Few countries are as synonymous with fashion as France. From Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent to haute couture and prêt-à-porter, so many of the brands and terms we immediately associate with the world of fashion are French.
But French style doesn’t really have much to do with fashion’s more flamboyant eccentricities. In fact, our gallic neighbours are better known for casual chic and understated good taste than try-hard glitz and glam. French Girl Daily believes that ‘French girl style’ is about ‘effortless elegance’ and ‘looking put together, without looking like you tried too hard or spent hours in front of the mirror. It’s confidence in what you wear and, of course, who you are.’
In other words, French style somehow combines effortless class and sophistication with a relatively low-key approach. So, while statement pieces are by no means unheard of on the streets of Paris, they’re likely to be teamed with a relatively modest ensemble. Wearing a multitude of attention-grabbing pieces at the same time simply isn’t in keeping with the spirit of French style. French Girl Daily sums up this tendency to avoid overloading with flashy gear: “Sometimes it’s the shoes, sometimes it’s the jacket or shirt, but each time a French girl wears a look-at-me piece, it’s typically only once per outfit”.
The cardinal sin of French girl style is looking like you spent ages putting your outfit together, even if you totally did. Yet again, we find ourselves reaching for the word that best captures the essence of French style: effortless.
Basically, you’re looking to achieve a casual yet chic look, so channel that nonchalant French vibe and think minimal. Here are a few French girl fashion staples that will help you get there:
The plaid blazer has been omnipresent on the streets of Paris for some time. Worn well, nothing captures the spirit of French girl style more completely – a bit boyish, kinda sassy, somewhat traditional and somehow very French. It’s also pretty versatile – wear it oversized or fitted, dressed up with heels or booties, over a simple black t-shirt when it’s warm or a cosy sweater in the colder months.
Breton striped tops are so French they could easily feel like a tired cliché, but actually this timeless look remains a casual chic must-have. La marinière’s blue and white stripes have long been a quintessentially gallic design, from their origins in the French navy to their iconic appropriation by Coco Chanel in the early 20th century and the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Jean Seberg in the 50s and 60s. If you’re after an easy-wearing basic with a frisson of French chic then La marinière is hard to beat.
Stripes may be the timeless French pattern, but polka dots have been every bit as prevalent in Paris for a couple of years now. There’s something irresistibly playful about polka dot print dresses and spots of all sizes can add a fun twist to more adult ensembles.
Beige trench coat
Perhaps the Parisian weather has something to do with the trench coat’s abiding popularity in the French capital. Every Parisienne seems to have long beige trench ready to bust out as soon as the weather turns, and this autumn/winter outerwear classic lends an air of chic sophistication to any look.
There are several footwear styles that lend themselves to the French girl look, including espadrilles (in the summer), block heel Mary Janes, suede ankle boots and (of course) ballet flats. But we’ve also observed plenty of loafers walking the streets of Paris and the classic, versatile charm of a sturdy loafer, teamed with jeans or a skirt, makes a lot of sense as autumn descends.