During my modeling career in the mid-1980s, Elite Models moved me to Paris, France, for two years to work. I was 16 years old, (where was my mother, you ask? A story for another article…) and fresh from growing up on a farm in Washington State.
I didn’t know how to say please, thank you, or where is the bathroom in French, much less take the metro or navigate the complex world of modeling. I learned fast. What really blew my mind, though, was French women.
For the first six months living in Paris, I wore jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirts that had things like, Where’s the Beer written on them, and often forgot to comb my hair or wear mascara – the extent of my beauty routine.
French women, on the other hand, always looked like they were the height of fashion, taste, and money.
They fascinated me. Besides feeling the ultimate outsider, I loved it and aspired to take on their intricate skill set of looking current and put-together in the fashion capital without spending all my money on clothing and beauty supplies.
To that end, here are my top 5 ways to achieve the French Woman’s savvy:
Red Lipstick or Something Like It
French women don’t wear a lot of makeup; they just wear the right makeup. Minimalistic and simple, a strong lipstick color like the appropriate red, helps you look stylish and that you thoughtfully considered your appearance before leaving the house.
Simple Effortless Hair
Putting undue amounts of time into your hair is not only burdensome, it can look uptight; something French women avoid. What’s their trick? Get an excellent haircut that requires as little styling as possible, and keep it healthy and frizz free.
For example, in order to keep my ends not looking tortured, I get a trim once a month, and use coconut oil on my hair when it needs it.
Often, we negate the diligence of such things in replacement for time spent, but in the end, we look unkempt. Red lipstick, healthy hair and a great haircut, go a long way to help you look a step-above the crowd.
Wardrobe Is About Basics
Rather than spend money on statement pieces, focus instead on basics. For example, when you have a meeting, reach for your black slacks, crisp white button-down shirt, flats, and a gold necklace worn fitted around your throat area. Wham. You’re French. Well, almost, but you get the point.
Or try a little-black-dress (which isn’t for just evening wear) and a fitted to perfection blazer in a flattering color, heels, and small earrings. Whomever you’re meeting falls over as you walk in.
The point here is to use statement pieces, like colorful jackets, sparingly and focus on looking sharp with basics.
Here’s another idea: get a fabulous pair of dark wash jeans, a black, white, or grey fitted t-shirt, heels, and a chic cardigan or sports jacket. These three outfits can be mixed and matched to create another three to four outfits, and you look like a genius.
Pick Your Jewelry Wisely
Germans love to accessorize, but French women pick one item – whether it be earrings, a necklace, or bangles – and that’s their statement piece. In fact, most French women choose either gold or silver jewelry, and do not mix the two.
Personally, I mix gold and silver all the time, but the point is to make one item be your stand-out piece, and nothing else.
Take the jeans and t-shirt look above. You could make your red lipstick be the statement piece, or wear a quieter lip color and pop on large dangly gold earrings for effect. Therefore, you have your statement piece (the earrings), and it doesn’t compete with anything else you’re wearing.
Own It, Baby
Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from French women is that they made no apologies. For anything. You can call this snobby, stuck up, and even rude. Take this as you like, but I grew up constantly apologizing for being inadequate, and no French woman would ever do that.
They own their sense of self, style, and contribution to humanity with flair and a subdued minimalism that makes them famous.
What would help you own your own beauty and style? You are a beautiful, stunning creation. What would help you look like you believed that statement? Take these lessons from French women in staying current and relevant in our complex and crazy world. Which one do you like the best?