French fashion may be mysterious and masterful, but it's not entirely unattainable. The women of this highly chic country are forever at the top of the tree when it comes to effortlessness. Speak to any of them about French style tips though, and they'll probably tell you that this level of effortlessness does, in fact, take some work. I recall Isabel Marant telling me that the concept is something of a very well-guarded myth. Constructed or not, there is just no denying that Parisian style, in particular, is coveted and emulated across the globe.
As well as adopting their relaxed attitude toward getting dressed, there are style cues you can take and tweak to incorporate into your own wardrobe and bring in un petit peu of that coveted je ne sais quoi.
It's highly likely you know some major French fashion "rules" by heart already. For example, brushing your hair is a sacrilegious act, one should never scrimp on the day-to-day pillars of a closet and everything is best worn thrown together to encourage the perception that you've probably had a really wild time the night before.
French girls are having fun and living life to the fullest—or at least that's what their outfits tell us—but there are other, more nuanced factors that play into a Gallic woman's wardrobe as a whole. And that's where we step in. So enroll in our French style school, where you'll learn everything from the grade-one basics through seriously advanced stages of being super chic.
Our obsession knows no bounds, so we've already charted the best French fashion brands to have on your radar, documented their pharmacy buys and even snapped up a columnist in the form of a cool Brit girl who lives in Paris to tell you all about the differences between our two countries and their personal style preferences. But if you want a fast track to getting that je ne sais quoi each morning, get scrolling to see and shop the takeaway French-fashion guidance we've noticed after years of studying.
#1: Your ultimate style icon is your mother.
And yes, it's a totally normal—nay, brilliant—thing to dress similarly or even in the same outfit as your maman. Great style and wardrobe classics never fade, so why can't you wear them now and in four decades' time? It girl Jeanne Damas proved the point recently, snapping herself alongside her mother, both wearing the same blue ribbed tee (from her collection, Rouje) and high-waisted jeans, but Lily-Rose Depp and her French mother, Vanessa Paradis, have been doing this for some time.
#2: Whenever possible, bare your legs.
Ellie from Slip Into Style is a perfect example of this dedication to legs-on-show: Even in the depths of winter, you won't find her in tights. Many a French woman seem to know the art of wearing a slashed-to-there hemline and not looking overdone. We love the flirty, casual ratio of a marl tee and flats with a revealing skirt.
#3: Only wear heels that you can walk in.
As any well-put-together French maven will tell you, there's nothing less attractive than hobbling around in high heels. It's all about looking cool and breezy. It's no wonder many French girls (like influencer Anne-Laure Mais) turn to classic brands for classic pieces. For example, Karl Lagerfeld never produced sky-high stilettos at Chanel—just clever ones like the toe-cap mules you can slip on and off and last in all day.
#4: Tailoring is the source of all greatness.
No self-respecting French girl would consider their wardrobe complete without a blazer (or 10). They are the beautifully tailored glue that holds all looks together.
#5: Subtly define your waist.
We're not talking about waist-cinching of the extreme variety, but French women always make sure that their figure is in some subtle way noticeable—even when wearing loose-fitting clothes. Super-editor Carine Roitfeld provides a very casual and chic example here with her knotted shirt.
#6: Never be afraid of wearing something flirty.
Camille Charrière has a similar approach to Roitfeld when it comes to sultry dressing: It's all about a 50/50 ratio. Yes, you can see she's wearing micro shorts, but the rest of her look is dishevelled and relaxed. Walking this line successfully? It's all down to confidence.
#7: Always invest in great outerwear.
From biker jackets to trench coats, bombers to blazers, French girls invest a heavy amount of cash into great outerwear. It means that your simple jeans, tees and shirts never have to work hard since the cover-up does all the talking for you. Let's face it: In our climate, you'll get the wear out of a well-chosen piece.
#8: If you're set on accessorising, keep the clothes simple.
In a similar vein to the sassy/sensible ratio we mentioned earlier, there are French fashion "rules" that apply to the level of accessorising set against an outfit. Want to wear your new shoes, bag and hat at the same time? Then you'll need a clean, simple, super-plain outfit underneath—preferably in a neutral colour.
#9: Wear your holiday clothes wherever and whenever you want.
From espadrilles to beachy cotton tops, it's completely acceptable to bring a little seaside style to your city look.
#10: Be nonchalant at all times.
The rule? Just don't pose.
Shop Our French-Style Fashion Picks
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This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Hannah Almassi is the editor in chief of Who What Wear UK. Hannah has been part of the the Who What Wear brand since 2015, when she was hired to launch a UK sister site and social channels, localise content strategy and build out the editorial team. She joined following a seven-year tenure at Grazia magazine, where she led front-of-book news, fashion features and shopping specials as fashion news and features editor. With experience in both print and digital across fashion and beauty, Hannah has over 15 years in the field as a journalist, editor, content strategist and brand consultant. Hannah has interviewed industry heavyweights such as designers including Marc Jacobs and Jonathan Anderson through to arbiters of taste including Katie Grand and Anna Dello Russo. A skilled moderator and lecturer specialising in the shift to digital media and e-commerce, Hannah’s opinion and work has been sought by the likes of CNBC, BBC, The Sunday Times Style, The Times and MatchesFashion.com, among many others.
Hannah currently resides in Eastbourne with her photographer husband, incredibly busy toddler and highly Instagrammable cat.
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