Must-have items to Emulate French style

By: Lisa Salinas

Americans seem to have a fascination with French culture and fashion. There are various published articles by Vogue, WhoWhatWear, StyleCaster and Elle on how to achieve this French style and what French women’s key looks and secrets are.

SMU French Professor Paola Buckley attributes this fascination to the iconic French designers who started these oh-so-coveted fashion trends. “Who put fashion on the map? Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel. Icons. Especially Chanel, after the war she invented a classic look, that everyone since she invented it has been trying to emulate,” Buckley said. Buckley has a point — Charles Frederick Worth, often noted as the ‘Father of Fashion’ established the first fashion house in Paris in the mid 17th century.

French style is considered effortless, chic and less about labels and more about how the outfit is put together. France-born Charlotte Recoussine said French style is sometimes more refined than American style. “It is a different style than Americans, our casual outfits in France are considered more elegant in America,” Recoussine said.

Buckley defines French fashion as “everlasting and timeless” and “elegant and traditional with a little twist.”

Although the elegant and always-chic style is associated with French fashion, it is important to note that there are different trends and styles within Paris and France.

“[There are] women in Paris who lives in the 7th arrondissement who’s very BCBG (bon chic bon genre), who wears pants with a fitted jacket and silk scarf, and there is the more BOBO (Bourgeois-Bohème) kind of bohemian style,” Buckley said.

So, just how does one go about achieving the elegant, timeless and chic French-style? Here are the top items to incorporate in your everyday wear to emulate this sought-after style.

1. Loose-fitting pants / tops

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Photo credit: Lisa Salinas

“French women really pay attention to what she is wearing, we love to look good and be comfortable,” said the Executive Director of the Alliance Française de Dallas, Beatrice Recoussine. Therefore, loose-fitting pants and tops are a must for looking and feeling good. French women, specifically Parisian women, can walk many miles on a day-to-day basis and tight-fitting dresses or ensembles are not always the best options for every daywear. Pajama-style pants and a loose camisole would be go-to ensemble for the French woman.

2. Scarves


A scarf is a must on a breezy, cool day. “I think we all have scarves, this is very important,” Beatrice Recoussine said. Scarves also very easy to find in Paris boutiques, which speaks to its demand. Whether you opt for a patterned scarf or solid-colored scarf, this accessory is the item to have, and when you’re not wearing it, wrap it around your bag for an added pop of color.

3. Signature perfume

Having a signature scent is important for French women and the equivalent of having the signature designer handbag for American women. The French associate having a signature scent with romance and think of it as the “invisible accessory” — it’s something that defines and identifies a French woman.

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Photo credit: Lisa Salinas

4. Signature coat or jacket

Having a good coat or jacket is necessary in Paris, especially on the rainy days. This must-have outwear piece can go with any ensemble: jeans and a top, a dress, skirt and top, and just about any shoes as well, from stilettos to sneakers. Whatever your fashion style may be, you can never go wrong with a khaki, navy or grey trench coat.

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Photo credit: Lisa Salinas

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