French fashion is something very interesting to me. Some of the world’s best designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Coco Chanel or Nina Ricci are from France. Yet, when you walk around in the streets of Paris, you don’t see the street styles of New York, the explosion of colour and textures you would witness in New Delhi or the amazing creativity and innovation you can discern in Spain.
During the trip I took to the French capital in May 2019 I decided to be more observant to analyse why Parisians always look smart and put together; and what makes them sophisticated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I. They use colours wisely
The first thing I noticed was that the moderate use of colour when you look at people in the boulevards and rues. Neutrals are 80% of what Parisians wear and you can see a splash of red, blue or pastels here and there.
Also, I could sense that there was a lot of intention and purpose behind the colourful scarf that they were wearing over a crisp white shirt or that red belt and the white jeans; even though sometimes they looked casually put together.
French street fashion usually sticks to colour schemes that work: Navy, white and red (similar to the French flag). Jeans and white. Total black. Black and red. Grey and pastels. I didn’t see any striking patterns or bold combinations and when I actually noticed someone wearing a bright green top with red trousers, it was an Italian tourist! So even when some bolder colour combinations work, French stick to neutral colour mixing and don’t take any risks.
II. Good quality basics
Since they will wear non-stop those black jeans or the beige cardigan, they buy the best quality they can get. The fabrics and materials are noble and will age well such as linen, excellent cotton, denim as well as wool.
However, it is not only the fabric they look for, but also the cuts and clothing hardware such as zippers and buttons. The T-Shirts have been cut to fit the body, with interesting necklines as well small details such as the sewing around the sleeves. The jeans are also decently made, hugging the legs as a glove and ensuring they are comfortable *never too tight!*.
III. Minimal make up
Make up is kept as simple and invisible as possible. It makes sense when you hear that French spend more money in face treatments and creams than in make-up. Most of the women I watched had flawless skin however the majority of them were not wearing any foundation, just a very small amount of concealer in some strategic areas. Black mascara and a little blush was all I could really notice, together with a nice red lipstick and some nail varnish.
Hands and nails are also very minimal, with French manicure or some colour in the red range (maroon, cherry red, raspberry pink and even some corals). Nails are kept on the shorter side with a very natural shape. I don’t think they use so much gel and shellac stuff as the UK women do!
IV. It is all about the shoes
Despite of Paris being one of the most fashionable capitals of the world, I did not see any stilettos or impossible heels. I believe that French women value comfort too, and they often opt for a pair of good quality and smart flats or some low and chunky heels. This sounds very reasonable when you think about the size of Paris and the amount of walking that they must do every day.
They also wear trainers and casual shoes such as converse, but again you won’t see much colour or neon stuff going on. Sandals are also a go to option, and as they did with the clothing, they opt for the classic styles in neutral colours that they can wear over and over yet will keep like new. I did not see a single person in flip flops, a personal public shoe enemy of mine.
There is only one thing in which French guys will go for the “more is more”: perfume. Personal preference is a big thing when it comes to fragrance and in my opinion there were some occasions in which I felt it was too much. Probably this is how Parisians must feel when they walk around in London and they see some animal print with neon shoes!
Everyone seems to wear a good amount of some scents that at times made me turn around to see who was smelling so wonderfully. After all, you are never fully dressed without a perfume!
Disclaimer: The pictures used to illustrate this blog post are from Pixabay.
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