Here is your ultimate guide to French style. Being French, I love to write about French fashion! And in this article, I wanted to dive a little bit more into the French style and how to achieve this style wherever you are. In this post, you’ll learn what defines French style, and the set of rules French women follow religiously to achieve that effortless, undone but always stylish look. In addition, thanks to the French staple pieces listed below that make day-to-day dressing infinitely easier, you’ll be able to recreate the French woman’s wardrobe, wherever you are.
What Defines French Style
French style is not a difficult style to pull off and is not entirely unattainable. It is something effortless, classic, nonchalant, and cool but not arrogant. French style is all about finding the right balance between looking dressed up and laid-back at the same time (we say “chic décontracté” in French).
It’s not being obsessed with wearing bold shades, extravagant items, bright colors, and expensive pieces. Instead, French style is all about choosing great fabrics, and high-quality, timeless, and versatile items that work well together. This style lies in how clothes are mixed together and the little things that make the difference.
How To Dress Like a French Woman
If you’ve noticed, the French are never overdone or overdressed. They know exactly how to keep their overall look simple and clean. In this section, I’ll go through the set of rules, guidelines, and tips French women follow religiously to achieve that effortless style they’re known for.
From the clothing style they avoid, to their philosophy when it comes to accessorizing to their relaxed attitude toward getting dressed, these tips are timeless, simple, and relevant to women of all ages.
1. Buy less, buy better
Always emphasize quality over quantity, and invest in timeless quality clothing.
2. Mix casual and dress-up pieces
Mix casual and dress-up pieces rather than wearing all casual pieces at once, or looking too dressed up.
3. Discover new brands
One reason you can get stuck into style ruts is that you can get attached to certain shops.
4. Keep activewear as a gym-only look
You’ll never see people in Paris walking around in their gym clothes.
5. Seek neutral colors
French women generally do not wear more than two colors at the same time in an outfit —blue jeans don’t count.
6. Choose the right cut
The proper fit should be not too tight, not too loose, not too short, and not too long.
7. Don’t over-accessorize
French women generally keep accessorization of their outfits to a minimum.
8. Simplicity is key
A French look is all about the basics —that may seem safe or boring— but which work well when put together and look flattering on anyone.
9. Found your own style and stick to it
Try to find your own personal style —meaning knowing what you like, what you don’t, and the type of clothes that flatter your body type— and stick to it.
10. It’s all about the attitude
Pay attention to your posture, and your expressions, speak with elegance, act in an elegant manner and be confident.
Parisian Style vs French Style
Being French, I grew up near Annecy, France (what Parisians call —with a little contempt— the “province”, which basically means everything outside the Paris area). I lived for several years in Paris, so I was able to notice several differences between the French style and the Parisian style.
In my opinion, what really stands out about Parisians is the fact that they never look like they are trying too hard with their outfits or look like they spent hours getting ready. Parisian style is much more effortless compared to French style while being a little bit more sophisticated. Think about Emily’s style in the Netflix series Emily in Paris being the anti-Parisian style ;).
While Parisian style may seem easy to reproduce, making a fashion statement while being a minimalist requires a particular style-savviness; think of it as a kind of art. If you want to know more, read my ultimate guide to Parisian style.
I independently select all products featured on Leonce Chenal. If you buy something through my links, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. I only recommend products I genuinely love.
The Wardrobe Essentials For a French Look
To help you in your shopping, I’ve compiled a list of the wardrobe essentials that define French style. A French wardrobe is a collection of versatile, high-quality basic items, that stand the test of passing fads and seasons. These pieces listed below are classic, timeless, and can be worn all year round, regardless of the season.
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The French Wardrobe Essentials List
To give you a little more guidance, I’ve gathered a list of the French wardrobe essentials —including items for the spring, summer, autumn, and winter season— that you can easily incorporate into your wardrobe.
Also, in this list, I’ve included essential shoe styles and accessories that are found in every French wardrobe. The French know that the right accessories and the right pair of shoes can make all the difference when it comes to completing a look.
The Best French Fashion Brands To Shop
I’ve saved you some time by listing all of the best French fashion brands I know for every price range and style. From mid-range contemporary to high-end and more affordable, there are a lot of French brands to discover!
Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite French brands where I regularly shop for high-quality, timeless, and versatile pieces.
- ba&sh (ba-sh.com)
- Bobbies (bobbies.com) – for shoes
- Isabel Marant Étoile (shop at isabelmarant.com, nordstrom.com)
- Lemaire (lemaire.fr, matchesfashion.com, mytheresa.com)
- Longchamp (longchamp.com) – for bags
- Maje (maje.com, nordstrom.com)
- Saint James (saint-james.com) – for marinières
- Sandro (sandro-paris.com, nordstrom.com, bloomingdales.com)
- Sézane (sezane.com)
- The Kooples (thekooples.com)
- Vanessa Bruno (vanessabruno.com, bloomingdales.com)
- Zadig & Voltaire (zadig-et-voltaire.com)
French Influencers to Follow For French Style Inspiration
If you’re looking for French style inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of 30 of the top French influencers to follow on Instagram. Whether digital creators, entrepreneurs, authors, journalists, models, or businesswomen, I wanted to spotlight stylish, smart, and inspirational French women of all ages, of different backgrounds and sizes, and who have something to say.
These French women definitely challenge and redefine the “perfect Parisian woman” cliché. They share a different version —and a more inclusive vision— of the French woman, who sometimes, I would admit, is a little bit stereotyped. Some of my favorites include:
- Anne-Laure Mais (@annelauremais)
- Camille Charrière (@camillecharriere)
- Chloé Harrouche (@louloudesaison)
- Ellie Delphine, also known as Slip Into Style (@slipintostyle)
- Géraldine Boublil (@erinoffduty)
- Jen Azoulay (@jen_wonders)
- Leia Sfez (@leiasfez)
- Parisiens in Paris (@parisiensinparis) – which is led by an anonymous figure.
Also, for more French fashion, home, and travel inspiration, you can follow me on Instagram: @leoncechenal.
Et voilà! I hope this ultimate guide to French style will help you achieve French style wherever you are. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.
Bonjour! I’m Leonce, a French native and the founding editor of Leonce Chenal, a modern lifestyle platform for lovers of everything French. With my previous experience working for top tech companies in London and Paris, I created this platform in 2018 to offer discerning Francophiles an authentic experience through carefully curated content about French fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Merci for visiting, and à bientôt!