After a couple days of deep rumination, I think I've cracked the secret to French street style. Oh yes, everyone knows French women pretty much invented chic, and that they live and breathe fashion the way ordinary human beings have to eat food just to survive. Everyone knows they don't get fat. And everything they do, from walking down the street to buying bread to smoking a cigarette, oozes elegance.
I'm no francophile--too biased after studying German for 5 years. I mean, I enjoy croissants and duck confit as much as the next girl but I'll be darned if I think a French accent is sexy on anyone (except Vincent Perez, who probably isn't even French...right, he's Swiss-German and Spanish). But I gotta admit, them Frenchies sure knows how to dress.
There are a number of articles, blogs, etc
. out there devoted to that certain je ne sais quoi
that makes Parisian street style so maddeningly alluring. After going through reams of photos online, I think I've got it: the French wear a whole lot of black
When I announced this to Garry, he was unimpressed: "You mean like New Yorkers or interactive designers wear black?"
No. Yeah, New Yorkers (and Bostonians, and Londoners) wear a ton of black, but it's a serious black, with sharp edges and a no-nonsense kind of matter-of-course-ness. It restrains rather than liberates. No, the color black in France seems more essential, more necessary, like a lifeline or a child's security blanket. It even becomes warm, playful and easy-going. Interesting, non?
Of course there are other elements that seem to comprise the French style:
An "undone" or even underdone quality: One thing I notice is that American fashion is incredibly over-accessorized. Just look at that recurring section in InStyle where they put together outfits that are supposed to go with different kinds of outings/occasions. Bangles, earrings, necklaces, sunglasses, watches, etc etc etc. Geez, man.
Ease: They never seem to think too hard about it. With the exception of skinny jeans, they seem to prefer flowy and organic shapes comfortable enough to wear all day.
Proportion & fit: Classic cuts, and everything judiciously edited, perfectly balanced, as if the outfit was grown on your body.
Color: Mostly neutral, ranging from black, tan, gray, navy, and hunter green.
Quality: Fine fabrics, well-shaped silhouettes, good stitching, lovely details.
Thinness: I was serious. I don't think French women would look nearly as good if they were as fat as Americans.
Something unexpected: There is usually some small flourish that makes you look twice, either a pop of color or an interesting embellishment.
Bangs: Yes, hair always looks perfectly mussed, left long and loose.
Minimal makeup, perfect skin: Eyes are lined, smoky, or plain. Lips nude or classic red.
Black tights: Seriously, it's like every woman in Paris owns about 5 pairs.
A luxurious handbag and/or a beautiful scarf: That's all the accessorizing they need.
Fantastic shoes: They really pay attention to shoes and use them to make a statement.
For more inspiration, check out this blog I'm newly in love with from Garance Dore
, a French fashion photographer. Miles and miles of impossibly chic and effortless-looking style.