How do French women manage to achieve the look they do? Even when dressed down [see left], they still have that certain something which mystifies most Anglo-Saxons . However, there are some rules which can be followed:
No. 1: Blend. A French woman strives to unify all the elements into a seamless whole. The stripes and the jeans will be a neutral colour, the bangles will be bone or cocoa. They allow accessories to float on a basic canvas and blend a look together.
No. 2: Softness. All clothes except your suit and your classic white blouse must look supple, not starched. And that goes for hair as well. Highlights must never be noticeable and makeup borders on the bland. For a good example of French restraint look at Clarins models’ golden natural glow.
No. 3: One item noticeable. Despite the fixation with natural and neutral tones, every French woman wears one flirty item: high heels, a leather skirt, a skim of black eyeliner, a choker. The trick is just one item – never two – and that’s the hard part.
No. 4: One expensive classic. A Vuitton bag, a Hermes scarf, a pair of Charles Jourdan heels, diamond earrings – these remain the cornerstone of a chic wardrobe no matter what your age. The young wear them with jeans, the older with pencil skirts and cashmere sweaters cut low. Kept in immaculate condition, a French woman will wear her Kelly bag for life and simply change the clothes around it.
No. 5: Flatter your body. Pleasure in being a woman is the philosophy of French dressing. Silk lingerie, lace stockings. Dressing to flatter your body and investing in well-cut basics allow for eccentric touches.
No. 6 Signature item. Find what you love and make it your signature. It might be long flowing hair and short velvet gloves or chisel toed boots and mini-skirts.
No. 7: Less. Nothing blatant will do. Anglo-Saxon style is about the big statement. French style is always a matter of less. Less is so much more! Less clashing colours, less makeup, less costume jewellery, less fur but one ravishing perfume.
No. 8: Class. No piercing, tattoos or multiple earrings. These are from the bordello and are really quite ugly. French women would not lower themselves this way when there are so many other ways to stand out.
No. 9: Grooming. Clothes, hair and makeup must be immaculately kept. Simple glossy hair, tied back, looks vastly better than a highly structured style. Eyebrows trimmed to perfection lessen the need for eyeshadow and mascara.
No. 10: Little black dress. The most essential item in any woman’s wardrobe. Whether it’s a holiday party or New Year’s celebration, basic black is the basic statement.
No. 11: Perfectly tailored suit. Look for one in which the jackets and pants or skirt can be worn separately, that can be paired with jeans and a stylish pant that can take you from work to cocktails.
No. 12: Leather jacket. Sexy, cool. equally chic with denim or a dress, a leather jacket can last a lifetime. A timeless shape is best.
No. 13: A well-cut trench coat. As in the photo above, it should allow for layers underneath yet isn’t so roomy that it adds bulk to the figure. The colour and fabric usually suit autumn or winter.
No. 14: Knee-high boots. Lend instant drama to any ensemble, whether a denim mini or an intricate black lace skirt. Lush leather with a sensible yet chic heel are best.
No. 15: Strappy black sandals. Platform styles are too passe and high heels are too painful in summer. Small, low open shoes are the way.
[This article relies heavily on pieces by Anna Johnson and Diana Pemberton-Sikes.]