French style: How to look French

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

Not all French people are thin and chic, but they certainly have a “look” that will make a sneaker-wearing American stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe you’re planning a trip to Paris or you just want to look more European. Whatever the reason, if you’re curious about French style, read on for how to look French…

Find out how to look French!

French style cigarettes The French have this casual elegance about them. From head to toe, they look put together even when they’re just getting some bread from the bakery. Many women envy the French, and while I can’t put my finger on it, I can tell you how to switch up your style to look decidedly French. Please note that this post is written as entertainment and is based on my own observations. I don’t care if I stand out or look French. But if you want to blend in, read on. (Yes, I realize there are sweeping generalizations, but I must say, they’re, uh, kinda true… Also, none of these tips alone will make you look French, but when combined, you’ll fit right in.)

How to look French

    • Don’t be overly smiley. If you want to know how to look French, do NOT smile. French women aren’t known for being outwardly friendly looking, so don’t walk down the street with a big dopey smile on your face. Being overly friendly seems like more of an American thing and if you walk into a shop with a plastered on smile, people may think you’re nuts or trying to compensate for something. Walk with confidence and a neutral expression.
    • Put a cigarette in your hand. No, you don’t have to light it. Actually, please don’t! It seems like almost everyone smokes here and lighting up every five seconds is the norm — especially for young people. ;-( People, listen up. You do not look cool with a cigarette. There’s nothing cool about premature aging or skin cancer. But one thing is for sure. Having a cigarette does make you look French!
Note: I don’t smoke. Cigarette in pic was just a prop. French style scarf
  • Wear a scarf around your neck. No, I don’t mean a big wool scarf for the winter. I’m talking about an accessory scarf that just pulls your outfit together. Silk, linen, whatever. Just grab one, preferably in a muted color, and make it look cool around your neck. This goes for both men and women.
  • Easy on the heavy foundation. Sure, French women wear makeup, but the focus is more on the eyes or lips. Most French women don’t look like they have a mask of foundation on. Less is more here. If you can get away with a sheer tinted moisturized or powder, do it.
How to look French long messy hair
  • Look nicely coiffed but a slight bit messy. This does NOT mean walk out of the house with a frizzy mess on your head. French women’s hair is never frizzy or plopped on top of the head in a messy bun (like my hair always is when I walk Dagny), but it is styled with a slight bedhead look. So use your straightener or curling iron or spray in some Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray, then don’t wash your hair for a few days and voila. Your look has been French-ic-ized.
  • Wear clothes that work for you and be confident in them. French women look like they don’t give a sh*t when they walk down the street. Their outfits just work. Have that confident attitude and you’re halfway there. Also, ditch the North Face fleece and bright sneakers (my dog walking clothes don’t cut it) for a fitted jacket and less conspicuous street shoes. When choosing outfits, color is NOT better. Stay away from looking like a walking rainbow. French women wear shades of black, gray, beige and other neutrals with some color thrown in here and there. Whatever you do, don’t look sloppy. Make sure your clothes fit and aren’t baggy in all the wrong places. Fit is key.

Now that you know how to look French, you need to learn how to talk. This is a hilarious tutorial on all you need to know about French conversations. Enjoy!

Enjoy this post? Here’s more on the topic: How to Look French Part 2 >>

Do you know how to look French? What do think is a major must-have for French style?

   

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Comments (25)

  • Kimberly, The Fur Mom

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    Love this! I love casual french style. My favorite person in the series finale of Sex in the City was Alexander P’s ex wife. She epitomized a french woman’s style. So casually classy.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Yup, that’s what it is — classy. Not to say that everyone has good taste or style, but in general, that’s what you see. Things that effortlessly go together and just look great.

      Reply

  • Stylishlyme

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    Agree with each of these points! Always be confident and look chic. French woman know how to be effortlessly chic.

    -V

    Reply

  • Holiday Addict

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    It’s my life’s work to try and look French! I love this!

    Reply

  • Steph

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    In our part of rural France, with its elderly population, a blue nylon housecoat for Madame and a bleu de travail for Monsieur are de rigueur but I don’t they’re quite what you have in mind!

    Reply

  • Mathilde

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    So true !
    I’m French, living in the US, and still wearing a scarf just because I find this nice 🙂
    I sometimes feel a little “less” dressed than the other women when I go out… too discrete and not enough showing off… I’m learning !

    Reply

  • Lisa Amburgey

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    Totally agree that french don’t really give a crap on how they look. The days I don’t wash my hair and wear my more casual neutral clothing, the more confident I feel. Add the comfy heels, and voila! The more effort I put in to dressing, the more less “au naturel” I feel. The video is so funny! Women should have more confidence in their personal style.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Lisa, yes that au naturel look is hard to pull off! Looking effortless takes a ton of work in reality

      Reply

  • Margaux

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    je suis française et je suis totalement d’accord avec chacun de ces conseils, mais pour moi le plus important c’est de ne pas sourire dans la rue 😀

    I’m french and I totally agree with every one of these advices, but according to me, the most important thing to do is not to smile when you’re walking down the street 😀

    Reply

    • Diane

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      I still think random smiles on the street are weird. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but the French way seems way more natural!

