Secrets of the French Cool

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.

Are You Guilty of Lingerie Self-Sabotage?

Have you ever caught yourself saying: Well, I’m the only one who’s going to see it, so it doesn’t matter what lingerie I wear?

If so, you’re one of many American women who suffer from a classic case of what I like to call “Lingerie Self-Sabotage.” Yes, you’re short-changing your most valuable feminine assets… and it’s time we give them the love and quality they deserve. The remedy? A gentle shift in perspective.

Here are the most common traps women fall into, and a few tips that may have you singing a new tune:

DO look for your favorite T-shirt bra in a fun color, like this gorgeous Poppy red

DO look for your favorite T-shirt bra in a fun color, like this gorgeous Poppy red

Trap #1: I’m just going to work, I need comfort and practicality, not pretty lace.
Beautiful lingerie is a secret confidence-booster, giving you instant poise. Since confidence is an essential tool for success, start your ensemble (outfit) with your underwear drawer. Be feminine AND comfortable underneath your polished appearance, and own it. This girl means business!

Trap #2: It’s a Sunday and I’m staying home. I just want to be comfortable.
When comfort is your first priority, look for a breathable T-shirt bra that feels like a second skin. Chic accents like the soft lace on this Simone Perele Caressence bra, or a pop of color are easy upgrades that instantly de-frump your look. The truth is, you deserve to feel divinely comfortable AND stylish, even under your most casual weekend wear.

Celeste Demi Plunge and Tanga in Cassis

DO go for soft, wearable lace in a flattering color, like this Chantilly lace set

Trap #3: I’m single. No one’s going to see what’s underneath!
Despite common belief, lingerie is not about a man… it’s all about you. Your curves are absolutely worthy of a matching bra and panty set that feels as good as it looks. Mais pas d’erreur (make no mistake), when you wear pretty lingerie, you exude that inner “oh la la” that French women cultivate so seamlessly. So be ready! As my mother always said, you never know who you might meet on the way to the grocery store!

Trap #4: I’m too busty for sexy or beautiful bras.
Time to toss your granny panties (and bras) to la poubelle (the trash). You can absolutely have everything on your checklist: supportive (check), comfortable (check), beautiful (check) and even sexy (absolument!) bras go up to H cup and beyond. Do look for: slightly wider straps, ballet u-shaped back, reinforced cups and curve-hugging support. A full busted woman should never have to sacrifice style for comfort and support.

REVELATION_12R343_712_079 - Copy

DO look for a nude bra with pretty details. And buy the matching set!

Trap #5: I only feel comfortable in nude bras that disappear under clothing.
This is for the devoted bra nudists out there. First, look for nude bras with stylish accents, like touches of lace, embroidery, and elegant straps (like this Simone Perele Revelation 3D Demi). Next, buy the matching set; you’ll instantly feel more put together. And finally, reach out of your comfort zone a millimeter with updated nudes like feminine Blush Pink that are just as invisible but infinitely more stylish. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be tempted to dapple in something a little more colorful

Your new motto: I deserve the best, inside and out!

How To: The Undone-Chic Chignon

New York Fashion Week is all about celebrating style, makeup and of course, runway-worthy hair. But this season, perfectly polished coifs were offset with ruffled tresses that had a distinctly Parisian flare. My favorite of which is what I refer to as “the undone-chic chignon.”

Think downtown, bohemian cool. This is an unfussed look that’s soft and touchable, with loose pieces framing the face. It’s carefree, romantic, irresistibly sexy and goes well with just about any look, from morning to night.

I consulted with friend and Fashion Week backstage hair stylist, Montana Sutton, for an official (and easy) step-by-step. Montana deconstructed the chignon into 5 steps (yes, you have to put a little work into looking effortless!).

Here’s how to get the Parisian-approved nonchalant chignon:

iStock_000007880262MediumStep 1: Prep hair by lightly spraying roots to ends with hairspray for hold and texture.

Step 2: Create a ponytail in the desired location (low, medium or high) and secure with an elastic.

Step 3: Two inches from the ends of the pony, wrap an elastic around the bottom of the pony. Loosely twist the pony like rope.

Step 5: Wrap twisted hair around the base of the pony and secure in place with hair pins as you go.

Step 6: Gently pull at the bun to make it as big and loose as you want. Pull a few loose pieces to fall naturally around the face. Finish the look with a quick mist of light hold hair spray.

Note: Matches every outfit, must be worn with unapologetic confidence.

How to Find Your Signature Look

Closet full of choicesAmong the quintessential French woman’s many secrets is her mastery of a signature look—a style that exudes her touche personelle. But personal style isn’t something women are born with—it’s a skill, an art form, and it’s constantly evolving. It’s also completely life changing. When you find your signature look, you’re in tune with your inner elegance and how you express it. It’s creative, empowering and unbelievably sexy.

