I have lost count of the number of articles published titled “How to Dress like a French Woman,” “The Key to Effortless French Style,” “5 Things Parisians Never Do.” Sound familiar? The sheer volume of fashion and style guides out there is overwhelming. While we can all undoubtedly agree that French women have a certain mystique that we all seem to want the recipe for, I have yet to read an article that represents French women accurately, diving into the explanation of the “why” behind her fashion choices. Being half French, half English, and having worked in fashion most of my life, I am granted a unique, insider perspective on the effortless, undone but always stylish look of the French woman. If you have a vague idea of what French style is, here is your ultimate guide on French girl style, by a French girl living in Nashville. Unveiled below are the secrets, as well as my favorite Nashville spots to shop, eat, and drink French.
TREND IS A FILTHY WORD
Although the French come across as overly confident, borderline arrogant at times, it is important to note that France is actually a very conservative country. They do what they do extremely well and take great pride in their image as a French woman’s innate sense of timeless style has long enchanted the rest of the world. French women have a tremendous respect for themselves, and so they have what they want to wear, and what they won’t wear — even if every magazine cover is saying, ‘this is what you should be wearing.’ Trends do not dictate fashion choices, in fact, they do not welcome fleeting or sensationalized fads, nor are they on board with the athleisure look which took the USA & UK by storm. Wearing UGG’s to walk the dog? Unthinkable. Sweats to the grocery store? Offensive. A French woman could be deathly ill, on the verge of fainting, but still put on her Maje jacket & Isabel Marant booties to go to the pharmacy. I respect the commitment. This attitude and approach is an amusing life lesson. Take a page out of the French woman’s handbook and you will never have the slightly traumatic experience of ‘running into that one person (usually ex-boyfriend) you really didn’t want to see when you look your worst’ moment.
Have you noticed how the French fashion icons we admire so dearly rarely change their style? They have mastered the art of harmoniously blending classics. They know that Maje will complement Isabel Marant, but that you dare not mix Sonia Rykiel with Vanessa Bruno. In 2017, Emmanuelle Alt’s (editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris) fashion week look was black pants or denim jeans with a t-shirt and leather jacket, or a chic blazer paired with pointy pumps or booties. What did she wear in 2018 and 2019? Basically, the same look, just the new season’s version. While this seems unthinkable to us, she embraces the “if it works, it works” attitude…and it sure does. While women around the world constantly seek out “what’s new,” French women seek out “what’s new in classics”. French women carefully review the new season’s fashion forecast and select one or two items to update their look, giving solid basics a new twist, more about a basic wardrobe than a wardrobe full of flashy items. The reason they ooze confidence and elegance is quite simple. They are comfortable and confident in their style, not always trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ so-to-speak when it comes to their look. They know their wardrobe and trust it and never experience those dreaded days of leaving the house wondering “does this outfit work?”
WHERE TO SHOP & EAT FRENCH IN NASHVILLE
MODISTE: MODISTE in French is a term that encompasses a person who creates or makes fashionable clothes. While many are familiar with the term MODISTE from the Netflix hit, Bridgerton, I could not be happier with the arrival of this new multi-brand online boutique, founded locally by Jami-Lyn Fehr, offering a perfectly curated mix of unique designers. A little birdie told me she is opening a brick-and-mortar location in Nashville soon. Look out for pieces by Altuzarra.
UAL: For those of you who are not afraid to dig, UAL has some hidden French designer gems (the West End location has the best selection). I have always had good luck finding classic, perfectly tailored blazers, overcoats, and silk blouses. Be on the lookout for pieces by designers, Isabel Marant, Céline, & A.P.C.
LITTLE GOURMAND: This tasty French market in Green Hills and Patisserie Francaise in Berry Hill offer everything from Caviar, Foie Gras, jams to bread, macarons, and authentic French pastries. Don’t leave without trying a raspberry macaron.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN FRANCE: A family-owned and operated French-style bistro. When they say authentic, they mean it. Between the wine, food, and noise you can close your eyes and transport yourself to France. Indulge in the “Truite Aux Amandes & the “Tarte Tatin.” Heaven.
COSMETIC MARKET: French women swear by pharmacy beauty brands. Many of their make-up ‘must have’s’ and quality skincare essentails responsible for their glow are readily available at their local pharmacies. Lucky for us, we have access to some of these cult favorites right here in Nashville! Avène is a brand born in the south of France and a French beauty staple. Eau Thermale Avène products are ultra gentle yet effective. My favorite products are the mineral high protection tinted compact available in both a light and dark shade and the Trixera nutrition nutri fluid cleanser which can be used head to toe. Caudalie Beauty Elixir is another beauty junkie cult classic. I was lucky enough to actually stay at the Chåteau Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux where Caudalie started. I drank the wine and discovered the beauty bi-products made from grape seed polyphenols. The beauty elixir can be used as a primer or setting spray for an immediate radiance boost.
PRIVATE EDITION: The secret to perfectly ‘undone but done’ tousled hair? Look no further than Klorane, the number one hair care brand in European pharmacies. The plant based, biodegradable product line has the answers to all hair texture needs. Look out for the oak milk dry shampoo available in both light and dark tint. Commit to regular cuts and forget about the perfect blowout, it is the French girl way!