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!

Spring Style Spotlight: Blush Pink


After winter’s midnight navy, jet-black and deep red hues, I’m looking forward to a softer look. Thankfully, the season’s color du jour is pink, with an emphasis on pastels and beautiful blushes. It’s the new feminine neutral, and it’s turning up everywhere. Yes, pink is officially chic.

Before we dive in, let me first say that I believe trends are best worn en modération, so have fun, but be a bit selective. My golden rule is to mix on-trend pieces with classic staples, so there is always a nice balance.

That said, a few pops of pink puts immediate credit in your wardrobe. Here’s how to incorporate the hue into your spring/summer style:

1. La Lingerie. Sweeten your silhouette with a blush bra and panty set. Soft pinks are an update to the classic nude and flatters all skin tones, so you can look flawless in your light spring tops. Simone Perele just debuted a new Blush hue for its best-selling Andora collection, in a modern triangle shape, as well as their best-selling 3D Molded T-Shirt Bra.

2. The Spring Coat. Make a statement in a soft pink trench or leather jacket. Leather counters the feminine-feel of this pastel hue, while a classic trench is light enough to be considered a neutral.

3. The Shoes. A pair of pale pink ballet flats is the perfect marriage of classic and trend. Another favorite this season is the blush-colored strappy sandal, which matches just about everything. It will be your new summer staple!

4. The Summer Sweater. The pale pink summer sweater is one of the season’s most wearable pieces. Pair it with crisp whites and neutral pastels for an ultra-feminine look.

5. La Jupe (The Skirt). Fabulous for work or week-end, look for a sleek, tailored silhouette or soft, flow-y fabrics to show off your feminine flare.

6. The Summer Scarf. Glamorize a summer-white outfit with a pastel pink scarf in a romantic floral print.

7. The Sunglasses. Make a soft statement in pink lenses within a classic frame. You’ll be seeing the world through rose-colored glasses…

Now this is the summer to live la vie en rose!


Le Petit Weekend: How to Escape Like the French

WeekendBienvenue spring, at last! In addition to fashion-friendly milder temps, le printemps also brings a renewed sense of energy and zest for life, making it the perfect time for Le Petit Weekend. Translated as “the little weekend,” short springtime getaways are as natural to the French as butter is to the croissant. Perhaps it’s the abundance of “jours fériés” (national holidays), or just a desire to escape after a long winter, but this time of year, the French start fleeing to cozy corners of France and beyond.

I wholeheartedly support Le Petit Weekend, with a mission of discovering someplace different. Even better, I always return invigorated and with a renewed appreciation for home.

Like most things French, Le Petit Weekend is a bit of an art. Here are 5 unspoken rules for getting away “à la française”:

  1. Keep It Simple. Resist the urge to over-plan. You don’t need an elaborate or expensive trip to reap the benefits of a getaway. French people mostly vacation in France, taking in the warm breezes of the Cote d’Azur or the rolling landscapes of wine country. In fact, you could explore anywhere, even a town within an hour or two, at a charming B&B. The simpler it is, the more freedom you have, the more pleasure you get from Le Petit Weekend.
  1. Be Spontaneous. Jet-setting on a whim can be wildly liberating, plus it gives you a chance to peek at the upcoming weather before making plans. Pas de soleil? Pas de probleme! (No sun? No problem!) We’ll go next weekend!
  1. Make It a “Weekend des Amoureux” (For Lovers): As rewarding as it may be to enjoy a family excursion, there is something to be said for a getaway “sans les enfants” (without children). The French truly value this precious time “en amoureux.” Not only will it recharge your romance, you’ll return home relaxed and refreshed for your children.
  1. Pack Light, but Chic. Leave the frills at home. Your weekender bag should be easy to carry (and easy to close) and filled with chic essentials: outfits that translate from day to night, a fabulous scarf, stylish, comfortable walking shoes, and some lacy lingerie (it doesn’t take up much room). For more, read: “Le Weekend Getaway Lingerie.”
  1. Fais Toi Plaisir. This is one of my favorite expressions, and it loosely translates as “treat yourself” or “make yourself happy.” Put simply, this is about enjoying life’s little indulgences. Wherever you go, disconnect from your Monday to Friday routine, and enjoy the freedom of a carefree weekend.

Bon voyage! 

5 French-Inspired Pleasures While We Wait for Spring

Spring is impossibly late. And though I can attest to dreaming of warm breezes and vibrant sunny days, I’ve decided it’s time to exercise a bit of restraint. The truth is, impatience, and complaining about the weather, are not becoming. Time to channel our inner French joie de vivre (love of life) with a few simple pleasures.

Here are 5 ways to distract ourselves while we wait for spring to arrive:

  1. Throw a Party. Invite friends over for an impromptu gathering. Host a casual aperitif (before-dinner drinks) with hors d’oeuvres, or a repas (meal) à la française. Make it as simple or as extravagant as you like, being sure to have a few (very French) essential components: delicious food, wine, a few good friends (new and old) and, of course, a chic outfit.
  1. Embrace Your Inner Chef. Yes, French women are known for their ways in the kitchen; the results of which do not go unnoticed. Be an artiste de la cuisine and conjure up a little passion in the kitchen with a bold new recipe—or classic favorite. Bon appétit!
  1. Lingerie! It may be too soon to wear your spring dresses, but a new wardrobe of springtime lingerie refreshes the soul. Make your lingerie drawer something you delight in opening each day with feel-beautiful spring colors like bold Azalea, sun-kissed Coral, fresh Azure and soft, feminine Blush.
  1. Walk Like a French Woman. Yes, walking will feel good—even in still-crisp air. So put on stylish boots or ballet flats and walk with unapologetic confidence. Not only will it boost your mood, you’ll be the first to know when spring does appear. More here on walking comme une femme française (like a French woman).
  1. Plan a Weekend Getaway. There are few things as fun (or more French) than a spontaneous weekend getaway at the end of a busy week. Pack your favorite chic essentials and escape to where you can experience the warmth and energy of spring with your cheri. Bon voyage!