Here are a few tips for finding, and sticking to, your unique signature look:

  • Own It. Your signature style is your unique reflection to the world. No matter what your style, stay true to what you feel beautiful in and you’ll always exude confidence.
  • Reboot Your Closet. As you hone in on a signature look, weed out any tired, ill-fitting items from your closet (eh oui, this includes gifts!). If you haven’t worn something in a year, it’s time to say adieu. With a leaner, meaner closet, you’ll take more joy in getting dressed each day (and make room for new pieces!).
  • Fit to Flatter. It’s time to put your best assets forward and make sure every piece in your wardrobe fits and flatters your silhouette. The same goes with your lingerie; it should hug your curves to perfection. Become friends with your tailor so that clothes fit to a T (even your T’s)… they’ll look like they were custom made for you.
  • Invest in Quality. French women are all about quality over quantity, and invest in a few fabulous well-made items. Resist the temptation to buy “disposable” pieces and instead look for select high quality pieces you will love and wear for years.
  • Say “Non” to Most Trends. Start with a foundation of timeless classics. This includes everlasting chic neutral tones of black, white, beiges and grays. When you’re tempted by trends (faux fur, boyfriend sweaters and beaded dresses come to mind this fall), add only a few pieces at a time and make sure they accentuate your core aesthetic.
  • Pick Your Palette. Wearing the right colors can make your skin glow and your eyes sparkle (yes please!). Pick three shades that flatter your skin tone and hair color, and build your wardrobe around them. A few colors are easier to mix and match and offer endless outfit possibilities.
  • Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize! The best part of accessories (besides the fact that they always fit) is that they instantly transform an outfit from simple (yawn) to stunning (oh la la!). Most women gravitate towards a certain accessory that they feel naked without. This is your signature accessory, and it’s essential to defining your look.
  • Sealed With A Kiss. Luscious pout? Long lashes? Gorgeous cheek bones? Highlight your favorite feature with a touch of makeup. The same goes for your coiffure (hair style). Straight hair? Make it shine. Wild curls? Play it up. And always have a signature parfum (or two).

10 Things French Women Don’t Do

10 Things Blog ImageIn the spirit of a recent craze of books toting everything French women don’t do (such as “Get Fat,” “Get Facelifts” or “Sleep Alone”), I thought I’d put together my own list of favorites.

It almost goes without saying that this list contains generalizations that don’t include ALL French women, but the trends ring true.

Here are my 10 commandments of French women don’ts:

1.   French women don’t reject compliments. Time to toss self-deprecation in la poubelle (the trash). French women believe that gracefully accepting compliments shows confidence and inner elegance. A simple thank you and a little smile are all that’s needed. Resist the temptation to say too much!

2.   French women don’t wear a lot of makeup. To women in France, the too-made-up look is synonymous with a woman trying too hard, hiding from her true beauty and from herself. Opt for a minimalist look, or emphasize a single feature at a time (like seductive eyes or a perfect pout). Read my article on A French Woman and Her Makeup: Au Naturel.

3.   French women don’t obsess about their age. Tout simplement (put simply), a beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, at twenty two or sixty two. I believe there are three keys to seduction: attitude, wardrobe and confidence, and none of these are affected by age.

4.   French women don’t wear nude bras. French women love classic black, white and colors that make them feel feminine and beautiful. Wearing a blue lace bra or bodysuit under a white t-shirt or crisp white button-down shirt is absolutely acceptable.

5.   French women don’t wear sweatpants to bed. There’s no denying that we deserve to unwind and feel comfortable at the end of the day, but I believe we can do this while still maintaining an air of style. Toss the sweatpants and look for pretty pajamas in soft fabrics and figure-flattering cuts. Read my article on Bedtime Lingerie À La Française.

6.   French women don’t spend hours at the gym. I once joined a gym in Paris and found I was almost the only woman there. French women stay in shape à pied (on foot), integrating walking into their everyday routines, or swim laps at their local pool. Read up on How to Walk Like A French Woman.

7.   French women don’t supersize. The French are known for exercising discipline in keeping things juste comme il faut (no more than necessary). It’s a brilliant way to minimize “stuff,” simplify your life and still enjoy les petits luxes (little luxuries).

8.   French women don’t have fake nails. You’ll find most French women with short, manicured nails in a clear or neutral shade. Simple yet polished.

9.   French women don’t bare too much skin. When it comes to baring skin, less is definitely not more. In fact, I believe the game of seduction is about what you cover, how you cover it, and with what. Not only does it tease the eye, but it shows an inner confidence that’s magnetically sexy.

10. French women don’t deprive themselves of sweets, but they do indulge in moderation. Un petit carré (a little square) of dark chocolate can be supremely satisfying.

Voilà. I invite you to try a few of these and see how they suit you. Sometimes the simplest changes can create a big shift…

L’Apéritif: The Art of the French Before Dinner Drink


Aperitif Image

I’m sitting on a terrace overlooking the gorgeous crescent-shaped beach of La Baule, my favorite town in Brittany. It’s 8pm, so naturally, I’m doing what every other responsible French citizen is doing on a summer evening…

It’s apéritif hour. Il est l’heure de l’apéritif. It’s apéritif hour.

