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How to Dress Like A French Woman: Classic and Casual

I don’t pretend to be French, but during the five weeks I lived in Paris, I picked up quite a bit on French fashion. So I’d like to share some ways that we can all attain that “je ne sais quoi” that is both desired and way too overused.

1. Never, ever leave the house in sweats, or looking like you just woke up. If you must wear work-out clothes, go straight to the gym, and then go straight home. Better yet, just change there.

2. Wear stripes. Thin stripes. Black on white, usually. Navy on white if you’re feeling a little crazy.

3. Don’t wear shorts. They are not fashionable or classy.

4. Try a minimalist look of just bold red lipstick and (maybe) mascara.

5. If your hair is down, it should look like it was combed and then blown in a light breeze. It is never shiny and sleek. If your hair is up, it should look like it’s supposed to be that way, not a messy last-minute updo. 

6. Wear solid colors. At most you are allowed one patterned piece, and it is usually an accessory, like shoes or a scarf. Sometimes a skirt, but rarely a shirt or dress. For some reason this doesn’t apply for older women (40+). It’s as though patterned clothes detract from the natural beauty of younger women, but older women need vibrant clothing to look more attractive. 

7. Wear a good pair of shoes – preferably heels. That’s not to say that French women walk around in stilettos all day. They usually have a cute wedge heel or a stylish boot that really pulls the outfit together.

8. When in doubt, show less skin. French women dress quite conservatively, so when in doubt, show shoulders, OR back, OR thigh – never all three (though you could probably get away with two at a club).

9. Spend more money on fewer, more classic pieces. This has several advantages. One, you can mix and match more. Also, your clothes will last longer because they are more durable, and your clothes will flatter your body because they will really fit you well.

10. When in doubt, think Classic and Casual. Classic in the clothes you wear, but not casual clothes. Casual in the way you wear them. Americans (in my experience) are constantly fussing about their appearances – adjusting belts, combing their hair, reapplying mascara. French women create their appearance with care only once, in the morning, and then forget about it. 

*Tip for men: I don’t notice men’s fashion as much, because I am not a man, but I did notice that French men dress better (obviously). Buy clothes that actually fit your body. If this means that your shirt shows your shoulder outline, or your shorts are a little shorter, that’s fine, because at least you won’t look homeless from your too-loose pants. But also remember that there’s a different between fitted and too tight.

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