A lot has been written about how to dress like a French woman. Last month I spent four days in Paris and made my own list of ideas.
Even my husband, not usually tuned in to fashion, noticed “a lack of colorful clothes” on our trip. He didn’t know it, but he was honing in on the classic strategy of dressing in neutrals.
And that’s the whole point, really. There’s nothing magic about looking like a French woman. Most of us want to look like ourselves in ways that make us happy and at ease in our surroundings.
The French seem to have mastered some classic rules for doing this. Day after day, they appear looking effortlessly appropriate and stylishly ready for anything. That’s why we copy how they dress.
And so my Dos and Don’t’s are really ideas for dressing well, inspired by the French. The Do’s are what I saw. The Don’t’s are what I did not see in Paris—these are clothes I see a lot in the U.S. (including my own closet), and on travels to the UK.
Did I miss anything?
- Try this uniform: skinny jeans + boots + a great jacket – seen on women from 16 to 60
- Anchor your outfit with a neutral color
- Go for excellent fabrics
- Go for the best quality construction possible
- Wear clothes that fit – that suggest the shape underneath
- Aim for grown-up femininity
- Have well-made shoes (ballet flats, boots, and pumps)
- Make friends with scarves
- Favor solid colors
- Keep your hair natural
- When in doubt, go for the understated look
- Wear pastels
- Buy cheap, “fast fashion” a la Target, Walmart, and Old Navy
- Choose fabrics that wear out, pill, fade, or fall apart in one season
- Dress in an overtly sexy way
- Wear capri pants and a tee shirt as a summer uniform
- Wear sneakers or workout clothes except for working out
- Hide your shape under shapeless, baggy clothes
- Wear head-to-toe colors
- Wear head-to-toe prints
- Overdo your hair or makeup
- Give up on fashion after a certain age
For me, the really compelling idea is that French women give off an air of “I’m happy with myself.” I think it shows self-respect to buy a few clothes that are well-made, expensive, and beautiful – to take clothes seriously, but with restraint.
The French way of dressing reflects this.
The French seem to value food the same way – quality over quantity. And this, too, shows in what we think of as the French fashion “look.”
Let’s face it—clothes look different on thin people than not-so-thin. And even though obesity is on the rise in France, French women as a whole are still thinner than Americans and British.
As an American woman with a few extra pounds, I know first-hand the complex and usually painful issues most of us have with body image and weight. They’re closely tied in with how we dress.
But I take encouragement from what I saw in France. Can we American women use the French example to treat ourselves with as much respect as possible concerning clothing, food, and body-image?
That seems like a great basic rule for dressing well.
photos used with permission, from www.thesartorialist.com