into fashion, and fortunately for us, stayed.
A mariniere top or striped white and blue top is one of the basic items French women have in their wardrobes. They mix and match it with jeans, trousers, and blazers.
6. Straight Leg Jeans
French women adore jeans. They wear it all the time, even though jeans can be uncomfortable for some. Fortunately for us, skinny jeans are not so popular anymore. They are ditched for a more comfy version – straight leg jeans with high-rise.
Straight leg jeans are suitable for all body types. You should pick blue denim, while also having a spare black pair in your closet. Match jeans with a plain tee, plaid blazer, and flat shoes.
7. Tailored Blazer
The tailored blazer gives a chic and sophisticated upgrade to any outfit. If you don’t have one, that perfect blazer then make sure you buy it.
Whether you prefer plaid, tweed, or plain navy or black blazer, the one is sure – you can pair it with anything. It matches perfectly with jeans, dresses, both heels and flats, and plain tees.
8. Trench Coat
A beige or camel trench coat is definitely an essential piece you need to have if you are building a French girl style wardrobe. These coats may be pricey, but they are a worthy investment. You can wear it for years.
The trench is such a classic, timeless piece that many women in France adore wearing. It is perfect for spring and fall. Wear it with a statement bag, jeans, dresses, flats, or heels.
Cardigan is a necessary layering element for all seasons and French girls adore it. You can style it in so many ways -from super casual to elegant.
Wear a cardigan over a dress, tee, white button-down, or a blouse. If you want your cardigans to last, make sure to choose high-quality materials, merino or mohair wool, cashmere or cotton. Moreover, pick neutral shades like beige, white, black, navy blue, or emerald green.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Parisian women is that they wear high heels all the time. Since Paris is known for its cobblestone streets, you need to have a comfy and most of all flat pair of shoes. That is why loafers are favorites among French girls.
You can never go wrong with black leather pair of loafers. They can have a gold or silver buckle, pointy or round front. However, one thing is for sure – they go with any outfit that you choose.
11. Black Stilettos
Black stilettos are great for formal occasions, like parties, weddings, and other celebrations. The rule is to know how to walk in them. You shouldn’t wear them on a daily basis though. You wouldn’t survive cobblestone streets.
Otherwise, classy black stiletto heels go with anything – from jeans to floor-length dresses. French like to keep them in the closet, just in case. If you are searching for a pair, we suggest going for a lower or kitten heel.
12. Leather Handbag
Invest in a good leather handbag. That is what all French women will tell you. The bag can change the whole look of your outfits, so make sure you have the statement one.
If you are planning to invest in a good-quality designer bag, go for it. Just avoid the ones with flashy logos. Rather choose something timeless, in black leather and wearable.
French Style Icons
If you are searching for some inspirational outfits, these are the women you should turn to. These are French women who inspire us and our wardrobes.
Influencer and designer, Jeanne Damas is always at the center of interest. She was named as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. Her effortless, cool, and utterly chic style is known around the world. She said that it is the way you wear your clothes that matters, not what you are wearing.
Caroline de Maigret
There is no better person to tell you all about the Parisian lifestyle. Caroline de Maigret wrote a book, was a model, and a muse. She wears that androgynous yet very French looks that make you want all her closet.
One of the most important French icons is Brigitte Bardot. She was an ultimate bombshell, known for her acting in “And God Created Women”, and “Le Mepris”. Brigitte was one of the first who wore ballet flats outside the dancing studios. Chic and floral summer dresses and off-the-shoulder tops were her favorite staples.
With the inheritance of her parents, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte accepted rock ‘n’ roll style. Skinny jeans, T-shirts, messy hair, leather jackets, and sneakers are her trademark. She is a muse to Saint Laurent’s Antony Vaccarello and Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiere.
As a former Vogue Paris editor, Carine has a style that is perfectly French – black is a preferable shade, fitted dresses, leather details, and high heels. You simply won’t see her in anything too crazy.
Emmanuelle Alt is the current editor of Vogue Paris. She has shown us how you can look sophisticated and chic just by combining basic items like blazers, T-shirts, black leather pants, and kitten heels.
Being French is not about spending a lot of money on your clothes. On the contrary, you will find French women shop second hand, frequenting consignment and vintage stores, buying high-quality basic items that last for years, and not investing in current trends.
Whenever you are in doubt about what you should wear, remember these simple yet powerful fashion rules that French girls respect. As soon as you fill in your closet with chic essential pieces you won’t have those don’t-have-anything-to-wear days.