The 8-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.

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 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.

Keep reading to see the eight pieces that define French summer style.

1. Cat-Eye Sunglasses

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(Image credit: @adenorah)

Style Notes: Cat-eye sunglasses are an effortless way to nail a vintage look. Match a pair of retro white sunnies with a timeless statement blouse. 

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(Image credit: @pomelokiwie)

Style Notes: And clearly, there's a penchant for white frames…

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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 summer look.

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(Image credit: @emmanuellek_)

Style Notes: Best worn with gold jewellery and simple flats or sandals.

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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 a classic idea in Paris.

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(Image credit: @melodiebance)

Style Notes: Milkmaid blouses make up for 90% of the white tops we see on French girls right now.

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4. Swimsuit

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(Image credit: @sabinasocol)

Style Notes: The French-woman one-piece is 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. 

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(Image credit: @vikilefevre)

Style Notes: In 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: @claire_most)

Style Notes: It's a combination that works universally: Straight-leg jeans, a white tee and shoes of your choice.

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(Image credit: @leasy_inparis)

Style Notes: And there's no better partner for the aforementioned white blouses.

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6. Espadrilles

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(Image credit: @ariadibari)

Style Notes: When in France, wear espadrilles. They may be a Spanish shoe, but the French have wholeheartedly adopted them into their classic summer repertoires.

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(Image credit: @ruerodier)

Style Notes: They work with everything from jeans to slip dresses and are damn comfy, 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.

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(Image credit: @juliesfi)

Style Notes: Neutral raffia colours are favoured, and that means they'll work with all sorts of outfits.

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8. Miniskirt

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(Image credit: @slipintostyle)

Style Notes: French girls always wear minis so well. It must be because they always opt for flat shoes or low heels. Chic.

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(Image credit: @salome.mory)

Style Notes: Balance out a shorter hemline with a full-coverage shirt, et voilà.

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Next Up: Trust Me—Every French Woman Owns These 6 Summer Staples

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 where she oversees luxury content and Who What Wear Weddings, and covers fashion content including the designer market, runway reporting, and seasonal trends. She also writes columns including The Luxury List, Investment Portfolio, and What’s Good. Prior to Who What Wear, Kristen held positions at Allure and Rodarte. She studied Art History and Business at the University of Southern California and currently resides in New York.