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I have spent most of my Internet life clicking online content with a headline including the word ‘French’.
Five items for the perfect French girl wardrobe. Click. French women on how they dress for work. Click. French pharmacy beauty buys every Parisian girl owns. Click click click click click.
So you’d think I’d have maybe a rough idea of what to pack for two days in Paris.
I announce this to my boyfriend the night before an overnight work trip to Paris. “I don’t think I know what French girl fashion is.”
For God’s sake. What do boys learn in school?
“It’s The Kooples. It’s Alexa Chung but it’s not allowed be her because she’s not French. Do you want to see The French Girl? She’s called Caroline de Maigret.”
I showed him The French Girls Instagram account. “I don’t get it.”
“It’s undone but tailored, willowy, effortless,” I’m aggressively hand gesturing, exasperated now, indicating to Caroline de Maigret's Gallic glamour and back to me, in holey pyjama bottoms. He leaves pretty soon after this.
I am none of these things. I am short, stout, unnaturally blonde and frequently imperfectly false tanned - like an orange, bleached version of I'm A Little Teapot, if you will.
However, I’ve acquired everything I’ve been told I would ever need to go to Paris - classic white shirts, basket bags, red lipsticks and a Marlboro Light addiction. I incorporate at least one of the pillars of French cuisine - cheese, wine, bread and caffeine - into every meal. I’m as French as I could be goddammit without having done the one thing Diana Vreeland (another OG French Woman) said the first thing everyone must do in life - “to arrange to be born in Paris.”
Fashion rules the world and Parisians rule fashion, according to How To Parisian Wherever You Are, the Parisian fashion bible co-authored by Caroline de Maigret. It includes many life-affirming gems such as, “If you only own one sweater, make sure it’s cashmere.”
Rule number one of being Parisian according to The Bible is that “everything you do must be effortless and graceful,” so a bedroom strewn with a decades accumulation of Topshop Breton tees was already breaking the rules. The only time I had been in Paris before was when I was 11. In a photograph taken of me doing a peace sign on the Eiffel Tower - I was 11 - I’m wearing a knee-length denim and shearling monstrosity with a bobbled multicoloured woolly hat. This time, I was going to get my wardrobe right.
I stayed up fretting until 2 am - for an overnight trip - and in the end, just threw into my suitcase a check blazer, minimal hoop earrings - understated jewellery is the only to wear jewellery if you are French and the gold hoop is the Parisian girl of jewellery - and a basket bag. French women would never stand for the faff of a large handbag and also, Jane Birkin.
After two days of carefully observing chic Parisian women, one element that they all had in common, one thing that might be the secret to All Things French, was that at least one thing in every outfit is deliberately undone, never trying too hard. There's a shirt untucked, messy hair, flat shoes or a black bra under a white blouse. The same can be said of their beauty routines.
Below are five trends observed repeatedly over two days in Paris.
No make-up make-up
Armani Prima Color Control Glow Moisturizer, €45
Skin is back in, but in Paris, it was never out. Wearing less coverage when you have blemishes or redness can be daunting, but the new Armani Prima Color Control Glow Moisturizer combines skincare and make-up for an illuminating glow with buildable coverage and doesn't smother the visibility of the skin. Armani Prima Color Control Glow Moisturizer is available in August.
More stain that blush, Glossier make-up products can be applied with your fingers and this gel-cream blush is foolproof and faff-free. Just dab the tiniest dot of it into the cheeks for a sheer, airbrushed glow. Check out the new shades Glossier just added to the range here.
No done-to-death perfect brows to be found in Paris - brows were ruffled and choppy. With Benefit's Brow Setter, €26, a clear setting gel, muzzle your hairs the wrong way or brush them all upwards for natural brushed-up brows.
Looking for the perfect French influencer to follow for Parisian beauty inspo? You'll find her in @Violette_fr. She's a Parisian based makeup artist and Estée Lauder's Global Beauty Director. When discussing with Glamour the allure of French women and red lipstick, she said, "I've always thought that chic women wear red lipstick; I think it's a French thing. We go for no makeup, smoky eyes, or red lipstick. I'm into doing one beauty statement and keeping the rest of your look super-real, so I like bold, intense red lips and nothing else. It's good to strike a balance between glam and natural." For the perfect, easy red to suit all skin tones, try Laura Mercier Velour Extreme Matte Lipstick in Fire.
Textured, undone hair
Hair by Sam McKnight Cool Girl Barely There Texture Mist, €25, available in Brown Thomas
And finally, according to David Mallett, hairstylist to French femmes Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, French women don't blowdry. That effortless hair is just that - effortless. To cheat your way to tousled, textured hair, spray Sam McKnight's Cool Girl Barely There Texture Mist, €25, into the crown of the hair and muss upwards, for a style he calls "Kate Moss in a can." And let the hair air dry, naturellement.
Featured image by @carolinedemaigret.