Here is your ultimate French Riviera style guide. Whether this summer you’ll happen to spend your holidays on the French Riviera (lucky you), or simply wish to spend the summer flaunting in the streets looking like you’re going to the French Riviera, here is your ultimate French Riviera style guide.
South of France has always been one of my favorite summer vacation destinations (check out my article on the 10 best vacation spots on the French Riviera). And this destination always reminds me of one of my favorite vintage movies, To Catch A Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.
And even if I’m not heading to the south of France any time soon, I’ve started shopping to update my summer wardrobe. I like to keep it casual but chic and elegant with dresses, tops, and pants that are breezy but still put together. Remember that this style is a beautiful mix of nautical and Parisian chic. So, whether you’re wondering what to pack for a French Riviera holiday or how you should dress in the South of France, here is your summer style guide to the French Riviera.
What Is The French Riviera Style?
Playground of the rich and famous, the French Riviera has an unwritten uniform that falls somewhere between nautical and Parisian chic. The French Riviera exudes a casual elegance that is unlike anywhere else. And this timeless style started with affluent holidaymakers nearly a century ago traveling to southern France, and who needed elegant yet casual clothing for leisurely activities in the heat. Whatever the decade, the style on the French Riviera has remained almost the same. The Breton stripes, cropped trousers, basket bags, and straw boaters that Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Brigitte Bardot wore to the French Riviera still remain the unofficial dress code.
Whether you are actually heading to the Côte d’Azur this year, or you’d like to re-create this glamourous and sophisticated look at home, I have you covered! Keep scrolling to read my summer-style guide to the French Riviera with the ten must-have items of the French Riviera style.
10 Wardrobe Essentials Of The French Riviera Style
Personally, I’ve always loved the chic style and glamour of the French Riviera. That’s why, in today’s post, I wanted to share with you the ten wardrobe essentials of the French Riviera style. These items are ten essentials to perfect holiday dressing that I pack when I’m heading to the South of France in summer. I usually end up with chic, classic, and elegant statement items that are practical enough to wear in the heat. Even if you aren’t traveling this summer, these are sophisticated yet simple pieces that will work anywhere.
1. Elegant Blouses & Tops
If you’re looking for white summer tops with a little extra polish, I’ll recommend shopping for any kinds of ruffles, off-the-shoulder or puffed-sleeve blouses. These white tops and blouses are the best options when traveling around the Côte d’Azur. Indeed, these are perfect for anyone looking for something a little more elevated than the (also essential) white t-shirt this summer. Also, these easy pieces are hot-weather saviors, must-have French wardrobe staples, and can be worn with pretty much everything and anything, whether you’re in the mood for dressing up or down.
When heading to the Côte d’Azur, I prefer to keep the tank and tee for my pajama top and look for tops a little more elegant. Like this Madewell cuffed-sleeve wrap top with stripes or this beautiful Reformation Holcomb linen top.
2. Breton Stripe Shirt
Breton stripes are timeless and iconic for the French Riviera. In 1917, Coco Chanel made the marinière an icon of French couture when she introduced the design in her nautical collection. Today, the Breton stripe shirt is a key component of any French girl’s holiday wardrobe. It’s a more fashion-forward option to wear around town.
If you’re looking to shop for authentic Breton shirts made in France, I really recommend the French clothing brand, Saint James. This brand makes authentic striped sailor tees and Breton knitwear in Saint-James (Normandy, France) since 1889. And for the French Riviera, I love the Saint James Mediterranee 3/4 sleeve nautical stripe shirt.
3. White Jeans
A beautiful pair of white denim is an incredibly versatile piece to add to your packing list for the French Riviera. Indeed, a flared or cropped trouser leg is perfect for those warm riviera evenings, keeping you smart and cool. Want to wear white jeans like a French woman? You can pair it with a Breton stripe, a one-piece swimsuit or you can always go all in white by wearing a delicate white blouse in the same color. It’s definitely a staple of the French summer wardrobe that you need in your closet.
French women prefer to wear high-waisted white jeans and flare or straight-leg white jeans. For petite ladies, try out something tapered at the ankle, and you might gravitate towards a white mom jean. For women rocking curves, go for the overall structure and opt for a figure-flattering, high-waisted fit. Whether you’re heading to a fine dîner or strolling the streets of St-Tropez, these white jeans are sure to deliver that coveted French flair in a modern, wearable way.
4. White Dress
Nothing says summer quite like a white dress. Whether it’s a plain linen midi dress, a pretty broderie Anglaise mini, or a flattering wrap silhouette, white dresses are effortless and have the ability to be dressed up or down with ease. They are a staple of the French Riviera style. For an afternoon at Pampelonne beach, or for a summer evening soirée at Les Caves du Roy, white dresses exude an air of elegance. They are very versatile and can either be paired with chic gold strappy sandals or with flat sandals for more casual affairs. You can wear them open as a chic cover-up over your swimsuit as well.
I always bring several white dresses for different occasions. My favorite white dresses for the beach are from H&M like this long voluminous dress, or this flounced kaftan dress. If you’re petite, opt for shorter dresses like this embroidered mini dress. For a day in town, I love this white puffed sleeves cotton dress and this belt shirt dress. Finally, I think Reformation creates the most beautiful dresses for a soirée on the French Riviera. This Dolci dress is my absolute favorite white dress for summer.
