It’s about time I chatted about style and minimalist fashion isn’t it? I am, after all, a total fashionista. I adore fashion. And I love it as a form of self-expression. Looking well put together without a considerable amount of effort is what I’m all about. I blame my introverted, reserved nature for hiding my fashion side from you for so long. You see, I prefer subtle instead of gaudy and loud. Jumping around shouting “Look over here! Look at me” is not my deal. And that sums up my style — classic, simple and sophisticated but with an edge. I do have a rebellious side (just look at what I did with my money) but not enough of a rebellious side to wear leopard in public (or anywhere for that matter). My style, is in fact, quite French.
What is it about French women and their simple, effortless style that keeps us enthralled?
It’s classy yet cool. Effortless yet refined. It’s simple and minimalist.
French women just have that “something.” That one little thing that makes them ooze simplicity and grace.
And yet, they’re badass too — all at the same time.
You look at them and wonder, can I pull that off? What’s their secret?
It’s taken me a long time to figure out my style and many failures. I’ve racked up debt for wardrobe changes only to find out, now in my 40’s, that I had it all wrong. Simple and timeless wins out over trendy of the moment crap. I’ve always had simple and classy pieces in my wardrobe but the mistake I made was letting the “buy every bargain” mindset get in the way.
But I’ve never given up. In the words of DVF, “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.”
That statement is the backbone of who I am. I knew I always wanted to be an Audrey. And it holds so much more weight than what’s in your closet. It’s about how you carry yourself, your confidence, and your values. I believe a small part of your confidence comes from what you wear. I value how I dress and how I present myself to the world. It’s like sending a message to the world that says, “hey, here’s a woman who cares, is confident, and gives zero f*&ks about what anyone else thinks.” When you feel great and comfy in what you wear, it allows your inner beauty to shine that much more.
I often struggle with the “zero f&*ks” part, but who doesn’t? It’s tough to care and not care at the same time. My poker face is non-existent.
Let’s take a look at how you can embrace the fundamentals of French style so you too can look your best, spend your money wisely and limit the time wasted shopping so you can get on with real life and everything that matters most to you.
1. Minimalist ensembles rule. Always.
You know it – the classic white button-down paired with skinny jeans and ballet flats – that’s the French woman’s simple, effortless ensemble. They stick with a neutral colour palette and simple styles that flatter. They choose subtle over shocking.
Shocking can be fun, but it’s best reserved for your 20’s when you can get away with it. When you get to your 40’s, subtle allows your effortless grace to shine through. People see the woman instead of the outfit.
2. Effort? NO! Chic and effortless is the way to go.
“Make it look easy. Everything you do should seem effortless and graceful.” ~ Caroline de Maigret
By finding what works for you and wearing it regularly, you’ll develop your style blueprint and uniforms. They’ll become your go-to’s which will make choosing an outfit each day easy. You’ll feel confident in your outfit choice because it looks great and feels great. We all want to feel radiant and glowing each day with little effort.
3. Fast fashion and fly-by-night trends are all a no.
No logos, no sweatpants, no yoga pants outside the studio. Need I say more?
“Jeans with bling, embroidery and holes are for your teenage daughter. The same goes for skimpy tops. “You’re not fifteen anymore.” ~ Caroline de Maigret
Sure, we all have our moments where we just feel like being frumpy. I get it. I’ve been there. But being a walking billboard and looking frumpy is nowhere to be found in any French woman’s style book. Trends are usually uncomfortable to wear and make it look like you’re trying way too hard. Ditch ’em!
4. Comfort is key. But make it look good.
“I know what fits me and what makes me look good. I find myself buying the same thing over and over, but I don’t mind — these are my classics, they always work, they always make me happy.” ~ Garance Dore
5. Curate slowly and invest in quality.
A French woman takes her time curating a wardrobe that flatters her. She doesn’t fall victim to trends or buys because something is on sale. If it happens to be on sale, all the better. The French woman also invests in a few quality items. She may own one pair of Chloe ballet flats and a stunning Saint Laurent leather tote or crossbody, but her closet won’t be overflowing with ballet flats in every colour or more than a few handbags.
North American women tend to have closets overflowing with bargain finds that don’t last. Do as French women do, take your time, savour, save and invest in garments you’ll love for years to come.
6. No hiding! Embrace who you are.
“Style is a fascinating way to tune in to who we are, understand who we are not, be creative, and express our inner selves.” ~ Garance Dore
French women say no to anything that doesn’t flatter. Knowing your body type and what colours work best on you goes a long way to feeling comfortable, confident and loving what’s in your closet. When you love your closet, you won’t feel the need to buy more, and you’ll embrace your body.
