Style Destination: France

French culture is considered one of the style capitals of the world. It has been shaped by geography, profound historical events, and internal forces.  While each region boasts unique contributions—the wines of Bordeaux, lace from Chantilly, Provence’s lavender—the country’s iconic fashion never fails to impress the tourist books.

As mentioned, the French history boasts an interesting fashion past. During the famed luxurious reign of Louis XIV’s industries, textiles were brought under royal control.  Architecture, furniture, fashion and etiquette of the royal court became the model of nobility, eventually trickling down the social ladder, and leaking out to the rest of Europe. This concern for personal adornment bedded with global affirmation, and their progeny was a cultural high fashion-subconsciousness of the French people.

Think French, think Chic—at least in the bigger cities. The two most important attributes of feminine French clothing is tailored and alluring. While the more active lifestyle of walking combined with Europe’s smaller portions lend themselves to a slimmer figure, everyone can flatter with tailored clothes.  Understanding your body type, where lines and curves fall, and how different fabrics lay all contribute to clothes that fit well. The French woman is also alluring, without revealing. A little skin here and there to show off great shoulders, a beautiful neckline, or fantastic legs is fun. Letting your cleavage spill out is gross. Practice leaving “a little to the imagination.”

As far as the color wheel is concerned, neutrals take the lead. The everyday French like bold colors to stay up to date, but do this with accessories like lipstick, scarves, and handbags. These are relatively inexpensive to change out, leaving the bigger investments to the staple tailored items. A good rule when dressing is “50/50 basics and trendy.”

The most important accessory for the French is CONFIDENCE. “Less is More,” where clothing and visual stimulation of colors and patterns are concerned. Standing up tall, maximizing your physical strengths (i.e. small waist, curvy hips, flat stomach), and forgetting the flaws add immeasurable appeal.  Keep it simple, and enhance one thing at a time.

Here’s an inspired look suitable for a “cool” day on the town. While staple items deserve some investment, especially for proper tailoring, you can cheat a bit with thrift store finds and antique or second hand shops. As one Frenchman once said to my mother, “We’re all a little French.”

• For starters, pick a classic top that fits you well. Basic patterns are acceptable, but keep the colors neutral and natural.

• Next, find a great pair of pants. Whether jeans, khakis, or colored trousers, make sure your legs look long and your butt is curvy. No one is going to see your tag so forget about the size and get a pair that fits you!

• Comfortable shoes are a must, even if you opt for heels. Depending on your accessories, add your color here, or keep it neutral.

• Accessorize with classic jewelry. Depending on your face shape, neutral colors or precious-metal studs are often a good choice. Simple bracelets or even a thin-banded watch will add a gentle layer.

• Go big or go home with your red lipstick, but color in the lines!

• Don’t forget the sultry allure, adding a splash of perfume. Think “Sophisticated.” Find decent starter collections at Ross and Marshalls.

• Pending weather, Pea Coats are definitely European, and especially French. Nylon for the summer nights, wool for winter.