The 9-Piece Capsule Wardrobe French Women Rely On in the Summer

You know this already—we have a thing for French style. This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise, as we’ve investigated everything from the pieces Parisians fill their homes with to their favourite style of dress. In other words, we’ve done our research narrowing in on how they achieve that je ne sais quoi, and now we’re diving into their summer wardrobes.

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(Image credit: @emmanuellek_)

French fashion people like Jeanne Damas, Sabina Socol and Anne-Laure Mais seem to line their closets (and suitcases) with many of the same items and follow a few of the same rules. The guidelines are pretty straightforward. First, keep your palette neutral. Stick to classic shades like navy, white, and red, as well as earthy tones like tan and rust (you’ll have a hard time finding French women wearing anything too jarring like neon). Next, when wearing prints, go for seasonless patterns. Much like an It bag that’s associated with the time it debuted, prints can look tired after a few months. You can avoid making your outfit look dated by wearing prints like polka dots, gingham and simple florals, which we know will never date. Last, you can never go wrong by following the lead of late icon Jane Birkin. Whether it’s emulating her basket bag, cropped hemlines, or layered necklaces, her decades of quintessentially Parisian style serve as an eternal source of inspiration for us all.

So with all that being said, ready to dress like an expert? Keep reading to see the nine pieces that define French summer style.

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(Image credit: @juliesfi)

1. Simple Black Sunglasses

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(Image credit: @annelauremais)

Style Notes: Sunglasses are an effortless way to pull together a simple look, and the French have a penchant for making all-black frames look particularly chic. Pair retro sunnies with an oversized shirt for a breezy, "borrowed from the boys" look that is perfect for warm weekends.

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2. Printed Dress

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(Image credit: @lenafarl)

Style Notes: If it's printed, it's a dress and it has a slightly retro lilt to it, then you'll definitely tap into that French countryside summer look. This easy outfit is best worn with gold jewellery, simple flats or sandals, and a basket bag that looks like it could have been thrifted in Provence.

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3. White Blouse

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(Image credit: @camillecharriere)

Style Notes: Puff sleeves, broderie Anglaise and cropped lengths are all popular takes on the classic white blouse in Paris right now. And although white Oxford shirts are a forever staple, milkmaid blouses are making up for 90% of the white tops we've spotted on the best dressed French girls right now.

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4. One Piece Swimsuits

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(Image credit: @sabinasocol)

Style Notes: The French-woman one-piece might be modest, but it must be more than your average wear-it-for-lengths kind of sporty silhouette. Think cute prints, low necklines or cut-out details. And case you hadn't guessed, gingham is a winner among the Gallic style set.

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5. Straight-Leg Jeans

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(Image credit: @leasy_inparis)

Style Notes: It's a combination that works universally: straight-leg jeans + a white tee and just about any pair of shoes of your choice (but if the streets of Paris are anything to go by, the preference is a strappy sandal in summer and loafers all year round). And, it just so happens that there's no better partner for the aforementioned white blouse.

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6. Espadrilles

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(Image credit: @ariadibari)

Style Notes: When in France, wear espadrilles. Sure, they may be a Spanish staple, but the French have wholeheartedly adopted them into their classic summer repertoires too. These easy shoes will work with everything from a white tee and jeans to a pretty slip dress, and are damn comfy in the process, too.

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7. Basket Bag

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(Image credit: @frannfyne)

Style Notes: Basket bags are not a fleeting trend; they're a staple part of any decent French summer wardrobe. Thanks to the likes of Loewe, Marni and Sézane there are more styles, sizes and colours on the market than ever before, but in French closets neutral raffia still reigns supreme, and they work with all sorts of outfits.

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8. Miniskirt

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(Image credit: @salome.mory)

Style Notes: French girls always wear minis so well, and the key must be opting for flat shoes or chic low heels over uncomfortable stilettos. Balance out a shorter hemline with a full-coverage shirt, et voilà. An It girl outfit that takes five minutes to assemble.

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9. Gold Accents

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(Image credit: @leiasfez)

Style Notes: The right jewellery is the pièce de résistance that helps tie an outfit together, and the French rely on vintage and retro inspired pieces to stand out from the crowd. Take a stroll through the big cities on any day and you'll spot chain necklaces, chunky bracelets and statement earrings (usually in gold), paired with laidback ensembles and a demi-heel. Trés chic, non?

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This post originally appeared on Who What Wear US and has since been updated.

Associate Director, Special Projects

Kristen Nichols is the Associate Director, Special Projects at Who What Wear with over a decade of experience in fashion, editorial, and publishing. She oversees luxury content and wedding features, and covers fashion within the luxury market, runway reporting, shopping features, trends, and interviews with leading industry experts. She also contributes to podcast recordings, social media, and branded content initiatives. Kristen has worked with brands including Prada, Chanel, MyTheresa, and Luisa Via Roma, and rising designers such as Refine and Tove, and her style has been featured in publications including Vogue.com, Vogue France, WWD, and the CFDA. Before Who What Wear, Kristen began her career at Rodarte, where she worked on assistant styling, photo shoots, and runway shows, and at Allure, where she moved into print and digital editorial. She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied art history and business, and currently lives in New York.