Many women (and frankly men too) around the world idolize the idealized view of being French. The concept of “Frenchness” usually leans towards the following attributes: elegant, mysterious, stylish, a smooth conversationalist, and seductive.
We can debate if that is right or wrong, but what cannot be debated is that while hundreds of trends come and go every year, it’s no secret that the world’s obsession with the French doesn’t seem to dwindle. The certain je ne sais quoi of the unbothered yet put-together French woman captivates the female gender across the globe.
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I choose to believe that a French girl resides inside every member of the fairer sex, and is waiting to be awakened to the charming concepts of quality materials, fine dining, and cherishing alone time dedicated to pampering and self-care routines. The world’s romanticized view of the French look persists (see chic, minimal, and effortlessly beautiful with a baguette under her arm), but every woman’s inner French girl looks different, and that’s what makes them so special. (Mon amie Lindsey, wrote an entire book on what Parisiennes look like today.)
And while a lot of us strive to master the idealized French look one day, for now, we can learn to unlock and indulge our inner French girl by adopting a few lifestyle changes.
Here is a basic guide to activating the stirrings of your inner French girl.
Develop a personal scent
A discussion about the French lifestyle and fashion is incomplete without the mention of perfumes. Having a unique scent that becomes an integral part of your identity is considered a necessity. The French usually have a variety of perfumes for different moods and occasions, but finding your signature scent tops everything else.
It is no coincidence that the French have long been known for their love of beauty and fragrance, which is evident in the world-renowned perfumes that come out of Paris. The French didn't invent this form of fragrance, but they certainly make it their own.
Choosing a fragrance is like choosing a good wine, it’s all about personal taste. It is an art form requiring a careful selection process for the sole purpose of serving as a personal olfactory reminder for friends and loved ones.
I am a huge fan of the Serge Lutens boutique in Palais Royale (142 Galerie De Valois in the 1st Arrondissement). The store is a great opportunity to explore the wide range of scents you find in perfumes and experiment with the ones that work best with your body.
Personally, my choice of perfumes has changed and shifted as I age. For the last decade, I have worn various scents from the Hermès Jardin Collection. And you only have to travel as far as Sephora to try them! They have a nice “starter kit” with 4 of the Jardin scents and they sell the full sizes in many of the scents, for example, I currently am using Un Jardin sur le Nil.
Don't be afraid to play around and experiment until you find the scent you like and captivates those around you!
If you are interested in exploring perfume while in Paris, check out these opportunities:
- Paris 2-Hour Perfume Walking Tour
- Paris: Perfume Discovery Workshop
- 2-Hour Perfume Creation Course in Paris
- Paris: Perfume Workshop
There is also the perfume museum, Musée du Parfum or Fragonard Musée du Parfum (9 Rue Scribe) located in the 9th Arrondissement.
The French take ‘Less is more’ seriously. A touch of personal style paired with classic pieces is all you need in France. The French woman believes in investing in key, classic items that transcend seasons and trends. Due to the lack of space in most Parisian apartments, they have a knack for decluttering and owning a minimal wardrobe.
Instead of accumulating a ton of clothes, a French woman owns a capsule wardrobe that consists of basic yet top-quality clothing. The aim here is to own long-lasting pieces that can be paired with multiple things from your closet. And then for fun, add trendy pieces as accents.
I have written more articles on this topic, find them here:
- How to Dress Like French Women
- Dressing for the Holidays with a Capsule Wardrobe from Chico’s
- Creating a Travel Capsule Wardrobe
- French Lifestyle Tip: Quality Over Quantity
- French Friday – Fashion
Know your tailoring
Style is of utmost importance to the French, and it seems to come naturally to most of them (maybe that’s why they call it effortlessly chic!). Well-fitted clothes that can be worn with almost everything are a must in any wardrobe. The French carefully curate a closet that highlights and accents their figures. It requires a bit of trial-and-error, but the result is worth it – a wardrobe that is uniquely you.
Most French styles are trendless. Donning comfortable clothes that make you look and feel beautiful is more important than fleeting fashion fads that come and go. Wear what makes you look fabulous, and you’re halfway there. Looking polished and refined doesn’t mean spending a fortune on every shopping trip. The French style is a combination of classic and effortless, and cool but not arrogant. To sum it up, it’s a perfect balance between looking dressed up and laid-back.
If you want to explore French fashion while you are visiting Paris, here are some options:
- My friend Kasia Dietz (the Parisian handbag queen herself) has several fashion tours that are magnifique!
- Do a private (outside of the publicly opened hours) tour at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris to get a peek into one of the most famous Paris fashion houses.
- Check out a private fashion show held on Fridays at Galeries Lafayette on Blvd Haussmann.
- Have someone help shop like the French with a local during the Discount Couture: The Ultimate Paris Shopping Tour.
