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The Most Comprehensive Guide to French Style

The Most Comprehensive Guide to French Style

french style guide

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.

french girl style inès de la fressange
Inès de La Fressange at Paris Fashion Week FW22, Haute Couture, photo: IMAXtree

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.

french wardrobe essentials list

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.

French Influencers to Follow For French Style Inspiration

french girl style camille charrière
Camille Charrière at Paris Fashion Week SS21, photo: IMAXtree.

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:

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.

View Comments (6)
  • Bonjour! Im headed to Paris this autumn and your post could not have come at a better time! How did you know?? I had a loose idea of my Parisian mindset (with both hits & misses) but you got right to the point (which I love the most about your posts). Keep up this very important work that you do. You have been quite the inspiration for me in finding my authentic inner French girl

    • Bonjour Teresa, thank you so very much for your comment and your kind words <3
      I wish you a lovely trip to Paris this autumn! xo

  • Bonjour Leonce – I am a more mature lady in my late 60s – although I love everything you do and love following you and fashion – I feel only once have I seen fashion for the older lady. I wonder if you could consider doing an Article on Fashion for the more Mature lady. Thank you for again . A bientot xx

  • Bonjour Leonce – I am a more mature lady – looking for fashion colours for autumn. Does the French/Parisian lady worry about age in fashion. I get lost sometimes and worry about what to wear especially when I am disabled and have to use a walking stick. Thank you for your time. A bientot xx

  • Love your articles and links. However, would love to see some fashion inclusivity of larger women and older women. Not everyone is thin and small busted and so photos only show young women with these features. Thank you for your insights and your time. A bientot

  • Born and raised amongst many French woman and all these I learned growing up. Grew up in upper central mid US. Simple, classic, good quality, interchangeable, handmade if possible.

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