To this day, France remains to be the mainstay fashion capital of the world—and for good reason. The French style is lauded for its timeless elegance and effortless air. Essentially, in French fashion, the goal is to be chic, not trendy, because chic styles never go out of style. For this reason, traveling in France can be quite intimidating, especially if you don’t know how to dress like the French, as this is crucial not to feel like you are a complete outsider in France.
If you are going on tours to France and you don’t want to seem ‘too touristy,’ you would like to avoid wearing pieces that scream “American” to the locals, such as leggings, sports bras, bike shorts, and the like worn as daywear because there is no such thing as ‘athleisure’ clothing in French. On the other end of the spectrum, you would never catch any local wearing anything too extreme—that is, any outfit too colorful and too complicated that appears to be trying too hard.
To help you prepare for your upcoming trip, we created this ultimate French-style guide that will assist you in navigating beauty, fashion, and lifestyle while traveling in the beautiful country of France.
How to Achieve the Chic French Style
If you want to feel confident in your clothes as you walk the streets of France, here are the French styling tips that you should keep in mind:
Always Choose Neutral Colors and Plain Prints
If you want to appear effortlessly elegant, the first thing you have to do is choose clothing that is neutral in color. Black, white, beige, navy blue, olive green, grey, brown, burgundy, cognac, and khaki are the best choices. Avoid colors that are too bright, flashy, and ‘loud,’ such as neon colors. Also, avoid combining pieces of clothing with many patterns or prints, as these may clash when worn together. And if you think that doing so will make you look drab and boring, you can add pops of color through accessories, like a colorful silk scarf, a stylish hat, a wide belt, or a chic purse. But do use these “statement accessories” in moderation because, in France, less is more. If you already have a noteworthy necklace, don’t put on earrings. If you already have nail polish, don’t put on lots of rings and bracelets. Essentially, keep it simple for it to be classy. You don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard.
Pay Attention to Details
French fashion is all about simplicity and elegance, but they also pay mind to even the littlest detail. The locals coordinate their outfits meticulously and ensure that every piece matches the others so that the outfit looks well put together.
Here are the details you should look out for:
Make sure the cuffs on your pants are folded at the right height
Ensure that the sleeves are rolled up properly. Roll it up to your elbow for a semi-formal look, or past the elbow for a more casual look.
Pay attention to how much of your shirt you tuck in and how many buttons you leave open.
Wear a well-chosen belt to give your ensemble some shape.
Pay attention to the fabric of your clothing. Opt for natural fibers, such as silk, cashmere, cotton, wool, or linen. Avoid synthetic fabrics.
Make sure that your clothes fit your body perfectly. It should not be too tight, too loose, too short, and too long. Have the clothes tailored to fit you perfectly.
Stick to prints that won’t go out of style, such as stripes, tartan, and houndstooth. Also, do not wear more than one print at the same time in an outfit, as it would seem tacky.
An excellent way to elevate your outfit is to incorporate small but impactful details such as jewelry, silk scarves, lace, bows, or hats. Prevent overaccessorizing by choosing dainty jewelry or a single statement piece. Remember that the key is to keep the accessories minimal for a sleek and stylish look.
Aim for Chic Décontracté
Chic décontracté or casual chic is all about mixing classic and timeless pieces with more sophisticated and dressy items like a designer bag, a silk scarf, a piece of jewelry, or a chic pair of shoes. The goal is to look elegant yet relaxed at the same time. So you have to avoid looking overdressed, and your clothes should fit comfortably while keeping the accessorization at a minimum.
A Chic Décontracté style exudes a “je ne sais quoi,” or a nonchalant and cool attitude but never arrogant or too loud. The secret lies in incorporating masculine pieces into feminine outfits to create a genuinely effortless chic look.
Some examples of the Chic Décontracté style are trench coats thrown over casual jeans, tailored pants with white sneakers, or blazers with wide-leg trousers.
Go “Au Naturel”
“Au naturel” in French beauty is all about having the perfect balance between looking polished but not too much—therefore appearing natural. Most locals prefer not to wear any makeup, and if they do, they aim for a subtle look that is barely noticeable and therefore seems natural. Instead of using a foundation that later on looks too cakey, French women opt for tinted moisturizers or concealer. They only ever use a tiny bit of blush or bronzer to create a natural look, and they finish off with a thin layer of mascara to make the eyes pop. And to add a bit of color and moisturize the lips, they use a bit of tinted lip balm—but not lip gloss. The key here is to prioritize skincare over full-on makeup.
When it comes to hair, the less-is-more approach still holds true. It is best to aim for a natural, slightly undone look. They prefer simple hairstyles that appear effortless.
Invest in Timeless Luxury Pieces
The French are known for their love for high-quality pieces and well-crafted staples. Invest in fine jewelry, watches, and designer handbags, which appreciate value over time. Also, French people tend to elevate an outfit by pairing designer staples with reasonably-priced pieces from the high street. For instance, if your outfit consists of simple jeans and a white button-down shirt, you should pair it with luxury shoes and a handbag.
Must-Have Parisian Style Pieces
To create your very own capsule wardrobe, you must have the following essential pieces of clothing:
Basic white T-shirt
A button-down shirt
A silk lavalière shirt
A cashmere sweater
Bottoms & Dresses
A little black dress
The timeless trench coat
A navy blue blazer
A black tuxedo jacket
A wool coat
Bags & Accessories
Cross-body leather bag
The classic tote bag
Timeless dainty jewelry