It’s no secret that many women admire French style.

But, just what is the secret to dressing like a stylish French woman? The likes of Audrey Tatou, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marion Cotillard and Vanessa Paradis always look so effortlessly stylish!

Well, while there is clearly a certain je ne se quoi to their style, there’s no mystery.

If you break down the closets of stylish Frenchwomen you admire, you can see there are a few general rules that they follow…

1. Don’t worry about trends

Don't follow trends |

Paris may be one of the fashion capitals of the world, but that doesn’t mean French women are obsessed with the latest trends.

That’s why you won’t find quite so many fast fashion stores in the City of Love.

But, you will find lots of designer outlets where you can pick up last season’s clothing. French women are more concerned about their own style than following seasonal trends.

Patricia (above) has her own style, combining trends with clothes she knows are flattering and which suit her style personality.

Get her look with this similar sweater, skirt, tall boots, beret, sunglasses, hoop earrings and handbag.

2. Invest in classic pieces

While it may be a cliché to think about a French woman in a Breton top or a trench coat, clichés are clichés for a reason, and that’s generally because they work!

Nothing looks more effortless than a striped top, worn with skinny jeans and ballet pumps and topped with a trench.

Classic pieces - 10 French style secrets to steal |

Sam Edelman trench coatATM Anthony Thomas Melillo stripe topWit & Wisdom jeggingsTory Burch flatMichael Kors toteTreasure & Bond square scarf

For more outfit ideas, read our article on how to wear a trench coat.

3. Build a wardrobe of reliable French style classics

French style classics |

Talking about classic and timeless brings us neatly to my next point.

Reliable is often associated with boring. But why is that? What’s wrong with reliable.

Wouldn’t you rather your partner was reliable rather than never knowing where you are from one moment to the other? Or that your friend reliably turned up on time?

Ashley (above) wears a stylish combination which could also be worn with so many items in your closet.

Check out this similar blazer, shirt, jeans, booties, belt and scarf.

Build up a wardrobe of reliable classics that you can turn to time and time again and you’ll never worry about what to wear. French women classics include:

Little black dress

Is there anything that exudes more elegance than a little black dress?

It’s a go-to for any events you have coming up, dinner or a date.

little black dress |

Black Halo sheath dress

Trench coat

One of the most versatile outerwear choices you can make. A trench can be worn for day or evening.

trench coat for women over 40 |

Sam Edelman double breasted trench coat


There’s no easier way to add a little something extra to your outfit, than simply popping a blazer over the top.

Treasure & Bond knit blazer |

Treasure & Bond knit blazer

Check out our extensive guide on how to fit a blazer.

White shirt

You can pretty much wear a white shirt with anything.

white shirt for women |

Lucky Brand classic shirt

Slim leg black pants

Wear your slim leg black pants with a shirt like the one above, and a pair of flats.

slim leg black pants |

Polo Ralph Lauren straight leg pants

Ballet pumps

French women don’t like to be uncomfortable. Invest in a stylish pair of ballet pumps.

ballet flats |

Sam Edelman flat

Also take a look at how to build a capsule wardrobe.

4. Keep it neutral

a neutral outfit with a pop of pink |

Obviously, I’m generalizing here! But, French women tend to prefer neutral palettes rather than brights.

They look sexy and stylish in a muted, subtle way. Look at navy, black, white, taupe and gray.

Of course, if you want to add a pop of color, you can always do so with your accessories.

Nagore (above) wears neutrals with a dash of pink.

Get her look with this similar coat, stripe tee, jeans, sandals, sunglasses and handbag.

French women like to wear a palette of neutrals |

Anne Klein cardiganRagdoll teeSUISTUDIO trousersBotkier pumpRebecca Minkoff satchelALLSAINTS pendant necklaceBrixton fisherman cap

You may enjoy this article on how to complete your outfits with accessories.

5. Buy a comfy pair of flats

French women prefer to wear flats rather than be uncomfortable |

Coco Chanel once said that a “woman with good shoes is never ugly”.

But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer for fashion. French women love to invest in one or two really good pairs of flats which they wear time and time again.

Think ballet pumps, brogues and loafers. There’s no need to totter around in four-inch stilettos!

Oxana (above) looks incredibly stylish in her loafers.

