Today we have another guest post (at this rate we’ll never have to write another thing, our readers are amazing), this time from Juliette, who wrote to us saying “I used to live in London and worked in the film industry for 10 years, but now live in France, just near the Swiss border and The Women’s Room is one of the ways I regularly keep in touch with London life and all that is going on there.” We also inspired her to start her own blog, so how could we resist giving her the chance to talk about deconstructing French style?
From Bardot to Binoche, Deneuve to de la Fressange – the allure of the Frenchwoman is timeless. We all want what she’s got, n’est ce pas? The fashion editors and style mavens are forever suggesting how we can achieve and re-invent this look, but is it really as simple as making a few changes to your wardrobe and your hairstyle? Having lived in France for the past 8 years I’m still not so sure….
My search for French style started young. I spent my formative years in French speaking Switzerland and as the new girl desperate to fit in, I was acutely aware that my 1970’s English wardrobe (think Crimplene and huge collars) didn’t cut it in the playground style stakes. My class photo for 1976 shows my Jane Birkin look-alike French teacher resplendent in tight t-shirt and perfect flares. Gallic chic? She had it in spades, and if I have erased the memory of my own outfit, I have never forgotten hers.
The two current Parisiennes du jour Caroline de Maigret and Inès de la Fressange have both written books to help us crack the French dress code and get to grips with their brands of chic. “How to Be Parisian: Wherever You Are” by de Maigret is the more rock and roll of the two. Her look is androgynous, undone and her message slightly subversive – it’s a menu of brogues, suits, amazing bed hair and wine with lunch, whilst the more high-brow de la Fressange champions chinos, flats and a blazer as her foolproof uniform. Adhering to the rules of her chatty, informative book: “Parisian Chic: A Style Guide”, I have the white jeans, the navy v-necked sweater and the trench and to an extent it works: I can re-create the look but am I achieving the style, and shouldn’t I be looking for my own expression through my clothes rather than wanting to copy someone else’s?
The answer to that of course is yes, and one Breton top (or 10) doth not a French woman make, but nevertheless I do find it fascinating to see real-life French style in action. I accompanied my 8 year old son’s class swimming recently and whilst waiting for the coach, I watched one little girl tie her scarf (think mini-Hermès) around her neck and with no real awareness of what she was doing, she tied it perfectly. Just the right knot, slightly to the side – and I realized then and there that no amount of books could ever teach me what she already instinctively knew: French style is innate – they are born with it and therein lies the truth.
But with understanding comes enlightenment and it turns out my ‘look so British’ has been getting the thumbs up from the French Mums at the school gates, so I think I’ll stick with Brit Chic from now on (with the odd Breton top thrown in) and say ‘vive la différence’!
Read more of Juliette’s excellent style tips and view on life in France on her lovely blog After My Own Fashion
And for some Breton top inspiration, take a look at my favourite denim-led brand of the moment MiH’s version (below) here
Or the more accessibly priced striped one from Jaeger (£40, below) here
Or the excellent value John Lewis zip back version (below £25) here