How to Dress Like a French Woman: 10 Tips + Timeless Advice from French Style Icons


Last Updated: August 31, 2022

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Heads up, ladies. For this article we’ll be talking about… French fashion and style. It’s impossible to talk about French culture without discussing fashion. In fact, I knew it was only a matter of time before we have to tackle the pink elephant in this website: French women’s fashion.

french women style

It has been discussed in numerous magazines, books, fashion websites, personal blogs, and dissected everywhere else, and the world just oohs and aahs over how classy and elegant French women are. Words like chic and couture and je ne sais quoi are thrown around and everyone is left scratching their heads and wondering how French women, regardless of age, can pull off a timeless and effortless glamour.

BUT HEY, what if I tell you that anyone – any lady in any part of the world – can dress stylishly like French women do?

No it’s not.

In this article, we will once and for all cut to the chase and crack how French women have seemed to master effortless chic. Here we will take a page off the French dress code and break it down into little digestible, easy-to-do action items. If you come out of this article looking like a stylishly chic lady, hats off to you!

But first, to give you some background reading, check out a previous article on stereotypes about French women. It should give you a better picture of what’s real and what’s not about the much-talked about French females.

Now for the list.

First and foremost…

1.Build a timeless wardrobe with some essential pieces

French women’s style is not rocket science and it doesn’t have to break the bank either. They simply know how to invest in good, high-quality and well-selected pieces that could last for years. The result? An elegant look that is both timeless and expensive-looking.

How you can make it work for you:

  • Re-evaluate your clothes-shopping strategy. Instead of buying costly new additions to the wardrobe or splurging on sale items, make it a point instead to make smarter sartorial choices.
  • Make a list of essentials and use it as the foundation to build your entire wardrobe upon. This includes pants in a nice cut, a trench coat that you can wear with everything, classic jeans, versatile little black dresses, button down shirts, tailored blazers, cashmere sweaters, pencil skirts, and other basics. The key is to buy them in neutral colors so they complement with anything, and make sure to get the best quality you can afford.
  • Choose a good fabric for your essential wardrobe.
  • Remind yourself that it is best to own fewer pieces but with better quality than stacks and piles of clothes in poor quality.
  • Do not be afraid to spend on the staples. In the long run, you’ll be saving a lot of money.
  • Always choose value over price. For example, which one has a better value: a $1,000 trench coat that becomes your go-to piece for the next several years or a $100 jacket that you only wore a couple of times? Do the math.
  • Consider good craftsmanship. Before making a purchase, inspect the item meticulously and do not rush.
  • Select timeless pieces that are immune to passing trends. The same works for bags as well.
  • Calm the heck down when you see a huge SALE sign. Markdown sales can ruin your resolve and make you purchase items you don’t even need.

Here’s what Carine Roitfeld, Former Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief and model has to say about this topic:

carine roitfeld

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2. Choose style over trends

There are some misconceptions that the French woman’s style is ultra-fashionable, but in reality it veers towards the classic and not on the momentary trends. It’s okay to take a cue from fashion trends every once in a while and infuse a few select en vogue items, but French women never become slave to short-lived fads.

Make this strategy work for you:

  • Inject a few fashionable pieces here and there to the classic pieces you already own. Not only is it a wise money move, you will also look infinitely more sophisticated.
  • Only pick trends that flatter your figure and look good on you. Not all trends are meant to be copied. But if a certain fashionable look compliments your shape, by all means, purchase an item or two. Just don’t get carried away with it because fads are often over before you could even say passé.

Here’s what one of the greatest names in fashion history has to say about the matter


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3.Create a signature look and stick with it

Q: Why do French women look so effortless in the way they dress?

A: It’s because they have a go-to look that never fails to impress.

My rhymes may suck but this advice sure doesn’t. French women have perfected a personal style that they know looks good on them. Not only does this make you look classy and well put together, it also makes shopping a no-brainer for you.

Think of Coco Chanel’s tweed suit and pearls, Brigitte Bardot’s coquettish full skirt and signature cat-eye, Audrey Tautou’s feminine pixie cut or Charlotte Gainsbourg’s edgy yet relaxed style. All four French women have something in common: they’ve got their personal signature style down pat.

You don’t have to be a French fashion icon to make it work for you, too. Simply heed the following:

  • There’s no reason to keep reinventing your looks (unless you’re Madonna), so once you find one that works for you, repeat and repeat until you’ve perfected it flawlessly.         
  • Factor in your lifestyle and personality when developing a signature look.
  • It’s okay to mix things up a little every now and then, but it’s important not to stray too far from your proven-and-tested personal style.
  • Finding your signature style is a process that takes plenty of effort. You’ll make mistakes along the way, but when you do develop one that encapsulates your personality, tastes, the image you wish to show the world, and your personal style goals, it will be all worth it.

French designer Isabel Marant gives this advice about letting your personality shine through.

isabel marant

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4.Focus on the fit

One thing you will never find any French woman wearing is clothing that doesn’t properly fit.  Dowdy tops, ill-fitting dresses, clothes not meant for your body type --- a big NO-NO! The right fit will make you look soigné, will accentuate your curves and even make you several pounds lighter.

