11/10/2011

S’habiller en Français

France is said to be the homeland of fashion and French is the mother tongue of fashion world. No wonder the style of les femmes française seem to be an eternal object of envy for the women of America and (trust me, I know, I live here) Eastern-Europe. They buy the same labels, sometimes even the same entire outfits, but they don’t understand how come they aren’t magically transformed into Coco Chanel or Vanessa Paradis, both iconic represents of what best describes French style - chic.

French ladies are said to have one rule when it comes to getting dressed, which takes us to the hell of it – less is more
But would that be chic? What does it even really mean? I’ve searched a lot to find a good definition for the word itself, but only one definition could actually state it understandably:

Chic is to fashion what poetry is to prose, cold veal to roast partridge, a gad-fly to a bull. What is chic may, in a sense, be fashionable, but what is fashionable cannot be chic.Anybody can wear and do what is fashionable. It is not fashionable unless a lot of people do it, and have it on - until, in three words that grate rather hard upon the ear in this connection, it is common. Chic cannot be common. You cannot put on another person's chic, as you may her boots or her hats. You cannot copy it. You never know where to look for it.Fashion is incessantly trying to catch chic, but chic won't be caught. If fashion is the monarchy, chic is the revolution. It is the revolution whose watchwords are Liberty, Fancy, and Diversity. And remember, expensive stuff are shoddy. Not Chic." - The New York Times 1977.

I may horribly misunderstand this, but it appears to me that chic is actually an attitude. 
It can not be defined by pieces of clothing or strict elements of style or any concrete ways but it can be defined by naming people as examples of chic. In my head I have this vibrant and colorful mix of culture, personality, uniqueness, the understanding of fashion as a form of art, confidence, class, being effortless and having fun as the definition of chic.


Effortless perfection would be my keyword for it if I wanted to describe the chic clothing style, which is probably a terrible violation of the term itself as, once again, it’s not really a way of dressing.
However, after reading a lot on the topic and now having a clue what I’m talking about, I can bravely write about the original topic that made me title the post the way I titled it - Dress in French.

All that you can read above was just the foreplay. After all those, I do not longer care if saying now I will tell you how to dress chic is entirely wrong, I’ll still do it, as “now I’ll tell you how to dress in French” would sound pretty weird, wouldn’t it..?


Being chic in terms of clothing is all about:

·      being effortless
·      being polished
·      keeping it simple
·      comfort
·      femininity
·      class

You can see les dames de Paris wearing layers of dramatic scarves wrapped around them to keep them warm in an effortless, still feminine way, but you can also find them wearing layers of clothes, looking comfortable and looking just as chic as the one in the huge scarf. Real chic ladies never try too hard, they never follow anything like trends or fashion, but they never compromise, they always look their best.
Strange as it is, there’s a stereotypical image of American women in the head of every European individual. This image shows these women wearing jeans, t-shirts and sneakers – no matter where they are or how formal is the event they are attending. Of course I know this one isn’t entirely true, but it’s clear that if an American chick doesn’t try hard or at all, they will end up looking like that. It’s probably because of the way they were raised or the way their culture is. French ladies, on the other hand, look impeccable even if they haven’t tried, just because that’s the way society made them to be. This is chic that can not be learned, but can be imitated.

Might sound stereotypical, but navy-white stripped shirts really are French! I have one myself, only I bought that with the intention to wear it with a tight high waisted black skirt, so mine is short, pretty loose and has a huge neck, which I adore, but doesn’t look so sophisticated, I guess. 
Scarves. - Why they don't teach us this skill in high school, I'll never know. I do know that the Frenchwoman's methods aren't intricate, although there's a simple perfection that's next-to-impossible for the average American to achieve. Scarves tend to be big, statement pieces. I especially like the ones that trail behind the woman, flying in her wake, as she's clattering along the sidewalk. Men know how to wear big scarves here, too.”- quoted from A Proper Bostonian. Amen! She’s so right, it was like the biggest surprise for me to see how even men rock their scarves. They do something right! A lot of sources say skinny jeans are essentials as well. These sources are right in a way, but I’d rather say cigarette pants instead of skinny jeans. The legs of a pair of cigarette pants aren’t so tight and they end just above the ankle, unlike skinnies who are full length and skintight. 

This is how you make a classic chic look urban - red oxfords, red leather bag and knuckles

I spend weeks at the Côte d’Azur every year, I spend hours wondering around in ancient villages and tiny towns built in the hillside, and I got to drive to one certain conclusion – a straw basket is a must. Les femmes locales all seem to have one, and they carry them around surrounded with grace, as if it wasn’t, well, a basket after all.


Besides a good, timeless straw basket, I’d recommend wearing a leather handbag or cross-body purse. If handbag, make it a big, spacious, comfy one, not like those with studs and chains and ruffles all over them but a simple one. If cross-body, go for small ones that can carry only your phone, money and the perfect lipstick. (Okay, honestly? The small cross-body purses I own usually have so many stuff in them my friends don’t even believe I can fit all those in there. But if you’re one of those mutants who can go an entire day having nothing but a lipstick with them, then good for you!) 


"For being chic", it’s said to be important to draw every attention to one and only one feature of yours and keep it there. For example, if you have nice curves, go for a well-tailored high-waisted pencil skirt; or if your face is your prettiest feature, wear subtle jewelry to highlight it, don’t make your hair cover it or wear a fun scarf.   

The Frenchwoman’s color palette lacks most of the bold and funky colors, but it’s not that much of a problem, if you ask me – it gives you less opportunities to screw up and end up looking trashy. The main colors they use are grey, black, navy, brown and let me know if I’m wrong but I believe they do love red. 

Vintage pieces, menswear pieces and romantic florals are to be found in a modern French girl’s wardrobe, but it’s still all about keeping it simple! Don’t go overly colorful with the florals, don’t let menswear pieces make you look too in-style or vintage pieces make you look hipster. It’s just not chic. A nice oversized blazer (like a men’s jacket), a decent vintage dress or a pastel floral scarf wouldn’t hurt anyone though! 

Finally, la lingerie. It might not be entirely true, but I heard a lot of stories about that French women always wear impeccable – or we could even say luxury – underwear. Not so much silk, more lace though. 


I'm utterly hopeful towards myself not failing to cover any important elements of French style in the post. Let me know what you think about these guidelines and le style chic. I wonder if anyone can come up with a better definition than the one above! x

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