Image via One Kings Lane, by Claude Weber/Interior Archive.
We’ve always dreamed of channeling that je ne sais quoi vibe of French girl style. The casual scarves. The stunningly undone hair. And who knew a striped tee could look so good? But this effortlessly chic way of dressing isn’t limited to Parisian wardrobes. Taking cues from icons like Francoise Hardy and modern style setters like Jeanne Damas, these are our style tips for Francophile living.
Nothing is ever perfect and French women understand that. Just as they’ll leave the house with a few hairs out of place, they’re also fine with having slightly rumpled bed linens or leaning art against the wall instead of hanging it up. Avoid over-styling and let your space feel lived-in.
Simplicity is Style
Some say the secret to French dressing is what you don’t wear. Rather than piling on a variety of colors and textures, a French girl usually wears neutrals and complementary shades, which have the same put-together effect on your home. A subdued and muted color palette creates balance and elegance. In the words of Coco Chanel, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
Mix Classic with Contemporary
You know the essentials: a little black dress, a leather jacket and a sleek pair of boots. Then you have your vintage pieces that stand the test of time. The French are pros at mixing eras to create looks that last forever. This is why we still gather style inspiration from people like Catherine Deneuve and Caroline de Maigret. In the home, create a balance between old and new by blending Old World antiques with sharp modernist pieces and a healthy dose of contemporary trends that can easily be swapped out when the trend has run its course.
Layer in Personality
You won’t find the French girl buying all of her clothes in one place. Her shoes were made by a local cobbler, her coat is Saint Laurent, her bag she found at the flea market and her jewelry belonged to her grandmother. Rather than styling your entire space in West Elm, create visual interest and add a sentimental touch by layering your home in family pieces and items collected on your travels.
Lounge a Little
In the summer, there are long hours in the park, sipping rosé. Meals aren’t to be rushed, but to be enjoyed. And the home is a place of romantic repose. This means using lush fabrics and silhouettes that promote lounging. We can thank nineteenth-century French socialite, Juliette Récamier for this relaxing style. Hanging in the Louvre, her portrait shows her reclining on her favorite piece of furniture: a backless, sloping sofa that now bears her name, “recamier”.
Release Your Inner Artist
From the Cubists to the Surrealists, some of history’s greatest art movements were centered in France. Don’t be afraid to make a big statement with your art. Opt for large, abstract paintings, nude portraiture, or even your kid’s drawings. A little bit of whimsy helps to balance a monochrome color palette or add life to a space filled with antiques.
Flaunt What You’ve Got
While your place may not have the intricate moldings and original hardwood floors of a Haussmann-style apartment, you should still highlight whatever architectural details you’re working with.
Pair Elegance with Edginess
The French aesthetic lies in the element of surprise. Think the masculine clothing style of Charlotte Gainsbourg or a biker jacket paired with a romantic, pink dress. Master the rough meets refined look by grouping together furniture in varying textures and styles, merging traditional decor with modern accents or pairing harsh, dark tones with soft pastels.
Have a Dramatic Moment
Today, simple and undone may be keynotes of French style, but we can’t forget about Versailles. French girls are pros at feminine dressing, too. Add a little sparkle and drama to your space through accents like glam drapes, splashes of gold or maybe even an antique, crystal chandelier.
Embrace Age Gracefully
French girls don’t approach age with caution or think that style has an expiration date. Just look at Carine Roitfeld or Christine Lagarde. Instead of filling every room with shiny, new things, appreciate a bit of history. Keep that vintage mirror, speckled with oxidation. Your coffee table may have rings and scratches, but they add a human element to your space. Antique pieces and even those with just a little bit of age create intrigue and lend a lived-in vibe to your home.
Soak It Up
Fresh-faced with undone locks, many French girls prefer to go au-natural. But that enviable “I woke up like this” look is fueled by a solid skincare routine and the importance of keeping up with personal hygiene. Instead of ignoring your bathroom, make it feel more like a spa with aromatic scents, good lighting, and if you have the budget, a deep, porcelain tub.