So take a cue from the French women and own this style strategy:

  • Make sure ALL the clothes in your wardrobe fit perfectly. When you do, you’ll be amazed at how different your overall look will appear to be.
  • Find – and better yet, make friends with – a good tailor. Your tailor/ seamstress is your new BFF in making sure your clothes drape around your body in the most flattering way possible.
  • Bring your wardrobe essentials (the ones that will last for years and years on end) regularly to the tailor and have it adjusted throughout the years. Your weight may fluctuate and your curves could change, but your trusty tailor has got it all covered (literally).

Here is Mr. Hubert de Givenchy’s two cents on the matter:


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5.Stay with a neutral palette)

Most French women stay away from colourful ensembles and prefer to stick to neutral shades. Black, gray, white, beige, tan, and navy blue are all staples and when mixed with rule number one above, you can easily create a high quality wardrobe that you can mix-and-match.

Some reasons why neutrals rule:

  • They are highly versatile.
  • They can help tone down a too bright outfit.
  • They multiply your wardrobe. Match neutrals with anything and you can create lots of new outfit combos.

Here’s how to copy this style technique:

  • Allocate the bulk of your shopping budget to clothing in muted colors. Limit your purchases of bright or printed items Loud prints and colors are quite memorable and thus, can’t be worn multiple times in a row without anybody noticing.Neutral pieces, however, can be worn any which way and no one will be the wiser.
  • After you have secured all the wardrobe essentials in neutral colors, only then should you move on to the fun colourful pieces.
  • Break up the monotony of neutral on neutral outfits and let your personality shine with a statement accessory.
  • Some neutrals go well with certain seasons. For example, cream, white, navy blue are great for summer while blacks and grays work great on autumn and winter.  But it all depends on how you wear it and how you mix it up with other colors.

6.Invest in good shoes

You’ve heard it being said over and over again but brace yourself because I’m going to say it once again: shoes can make or break your outfit.

But what does that even mean?

Simply put, shoes have the capacity to elevate an otherwise drab outfit into a level of fabulousness and elegance, while it can also make an expensive outfit look cheap and tacky.

Shoes are like the superheroes of style and have the power to ruin an otherwise serviceable ensemble.

Here’s how to make sure you take a page off the French women’s fashion code using the shoe strategy:

  • Buy good quality shoes that are comfortable. Nothing ruins a good day faster than agony caused by hellish skyscraper heels. And it will affect your overall look too.
  • Choose footwear designs that flatter your body, your legs, and feet shape. The right shoes will work wonders for your silhouette. But don’t mind all those footwear rules. Simply test the shoes in front of a mirror and see if it looks good and feels good.
  • Treat good shoes as an investment. And like any good investment, make sure to take care of them by keeping them clean and in great condition.

Iconic fashion designer Christian Dior reiterates this advice with one of his own:


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7.Don’t sacrifice comfort for style and vice versa

You’ll never see a French woman in something too skimpy that borders on tacky, too high to walk in, or too small that it’s bursting at the seams. But on the other end of the spectrum, neither will you see one dressed down in hoodies or picking up groceries wearing yoga pants. There’s a sweet spot between style and comfort, and French women have learned to master -- and revel in it.

Cop that style advice with the following how-tos:

  • Practice the everyday dress up. Instead of wearing comfy sweats, put on some slim pants instead and a simple top. It’s as functional as the sweats but you won’t be hiding in an aisle when you bump into your ex at the grocery store.
  • If it’s ill-fitting and makes you feel uncomfortable, toss it. To look good, you need to feel good. And you certainly won’t feel good when you’re constantly tugging at your hem, worried that your underpants will show when you as much as exhale.

In the words of Ines de la Fressange, model, fashion designer, aristocrat, and quintessential chic French woman:


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8.Less is more

Elegance is never bedecked with all sorts of embellishments. As French women (and stylish women all over the world) know, anything too outlandish can be conceived as tacky. So keep it simple, never overwhelm your face with makeup, and put some thought into your accessories. If it feels too much, it most likely is.

The iconic Coco Chanel has a couple of things to say on the matter:


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9. Mind the details

The devil is in the details, it’s true. And so is looking impeccably fabulous. To look seamless and sophisticated, mind the finer details.

Here are some ways on how to:

  • Make proper grooming and a good skin care regimen a priority.
  • Never step out of the house wearing anything with creases, holes, stains, or other clothing flaws.
  • Pick some killer accessories. Most of the time, it’s the little add-ons that add an extra to the ordinary.

And lastly…

10. It’s all in the attitude!

No matter what you’re wearing, it all boils down to your confidence. French women carry themselves with good posture, confidence, and the knowledge that they are looking effortlessly classy. And all those, combined with all the items listed above, create that elusive je ne sais quoi that the rest of the world is so intrigued about.

So sit up straighter, hold your head higher, and dress for yourself in clothing that makes you feel good. Like I said earlier, the French women’s style is hardly rocket science, and anyone - no special gene required - can pull it off with some effort, a bit of study, and loads of practice.

What about you? Any other style tips to add? Feel free to add in the comments section.

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About the author 

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Instagram

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