For me, as an hourglass shape, that means I buy high waisted pants to flatter my shape. And dresses that are fit and flare or A-line work best for my hips.
Take the time to know and understand what flatters you best and stick with those styles.
7. Mix high and low.
French women layer a mix of high and low pieces and accessories. It’s what makes an outfit interesting. You won’t see a French woman wearing all Louis Vuitton; they’ll mix it up with some H&M or Zara. It takes your look to a whole new level.
8. The signature item.
“You don’t have to spend a decade’s worth of salary on your wardrobe, or flaunt designer brands the whole time. All you need is one signature item: the one you wear when you need to feel strong.” ~ Caroline de Maigret
That item for me is my Kooples leather biker jacket. It makes me feel badass and goes with anything. I took my time finding “my” leather jacket. And by taking my time, I found the perfect one at 80% off.
9. Fewer but better.
Clutter is stressful and too many choices in your closet overwhelms your brain. Have you ever had a morning where nothing seemed to work? You try on top after top and nothing seems to feel right or match your pants? Frustrating, right?
A closet with fewer but better quality items simplifies decisions. And you’ll love the ease of getting dressed knowing you have comfortable clothes that flatter you.
Do the Fashion Equation and calculate the cost per wear.
10. The Parisienne wears very little jewelry.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve always worn very little jewelry. I’ve never liked a lot of jewelry or really big shout in your face statement pieces. To me, it screams, “I’m trying too hard.” Or, my fave statement, “look at me, look what I can do.” Ugh. *eye roll*
The idea here is the smarter the outfit, the less jewelry you need. Fine chains, simple earrings, and that “M” initial necklace from my sixteenth birthday are the way to go for me.
Gaudy and over the top baubles are not my deal. Simplicity is the way to go with accessories. Each piece should have meaning, tell a story, or have some sentiment behind it.
11. It’s all about the big picture.
French women think long and hard before buying something. It’s all about how something fits into their existing wardrobe and goes with the vibe of their overall look. Each piece has to have a function to create an overall look.
For more style secrets from my two fave and best dressed 43-year-old French women, Garance Dore and Caroline de Maigret, check out:
And a few of my own style rules…
Clothing boosts what is already within.
Frumpy is bad. Hence no sweatpants or marching around in yoga pants 24/7. I’m not a mom so there are no excuses. And for that matter, if I was there’s still no excuse.
No fast fashion here.
Natural fabrics as much as possible. Cashmere, I love you. No, seriously I do. If you can only afford to buy one sweater, make it cashmere. And no, they are not high maintenance sweaters. They are hand washable. I do it all the time with my fave grey Equipment Asher V-neck I’ve had for years.
Just a smidge of menswear. Menswear is a staple for most Frenchwomen. Myself, however, I prefer to keep it to a minimum. I’m not one for oxfords and penny loafers. While I do love a great fitting pair of pants, I still mix it with a feminine top. My only rule about menswear is avoiding overly boxy styles. When you’re an hourglass-like I am, boxy makes you look frumpy and larger than you are. Hourglass is designed for curve-hugging, waist cinching garments.
Electric patterns, camo, and leopard print are for your 20’s and 30’s. Enough said here. I avoid any crazy leopard, zebra, camo or other eye-popping patterns. While I have some patterned garments in my wardrobe, they’re classic. Breton stripes, paisley, geometric patterns and simple florals are as far as I go.
No dressing down. Unless you’re hiking of course! This is up there with no sweats, no yoga pants, or other athleisure in public. Unless, you’re working out, nix it. Comfort and looking good is possible without having to wear ill-fitting sweats and other casuals.
Accessories? What accessories? French women keep it simple – think silk scarves, oversized sunglasses and delicate jewelry. In fact, French women try to avoid jewelry altogether. Myself? I go for classic pearls and anything delicate and gold toned. My fave minimal yet feminine jewelry brands? Jenny Bird, Mejuri, Tiffany&Co.
Invest in great lingerie. Trust me on this one. When I bought my first Agent Provocateur bra, I realized what I had been missing all these years. Sure, the price tag shocked me a bit, but it was well worth it. Their bras flatter and fit so well, you barely notice them.
A few simple, high-quality pieces is all one needs. My style philosophy is to buy the highest quality you can afford and buy fewer items. Repair when you can and when it makes financial sense to repair versus replace. And wear the heck out of every garment. But take care of those garments. They are, after all, an investment of both your time and money; the time spent both earning money and searching for that item.
A sneak peek of what I’ve been working on for The Classy Simple Life…
A big thank you to Gooseberry Studios for the lovely photos that put the finishing touches on my brand!
Necklace: Jenny Bird
Bracelet/cuff: Jenny Bird