French “Messy Hair”… The Secrets of Undone Chic

brigitte bardot long hair 5Imagine a chic Parisian woman.  Along with her effortlessly chic outfit and radiant skin with minimal makeup, you’ll find that her hair has a sort of undone, unfussed look.

Truth be told, French women are not as focused on perfectly coiffed hair as many Americans tend to be.  Unbrushed tresses?  A few stray strands falling into your face?  Rumpled chignon?  Pas de problème!  Let’s call it “undone chic.”

Not only is laissez-faire hair acceptable, it’s confident, stylish and downright sexy.

Simply take a look at some of France’s most famously tousled tresses.  Actresses Brigitte Bardot, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Clemence Poesy come to mind, as well as the former editor-in-chief of French Vogue, Carine Roitfeld, all of whom exude that alluring, slightly undone attitude that French women are celebrated for.

How can you capture this carefree “less is more” look without looking completely disheveled?  It’s as much about how to care for your hair as it is about how to style it.

Here are the 5 rules of irresistibly sexy French hair:

Rule #1: Chic styling…  get a great haircut.  If you have a superb cut, you shouldn’t need to spend a lot of time styling it.  Once you’ve found a hair stylist you love, ask him or her to give you a cut that suits your natural hair type without having to spend too much time on it. 

Rule #2: Don’t rush to brush.  The majority of French women don’t over-style, or even brush their hair throughout the day.  Resist the urge to carry a brush in your purse and instead, let your hair take its course.  Brushing has a way of eliminating hair’s natural waves, a key factor in “undone chic.” 

Rule #3: Lather it up every other day. Washing hair every day can strip its natural oils. Try washing it every other day. Plus, nothing tousles hair like a good night’s rest! 

Rule #4: Don’t over-style. Can’t imagine a hair day without your blow-dryer? Resist over-styling your hair: use just a dab of ultra-lightweight styling products to minimize frizz, and try to keep your blow-dry session to under 10 minutes. 

Rule #5: Maintain a healthy mane. Generally, French women prefer to spend their time on hair health rather than on hair styling. Invest in one or two nourishing at-home weekly hair treatments, and ask for a hair and scalp treatment when you go to the salon for a cut.

File these tips in your French style repertoire… and let the wind capture your hair as you turn heads.

5 Must-Have Fall Fashion Pieces

Blog 18

With fall in full force, we’re seeing the season’s newest lineup of fashion trends and what’s hot… when the weather is definitely not.

Since not every trend is wearable (or desirable), here is my take on the 5 fall fashion pieces every woman can wear:

  1. Jewel Tones. Emerald green, sapphire, amethyst… Fall’s gem-inspired hues will have you looking radiant and sophisticated. A simple accent is all you need to incorporate the shade into your wardrobe: a handbag, high heels, or sweater. Even a jewel toned bra is enough to make you look and feel fabulous!
  2. Turtlenecks. The classic turtleneck is now a fashion must-have, and is perhaps one of the season’s most wearable trends, keeping you warm without bulk. A turtleneck with a tailored fit is also supremely figure-flattering.
  3. Winter Whites. Varying shades of whites, ivories and creams are coming back to brighten the darker months. Wear this ultra-elegant trend with decadent cashmere sweaters and wraps or a stunning tailored coat.
  4. Knee-High Boots. Knee-high boots exude confidence, sex appeal and sophistication.  Look for a leather black or brown boot with a slim cut, or dress it up with elegant and timeless black suede. Tip: look for a handbag that accessorizes well with your boot for a unified, put-together look.
  5. A Statement Coat. Statement coats are coming into the spotlight, and are perhaps one of the best wardrobe investments you can make. A chic coat instantly takes your look to the next level. We’ll see them in every color and length this season, so indulge in a figure-flattering style you love!

Pair any of these fall style essentials with your favorite timeless chic pieces for a supremely elegant, head-turning French finish.

How to Stay Cool in the Summer? Drink a Glass of French Rosé

Blog 17 ImageFrom Paris to Provence, the French woman’s summer essentials are quite simple: white and navy stripes, an airy lace bra, a sun-kissed glow, comfortable espadrilles and… a glass of rosé.  Imagine all of the elements together, add a touch of sunshine and a gentle breeze, and you have the recipe for the perfect summer day “a la francaise.”

