Let's just get over the cliché of American women wanting to dress like the French and accept that it's cliché for good reason: walk around Paris for a few days, and you'll observe that (with just a few exceptions) French women seem to be effortlessly stylish.
Although raised Irish Catholic, I've always been a Francophile at heart. Marrying into the last name "Bordeaux" added a whole new layer to my love of all things French, leading me to sharpen up my language skills for the flight attendants who greet me in French and try (almost) every wine on the market (for under $50) from my namesake region. Learning to dress like a French girl has been an aspiration of mine since my first trip to Paris, and one of the goals behind my decision to stop buying new things for a year. After all, French women are the standard-bearers for timeless style and working with what they have in their wardrobes. Here are some of the basic lessons I've learned from observing (and attempting to emulate) French style:
1. Wear the same quality basics repeatedly
The French don't seem to have the emotional need to constantly buy new things for their closets. Instead, they buy quality, versatile staples that can be worn over and over again. And they wear them forever, styling their basic pieces in new ways to keep things interesting and fresh. This makes me feel better about how many times per week I wear my trusty Transit Par Such wool blazer. In addition to a black wool blazer, some of the other French winter wardrobe staples include silk blouses, oversized cashmere sweaters, pleated dresses, pencil and A-line skirts, cigarette pants, and quality leather boots.
2. Keep your outfits simple and comfortable
Putting together an outfit that it both simple and comfortable sounds easy, but it actually takes some thought and restraint. Looking French is synonymous with being comfortable with yourself and your style, and this is impossible if you are freezing in ill-fitting clothing that you don't really love. Prototypical French girl outfits are both functional and stylish, so trying too hard is a faux pas.
3. Be slightly unkempt
A la air-dried hair that has been slept in for a few days sans shampooing, limited (or no) makeup, visible signs of wear on well-loved wardrobe staples, and clothing that's worn a few times before a washing. Honestly, I think this subtle disheveled-ness exudes the confidence (and great hair) that French women are famous for and is the secret to the "je ne sais quoi" of French style. I jumped on the no 'poo train a couple of years ago, and my hair has never looked better. It's forgotten what a blow drier looks like, and (with the exception of the balayage blonde) is always in an au naturel state. My next move is to start wearing dirtier clothing and no makeup...
4. Wear typical French classics
Like wool berets and Breton tees. French girls have been probably been wearing these staples for a hundred years, and nothing makes me feel more like a walking stereotype than wearing this St. James tee with my favorite old wool beret. It makes me feel like Madeline mixed with Brigitte Bardot mixed with a French mime.
5. Always have on one unexpectedly edgy item
Like motorcycle boots, a studded bag, or a unique, conversation-starting piece of jewelry. Or a crazy pair of high heels balanced with tights and a knee-length or longer skirt.
If you're a fellow lover of French style, please let me know what factors should be on this list!