Treat Yourself to Stunning Lingerie
No one knows how to self-care and pamper yourself better than a French woman. From skincare routines and sensual clothing to an excellent Chiraz and a decadent piece of chocolate, French women know the right ways to make themselves feel valued. A key pampering activity for most French women is wearing beautiful lingerie. It is an essential item in the wardrobe and gives you a boost of confidence.
While most people don’t see what you’re wearing underneath, gorgeous pieces of lingerie are like a sexy secret kept all to yourself. Many French women match their lingerie. So, if you don’t have any matching pairs, this might be the time to invest in some. If nothing else, they make you feel alluring and sensual, just like the women of your favorite novels and movies.
Revealing a little more…
- I first created my fantasty Frenchie Christmas list in 2015 and on it is a custom-made bra from Cadolle, something I still want today. If you are in Paris check out the Cadolle boutique (4 Rue Cambon) in the 1st Arrondissement.
- The Lingerie Addict wrote a timeless article: How to Shop for Lingerie in Paris
- Bonjour Paris also has The Ultimate Lingerie Guide to Paris
The No-Makeup Look
Walking down the streets of Paris, you will notice that you do not see a ton of women with a whole lot of makeup. The French are discrete and subtle to such an extent that every person knows how to perfect the ‘no-makeup’ look.
French beauty focuses on highlighting your strengths, rather than hiding or changing yourself. With flawless skin and glossy hair, a French woman doesn’t need extensive makeup or an elaborate hairdo to look beautiful.
I learned so much in Clemence’s von Mueffling book Ageless Beauty the French Way: Secrets from Three Generations of French Beauty Editors. Things like, either emphasize your lips or your eyes, but not both.
By indulging in skin care products and a good skincare routine, the French no-makeup look can be achieved by everyone. Embracing slightly messy hair is a typical French trait. Creating a casual look by letting your hair down or with a few bobby pins is almost always the right way to go.
Respecting and Savouring Mealtimes
The French love food! Mealtimes are sacred for the French. While at home, French women prefer to indulge in meals made with fresh ingredients and unprocessed products. Think of cooking as a ritual, rather than a chore. Create a relaxed atmosphere free of distractions and work. Make preparing and eating food an art form. Take the time to don an apron, pour a glass of wine and cook to your favorite tunes.
At a restaurant, a bit of the same. Try to be present and free of distractions. Go slow, don't rush. Enjoy the conversation, savor the food (hey, you didn't have to cook it!), and relax!
Respect your Personal Space
Creating a relaxing space to live in and taking regular care of it is very important for a French woman. Make sure you create a sanctuary, a safe place, out of your home – a peaceful place to come back to when the world around you is in shambles.
Take time to clean and declutter your home every once in a while. Add in touches of your personality, and don’t focus on the latest interior trends. A French woman knows that her home is an extension of her identity and should remain uniquely hers.
The Art of Silence
A French woman is never afraid to be quiet. The art of being discreet is an innate French quality that everyone can and should acquire. Talking to fill an awkward silence is not a very French thing to do. Don’t be afraid of the lull in a conversation.
Take the time to let your thoughts marinate before you speak. Remain a bit of a mystery and your life will thank you for it. And if you ever find yourself without an answer, do the most French gesture a person can do – shrug your shoulders and make an indescribable noise to move the conversation in another direction (trust me, it always works!).
Take the Time To Sit Down
If you’ve lived in France, you know that patience is what runs the country, even if the French aren't necessarily known for their patience (I am looking at you Mr. Misadventures!). Maybe it is less about patience and more about persistence. From ordering a coffee to surviving the French bureaucracy at the prefectures you need patience!
While these concepts might frustrate you, there is a lesson hidden somewhere. The French know how to be patient and slow down from time to time. One of the ways to channel your inner French girl is by learning to stay calm in the middle of chaos. Take your time to think, talk, and do things in your day-to-day life. Being in a hurry has never helped anyone. By taking your time, you train yourself to think before reacting and ground yourself to life’s stressful situations.
I wrote about this a bit more in my Paris for the First Time post.
Work to Live
Each one of us is guilty of spending days and nights finishing a project while we end up ignoring our personal lives. There will always be more work, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying life. A French woman would never work during her lunch breaks or spend the entire weekend buried in trying to reach that deadline.
In fact, to “help” you with work/life balance there are those famous “laws” you might have heard mention many times in Season 2 of Emily in Paris, something I wrote a little about in Things about the French Culture + Quirks You Can Learn While Watching Emily in Paris.
Time is precious, and a French woman knows how to expertly balance it between work and the simple pleasures of life. In short, learn to be more concerned with creating a fuller life rather than making a living.
Perhaps the easiest way to channel your inner French woman is to practice your French! You don’t necessarily have to be fluent as long as you can converse and communicate your simple thoughts. Start by watching French movies, listening to French music, and reading French books. This will help you become more familiar with the language and the culture.
These are just a few ways to indulge and let your inner French girl free. Your inner French girl will look different than mine but take these points as a stepping stone to finding your ideal version!
How about you? Have you found ways to let your inner French girl thrive? Do tell!
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