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French Style Tips: 9 Lessons about Parisian Style from Real French Women

If you’re ready to elevate your style and appear effortlessly chic, adopt these 9 Parisian style tips.

It’s not secret that Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. The French lifestyle is defined by concepts such as style, class, old-world charm, history and culture.

For French women, fashion is closely defined by many “rules” of how to dress and appear elegant. After watching hours of French you-tubers, reading book up on book on French style, and combing through all the information, I’ve pulled 9 ultimate tips for getting that French Chic Parisian style in your own wardrobe.

Whether you live in Australia, Canada, or small town USA, you can get the same effortless look by putting these style tips in place.

What is Parisian Style?

Parisian style is most commonly referred to as French Chic style. However, this is actually a misrepresentation of what you’re seeing in ‘French Chic.” 

French Chic gives the impression that all women all over France are dressing the same way, but this is untrue. From Nice to Normandy and in between the style is quite different.

When we see representations of French Chic, what we’re actually seeing is Paris street style, or Parisian style for every day.

I love the Paris French Chic look, but having tried it in a tropical monsoon climate, I can say that it isn’t very feasible for me. However, the ethos of Parisian Style and French Chic can be embodied by any woman of any style, because the ideas are timeless.

Why are French Women so elegant?

Although Paris is one of the three fashion capitals of the world, hosting its own fashion week every year and informing trends across the globe, haute couture isn’t the answer.

French Women aren’t elegant because of the fashion they choose, but rather the culture in which they live.

For a really deep dive here I recommend the fun read Lessons I Learned from Madame Chic. This book goes into great detail about the small daily facets of French Life which contribute to their sense of effortless style, and more.

Below you’ll find my favorite life lessons I’ve learned from hours upon hours of reading and study of Parisian style, and how you can apply them to your own closet, to gather a sense of elegant, chic style.

No. 1: Always dress your best.

I’m going to jump out right here at the beginning and step on some toes. Likely 75% of American women to be specific. See, we’ve adopted this trend of athleisure as a style. After 2 years of pandemic-at-home-cozy-casual, the athleisure trend has gone so far as to promote actual sweatpants as public wear.

Now, you’ll NEVER see any Frenchwoman wearing athletic wear as her regular style. As a matter of fact, you’ll likely only see this look going directly to or from an athletic activity. Even then, many of the other principles of Parisian style will be in effect.

The rule here is to be fully dressed in “real” clothes for your daily life. Avoid being casual in pajamas or athletic wear. This rule actually goes together with our next rule.

No. 2: Buy the best you can afford. 

Big idea: don’t buy cheap fast fashion. *Gasp* I said it. The French put a lot of emphasis on items that are well made and will last for many years, some a lifetime. 

That is quite the opposite of the momentum in fashion these days. The fast fashion cycle is vicious and fierce, with new items popping up in stores in a cycle of 2 weeks. These items aren’t made well, are intended to last for about 2 weeks, and then be tossed away. I could write a dissertation on the negatives of this kind of industry, but this isn’t the place.

Suffice to say, Parisian style is marked by well made items. You don’t have to buy brands that cost thousands of dollars. But you should make it a goal to buy the very best you can afford on your budget. Even if that means saving 3 months for a quality sweater, or 6 months for a real leather handbag.

When you take the time to buy the best you can, you appreciate your things more. They also last longer, both because they are well made and because you value them more because of the cost.

No. 3: Less is more.

I’m pretty sure this is the slogan of the minimalist movement, but let’s look at it through the lens of Parisian Style. I’ve actually heard a French you-tuber say this more times than I can count as a style mantra.

It makes sense, though, when you consider the second rule of buying the best you can. If you’re buying the best you can, you’re likely saving over time, and collecting items more slowly. 

Most people can’t afford to invest in 10 expensive, quality shirts at one time. When you buy less, you have a chance to love more. 

So..less stuff is more love. 

No. 4 : Take care of your skin.

Numbers 4 and 5 deal with the bodily aspect of beauty. I found it interesting when I was reading about Parisian style how beauty and fashion are taught from mother to daughter at a very early age.