In France, rosé (pronounced roh-zay) is universally adored as the summer wine of choice.  And for good reason: dry, fruit-forward and crisp, these pink wines are divinely refreshing on a hot day, and also happen to be rather inexpensive (so you have more to spend on super-chic summer accessories, of course).   ,

The making of rosé starts with dark-skinned red wine grapes, except that the skins are removed after a brief time of steeping with the juice.  This is why rosé wines come in such a wide array of beautiful, blush-colored hues, ranging from pretty peach to a more passionate pink.

Note:  If, while reading this, you find yourself thinking about “Zinfandel” or “blush wine,” “je vous en supplie,” (I beg you), please reconsider.   White Zinfandel is the overly-sweetened red-headed step-sister to rosé… and they are nothing alike.

Here are some things to keep in mind when going for this French signature summer drink:

  1. When in doubt, buy French rosé.  France is the home of traditional, dry rosé.  It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with a bottle from Provence, the Rhone Valley, or the Loire Valley.
  2. Drink it chilled.  The ideal temperature for rosé is at a refreshing 45 degrees (the temperature of a chilly French “cave” or wine basement).
  3. Have it with lunch, or as an “aperitif.”  Yes, you have my permission to drink a glass of rosé at lunch (pair it with some melon and prosciutto for a moment of pure bliss).   Rosé also makes a great “aperitif” (before dinner drink), and of course, with dinner… and adds a chic hue to your table setting.
  4. Pair it with just about anything.  Both dry and fruity rosés are spectacular with grilled foods, such as fish, chicken or pork, or something as simple as fruit and cheese.
  5. Carpe diem.  Unlike French women and red wine, rosé does not improve with age, so go ahead and enjoy your chic summer beverage.

Bedtime Lingerie… “A La Francaise”

Blog 13 ImageAn essential aspect of every woman’s morning ritual is to put herself together… freshly washed hair, a spritz of perfume, a touch of makeup, a figure-flattering outfit and accessories to match. Interestingly, our evenings often consist of undoing the elements of this ritual: we wash off our makeup, undress, and slip into something more “comfortable.”

Of course, every woman has a different definition of comfort.  I’ve found the American version to consist of mainly sweatpants, boxer shorts and soft, oversized t-shirts.  There is nothing wrong with it, but the truth is that many of us go from “tres chic” by day to “tres unkempt” by night, feeling we must sacrifice style in order to properly unwind.  There is no denying that we deserve to relax and feel good after a busy day.   But is there a way to be effortlessly comfortable and still beautiful, chic and seductive?

The French think “oui”!   Not only is it possible, it’s simple, requiring only a minor shift in perspective and a few wardrobe “de nuit” (nighttime) updates.

Here are a few things to keep in mind, “a la Francaise” of course…

  1. It’s a way of embracing your natural beauty.   By maintaining a pretty bedtime wardrobe, it sends the message that you look and feel beautiful even without makeup, embracing your most natural and true beauty.  Nothing is sexier than confidence!
  1. Your bedtime wardrobe is as much for you as it is for your “Cheri”, so be sure to choose things that you love, as well as things you know he will love.  Unsure of what he likes to see you in?  Notice his responses to different things you wear.  Or ask.  Some men like to be asked about these things, while others may simply respond with a smile and a raised eyebrow.  Don’t worry, the message will be clear!
  1. Go for soft fabrics and figure-flattering cuts.  Choose pieces that are soft against your skin (and his), have light stretch and are flattering to your silhouette, draping over curves without constricting them.  Soft shapes that move as you do will draw his eye (and his mind) to where you want his attention, while still being breathable and comfortable for you.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • Silk anything.  Silk not only feels amazing against the skin, but it makes you feel simply luxurious.  Nuzzling next to you will leave him feeling the same way.  Try a silk camisole and short set, or a silky nightdress with a touch of lace, like the Simone Perele Celeste Nightdress.  A silk robe is also an easy way to make anything instantly fabulous!
  • Keep your cotton, but give it an upgrade.  Choose super-soft cottons in figure-flattering cuts that gently hug curves.  I love a cotton nightdress with a lace accent, or something as simple as a deep v-neck T, or a pretty tank.  And a simple white cotton top can be supremely sexy!
  • Pick colors you love.  Your bedtime wardrobe should be a rainbow of your favorite colors.  Black exudes seduction and red ignites passion while white/ivory evokes a peaceful femininity.  Try yellow or pink when you feel coquette-ish and sweet.  And don’t forget those sensual blues and lavenders.
  • Add touches of lace.  Chose high quality lace that is soft against your skin and has a hint of stretch.  My bedtime wardrobe includes an assortment of lace boyshorts that I can mix and match with different camisoles and tank tops.

