Generally speaking, I’m the type of person who overshoots the basics and becomes prematurely enthralled in the minutia of details. Recently, I realized this is the case for me when it comes to French fashion. I’m so engrossed in figuring out how they style their activewear, where they shop, and what type of accessories are seasonally trendy that it’s occurred to me that I don’t know much about their everyday outfit staples.
The reason we’re all obsessed with French fashion (I think) is because of its laid-back, didn’t-try-at-all, sophistication that seems to be part of the Parisienne DNA. In the interest of getting down to brass tacks and figuring out how and why French women are able to exude such an era of je ne sais quoi, I spoke to stylist Adrienne Coléon Gaskell, author of the blog “Oh So French” for Paris’ famed lingerie brand Simone Perele. Below she shares the foundational pieces she says make up the core of a casual-cool—yet incredibly chic—wardrobe.
1. silk camisole
Gaskell says, “A simple, sleek, elegant silk camisole (in black or white) is a French wardrobe staple,” since it pairs seamlessly with everything from jeans, to tailored trousers, or a pencil skirt. Think of it as French women’s answer to the classic white T-shirt.
2. black bra
“To a Parisienne, the black bra isn’t just a seduction piece, it’s a wardrobe staple, functioning as a neutral color,” Gaskell says. Although I consider a neutral everyday bra to be one that’s flesh-toned and hides well under clothing, she says that French women see it as a versatile piece that works as a daytime look with a white top or in the night with a more sophisticated button-down.
3. White button-down
French women like pieces that can be versatile and multitasking. Gaskell says this is part of the reason why the crisp white button-down is a Parisienne favorite. It can be formal or styled more casually, which Gaskell recommends doing by buttoning it low and layering it with a lace bodysuit or bralette.
“Beyond its practical purpose—French women hate being cold so always have layers at the ready—the cardigan will always be a French fashion staple,” Gaskell says. And though cardigans can feel somewhat reminiscent of your middle school librarian, Gaskell says that the key is to channel Brigit Bardot and keep things playful and casual.
5. oversized Blazer
A blazer is a tried-and-true fallback for many (us included), so it’s not surprising that French women love a classic neutral such as black or navy to transition a casual outfit to nighttime or to bring an air of youthfulness to a traditional daytime look.
6. High waisted leggings or jeans
Gaskell says that a pair of high-waisted leggings or pants are beloved by French women because of the way they highlight the feminine silhouette by hugging your hips and your waist. You can wear a high-waist pair of leggings with a crop top, a blazer, or with a T-shirt tucked in.
7. everyday sneakers
An everyday sneaker is, at this point, a universally ubiquitous and currently preferred footwear option, and French women, too, have embraced the trend toward comfortable footwear. As such, finding a chic, yet fashion-forward, everyday sneaker is an important wardrobe staple.
8. statement coat
A statement jacket is really the piece de resistance of your outfit. In the winter your coat is often the only thing people even see, meanings it essentially is the outfit. Plus, if you’re decked out in head-to-toe neutrals and wardrobe staples, a statement coat is an easy way to inject some personality into the look.
9. Leather handbag
“Nothing polishes an outfit like a functional, livable, totally chic leather bag,” Gaskell says. There are so many faux and real leather options to choose from but your everyday bag should be something that can both fit everything you need and work with any and every outfit.
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