My Three Essentials For Dressing Like A French Woman

Essentials for dressing like a French woman

Last week’s post about my complete lack of anything that even resembles a capsule wardrobe certainly got the conversation flowing. Thank you so much to all of you who contributed your thoughts and tips – they really were amazing and very much appreciated.

We’ve completed our wardrobe makeover now and while I (still) have many clothing items hanging in my share of the space, I was fascinated, although not surprised, by how strongly my style has been influenced by all things French.

This is especially true when it comes to the features I consider the essentials for dressing like a French woman. To my mind, these are the elements that set a French woman’s outfit apart.

So, what are my three essentials for dressing like a French woman?

1. Colour – or complete lack of it. New York and Melbourne both lay claim to it but, truth be told, black as a clothing colour is completely owned by France, and specifically Paris. If you are looking to dress like a French woman, then you should ensure the majority of your clothing is in black. This is certainly true for the basics – pants, skirts, shoes, tops. If black is too harsh for your colouring, you could go with navy or charcoal both of which are used as alternatives to black in France. While it is not uncommon to see all black outfits while you are in France, you will sometimes see a pop of colour in a scarf or a headband – or a collar, as was recommended by Olivier Magny in this amusing post on the topic from years ago.

2. Tailoring. Of course, if you look closely you’ll see French women who favour a more ‘flowing’ look but generally you’ll find that the French wear well tailored clothing and prefer not to drown themselves in swathes of material. Slim pants, classy blazers and jackets, simple tops, well cut coats. This simple look can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion and transcends trends.

3. Scarves. It is almost too obvious isn’t it? But scarves really are essential if you want to channel your inner French woman. Walk anywhere in France, in any season and you will see scarves adorning necks – they really are so much more than an accessory. It is almost like scarves become a part of the wearers identity – which is perhaps why they can tie them with so much nonchalance. My young French teacher happened to be wearing two scarves on Friday night. They were relatively light weight (especially given how cold it was in Melbourne last Friday) and they were similar lengths. I was intrigued as I watched her easily twist both scarves around her neck, creating a casual but gorgeous look. As I shared in this post, it took me years to learn how to tie scarves – but I think I’ll have to start practicing again if I want to pull off a similar look!

Over to you, my stylish friends. Do you have your own essentials for dressing like a French woman? We’d all love for you to share them in the comments sections below.

And until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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6 thoughts on “My Three Essentials For Dressing Like A French Woman

  • Taste of France

    When I saw the title, I thought, hmm, scarves, scarves, scarves. If you think about it, of course black works best with scarves. Wear another dominant color with a scarf and you risk being too much. Because the scarf is the center of attention, the color, the pattern.

  • Jan Leishman

    It is so different in the south. So totally unlike Paris! Here we have colour everywhere – though there are also many neutrals – beige, ecru, cream – as a base with lots of lace, gold jewellery, loose easy-to-wear-in-heat clothes, jeans with loose lacy tops, high wedge-heeled espadrilles, shorts. I wonder if some of them are Parisians ‘letting go’!
    However, the bodies are beautiful, burnished and trim; the hair is well-cared-for casual; make-up light, but still there; finger and toe nails perfect and mainly pale; and still the ubiquitous scarf looking ‘just right’.

  • Nat

    Dear Janelle,
    I enjoyed this 3 essentials greatly and could not agree more. The French always look well polished with just a few great basic pieces. I thought about you the other day seeing some cute books about France on a display shelf in a book store here.
    Thank you for sharing such wonderful information.

    P.S. It is summer here in the US while you are in your three coldest months in Australia.

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much Nat – I’m glad you are found the info useful. Thank you too for thinking of me – that is so lovely. Enjoy your warm weather…it is freezing here tonight!!