Breton stripes. A jaunty beret. Delicate lace. The unique elements of French style are indisputable, and it’s a style we return to and rely on time again – no matter what season.
What is it that makes French style so desirable? Perhaps it’s the simplicity, charm and elegance. Think about other fashion capitals of the world: London style is a little too abstract (it’s all those Central Saint Martens students, don’t you know). New York is similarly eclectic and avant garde, while Milan is just too decadent, with its endless supply of tanneries and millionaires. Japan is too far east for us Westerners, although we’re slowly warming to the idea of sandals and socks. French style, however, is the perfect happy medium.
France has given s some of the most influential fashion innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Christian Louboutin, Madeline Vionnet, Hubert De Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Pierre Balmain, Hedi Slimane, Kenzo Takada, and Louis Vuitton to name a few – all of whose designs and vision have continued to influence modern life. There are a handful of fundamental rules to dressing français, but here are five insider secrets to start building your flawless French wardrobe. Remember, if in doubt, go French. Oui oui?
The Breton Stripe
The Breton top originated as the navy and white striped uniform of French Navy seaman in Brittany in the 1950s. Since then, the humble Breton has been transformed and reinterpreted by designers to create modern and sophisticated ensembles. Wear your stripes with your head held high, your shoulders back, and your eyes smouldering. Throw on a bit of red lippy for extra va-va-voom too.
Left-right: Tory Burch, Fendi, Altuzarra
There are not many fashion problems that can’t be solved by a chic and relaxed sweater. They’re comfortable, sexy, and finding the perfect cashmere is a true treat. Team yours with relaxed-fit jeans, a full midi skirt or tailored shorts for a cool summer look (glass of sauvignon blanc is optional). In need of sweater-inspiration? Look no further than style icon, model, and muse Ines De La Fressange – whose timeless and effortlessly sharp dress sense launched her into fame (not to mention she still walks for fashion houses Gaultier and Chanel in her fifties). There’s a reason she was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1998. Read about La Fressange’s well-kept fashion secrets on how she maintained effortless glamour and timeless allure in her book; ‘Parisian Chic: A Style Guide By Ines De La Fressange. For a modern twist on the traditional sweater, try Sandro, timelessly beautiful Chloe, or edgy Saint Laurent.
Left-right; Striped cashmere sweater, Saint Laurent, €754, Kimono wrap-over style, Sandro, €237.78, Cotton-blend sweater, See By Chloe, €290
Okay, not all french girls were berets, but hats as a whole are symbolic of Parisian chic. Irish women are still coming round to the idea that hats can be worn every day – not just for special occasions. In an instant, hats have the ability to morph a simple outfit into an entire thought-out and sophisticated ensemble.
The real beauty of French women’s style lies in their ability to accessorise. It never looks overdone or distasteful, but charming and alluring; like the last sprinkle of sugar over the sweetest cake. Fashion blogger Garance Doré is a key example of French style done right: she’s quite nonchalant about the whole thing despite the Gucci loafers on her feet, a dries Van Noten jacket on her back and the perfect box bag to complete the look (see below). For your own French accessory interpretation think scarfs (silk, of course), jewellery – gold or pearls – one helluvah bag (Chanel 2.55), a killer lipstick (MAC Lady Danger) and big sunglasses. Your accessories will be the investment pieces in your wardrobe that will withstand the test of time so take make considered choices.
Everyone tells me my coat looks like teddy bear and it’s because it is! It’s @driesvannoten from a few years ago and he literally went to a teddy bear factory (the best in the world, of course) to get the perfect fluffy textured effect. By the way I’m sitting at @arcadebakery – a really cool spot in #tribeca , near @studiodore ☕️ #gdnewyorkfavorites
French style is ultimately all about attitude and confidence – with a pinch of effortlessness – which gives packages together the French fashion uniform. So no matter how you wear your favourite cashmere sweater, how you carry your favourite bag, or how you smize through your sunglasses; do it with confidence and the rest will fall into place. Take a look at our gallery above for inspiration from real Parisian style queens at Paris Fashion Week 2017.