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How to French-ify your fashion

Amy Tara Koch is a style expert, author, journalist and all-around fashion aficionado. She the trend reporter for NBC and contributes to American Baby, Pregnancy, Mom and People.com’s Mom and Baby, The New York Times, The New York Observ...

how to channel your inner parisian

I am a true Francophile. When visiting, I trawl the flea markets in the wee hours of the morning and indulge in dreamy gastronomic dinners at night. Whatever the activity, one thing is clear: French women are never slobs.
Style tips
Vanessa Paradis french fashion icon

French women exude a style and confidence that stems from a commitment to always looking one’s best. It’s not about designer clothes. It’s not about glitziness. And, it is definitely not about showcasing the flash-in-the-pan trends. To French women, style is a matter of keeping things simple but never disheveled.

A French woman would never, even to walk her dog at 11 p.m., leave the house in sweatpants. Quelle horreur! Taking pride in one’s appearance is the eleventh commandment in the City of Light. So, what’s the secret? Having a small but mighty collection of streamlined classics that can be mixed and matched with one au courant accessory.

French women like to flatter their figures (even if they are not stick thin), so fit and proportion are critical. To wit, a black A line dress is paired with patent leather ballet flats and a gold cuff. For casual moments, combine a pair of dark denim jeans with a black and white striped boat neck top, espadrilles and oversized hoop earrings.

French fashion ideas
INC denim leggings (Macy's, $40), Tommy Hilfiger boatneck top (Macy's, $36),
ASOS espadrilles (ASOS, $58), Bebe hoop earrings (Bebe, $19)

And accessories?

Good shoes and bags are de rigueur. You will see many structured totes, a classic shape that will work for almost every outfit. French women love their scarves. Why? Quite simply, this silky, lightweight accessory is the ultimate layering piece, an accent piece which adds polish to every ensemble imaginable.

First impressions are everything. When meeting someone in France for the first time, you will get the once over, eyes lingering below your ankles. You have heard the mantra "shoes make the man?" Well, in France, shoes make the woman also. Unless she is headed to la gym, you will never see a woman in sneakers. Shoes are stylish (flats are acceptable: ballet flats, espadrilles and leather loafers) and fastidiously maintained with frequent shines. It’s a Gallic thing.

10 Tips to French-ify your fashion sense

Need some visuals? Do a Google search of some of the Franco-fab muses for inspiration: Jane Birkin, Clemence Poesy, Carla Bruni, Lou Doillon, Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tatou, Vanessa Paradis, Ines de la Fressange and, of course, Coco Chanel.

Read more: Lessons from fashion muses >>

  1. Quality control: Invest in quality basics — a cashmere sweater, a good coat, great skirt and trousers — that will last forever. It’s better to have a few quality basics than many poorly made garments.
  2. Look to the future: Classic trumps trendy. Ask yourself, “Will I still wear this in five years?” Don’t waste money on looks that won't stick around.
  3. Dress to impress: Dress for your body type. Just because skinny jeans are “in” does not mean that they will look good on you. Understand what shapes flatter your figure and stick with them. Always.
  4. Avoid the dumps: Never wear sweatpants or other “loungewear” in public.
  5. Tie one on: A scarf is the ultimate layering piece — that chic piece de resistance that adds polish to one’s overall look.
  6. Bag lady: Invest in one multitasking, classic black or brown handbag. It will last forever.
  7. Foot notes: Always wear fab footwear. Sneakers? Reserved for gym visits.
  8. The simple life: Keep it simple with one eye popping accessory like a gold cuff, a gold pendant or a red purse.
  9. Go au naturel: French women never apply makeup with a heavy hand. It’s all about evening out the complexion, some blush, some mascara and a soft lip.
  10. Celebrate your age: Don’t dress as a teenager if you are a mom. And, forget the plumpers and Botox. If you take care of your skin, you will age gracefully.

More around-the-world style advice

Our favorite French designers
Our favorite American designers
Our favorite Canadian designers

Photo credit: Getty images — one time use
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