Like a lot of Americans, I’m in love with the French culture. I love their relaxed way of life, their food, their language, their accents when they speak English, and of course their fashion sense. And, just like a lot of Americans, I used to pore over magazine articles about how to achieve that perfect French style. Exactly how does one wear a scarf in such a way that it looks so much better than when Americans don them? I wanted answers, dammit!
But then I married a Frenchman, which wasn’t a major shock to anyone considering how much time I spent in Paris. After that, I started to spend even more time there ― half the year to be exact. Being married to a born and raised Parisian submerged me into the French culture in a way that being a tourist never allowed. I was no longer an American who visited Paris, but an American who lived in Paris, and my understanding of the culture became more clear.
I realized that the pedestal that we put the French on when it comes to fashion isn’t exactly warranted. Sure, it’s home to Chanel, Louboutin, Vuitton, and Dior, but when it comes to your every day Parisian woman it’s not like they’re rocking Chanel suits and Louboutin pumps every time they head to the boulangerie.
In fact, as Americans, we have some interesting misconceptions about Parisian style that aren’t entirely true, so let’s debunk those shall we?
1. Parisians wear scarves better than the rest of the world.
A quick Google search of how to wear scarves like a Parisian will bring you pages upon pages of step-by-step tips on how to pull this look off like a pro. But here’s the real secret: There is no secret at all. The only major difference is that French women don’t put so much effort into it. They just put on their scarves, which they wear pretty much all year round, then head out the door. We think they’ve mastered the art of wearing a scarf probably because they just wear scarves far more than we do.
2. Every single Parisian is the most stylish person on the planet.
Like any other major city, Paris is made up of millions of people from all over the world. Each person brings their own sense of fashion and culture with them, and honestly, not every single one of them is a walking style icon. Granted you won’t see sweat pants and flip-flops at the rate you see them here in States, but you also won’t see every woman dressed to the nines as if she just walked out the pages of Vogue either.
3. Parisian women put hours into looking like they did nothing at all.
Actually, French women don’t put any time into looking like they did nothing at all. Unlike Americans, the French aren’t into wearing lots of makeup, any of that contouring madness we have over here, or even loading up on hair products. What makes the French looks so effortlessly chic is that they know that a bare face with maybe just some lipstick is far more stunning than an inch-deep face of foundation.
4. Parisians only wear black.
This one isn’t entirely true, but not entirely off base either. The French, although they do have an affinity for wearing black, stick to neutral tones more than Americans. I remember being so excited to wear this adorable lemon yellow cardigan I got at J.Crew the very first spring I went to Paris, then feeling like a total outcast as I sat amongst a sea of beige, white, grey, and black. This isn’t to say that French closets are void of colors, but they’re not as colorful as Americans.
5. Parisians are always ‘on trend.’
While French designers kill it every season on the runways with their collections, the fact is that the French women you see on the streets are less trendy. Instead, they invest in pieces that never go out of style like white Oxford button down shirts, classic trench coats, the necessary little black dress, and timeless pieces of jewelry.
To quote the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld, "Only buy clothes that you plan to keep forever. It's important to see trends for what they are: a game." This is also why neutral colors are such a favorite; black is never going out of style. Ever.
6. Clothes just naturally fit French women better.
Women come in all shapes and sizes, and because that’s the case, I have long believed that French women just seem to wear their clothes better than Americans. Then I was filled in on a big difference between them and us: They have things tailored to fit them perfectly. If you have big boobs and a tiny waist, of course a button down shirt or dress you buy in a store isn’t going to fit perfectly, so that’s where a tailor comes in. Not all French women are just born to wear everything they want, but thanks to tailors it can certainly appear that way.
7. Parisians put style before comfort.
You know what’s sexy and looks hot? Confidence. And it’s hard to be confident, even if you are in a $1,200 dress if it doesn’t fit comfortably. As I said, while you won’t see a French woman in sweat pants (I don’t even know if they sell them over there, TBH) or flip-flops or trainers when they’re out and about, you won’t seem them in ill-fitting clothes or five-inch heels that are dreadfully uncomfortable either. The French are a culture of laidback people who like to take time to smell the flowers, er, stinky cheese, and they want to be comfortable in doing so… in a scarf, of course.