To many French women, one of the biggest style sins you can commit is that of looking “overdone.” Any effort one puts into looking chic must be altogether discret. French cool is all about having a sophistication that seems as if it simply happened; as if you just had a natural knack for being supremely stunning.
Ironically, achieving this kind of unfussed elegance does require some work. The good news is that it’s more about a shift in perspective than anything else. There are tacit rules to the art of cultivating this kind of unapologetic confidence and enviable style.
Here are a few of the rules many French women live by:
Rule 1: Embrace Your “Imperfections.” Focus on your favorite features and let the rest add character to your natural cool. We often don’t realize how much time and energy it takes to cover up, maximize, minimize, erase and negotiate “les petites imperfections.” Despite your fears, be yourself and own your look, turning “flaws” into true elements du charme. (Jane Birkin’s gap-toothed smile was considered très sexy!)
Rule 2: Mix New and Old. Create your own look by mixing new with vintage, casual with tailored, or classic with trendy. The same goes for mixing brands and designers in one outfit. This is the key to creating your own style—a signature of French cool.
Rule 3: Simplify Your Makeup. It’s not that French women don’t wear makeup… it’s just that they pretend not to. Makeup is used to highlight one or two features, not all at once. A seductive red pout is almost always offset with a natural eye. A sweep of eye liner looks ravishing on bare skin. Achieving this kind of understated balance makes a statement that you are bien dans ta peau (comfortable in your own skin), and unafraid of owning your sensuality as a woman.
Rule 4: Tousle Your Tresses. Not only is laissez-faire hair acceptable, it’s stylish and downright sexy—especially when paired with an effortlessly chic outfit, lace underpinnings, and a pop of your best color lipstick. Not sure how to capture the look without looking completely disheveled? Start with the Undone-Chic Chignon.
Rule 5: Balance Your Accessories. Accessories are the signature of an outfit and should reflect your unique style and personality. A cardinal rule is that accessories should never compete for attention. Showcase a scarf or a statement necklace—not both. Stylize a classic look with a few select pieces that hold their own: a fabulous purse, gold cuff, silk scarf or chic sunglasses. Lastly, bring in personal, unique pieces wherever you can; your grandmother’s ring, your favorite vintage scarf, or an edgy leather jacket you bought years ago.
Rule 6: Seduction by Selection. The game of seduction is more about what you choose to hide than what you show. The taquinage (tease) is far more sexy than the reveal. Shake up the classic look of jeans and white button down shirt with a pretty black, navy or even rich purple lace bra. It’s seemingly effortless, slightly rebellious, and totally intriguing.
Rule 7: Dress for Yourself. Trying too hard to please others is the ultimate trap of a contrived look. When you dress for yourself, you feel good in your skin, exuding a natural confidence and effortless cool. Just ask yourself: What will make me feel really good?
Of course, whatever your style, your inner chic is your most effortless and stunning asset of all.
Read 10 French Icons to Watch to learn about today’s reigning queens of French cool.