One of the areas in which girls are trained from a young age is in proper skin care. 

I’ve never been a huge addict of skin care products, so when I started digging into this I was a bit shocked to find out how many products actually existed.

How overwhelming it all was!!!

On a personal note, this is an area where I’ve been stretching myself since turning 40, because my skin is definitely experiencing the effects of aging. I find the French approach to skin care really refreshing, not only because of the emphasis on more effective products, but because of their belief that less makeup is also more. 

By taking care of your skin, it looks visibly healthy, and you can wear less makeup. Along with this, French women embrace the beauty of aging, which I find lovely.

For a French woman, a good skin care routine consists of a few high quality products, including: cleanser, toner, eye cream, and moisturizer. French women also get regular facials and exfoliate in between those. My favorite bonus skin care product is this serum from Three Ships.

Be sure and adhere to the previous 3 rules in your skincare routine as well! And drink enough water.

No. 5: Wear red lipstick.

I bet you didn’t know that a classic red lip is an iconic French look? Behold the evidence below.

You can see that a red lip with clear, clean skin looks fantastic! If the idea of a bold red lip is scary, check out one of the following colors based on your season.

No. 6: Never wear more than 3 colors in an outfit (2 is better).

I won’t lie, this one hurt me a bit as a lover of color and prints. But when I really started to think on it and study countless looks, I realized that this rule is really important.

For example, if you have a red top and black pants, everything else needs to be black or red. You could add a third color but no more.

When it comes to prints, it gets a little more complicated because they often have more than 3. You could apply this rule to your print collection. But if you have a busier print, remember this: you want the eye to visually land one place. So if you’re wearing a print, everything else needs to pick up one color from the print and form a canvas to show it off.

This is probably my favorite rule I picked up and I love challenging myself to try to stick to just 3 colors in my outfit.

No. 7: Have a set of accessories in both black and brown.

This is a rule from a very old style handbook (early 20th century) by a French style guru, called A Guide to Elegance. It has tons of little rules inside, but the chapters on accessories and handbags were a game changer. 

Her advice is to own a full set of accessories, including handbags, shoes, belts, wallet, sunglasses, coin purse, glasses case, small makeup bag, etc. in both brown and black. 

Now, you know I’m a color girl, and I regularly talk to women about choosing neutrals in their palette. As a winter I have been choosing black since the womb. But in the fall/winter I love a good cognac color in my wardrobe. Therefore this advice actually makes more sense because I now have a purse and belt to match those boots.

For me, I chose a set of fun accessories for inside my purse that all match, so I can easily swap between my brown and black handbags. This was more economical than buying a full leather set in each color.

No. 8: Have a signature look.

We often think of French or Parisian style as being fashion forward or haute couture. Ironically, it is the opposite that creates lasting elegance.

Many of the most famous icons of French style, including Coco Chanel, Carine Roitfeld along with designers Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera and Victoria Beckham all sport a signature style, aka style uniform.

This is really the pinnacle of easy and timeless style, and finding your own style uniform is the basis of Simplify Your Style.
I challenge you to consider what your signature look would be and how you can build your wardrobe on this concept.

No. 9: Look for that little something extra.

Je ne sais quoi. There’s a reason it’s French. I can still hear my high school French teacher saying it with the quintessential French shrug. 

It literally translates to “I don’t know what.” 

In regards to fashion and style, it can best be thought of as finding the little details or something extra in your clothing pieces.

Maybe it’s unique buttons, or something interesting in the design. Perhaps it is a pop of color in an otherwise neutral shirt, or a piece of trim on boring loafers.

Let your clothing be as unique as you, so when people see you, there’s a bit of je ne sais quoi.

Final Thoughts on Parisian Style

French women often seem effortlessly chic. What we think of as “French Chic” style aesthetic is more accurately termed Parisian. The true secret these women possess is nothing more than a set of style rules, often handed down through the generations.

These little hidden nuggets of wisdom can be adopted by any woman in any locale to elevate your style and give you that elegant look we all love so much.

Which one of these tips are you going to try first? Let me know in the comments!

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Every woman can embody Parisian style by following these 9 French fashion tips from real women.

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