Check out this similar pair of loafers, coat, burgundy top, jeans, sunglasses and Louis Vuitton bag.

stylish flat shoes for women over 40 |

Tory Burch ballet flatsSam Edelman flatSole Society loaferFrye flatMadewell ballet flatSam Edelman loafer

6. Dress to feel good

While it’s hard not to take the opinions of others into account when you dress, French women tend to dress for themselves rather than anyone else.

That’s probably why they always look so effortless. It’s because they feel comfortable.

7. Less is more

Another famous quote from Coco Chanel is about accessories. She advised removing the last accessory you put on.

French style is really about less is more, and keeping accessories low key, yet quality.

The French way of dressing is all about finding what works for you.

French accessories |

Mali + Lili straw toteRebecca Minkoff crossbody bagKate Spade New York silk bandanaKate Spade New York sunglassesEttika layered necklaceGas Bijoux hoop earringsSterling Forever stud earringsHalogen wool blend beret

8. Keep your hair undone

wear your hair undone for French women style |

French style is not about perfectly coiffed ‘dos, but rather leaves the hair a little undone.

You may find a stylish French woman wearing a long gown on the red carpet, but her hair will be deliberately left au natural.

According to celebrity hairdresser David Mallet, French women will put their hair up in a bun, create texture, use dry shampoo and volume powder, and only wash their hair around once every five days, so their color lasts longer.

Melinda (above) keeps her hair natural yet stylish.

Steal her look with this similar long sleeve top, midi skirt, shoes, sunglasses and scarf.

9. Let menswear inspire you

Is there anything more nonchalantly elegant than a French woman wearing a menswear-inspired tux as evening wear rather than a slinky evening dress?

Think about pantsuits for evening events, or add a menswear-inspired double-breasted blazer to your daytime wardrobe and wear over jeans.

French style secrets to steal |

After Six tuxedo jacketLafayette 148 New York silk tankAfter Six tuxedo pantsNina silver clutchSam Edelman ankle strap sandalVince Camuto pendant necklace

10. Fit is everything!

wear a blazer with black pants |

For French women, fit is everything. They would rather have fewer pieces which fit perfectly rather than an overflowing wardrobe, and they’re on first-name terms with their tailor.

Martina (above) wears her blazer slightly over-sized but still keeps her look streamlined.

Check out this similar tie neck blouse, blazer, pants, flats, handbag and fedora hat to get her look.

For more outfit ideas, read our article on how to wear blazers with jeans.

11. Buy a Chanel-style jacket

If in doubt, think about what your favorite French icon would wear, or indeed what Coco Chanel herself would have chosen.

You don’t need to have a Chanel budget, but you can look out for Chanel-esque jackets which look great worn over jeans with flat pumps and slim jeans.

A Chanel-style jacket |

Cupcakes and Cashmere bouclé jacket

12. Avoid flashy logos

You’ll find that while French women love quality and will invest in clothes and accessories they can wear for many years, they don’t like overtly flashing their designer labels.

Coach pebbled leather tote |

Coach pebbled leather tote

13. Think about cost per wear

When buying something new, don’t necessarily think about what the initial cost but about how long you will keep it for and how many times you will wear it.

double breasted blazer |

Helene Berman fringe detail double breasted jacket

14. Wear with confidence

confident is the most important accessory for French style |

Last, but most definitely not least, wear your outfit with the utmost of confidence. If you like to work on your confidence from the inside out, you may like to check my articles on how to build confidence in yourself and how to feel confident in your clothes.

Vianei (above) exudes confidence in her neutral outfit.

Recreate her look with this similar sweater dress, coat, tall boots, belt, beret and sunglasses.

What tends to make French women stand out more so than what they are wearing is that certain hard-to-put-your-finger-on swagger that exudes quiet confidence and a sense of self belief.

It’s a take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude which says I’m not going to wear heels and make myself comfortable just because someone else things they look good, or I’m not going to wear a dress to the party when I’d rather wear a tux.

Find your own inner French woman confidence and you’ll have the best accessory possible.

Do you admire French style? What elements do you already have in your closet?

Continue reading:

  1. A Capsule Wardrobe For The Classic Style Personality
  2. The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Capsule Wardrobe That Works For You
  3. How To Wear A Trench Coat And The Best Trench Coats In Stores Now

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14 French style secrets to steal |

Feature image by Martina


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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