It’s all about looking natural, fresh and feeling sexy… sweet dreams!

How to Wear a Tan Like the French

woman resting on the beachWith the summer heat ablaze, I’m often asked how French women feel about tanning.  Images of topless beaches in St. Tropez sprinkled with svelte, sun-worshipping women in chic bathing suits come to mind for many.  But is this entirely accurate?  Do French women indulge in guilt-free sunbathing with a sort of “life is short” attitude?  Or do they restrain themselves, opting for a pristinely paler complexion under layers of “crème solaire” (sunscreen)?  Is there any wisdom in the ways of French “le bronzage” (tanning)?

The answer lies in the balance of two commonly used French words: “en moderation,” (in moderation) and “profiter,” which, loosely translated, means, to enjoy.  As with life’s other tempting indulgences (pastries and wine come to mind), the French believe that they are much sweeter and richer when they are enjoyed with a little restraint… including “le bronzage”.

So apply your “crème solaire” diligently and enjoy some vitamin D and a few guilt-free sun basked moments.  The result?  A glowing, natural tan that exudes confidence, elegance and sex appeal “a la francaise.”

And so that you can “profiter au maximum,” here are a few tips for getting the most out of your gently sun-kissed skin:

  • Be generous with lotions and creams morning and night for a little extra radiance.
  • Don’t forget a chic sun hat.
  • Wear your white T’s.  While a simple white t-shirt can wash out pale skin, a little tan will make it pop, for a clean, fresh look.
  • Love your legs.  A little sun has a way of forgiving “imperfections,” so bare a little leg with confidence.  Just be sure to balance out any higher cut dresses, skirts or shorts with a looser, flowing top.  I love the look of a tunic over tailored shorts.
  • Dare to wear color. Bold or bright colors can look stunning on sun-kissed skin.  Find the hues that best suit the undertones of your skin and add a pop of color to your summer wardrobe.  Even a colorful pedicure will do wonders!

Now if only you could magically transport yourself to St. Tropez…

How to Wear Perfume Like a French Woman

Blog 11 image - PerfumeEffortless elegance, irreverence, confidence, seduction…      the French woman’s allure is as difficult to define or capture as the gently wafting scents of perfume that stir the air around her. So I find it imperative, if we are to uncover the “mystery” of the French woman, that we discuss her love affair with       “le parfum.”

Rule #1: Perfume is not an accessory; it’s a wardrobe essential.

If I were to describe the American woman’s typical relationship with perfume it would be like an expensive handbag… it sits on the shelf in the closet and comes out only on special occasions.  Across the Atlantic, perfume is as essential to the French woman as a lace bra.  In other words, she is not fully dressed until she has put on her fragrance.  This shift in perspective is the first step to wearing perfume “a la francaise.”

Rule #2: Perfume is an intimate expression of a woman’s personality.

Perfume is one of the most intimate expressions of who you are; it’s an extension of your true self.  What is your perfume personality?  Maybe it has a flirty, pin-up, coquettish, Brigitte Bardot-like quality.  Or perhaps it’s chic, nonchalant and refined.  Or mysterious, complex and evasive.  Or a deep, tantalizing blend of elegant aloofness and opulent sensuality.  It’s time to find your inner “Oh la la…” and pick the perfume to match.

Rule #3: Perfume is a method of seduction.

A woman is supremely seductive when she wears a fragrance that complements her and speaks to her.  Perfume leaves an imprint of a woman on others, a touch of her essence that lingers just enough to enchant and to leave you wanting more.  As writer and perfumer, Marian Bendeth has said: “Fragrance speaks the loudest on a subliminal level.”  Seduction is a game of all senses.

