How To Look French Without Even Trying

By Bruna Volpi
13th Apr 2015

It’s pretty safe to say that, when it comes to fashion, effortlessness is not that effortless at all. Trite as it may, every nation has its own kind of sartorial pride, exploited and stereotyped to the point of exhaustion. No one does elegance quite like the Italians, layers more masterfully than the Japanese, clashes styles better than the Londoners, glams up faster than a New Yorker, or dons denim cut-offs quite like an Aussie. But of course we always end up wanting to look like that other more exotic someone at the other end of the party. 

As guardians of the beacon of the high fashion old guard, and purveyors of brilliantly perceived effortlessness, no one has received more accolades for style than the French. Whether you’re just trying it on for size, emulating Jane Birkin or just hoping to achieve your #lyfegoals of looking a little more Parisienne, effortlessness requires, well, for lack of a better word, a lot of effort. To make matters simpler, here’s our quick cheat sheet to guide you on how to separate the true authentic miches from all those unoriginal baguettes, so that you too can look truly Francophile without even trying. 

Hair: Don't Wash It

Also, don’t colour it, don’t blow dry it, and by all means don’t pay a professional to do it for you. In fact, try and do as little to it as possible. Better yet, treat yo’ self to those bangs you’ve been debating on whether or not to get for the last two and a half months—it’s about time, and your friends are probably exhausted of hearing about it already. The blunt bushy eyebrow curtains à la Caroline de Maigret are always a classic choice, but if you really want to impress the fashion gods, try the ‘70s, wispy and overgrown centre-parted variety. It should look a bit like next season’s Chloé’s grown-up good girls gone bad, and a bit old school James Bond villainess with a certain mysterious appeal, even though you may or may not end up looking like that old picture of your mum when she went to the hairdresser and asked for a Farrah Fawcett. Of course you must cut said bangs yourself so that you don’t appear as if you’ve tried too hard, which should not be that difficult to effortlessly do—after all, whoever hasn’t ever tried to cut their own hair whilst drunk, thinking it would be SO F*CKING AMAZING and woke up a shameful morning after speed dialling their hairdresser, whocan’tbythewayunderstandyouifyou’resobbinglikeamaniac, can throw the first metaphorical stone. But because you’re now French and you can only appear utterly neurotic in certain related instances, and none instance in fact which could be appearance related, you should just go ahead and pretend to your shellshocked friends that you are able to appreciate your new lopsided bangs with utterly cool detachment. Voilà. 

When you do decide to wash your hair though, follow De Maigret’s advice and sleep on it wet to give it a more interesting shape, never leave the house with wet hair, and keep make-up to a minimum: barely there during the day, red lipstick or smoky eye at night, both done in a purposely messy way to infer that a good make-out session has just happened, even if all that has in fact just happened is you trying to get ready in the car after drinking an entire bottle of wine. 

1. Mason Pearson Detangler All Nylon Hair Brush, $110

2. Aesop Nurturing Shampoo, 200ml $29 and 500ml $50 

3. Shu Uemura Texture Wave, $30 at Oscar Oscar Salons

4. Sachajuan Ocean Mist, $30

Underwear: Buy More Of It, Don't Wear It Often

Carine Gilson, Jasmine Eslami, Saint Laurent: now that you cut your bangs and are officially French, your undergarments should be slightly impractical, feature a lot of sheerness and lace, and cost more than a month’s rent.. Kiki de Montparnasse and Agent Provocateur are good too, even if they’re not technically French. You will love them, treasure them and collect them like a long list of lovers you longingly stare at and flirt with every so often, although don’t worry about spending your days washing all of these delicates by hand as most of the time you’ll be wearing cotton boy-shorts and going braless anyway #freethenipple. Celebrate by opening a bottle of wine.

5. Yasmine Eslami Anna Soft Bra and Matching Brief, $120 and $79

6. Carine Gilson Chantilly Lace-Trimmed Silk-Satin Chemise, $1393 

7. Base Range Silk Camisole Top, $166 and $232

8. Saint Laurent Stretch Silk Georgette Soft Cup Triangle Bra, $699 

Bottoms: Size Up

Even if she’s wearing skinny jeans, you’ll likely never spot a true Parisienne with a sprayed-on pair. Sizing up on your bottoms will ensure you always have the perfect casual slouch as if you’ve just perpetually lost 4 pounds despite all the wine, bread and almond croissants. Blame it on all the sex you’re having lately, then open another bottle of wine. 

9. A.P.C. Petit New Standard Jean, $223.85

10. 6397 Loose Skinny Jeans in Light Indigo, $120 and $79

12. Frame Denim Le Garcon, $280

11. Atea Oceanie Bonded Wool Twill Trouser, $583

Tops: Size Down

Think Inèz de La Fressange: other than her menswear-borrowed staples (cue the massive overcoat,  double-breasted boyfriend jacket, roomy tees and classic cotton shirts—unbuttoned low despite the lack of bra), the Parisienne likes her leather perfectos tight, her blazers shrunken and her knits stolen from the boys department. In short, next time you’ve mistakenly chucked your hard-earned wools in the wash, just chill, hope for the best, and open a bottle of wine. 

13. Le Mont St. Michel Les Elementaires Cashmere Sweater, $495

14. Le Mont St. Michel Grosgrain Double-Breasted Blazer, $620

15. A.P.C Shetland Sweater, $345

16. Schott Schott X The Line Leather Jacket, $895 

Cool: Avoid It

Whatever is on trend, deemed cool or in high demand, avoid it at all costs. The Parisienne doesn’t splurge on trophy buys or collect the latest must-have items, nor does she spend hours thinking about what to wear because she has perfected her wardrobe (which she has obviously thought a lot about). Only a handful of essential items she saved for, painstakingly selected and wears all day, every day until they age with her and become part of her signature. A Hermès scarf, the same style of shoes, neutral dark colours, perfect fit: she’s consistent, disciplined and specific, with a bit of that f*ck yeah arrogance. She wears what she wants to when she wants to, underdresses at formal events and overdresses to buy dry shampoo at the supermarket. All that time trying to find a look for tonight? Do as you do when you’re in a hurry and running late—slip on a pair of jeans, and save it for that bottle of wine. 

17. Junghans Max Bill Automatic Wrist Watch, 

18. Hermès Perspective Cavalière Cashmere Silk Scarf 140x140cm, $1,715 At Hermes

19. Maison Louis Marie Antidris-Cassis Perfume, 

20. Sophie Bille Brahe Isis Pearl Spiral Ring
, $1369 

21. Lack Of Color Willow Fedora, $69

Image credit: W Magazine

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