The French apéritif, or before dinner drink, is a tradition everyone should have in their repertoire. It’s is about the ritual of taking une petite pause between the day’s activities and a pleasurable meal. Playfully nicknamed l’apéro, l’apéritif  is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open.” Designed to whet the appetite, it is served directly before a meal.

Whether you’re gathering with friends, celebrating an event, enjoying a gorgeous summer day, or just embracing life à la française, this is a time of day to kick back and relax.

Here’s how to do l’heure de l’apéro in style:

  • For Something Sweet: Add a splash of blackberry liquor (crème de cassis) to white wine and you have a deliciously sweet Kir. Replace the wine with champagne for a Kir Royale.
  • For Special Occasions: Celebrate with your favorite champagne or sparkling wine.
  • For the Wine Lover: Look for a dry white wine or, in summer, a fresh rosé. Porto, known as a vin doux (“soft” wine), is a lighter wine that’s perfect before a big meal.
  • For the Hot Summer Day: Sip on a tall glass of Pastis. Originating from Marseille in the south of France, this is a classic apéritif made with refreshing anise and licorice and served on ice for a fabulously cooling effect.
  • Pair your drink with light hors d’oeuvres. The key here is to keep it very simple and light. Typical choices include: marinated olives, toasted nuts, parmesan sticks or a handful of gourmet chips.

Summer is peak apéritif season, so gather a few friends for an impromptu soirée, or better yet, make it a new tradition. Santé!

6 Signs You’re Wearing the Wrong Bra Size

Bra SizeThere’s no doubt that owning a beautiful bra wardrobe can be life-changing, and wearing one puts a little extra pep in your step. That said, there’s only one thing that can negate the positive power of a fabulous bra: wearing the wrong size.

One statistic that bears repeating is that 8 in 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size. Quel désastre! Below is a snapshot of facts to help you determine if you’re one of them. If you are, no problem—bra fitters to the rescue! The reward is instantaneous: feeling supported, comfortable and confident in your bra.

Here are the signs you’re wearing the wrong bra size:

1. Your Bra Band Rises in Back
Solution: Go down a band size (and up a cup size*)
Why: If your bra band rises in back, or you can pull the band more than an inch away from your back, it is definitely too large. This is often the culprit for the back-fat look and will also cause breasts to sag. Essentially, the bra band is the most functional component of your bra and provides about 80% of the support of your bust. Your bra band should be snug and rest level and parallel to the floor in front and back when you look in the mirror.

2. The Center of Your Bra Doesn’t Rest Flat Against Your Skin
Solution: Go up a cup size
Why: Bras are designed so that the fabric between your breasts, also called the center gore, should lay flat against your skin. When it doesn’t, the band can’t provide proper support. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to place two fingers between your breasts. If you can’t, your bra cups are too small. Trying going up a cup size to find comfort juste comme il faut (just right)!

3. Your Straps Dig Into Your Shoulders
Solution: Go down a band size (and up a cup size*)
Why: Straps that dig into you or leave marks are a telltale sign that you’re shouldering too much weight. In fact, bra straps should only do about 20% of the work when it comes to supporting the bust; the bra band does the rest. Présentation plus voluptueuse? Larger busted women can also look for straps that are slightly wider, firmer and subtly padded for a more comfortable fit and extra support.

4. Your Breast Tissue is Bulging from the Tops or Sides of Cups
Solution: Go up a cup size
Why:  If you have lumps and bumps around your bra, or your breast spills out of the cups from the tops or sides, your cup size is too small. Your bra should offer you a smooth fit, and the cups (yes, even push-ups) should completely envelope your breast tissue so that you look smooth under a t-shirt. The result is a svelte silhouette sans spillage – and yes, the right size will make you instantly appear 5 pounds slimmer. If you are looking for a voluptuous look, go for a sculpted fit rather than an over-full one.

5. Your Bra Bunches or Gaps
Solution: Go down a cup size
Why: Wrinkles, puckering or gaps indicate extra fabric, which means your cup size is too large. Try going down a cup size; you want the bra to hug your curves for a flawless fit.


Flawless, curve-hugging fit = totally life changing!

6. You’ve Never Had a Professional Bra Fitting
Solution: This one is easy… go for a fitting!
Why: A professional bra fitting can be une experience transformatif (a transformative awakening). I’ve talked to countless women who were stunned to learn their true size, and supremely thankful to find better-than-ever support and comfort. Other signs you need a fitting: it’s been more than a couple of years, you’ve gained or lost more than 7 pounds, or you’ve had a baby or gone through menopause. Nervous about stripping down? Bra fitters are passionate about educating and empowering each woman in the dressing room. They will take good care of you!

Follow these golden rules and I guarantee you will have a hallelujah moment when you realize:           “I never knew a bra could fit and feel this way!”

* Remember than when you move down in band size, you will likely need to go up in cup size to maintain the right fit.