Everything I know about dressing like a French Girl I learned from a French Guy.
See, last fall I was getting ready for our trip back to France and the pressure to be chic was real. So, I went on a shopping spree and came home with a ton of shopping bags.
Giddy with excitement, I rushed to try on my new clothes and walked out to show my husband. It was then that I realized we were dressed almost exactly alike and I had, apparently, learned a few things about French style from him.
Build a Foundation of Basics
First things first, you need to build up your basics so that you have great foundation. You’ve likely seen or read an article about the basics of a French wardrobe. It usually includes a list with the perfect white tee, a black blazer, a striped top, and ballet flats among other things.
One look at what I keep in my closet and you can see that I’ve taken a lot of those lists to heart. While these basics definitely work for me, I urge you to figure out what fits your lifestyle and your taste. The key here is to buy what you really love. If black and white isn’t really your thing, your color palette can be gray, army green, and pink. Or maybe you walk a lot so flats make more sense than sky-high heels.
Once you have this foundation, it makes getting dressed infinitely easier because you have a bunch of individual pieces that you can combine into an infinite number of outfits.
Shop Less and Shop Strategically
When the French go shopping, they typically go with a purpose such as replacing a worn-out item or buying something for a special event.
For example, if Arnaud has a pair of jeans that are starting to look ratty, then he’ll say au revoir and buy a new pair. Summer wedding coming up? He’ll get a fancy suit jacket to dress up other items that he already owns.
Similar to the One In, One Out rule, this style of shopping ensures that you always have space in your closet. It also keeps you from “just browsing” and spending money on something cheap or trendy that you don’t really want. Not that I’m guilty of that…but then I’m not 100% French yet.
Know When to Invest
The French always seem to know when to invest in clothing and Arnaud certainly isn’t an exception. He doesn’t spend much on the plain tees, jeans, and other everyday basics that make the foundation of his wardrobe.
But the fancy suit jacket I mentioned above? That was an investment piece. He also splurges on leather boots, designer sneakers, and dress shoes because the man loves his footwear. Other items that land in the investment category include clothing for colder weather and fancy occasions.
The key with these types of pieces is that you should only purchase them few and far between. Arnaud may love shoes but he doesn’t own a million pairs, and he only has a few coats and winter jackets. Most importantly, investing every once in a while usually means you will be spending less and therefore have more money for wine (huzzah!).
The Art of Repetition
When we first got married, I was surprised that my French husband would wear the same outfit whenever we went out. He’d put on a denim button-up shirt, black fitted slacks, and black leather boots. Every. Single. Time.
This was shocking for an American who was taught to buy a new outfit for every occasion, but the art of repetition is ingrained in the French. Just think about Carine Roitfeld and her winning combination of a silk blouse, pencil skirt, and sky-high heels. Or try to imagine Emmanuelle Alt in anything but skinny jeans (I know, it’s hard).
The French wear these uniforms because they know it’s flattering and makes them look good. They also wear it with confidence and have zero regrets about repeating an outfit. And when you think about it, why would anyone ever apologize for looking good?
Rules are Made to Be Broken
If this is all starting to feel a bit limiting, you will probably appreciate this next tip. Rules are great and all, but go ahead a break one every once in a while.
Only wear neutral colors? Buy the bright yellow sweater. Tend to stick to vintage styles? Go for something in a super modern cut. Shake it up and do something different, because in the end fashion should be fun.
French Girls are effortlessly chic, but now that we’ve cracked the code you can be just like them. A quick recap on what we’ve learned:
• Build up the basics in your closet so that you have a great foundation with which to work.
• Try to shop with a purpose and hone in on what you really need.
• Know that it’s okay to make an investment and spend money on a special item.
• Learn the art of repetition and don’t shy away from creating a uniform.
• Break the rules! Life is too short to be super serious about your clothing.
Zat ees eet! Now that you’re armed with the rules of French style (and also have the power to break them), you can dress with ease and go out into the world as a stylish woman. Just don’t tell everyone that we learn all of this from a Frenchman. That will be our petit secret!