5. One-Piece Swimsuit
If there is one essential swimsuit to pack for a French Riviera holiday, it’s definitely a one-piece. The one-piece swimsuit is one of the classic French swimwear styles you need to add to your summer wardrobe. This swimwear style, inspired by old-world glamour, suits all body types and is the most flattering swimsuit shape for large and small chests. It’s a really classic, timeless, and chic swimwear style. You can shop simple one-pieces from French swimwear brands like Eres. And you can find many great and cheaper alternatives, like this one from Mango, or this one from Madewell.
Also, do not forget to pack pretty coverups as well, that you can wear for a quick lunch along the waterfront. A beautiful shirt dress or a linen sundress would work as the perfect coverup to get from room to pool.
Espadrilles are one of the summer shoe styles French women wear on repeat in. They’re also incredibly easy to walk in and can be paired with any type of outfit. And since there is a lot of walking on older cobblestone streets in the south of French, comfy shoes are essential. You can choose from two types of espadrilles: the ones with 2-inch heels give you a little extra leg length, while the flat ones are perfect to walk all day across uneven cobblestones in St Tropez.
I love these Castaner Carina Wedge Espadrilles (these Soludos Espadrilles are a cheaper alternative) and I love these from Sezane which can go with everything. I have also a few pairs of flat espadrilles from Monge, a handmade shoe brand from Mallorca. And these Chanel espadrilles are on my wishlist (these Dune espadrilles are a cheaper alternative).
When packing for the French Riviera, I pack no more than three pairs of shoes: a pair of espadrilles, flat sandals, and strappy heels. And if there is one French shoe brand that is iconic in the south of France, it’s definitely K. Jacques. Created in 1933 by Mr. and Mrs. Keklikian, K. Jacques is still a family business today, the has three stores in St.Tropez and a boutique in the very chic Marais quarter of Paris. This iconic shoe brand designs beautiful sandals in the style of the ancient Spartans: extra-flat sandals with thin straps that highlight the ankle. I’m in love with these K. Jacques Scara Wrap Sandals.
Also, if you’re looking for awesome and glamorous sandals for a nice dinner or a special occasion, I’ll recommend shopping for a pair of fancy heel sandals. And to keep you fancy and beachside elegant without getting your heel stuck between the cobblestones, I recommend block heel. I love these ones by Sam Edelman, but also these beautiful knot sandals. Also, I have these Petrus sandals by Michel Vivien on my wishlist.
8. Straw Hat
When it comes to accessories, you definitely need a straw hat, whether it’s a wide-brim hat, a boater, a fedora, or a Panama. It’s the perfect accessory to wear at the beach or in town and that will serve as extra protection from the sun. You’ll just look like you’ve just stepped off a yacht in the St. Tropez marina! Personally, I always bring with me to the south of France a few different styles. I love boaters like this one and this floppy sun hat (which is perfect for the beach) and this Halogen Panama hat as well.
9. Straw Bag
A straw bag is one of the items that definitely sum up the French Riviera look. There’s something about a straw bag that instantly signals summer, whether it’s a raffia tote, a jute basket, a rattan crossbody bag, or even a market basket bag. And when I see wicker, raffia, or straw bag, glamorous images of the French Riviera (la Côte d’Azur) immediately come to my mind.
If in the past, this bag has been traditionally reserved just for the beach, in recent years, the straw bag has made a comeback and is now considered a must-have summer accessory. I usually wear a straw shopper bag in summer. I’ve had a few different styles over the years, but my two favorites are the Sézane Gaby weaved bag and this jute basket bag. Also, I really love this inexpensive classic French silhouette from Etsy.
The key here is elegance, so don’t go overboard with the accessories. A single white dress paired with a hat and sunglasses works wonderfully. Before you start your sunglasses hunt, you should first determine the right style for your face. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can consider more trend-driven pairs in similar shapes.
Personally, I do think Celine Cat Eye Sunglasses will help add chich accents to any of your looks. If you don’t have the budget, the Air Heart Sunglasses by Le Specs (only $69) is a great and cheaper alternative. Also, this year I love the shape of the Balenciaga Dynasty vintage-inspired oval sunglasses. Finally, if you don’t know where to shop for stylish sunglasses on a budget, I really recommend the French brand Jimmy Fairly (my favorites are the Maya).
What to leave behind
- Plastic thong flip flops or crocs
- Touristy kinds of tees and tanks
- Sweatshirt or sweatpants (unless you need them for flight and/or exercise)
- Leggings (the weather is too warm to wear them)
- Very short, mini dresses or mini shorts as well
Et voilà! I hope you will have a magical trip to the Côte d’Azur and that this French Riviera style guide will inspire you. Let me know if you picked up any of these items and what you think.
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Bonjour and welcome to Leonce Chenal, a modern lifestyle platform created and curated by a French woman for lovers of everything French. I’m Leonce, born and raised near Annecy, France. Through this website, I want to share with you the passion I have for my home country and for the French art de vivre. Merci for visiting and à bientôt! —Leonce