What is it about French women that always leaves me staring as they ever so briskly pass by? Thinking, how do they always manage to look so (for lack of a better word), chic? French fashion is all about off the cuff classic modern style. They appear to be dressed with a casual confidence, never looking out of place and drawing just enough attention. Details and accessories are carefully chosen, creating a color palette of distinctive greys, blacks and neutrals, with just a touch of color. Timeless. Elegant. And always chic. This ‘dress-code’ is most creatively displayed in the ‘bobo’ parts of Paris where ‘bourgeois’ meets ‘boheme’. The result is a never-ending fashion show on the streets of the Marais, Saint Germain, and often in between.
What’s their secret? I have a few theories.
Parisians are avid shoppers but not necessarily considered consumers. Whether shopping luxury French brands, or affordable French fashion designers, they choose quality over quantity. When the Soldes hit Paris, they spend the time necessary to find that one classic signature piece to add to their collection, which will naturally work with all the other pieces. Shopping becomes a curatorial experience. Thus, there is no end to the possibilities and no need to follow the latest trends. Rather than mimic a mannequin, a Parisian woman will simply use this model for inspiration.
It’s not only the mesdames of Paris who exude elegance. I am often pushed to take notice of the younger generation, anyone under 18. They too possess that characteristic French style in their attitude and appearance, no doubt inherited by their style conscious mothers, dressed at the age of 11 in French brands such as Zadig & Voltaire and Petit Bateau. Perhaps an occasional ‘vintage’ scarf borrowed from their mother’s closet. These young fashion forward minds are already way ahead of the trends. Surely, this look of simple elegance is deeply ingrained in their genes, passed on from the Chanel clad grandmother.
This I know to be true, and it’s often what sets the French apart from the rest of the world. A Parisian woman always manages to look sexy, yet discreet. Even when gliding to the boulangerie in her Repetto flats. When getting dressed for a night on the town, (often no different than the aforementioned look, with only a change of shoes), she will show a hint of cleavage or a well defined leg, but never both. Why should she? It’s best to leave a little to the imagination and show your class. The French way.
In my time living in Paris, I have taken many visual notes on ‘the look of a Parisian’, the streets being my school. I will never quite blend in, but I do choose to follow this unwritten code. Perhaps I was Parisian in a past life…
- Besides one’s fashion sense, what is another giveaway that you are not a Parisian? Find out in Smile. You’re in Paris.
- There is more to fitting in with the locals than just fashion. Find out what Yvonne Hazleton learned from after 5 years of living Paris.
- Yet another distinctive cultural difference? Find out how Parisians react to the first signs of Spring.
Written by Kasia Dietz. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.