On my personal endeavor to become French or, at least a little French like Jacqui Kennedy or Susan Sontag, I lived in Paris as a university exchange student. And along with learning the language, and the politics, I embarked on learning how to BE French. How to dress French, shrug French and smile French.
I learned that style was a ‘combination of fashion and class,’ designer brands and vintage, Champs-Elysees and chain store.
The Gauls considered over-dressing, inappropriate colour-combinations and the ‘brand overloading’ they saw in international fashion magazines a major style ‘faux pas’.
The Parisian women I
stalked studied mastered cheap vintage; they mixed their Zara with their Saint Laurent, saving for expensive items and wore cheap (but oh, so, stylish) tops and skirts in-between.
While I was struck by the classic style of Parisians, I noticed that they owned clothes not too dissimilar from what I saw on sale in Australia.
It might be the globalisation of the fashion industry, the fact that we increasingly have the same chain stores, are pinning the same images on Pinterest or looking at the street style blogs. But either way, I saw that French fashion, once identified was maybe not to hard to recreate.
So, et voila, here is a list of how to be French, even if you’re as ocker as Kath & Kim.
1. Skinny Jeans.
Skinny jeans: Somehow all Parisian women look like models in skinny jeans. I watched with envy as they consistently cut through the crowds in the underground as they glided for their metro.
2. Leather satchels.
They strung their French-branded leather satchels over their shoulders as they walked through the Sorbonne.
3. Heeled ankle boots.
They swung onto their bikes in practical, but stylish heeled ankle boots for a smooth ride home.
4. Leather jackets.
They wore their leather jackets all the way through spring and autumn, night and day.
5. Linen scarves.
They held onto their scarves, usually in linen, even in the summer.
6. Expensive shades, inexpensive t-shirts.
They wore their very expensive sunglasses continuously throughout the year. A classic pair of Prada or Miu Mius helped to disguise their inexpensive H&M or Topshop t-shirts.
7. Good quality wallets.
They chose classic designer clutches, none of this see-through perspex business, Frenchies went for quality over fads, every. Time.
8. Classic trench.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to copy Parisian style is to throw a trench coat over your skinny jeans.
9. Breton top.
Practically a national uniform, men and women embraced the Breton top whether they were going to work, the city or the sea.
1. Red lips.
The lipstick they wore was the rare touch of colour. And they didn’t smile, lest they be mistaken for wanting to be your friend. Awkward.
2. Neutral complexion.
The lips were striking on their naturally neutral complexion, if they were bronzed, it was natural, if they had red cheeks, it was natural, if they were coloured, it would be a peachy stain.
3. Messy hair.
Their hair was messy- carefree but not unkempt. It was like they just got out of bed, even if they spent two hours making it look so.
Back home, while I remember the advice to stick to classic cuts over fickle fashions, and remember to mix and match, one trick that I feel I can’t teach is that French posture of pride. The one that shrugs and pouts.
So I’ll put on my breton top and skinny jeans, and will probably fall over on my bike, talk too loud and be overtly expressive. But there’s also probably nothing better than being an Aussie who doesn’t mind breaking some of these rules.
Emma Froggatt is a writer, a Masters student and an intern at Mamamia. You can follow her on twitter here.