How To Dress Like a French Woman

French women always appear so put together, classy and stylish.  From the front rows of fashion week to grandmothers smoking a cigarette with their coffee and pastry outside of a French cafe, these ladies have a sense of style.  While French women have that je ne sais quoi about them, there really isn’t any trick to looking classy and put together at all times.  It’s all about being a smart woman.  Here’s how they do it…

1. It’s All About the Base.

As in, it’s all about the basics, that part of your wardrobe that becomes the base.  Pamela Lutrell from Midlife Blvd. wrote about the 7 Things Every Parisian Woman Has in Her Closet (as seen in the book Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange).

The seven things are:

1. A Quality, Well Fit Blazer.
2. The Trench.
3. The Navy Sweater (in cashmere).
4. The Tank.
5. The LBD (little black dress).
6. The Perfect Jeans.
7. The Leather Jacket.

The thing about this list is that you’re not going to go out to just any retailer to purchase these items.  French women buy qualitative items, which means it may cost a little bit more.

Start off with a black blazer.  Over time, add a navy and white one.  Save for the splurge which is the timeless classic Chanel tweed blazer.  This blazer will last the rest of your lifetime.  It’s a piece you can even pass on to your children or your grandchildren.  That is what we mean by quality.  It’s built to last.

When you shop for a trench, you should always go to the best in the business. The best just happens to be Burberry.  Their coats are meant to last you an entire lifetime.

There are so many different grades of cashmere out there, it is hard to figure out which is the best quality.  Real Simple put together a checklist to consider when you shop for cashmere sweaters.  Simply put: look for the sweaters that say 100% cashmere.

I’m a lover of Gap tank tops.  For many years, Gap put out the most qualitative tank tops on the market.  These are tanks that 10 years later, I’m still wearing.  You can get them on sale for $2.99 at their end of summer sale.  I always stocked up on them (especially the white ones) because I layer my clothes, and I love sleeping in these tanks.  Gap did have a quality setback a few years ago (which is why I don’t shop with them anymore).  But after much complaint from their consumers, they brought the quality back.  Places like Gap and J. Crew are excellent places to stock up on basic tanks, tees and sweaters.

The little black dress is probably the most difficult dress to find.  It’s more than just owning a LBD.  It’s about the fit and how it makes you feel.  The perfect LBD makes you look incredible…and you know it.  It makes you feel confident and sexy, yet comfortable.  It can take years to find the perfect LBD.  Once you find it, you will cry the day you have to retire it.  This is your go to dress from the office to the Kentucky Derby to that client dinner.  It’s that date night dress that makes your guy think he’s the luckiest guy in the world the second he lays eyes on you.  It’s not the dress. It’s how the dress makes you feel when you wear it.  You’ll know the dress when you find it.

Every woman is in search for the perfect pair of jeans.  I know, I’ve bought 10 different pairs from a variety of vendors in the last couple of years.  There’s that sexy jean you need.  There’s that pair of boyfriend jeans you wear when you just want to chill out.  There’s the every day jeans.  There’s the trendy jeans.  There’s even the nicer pair of jeans you wear out for date night.  In all of these years of searching for that right pair of jeans, I’ve only found 2 or 3 that were the perfect fit and made me look great every single time I wore them.  Don’t ask how many pairs of jeans I went through just to find them.

The leather jacket is one of the most important pieces in your wardrobe.  It can go with anything, including that gown you wear to the opera.  What’s great about leather jackets is that if you’re not so keen on wearing real leather, the faux leather jackets are just as nice and come in a variety of colors.  Two colors you definitely need are black and white.

2. What Not to Wear

Who What Wear put out a post on the 7 Style Mistakes French Women Never Make.  It’s definitely worth the read because it’s not just the basics that matter.  There are do’s and don’ts to creating your own style.  Basically, the first rule is not to try so hard.

My favorite of the bunch is that French women do not wear sky high heels.  That’s funny because Christian Louboutin is French.

3. Create a Signature Style

This article from Stylecaster is my favorite of the bunch:12 Fashion Secrets to Steal from French Women.

No. 7 made me think of finding a signature shoe.  There are so many brands out there, so many different types of shoes.  Simply put, go with what you love and what you can live in.

4. What would Coco Chanel do?

All Womens Talk has a fantastic article on 13 French Fashion Habits You Should Incorporate In Your Wardrobe.  It is basically the bible on what to buy, how to buy, and how to wear it.

The most important point was Coco Chanel’s take on what to do before leaving the house.  Stop and look in the mirror.  Remove one piece before leaving the house.

If you want your wardrobe to be versatile: stick to neutral colors.

5. How Do They Afford It?

One of the great lessons in understanding the way French women dress is understanding the dynamic on how they can afford to wear Hermés scarves and carry around Hermés Birkin bags.

Simply put, they don’t have huge closets.  They don’t amass a lot of clothes (like Americans do).  They buy qualitative basics and add accessories that can be mixed in to create different looks.  They save for the one handbag that will last them an entire lifetime.  They buy qualitative scarves that are going to look chic with their wardrobe, and last forever.

They’re not going to buy a cheap scarf that will unravel in a year or two.  They’ll pay $300-$1000 for a cashmere or wool scarf that they know will last them their entire lifetime.  In other words, by the time the piece of clothing is ready to be retired, they would have gotten a penny out of each wear (cost/per wear).

The French woman’s way of fashion isn’t just classy, it’s smart and economical.  You may be shocked at the sticker price of what they decide to buy, but to them it is an investment piece that is meant to last the rest of their lifetime.  They choose a piece of clothing that they can wear today and still wear when they are 80 years old, and know that it’s not going to fall apart (and will still be in style).  They also know it won’t make them look like they are from a different age.

They’ll choose classic styles that have withstood and will continue to withstand the test of time like a DVF wrap dress, a Chanel tweed jacket, an Hermés Birkin bag, an Hermés scarf, or that little black dress.  They’ll buy the Louis Vuitton luggage because LV has been around for over a hundred years and still command a high price for luggage pieces that are over a century years old.

The Hermés Birkin bag goes up in value.  It’s the only handbag that goes up in value.

There’s a reason why these luxury stores are still going strong in places like Europe.  It’s not because the rich are buying it up.  Smart women that want a qualitative product are buying from them.  They saved up the money in order to purchase that one piece.  These are investment pieces that they plan on using for the rest of their lives.

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