I wanted from some time now to do for you guys a “guide” on how to dress as a typical Parisienne. You don’t have to be born in Paris to be one, just to respect a few rules, so everyone can be one (of course true Parisians recognize themselves and will highly ignore you). There are a few items in the true Parisienne wardrobe that are the “basics”, what people will recognize as a french item and that she can “tourner dans routes les sauces” and it’ll always be chic (french, literally “turn in every sauce”, mix with everything).
These simple few pieces are the ingredients to transform yourself into a real Parisienne, but then you will need the “magic” to achieve the perfect potion, a.k.a. your fashion powers. Boom Crac Bim! It is also really easy to turn into the Fashion faux-pas and turn yourself ri-di-cu-le (*try to imagine it in the french accent with an imperceptible disgusted look on*). Of course la Parisienne has a lot of little secrets to keep the look traditional (think of the super delicious grandma recipe everyone wants on holidays dinners but only a few will ever know) and these items are just the 1-to-10 rules. Don’t be discouraged my friends, as these simple staples look also incredibly good on everyone and are easily worn with pieces you already have in your closet. Also, let me warn you that this article is full of irony (if you didn’t get it!).
So let’s jump into it! Also before beginning the cookbook, let me remind you that there also is a video that does exist on my Youtube channel on the same theme presenting all the items if you want to check it out !
The Breton shirt is very popular in french people after Mademoiselle Chanel imported it herself from the french mariners. Every form and colour is good: large with short sleeves, stretched and long sleeves, cotton tee, wool pull…
How to style it: Wear it under a bomber or leather jacket, a man’s jacket to distress it, or if it is too hot just with a pair of jeans and blue ballerinas, and a leather bag. It can also distress a fine pair of blue classic cigarette pants worn with a man’s jacket and some heels.
A staple piece that you must have in your wardrobe, french or not, that can be so easily matched to anything. If you are not so much for team-shirt invest in only a basic white cotton one, not too transparent that fits you well and you might one day find useful on that important business meeting or event. If you are a shirt-freak like me, you might already find you in a position where half of your closet is every sort, material, color and pattern of shirt (*sorry not sorry*).
How to style it: When the weather is hot, try it with some jean shorts and leather sandals, a beach bag and some large sunglasses; or tucked under a floral skirt. If the white shirt might seem to you too formal, try a colored or printed one. For when it’s a little colder, you can wear it under a pull-over (beige, kaki,…) and some dark jeans or classic pants and boots, a dark peacoat and a woolen hat to stay warm.
The trench (rain coat):
As you might be familiar with it, as seen in British people, the french version has a peculiar difference. Originally in both countries a military staple, french wear it often but instead of accurately conserving it without wrinkles, french’s, as you might now have noticed, are fond of the “nonchalance” and wear everything careless. Even the trench follow the rule and you might want to observe it taking up the sleeves to your elbows or tiding the belt with a nod.
How to style it: Match it to some classic pants, high boots in winter. But french also like to wear it when the weather is not super warm in spring time and there still is a little breeze with some cuffed jeans and heeled sandals.
The leather jacket
The leather jacket is definitely a must, it dress up easily an outfit giving it a complete look. From spring to fall the leather jacket can be worn with everything you have in your closet, even on vacation with a long flowy dress at dinner.
How to style it: A black perfecto is perfect with a black striped marinière underneath, skinny black jeans and boots (as seen in Saint Laurent Fall ’15) or a brown one to distress a too girly dress with horse riding boots or flats.
These might look to you a little too old but they are the key to the elegant french look. And if you don’t know what they are, think of the men pants with the fold in the middle. It is wrong to think that you cannot wear them. In fact they exist in different shapes so if you think you look good in your skinny definitely try a skinnier one. They also look great if you think you have a rounded leg because they’ll fall rigidly instead of adapting to your shapes, making you look slimmer. Finally, if you want to look taller, you can ask for a model showing the ankles and wear it with some dark oxfords.
How to style it: Whether the fact that this piece looks almost good on everyone, it is as simple as a jeans to style. If you think you’ll not be able to style it, opt for a blue color block one (super french!). Wear it with some flats, a marinière or a pull and a foulard on the neck; you can try the autumn version brown and checked with leather high boots and a turtle neck under a coat.