      Reply

  • Bellbonne

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    I spent a year in France as a student–your advice is very good! I would like to add lots of lip-pursing, a beat-up expensive bag and black, black and more black.. Also–don’t get fat!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Good additions, thanks! 😉

      Reply

  • Cheri

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    Ha ha Ha, what a great article. And what a great video, I was laughing so hard. Coming from someone who lived in France for year and half, all of this so spot on. Great post and great video find Diane! 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thanks for checking the post out! What part of France did you live in? Glad you liked it!

      Reply

  • Sandrine

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    I’m French and everything in your article is …. So true 🙂
    I’m wearing scarf everyday ( summer included), make up very dark on my eyes but no lipstick …
    I don’t smoke but it is true : to have a cigarette is a French attitude. And yes French women forget to smile !
    Very funny !!!!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you for checking out the post. Of course the stereotypes get a lot of attention and they don’t apply to all French women, but yup, like you said many are true!

      Reply

  • Nath

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    Ah ah ah, bravo, j’adore 🙂

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Thank you!

      Reply

  • Cecile

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    That’s very funny!. You have a very good judgement about all our good (and bad) style habits! In my blog: http://www.etvoila.info, I share my Parisian tips to dress easy and timeless chic. I’ll be happy to know what you think about it!
    PS : I don’t agree with the cigarettes part. A lot of people quits smoking and I see less and less people smoking in the streets… May be I live in an very healthy part of the city :-).

    Reply

  • Christine

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    OMG I laughed so hard when I read your article and watched the video, because it is so true! I am french married to an americain guy. I live in California. As French, I don’t wear a scarf, just because I don’t like, also I do not drink alcohol but wait, I smoke like crazy (I know it is not good) lol. The first time I arrived in USA, people that I did not know were smiling at me and said Hello, How are you doing?, but I was like “why there are smiling at me ? I don’t know them? What is wrong with them.! haha. Anyway your article is just funny but so realistic !!!!

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi there, so happy you found it funny and true! About the smoking, do you feel like Americans give their opinions on your smoking without even being asked or are judgmental? You didn’t say how old you are but I feel like people on the younger side who smoke in the US get judged just because it’s not accepted culturally the same was as it is in France. And yes, the friendliness can be off putting if you’re not expecting it or used to it. Are you in northern or southern California?

      Reply

      • Christine

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        About smoking, yes many people looked at almost bad and some people, once they heard me talking with my strong french accent they said: “oh you are, French, so I am not surprise why you smoke!” I am 51 years old, and it is crazy how people hate seeing someone who smoke. So, anyway, I live in the county of San Luis Obispo, in Arroyo Grande, (approximatively 2 hours from Santa Barbara. I came here it will be 4 years (the 9th of June). I just love where I live, I love American
        people who, to my opinion are very different from the French people, especially the parisian. I lived in the departement of Seine et Marne in Melun.

        Reply

        • Diane

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          Tom and I stayed a night in San Luis Obispo and had fun walking to the downtown area. We got frozen yogurt from one of the self serve shops. Great town! I feel like Americans are very concerned for smokers’ health — even strangers. Yet then Americans will binge drink or eat really unhealthily so not sure why smoking gets us so worked up. If you have time, I”d like to hear how you feel Americans differ from the French. So happy you enjoy the blog!

          Reply

  • Christine

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    The difference between French and Americans is huge (to me). First of all, Americans are much more friendly than French. Americans don’t hesitate to say hello to you even if they don’t know you, they smile at you, they have always nice words to tell you, they compliment you, even between two women. I did not feel this “competition” between me and other women. Americans are always willing to help you, much more than we, French. Well, now, in France, it is exist kind of people like Americans, and these kind of French people like Americans, nice and welcoming, are more in the South of France. I used to spend my vacations in Perpignan. I do not know if it is because they have more sun than in the North of France, but these people from the Mediteranneen side are really friendly. French people are always arguing for sometimes nothing. They do not accept if they are wrong. They will prove by A + B, their truth is true ! Now, I don’t mean that ALL FRENCH PEOPLE are like this, of course! But most of them are, like I heard many,many times, arrogant, sarcastic, and very proud of themselves. Finally what I can’t stand either from my compatriots is that they like to criticize a lot and unfortunately this leads to jealousy. Maybe some Americans are like this too, after all, we are all human beings! Anyway, we Frenchy we are like we are, and I am still be proud to be French and love my home country haha. However, I am much more comfortable living in this beautiful state as California than in my “region Parisienne” believe me! lol

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Totally get where you’re coming from and can relate to these differences. Like you said, the generalities don’t apply to every person but they’re true to an extent for the majority. Even if Americans’ enthusiasm is fake and just a social mask in some cases, there are just as many, if not more, Americans who are generally enthusiastic and socially awesome and inclusive. I have personally seen many French people act like you mentioned, arguing and competitive and find it odd. But I’m making it my goal to find some fun, kind friends. So happy you love California!

      Reply

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