Rule #4: Perfume is all about location, location, location. 

When applying perfume, the secret is in the “pulse points.”  These points help the fragrance properly absorb into the skin… and stay there.  Each one has a slightly different allure, so you’ll apply a little touch “here” for the day-to-day activities and a little “there for dinner with your Cheri.

As you dabble in the world of perfume, try dabbing a little on one of these top 10 key spots:

  1. Along the hairline
  2. Behind the ears and on the earlobes
  3. Under the chin
  4. Along the jawline
  5. All around the collar bone
  6. Along the back of the neck to the shoulder blades
  7. Between the breasts
  8. In the navel
  9. The pulse points at the inner wrist
  10. Inside the bend of the elbow

As a final “note,” never ask a woman what perfume she is wearing, or reveal yours.  A little mystery is very elegant…and very “French.”

In Search of the Perfect Croissant

Blog 10 image - CroissantBefore we begin our search, I must clarify that French women do not start every day with a croissant; our svelte silhouettes would most definitely suffer.  But when we do indulge, it is with only the most worthy of croissants… one that leaves us soulfully satisfied, for the French croissant is so much more than a simple piece of bread.  The pursuit of the perfect croissant is a cultural, personal and indulgent journey that most of us consider simply part of being French.

Of course, this task is far easier in France where you are surrounded by delicious “boulangeries” and “patisseries”.  In the US, I’ve found that it requires a bit more effort.

Here are a few pieces of advice in helping you find the perfect “American” croissant:

  • Begin with French-owned spots.   Though I’ve found some very good croissants at     non-French places, it’s always a good idea to start with the experts. Even if they don’t make croissants, they can probably tell you who does!
  • Just say “non” to grocery store croissants… they are truly disappointing.
  • Look beyond the bakery.  In the US, coffee shops oftentimes have excellent croissants.  Also, don’t hesitate to ask where they get their croissants from, if they are not made          in-house.
  • Try to arrive before noon, when croissants are at their freshest.
  • Take a good look.  A good croissant should seduce you with its crisp-looking ends, puffed center, crescent shape and crisp, golden coat.  A “mauvais” or “bad” croissant will look soft, stale or flat, with a greasy finish or pale color.
  • It should not come as a sandwich.  A true French croissant should be enjoyed in its simplest form, adorned only with the occasional jam or honey.  It is not meant to be eaten with chicken salad, or as a ham and egg sandwich… “Ce n’est pas possible!” “It’s just unthinkable!”
  • A croissant does not come in a tube that you bake. Though you may have dappled in the grocery store variety of refrigerated dough in a tube in a moment of desperation, it is far from meriting the name of “croissant.” I do not recommend this for anyone!

And finally, be a croissant connoisseur.  A good croissant should crackle with every bite. It should flake, leaving a glorious mess of crumbs in its wake.  It should be ultra-light in weight compared to its size.  It should seduce you with a creamy buttery scent.  The inside should be soft and tender, with large air pockets and gently unfolding layers.  And finally, the flavor should be buttery and salty, not sweet or yeasty.

And don’t be afraid to broaden your search to non-local places. A croissant can actually be frozen and gently reheated in the oven… so there is never any reason to suffer through a “mauvais” croissant!

