How to get a Parisian Fashion Wardrobe: Bon chic, bon genre! – Part One
I am not French, but I do visit France often and enjoy fashion and style. With those two meager credentials, I pay a lot of attention to French girls on the streets whom I find stylish and I’ve made mental notes of what they wear so I can basically replicate it in my own life.
They seem to follow major rules in styling themselves, and it’s summed up in4 little words:
Bon chic, bon genre.
Rough Translation = Good style, good attitude.
It probably means nothing to you on the surface, but if you dig deeper it says that if you dress well, you will project a good attitude by doing so.
(Fun fact: It is also often shortened as ‘BCBG’, and that’s how that fashion company BCBG Max Azria was named.)
Naturally, not all French women dress this way (there’s also the bobo style), but the ones I have found stylish, tend to be of the BCBG nature, that is to say: stylish, simple, conservative and rabid about not showing it.
Totally up my alley for the most part.
SO HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE A PARISIAN BCBG STYLE?
Here are the few ground rules:
NO MAJOR LOGOS OR BRAND FLASHING ALLOWED
Oddly enough, even though Louis Vuitton is a French brand, I did not notice many… actually, any Parisian women carrying LV bags covered in their ubiquitous logos such as these bags below:
This led me to speculate that perhaps it is because LV bags tend to be covered in logos that French women tend to avoid such ostentatious shows of so-called “wealth”, and carry bags with small logos (or none at all) instead.
It’s a very different mindset from what we are used to, wouldn’t you say?
I know in Japan for instance, they love the LV logo’d bag, but when you are in Paris, the only ones shopping at LV are tourists.
Not the French.
I always chuckle a little when I see bloggers (fashion ones mostly), freak out about going to Paris and buying a LV bag there, because it makes me think it’s quite ironic that the brand is so associated with being chic and being in Paris, when it is truly not the same brand image or experience with French women who were born and bred there.
Of course, I pick on Louis Vuitton, but this goes for Gucci or any other brand. The only exception seems to be Chanel and Burberry.
I have seen very understated, classic Chanel flap bags (discreetly held of course), and Burberry trench coats (no logo-waving chav-like behaviour here), where just looking at the coat I can tell it’s a Burberry trench (yeah I’m that girl), but more importantly, the Burberry plaid is hidden INSIDE the coat (no popped collars either).
NEUTRAL COLOURS ARE THE KEY PALETTE
Parisian women tend to not wear a lot of colours. That is, barely any. If they do wear it, it’s in accessories like their scarves, jewellery, shoes, bags.. you know stuff like that.
The brightest they get is when they put on some ivory or white, with maybe a pop of burgundy.
Otherwise, their colour palette is pretty depressing to most people:
Black is the MAJOR COLOUR in Parisian wardrobes (a lot like New York ones, which is probably why they are so often compared to one another).
Grey is the runner up, and then they use dark blue as a colour or brown in leather. Fun fun fun, right?
THEY FOLLOW A UNIFORM OF SORTS
The capsule uniforms will be shown in my Part Two capsule wardrobe, but needless to say they kind of just take a basic uniform like a t-shirt, blazer, skinny jeans, and ballet flats or heels, and then riff on it by changing up the t-shirt to something graphic with a pattern, or instead of a blazer, they wear a black leather jacket.
THEY DON’T OVER-ACCESSORIZE
As the great fashion icon Coco Chanel once said:
THEY DO NOT WEAR SKY HIGH HEELS
The best thing about French chic?
They don’t wear towering, sky-high platform heels in an attempt to look or be sexy like these heels pictured below.
PARISIAN FASHION DON’TS
It’s pretty easy to remember: NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING as gauche as super high, platform heels à la famille Kardashians.
Unlike what we think of as “sexy”, no Frenchwoman would be caught dead in items she didn’t feel comfortable in.
This is why you see them about in ballet flats, short boots, tall boots, heels of a manageable height (3″ or lower) such as what’s pictured below.
PARISIAN FASHION DO’S
Nothing is also unsexier than a pair of shoes that make your feet look potted, which I think most platform wedges do.
THEY NEVER LOOK OR FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE BECAUSE THEY AREN’T
Too tight dresses? Too short, cleavage-baring numbers with the girls pushed up to here? Yeah. No.
French women don’t wear such clothing. If they wear sexy clothing it is a well-fitted dress that shows off a great asset (legs, bum, cleavage), but never all three at once.
They also never feel uncomfortable in what they wear because…. they don’t wear uncomfortable things (see the shoes chosen above).
Nothing is unsexier than a woman trying too hard to be sexy, and looking uncomfortable to boot (no pun intended).
If they feel comfortable in ballet flats with a white t-shirt and jeans, that’s what they’ll wear.
THEY UNDERSTAND THAT GOING OUT MEANS HAVING TO DRESS UP A LITTLE
They may not rock heels and a black dress every day, but they also don’t saunter out of the house in a velour sweatsuit and UGG boots and call it a day, no matter how expensive that sweat suit was, or how many diamonds they’re wearing on their fingers.
You have to leave the house and look presentable. As if you are going to meet a co-worker outside of work whom you want to impress somewhat but not look like you’re trying too hard.
(Actually you just never know who you’ll meet at the grocery store.)
They know there are such things as clothes for wearing in the home, and clothes for wearing outside the home, and never the twain shall meet.
You will generally not catch a French woman on an “off” day where she decides to go to the store in her pajamas rather than put on real pants and shoes, because she makes an effort no matter how she feels.
NOTE ABOUT MAKEUP:
This idea of dressing up a little does not extend to makeup, because many French women do not wear a lot of slap, if any at all. I find that extremely refreshing.
As a side note, after spending some time in Europe, I started to notice just how heavily made up some women are here in comparison.
They have a smoky eye in the middle of the day, with a bright red lip, false eyelashes and foundation so caked on, it looks like they speckled it on their faces in an attempt to cover up any sort of discolouration or to camouflage their acne.
This is not what French women do. You will see them wear a bit of makeup (usually lipstick and mascara), but they do not try and cover up their skin to make it look like airbrushed perfection.
If they have pimples, they have pimples. They aren’t going to try and cover up everything to the point where it looks unnatural.
I hate to bring up Kim Kardashian (I really do like her and she does work REALLY hard), but she basically embodies everything an average, chic Frenchwoman is not.
In contrast, the Olsen twins, no matter how baggy and rundown they may look at times, are more French in contrast.