I think we all have a good pair of jeans in our wardrobe. Well, dark cigarette jeans are every french woman basic because of the fact that they look good on everyone, they are perfect for every occasion and they never go out of style. A few reasons to jump buy one if you don’t already have one. I am pretty sure every Parisian has only cigarette jeans if not a few different ones (flared and boyfriend), at least I have. After buying the classic denim blue colour, try black and white if you find yourself good in it. I personally have two pairs of black jeans that I use in winter and they are perfect because I only wear black or blue. Try Uniqlo for perfect fitted jeans.
How to style it: The cigarette jean is so simple to style. I know I said it for almost all the pieces here, but this is the beauty and magic of the parisian closet, that it is so simple to style because of this typical nonchalance parisienne that consists in putting an extra effort in showing no effort in the style (one of the main rules of the Parisienne is not showing you putted effort in how you dressed this morning). As for the cigarette jeans, they are called like so because of the shape, similar to the classic pant and similar to a cigarette.
Those shoes are a go-to for a french woman, promotor of the “busy-woman” style, easy to walk with and still elegant they became an icon mixed with capri pants worn by celebrities as Brigitte Bardot and many others. They come in different colors and you can mix them day by day, but I’d suggest you to start with a good old navy that goes with everything.
How to style it: As said before, it is perfect with cropped pants showing the ankles to give the leg a longer shaper and showing some skin gives a touch of femininity. If you fear the “too old” look, pair them with some denims that will give you a younger look, on top a floral shirt or something coloured.
Horse riding boots
These boots are essentials because once you have them, you can put up an outfit with just basic items and seem like you putted a lot of effort into it (Parisienne nonchalance remember). A lot of items as the trench coat were imported from the english aristocracy which inspired our dear Coco as the sportive jacket used by men to ride or hunt and that is why some of english pieces are worn today by french people (plus they are neighbours) and most of all by women. French women like to mix elegance, femininity and convenience, finding the perfect balance between girly and sporty, which is why those boots are perfect in your wardrobe. They give you a sporty look ant at the same time a classy elegance.
How to style it: Plus, they are super easy to style. With a pair of jeans, or classic pants, a trench on that gives some balance and you’re good to go. If you want to try and experiment something a little more chalenging, wear them with a skirt or dress and play with the accessories to make it look effortless and fight the “mémé dans le jardin” look (=granny in the garden).
Talking about grannies, here is a bag you’ll find on every Parisian woman with a little sense of style. You can call it the “grandma bag”, the “classic” bag, whatever you want, but we’re talking the same material. It is this mythic little leather bag, really classical for its design and shape, nothing too modern, better with an over-the-shoulder strap for convenience, that goes with basically everything you will ever wear at any situation. Invest in a good quality one because trust me, this will be the best purchase in your life. You don’t need to go right for the classical Chanel one but can find good leather hand-made ones without a brand but have a super high quality. For the color I’d personally suggest brown tones because I find myself wearing more blues than blacks but you can switch based on your style.
How to style it: With a trench, a leather jacket, a denim jacket, no jacket but stripes shirt, a floral dress, EVERYTHING will go with that bag. I promise you this is pure french magic.
Finally, to style your french look and because they say that key is in the detail, you don’t want to ruin all your efforts into camouflaging into a perfect Ines by putting on a statement necklace that yells “Look at me I’m kitsch” (I feel like my little french snobbism is slowly coming out in this article) but opt for a fine and discrete jewelry that you will keep every day with everything. Now, gold or silver is really up to you and your style. Personally I find that silver looks better on brunettes while gold is prettier on blondes and red hair.
How to style it: There is just one rule that you need to follow: don’t mix metals. Whether you choose silver or gold, please don’t put them together if you are looking for a neutral and classy look. Also, don’t exaggerate with the quantity: for example it’s ok some times to put on a pair of long earings, but maybe you don’t want to wear them with your necklace the same day, even as simple as it can be. With rings I’d say not to wear all of them on the same day as if you were afraid that leaving them at home they might be stolen or as if you were transformed into some strange rapper.
Aaand this is it for this week’s post! I really hope you guys enjoyed reading or even just viewing some lookbook photos, that you learned something more about french style and if you ever want to recreate some of these looks or have some suggestions please tag me on socials (Twitter: @marienardi, Instagram: @marienardi). Also, once again don’t forget to check out the linked video on my Youtube channel to see all the items in action!