Written by: Lisa Patulny
If you consider yourself a minimalist fashion devotee, you’ll no doubt have heard the term ‘French girl style’. It’s usually mentioned in relation to consistently chic women like Camille Charrière, Chloé Harrouche, Emmanuelle Alt, Garance Doré and Jeanne Damas et al. At its heart, it’s about looking effortlessly put together – a perfect balance of polished and undone. A beauty element also comes into play: bare skin and tousled hair. Sometimes red lipstick. From top to toe, the vibe is always fresh and never ‘too much’.
While ‘French girl style’ is more an amalgam of the sartorial inclinations of past fashion icons (cc Bridgette Bardot, Jane Birkin, Francoise Hardy), influencers and pragmatic fashion designers than it is an actual set of rules that French women follow, it still forms a roadmap that makes day-to-day dressing infinitely easier.
So, what does fashion’s fantasy ‘French girl’ wear? Her wardrobe essentials include things like perfectly relaxed vintage jeans, button-up shirts, elevated tanks and tees and a well-cut blazer, plus leather ballet flats, loafers and logo-less handbags. There’s a significant focus on timeless silhouettes and high-quality fabrics, and her wardrobe mix is heavier on basics than on unique statement pieces. (Those play more of a cameo role.)
So, what style secrets can we learn from the ‘French girl’? Read on.
Secret 1. Say no to prominent logos
If there’s one thing French style is, it’s understated. Flashy brands (especially those with obvious logos and labels) are considered gauche. That might sound supercilious, but there is a welcome upside. Because the focus is always on the quality of the item, not the brand, there’s no need to spend big bucks on designer. Well-made items from smaller brands and second-hand and vintage are just as appreciated, if not more.
Secret 2. Mix polished with laid-back
One of the defining features of French girl style is looking chic but effortless. To achieve this, aim for the sweet spot between dressy and relaxed. Combining the two can take practice, but if your outfit is reading overdressed, a good tip is to think about how you can add a casual element. Whether that’s swapping loafers for sneakers, or a tailored blazer for an oversized denim jacket, the trick is to add an air of nonchalance.
Secret 3. Embrace uniform dressing
French style intersects with uniform dressing in a big way. Outfit repeating is encouraged, and a few classic combinations made up of wardrobe essentials (think: jeans, a tee and a blazer or relaxed suiting worn with sneakers) continue to feel fresh year after year. Dressing this way is made easier with a capsule wardrobe of pieces that mix and match with ease. Choose a uniform that suits your lifestyle and make it your signature.
Secret 4. Invest in high-quality denim
The French have a penchant for denim that transcends trends and seasons – jeans are worn all year round – so it makes sense to invest in a high-quality pair. Classic style jeans (blue, mid- to high-waisted and straight-leg) are a go-to fit for versatility, but there’s room for experimenting with silhouettes, too. The key to styling this staple like a Parisian is to pass over anything too casual and reach for elevated essentials instead.
Secret 5. Curate a neutral colour palette
French women are into neutrals – there’s a lot of beige, navy, black and white – because it’s a lot easier to mix and match your pieces when they’re in a flexible colour palette. What’s more, in-between neutrals like browns and greys are perfect for grounding brights and pastels. If you’ve ever bought a vivid piece but can’t figure out how to wear it in a way that feels like you, you might need more non-colour colours in your closet.
Read next: 5 Ways to Wear Loose Jeans