How to Walk Like a French Woman

iStock_000010014217XSmallHere’s a phrase to add to your everyday lingo: a pied. It means, “on foot,” and it’s the primary mode of transportation for the majority of French women, who walk just about everywhere. Marcher (walking) is as much a part of the French way of life as a perfect baguette, a lace bra, or a fabulous scarf.
Living in New York, I spend my daily “transitions” going from one place to the next on foot, sometimes logging several miles in a single day. In fact, having grown up in Paris, walking is so natural to me that I can’t imagine living any other way. But many of my American friends, scattered in more rural or suburban parts of the country, struggle to find the motivation, or the practical means, to walk on a daily basis. In part for them, here’s a little French wisdom on how to walk comme une femme française.
It’s a mood booster. Walking helps to clear your head and has a meditative effect that re-balances your energy and calms the mind.
It’s a conversation starter. Take a friend, family member or lover for a walk and notice how easily the conversation flows. Many people feel more comfortable opening up or brainstorming when they’re taking a leisurely stroll.
It’s painless exercise. French women aren’t known for torturing themselves at the gym, but rather, prefer to stride in style. And the benefits of walking have been shown to be as good as those of running, but without the stress on your joints.
It connects you to your environment. Caught in our day-to-day activities, we often forget to really look at our surroundings. As you’re on-the-go, take it all in and you might just notice something new—the architecture of a historic building, a new café, or the beauty of the changing seasons.
And finally, it’s about taking joy in the journey. To incorporate more walking into your life, a part of you must accept that it might take a little longer to get from point A to B. So walking is also about patience, slowing down, and taking some time for yourself. Marcher, c’est la joie de vivre! (Walking is about the joy of living!).

A French Woman and Her Makeup: Au Naturel

iStock_000021296489XSmallTo women in France, one of the biggest beauty sins one can commit is that of wearing too much makeup. The too-made-up look is synonymous with the woman trying too hard, who is hiding from her true beauty, and from herself. What is a French woman’s relationship with her makeup? The phrase “le no makeup look” captures it all. It’s not that French women don’t wear makeup… it is that they just pretend not to.
Beauty is skin deep. French women’s top beauty secret? They are incredibly committed to their skincare regimen. Facials are routine, as well as investing in good quality cleansers, toners and creams. A healthy diet also does wonders for skin (but never sacrificing cheese, wine and the occasional baguette). For French women, glowing skin is the foundation of our beauty regimen. When your skin is healthy and taken care of, you’ll feel beautiful even when the makeup comes off at the end of the day.
Makeup Minimalism. I believe that wearing less makeup reflects French women’s innate confidence. For instance, there is something supremely seductive about a woman with gorgeous, bare skin and a bold lip color. It makes a statement that you are comfortable in your own skin, and yet unafraid of owning your sensuality as a woman. Here are some of my tried-and tested makeup tips, from Paris to New York:
  1. Toss the foundation and replace it with a little under-eye concealer only.
  2. Mascara, mascara, mascara!
  3. Blush is a must… and crème blush is more natural-looking.
  4. Eyeliner OR eye shadow… never both!
  5. Make a statement with a fabulous red or pinkish-nude lipstick.
  6. Emphasize either the lips or the eyes.
  7. Try a hint of bronzer for a “just returned from Saint Tropez” glow.
  8. Always protect your skin with SPF sunscreen.
  9. Liquid eye liner is always in style…and supremely seductive.
  10. For glowing skin, wear tinted moisturizer and dot a nude shimmer eye shadow on the inside corners of the eyes.
Because truly, the most beautiful makeup a woman can wear is confidence

Do French Women Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Valentine's Day

It’s late January in New York and I can already sense the tension of “what to do for Valentine’s Day” among my friends. Having spent the majority of my life in France, people often ask me what I think, and if they celebrate February 14th in France, which begs the question: Does the American version of Valentine’s Day translate for French women?

The truth is that Valentine’s Day is seldom celebrated in France. So why is it that a country of people known as experts on love don’t celebrate “Le Jour des Amoureux”? To the French, seduction and romance cannot be compacted into a single day…they should occur more organically and authentically. So what does this mean? Should we abandon Valentine’s Day altogether?

My advice: toss the high expectations for the one Hallmark day and replace it with a little more romance every day. Where to start: Keep the seductive lace bra and panty you purchased, and also upgrade your “everyday” bras by going for color or lace accents.

Romance is triggered when you feel beautiful, inside and out. So treat yourself to a manicure, a beautiful scarf, or a luxurious hair cut – anything that makes you feel good. Another way to stir up instant chemistry is by complimenting your man’s masculinity. A lot of women fall into the trap of expecting their husbands or boyfriends to do things the same way they would, which spurs criticism. When your man feels validated and confident, his sexual radar is instantly recharged.

So perhaps the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year is to commit to replacing grand gestures with small ones throughout the year. Most importantly, take the pressure off… true romance happens when you feel your best. Oh, and don’t forget to put on your chic lace bra and say je t’aime… on February 15th.