I can trace the root of my obsession with French style all the way back to the first time I watched Beauty and the Beast. Belle might have been bored with her provincial life, but I certainly wasn’t. I begged my aunt to let me cut the hem of an old blue bridesmaid dress that resembled Belle’s own, asked my mum to style my hair in a bow every morning and insisted upon carrying a basket with me wherever I went.
Today, I still find myself trying to emulate the look of French women, albeit with less taffeta involved. I trawl through vintage photographs of Paris looking at the outfits women have worn in the past, and I have an entire archive dedicated to saving images of the ensembles my favourite French influencers wear. Upon looking at these snaps, a pattern began to emerge—I realised that almost all of the women I follow own the same core capsule wardrobe of French fashion essentials. Of course, I am all too aware that this uniform may not apply to everyone in a country, but the women I’m particularly interested in? They all subscribe to a look I love.
“French women invest in timeless pieces over trends,” confirms Marissa Cox, a friend of Who What Wear who now resides in Paris. “Wearability is integral to a French woman’s closet, as she doesn’t tend to overdress. She looks for pieces that can be dressed up or down.”
So which French fashion essentials do the country’s best dressers rely upon to ensure they look chic at all times? I decided to do the honourable thing and share them with you. Scroll below to find out.
1. TRENCH COAT
Style Notes: Coats don’t come more classic than the trench coat, so it’s little wonder that they appear so heavily in not only French culture but the real-life wardrobes of its chicest residents.
2. FLORAL BLOUSE
Style Notes: French women are masters at looking effortlessly polished, and the piece that helps them achieve this potent combination is the blouse. While they’ll wear just about every blouse look out there, we find that the French we follow always opt for floral iterations.
3. FLARED TROUSERS
Style Notes: French style tends to take subtle cues from the ’70s, which is likely why so many of the country’s sleekest dressers still consider flares to be their trouser shape of choice.
4. BALLET PUMPS
Style Notes: We know what you’re thinking: Ballet pumps for French women? Groundbreaking. But out of all the French style clichés, this is the one item that French women actually wear.
5. STRAPPY DRESS
Style Notes: When it comes to dresses, the French typically prefer fuss-free silhouettes (unless they’re couture). For day-to-day wear, you’ll see countless Gallic girls wearing simple strappy numbers.
6. STRAIGHT-LEG JEANS
Style Notes: It’s hard to think of a time when straight-leg jeans didn’t dominate our wardrobes. French women have been championing this denim trend for years and to chic avail.
7. BLACK BLAZER
Style Notes: Finding a jacket to match your daily outfits can be tricky, but not if you have a black blazer at your disposal. French women use them to dress up their denim and bestow dresses with some je ne sais quoi.
8. SOFT CARDIGAN
Style Notes: While cardigans are a staple in our winter wardrobes, French women will carry them through to spring and summer as an effortless cover-up solution. They’ll often wear them sans top underneath, too.
9. SHOULDER BAG
Style Notes: More practical than top-handles and more elegant than crossbodies, shoulder bags are, naturally, a French girl’s arm candy of choice.
Style Notes: No women embrace the miniskirt quite like French women. While they naturally wear them with heels when the occasion calls for it, you’re much more likely to spot them wearing miniskirts with chunky boots and jumpers or T-shirts.
Next Up: 39 of the Coolest French Fashion Brands Everyone Should Know
This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.