It’s Bastille Day, France’s 4th of July! Sure, America rocks, but as far as countries go, there’s no denying that France constantly offers up different cultural points of view that we love to pick on (or be jealous of). Of course, there are the men, and the food, but most of all, there’s the fashion. And with Audrey Tautou’s flick, “Coco Avant Chanel,” about to debut in the U.S., classic French style seems to be on everyone’s mind. So, as The Frisky’s resident Francophile (I lived the romantic life in Paris for a bit), I thought I’d offer up what I’ve learned about their style commandments, and how to avoid looking like you have a red light that says “American” flashing over your head should you ever make the trip. Fitting, n’est pas?Note: French style isn’t about creativity. And that’s often why Americans view French women as uptight, as if they’re not capitalizing on the freedoms we’re so adamant about expressing here in the U.S. Note #2: Regardless, French women are notorious for coming off as flawless and looking fabulous, and I hate them for it. Therefore, to win, you’ve got to play the game, and put some of that Ammuuuhican attitude aside.
- Truth: French women buy “investment” pieces, and usually in the most expensive forms: coats, handbags, little black dresses, and shoes. However, they’d never want you to know that they shop the chains, too. Create a wardrobe that’s filled with neutral, solid, year-round colors like black, grey and navy. They don’t have to all be from reputable labels, but should be the type of quality garment that holds up, and makes you feel comfortable and pretty everyday. It’s okay to keep up with the trends, or purchase the crazy stuff, just don’t waste a lot of money on it.
- Anything that Carine and/or Julia Roitfeld wear, you should copy. But hopefully, you’ve followed rule #1, which means you already have some elements of it in your closet. The rest, again, you can supplement with wares from H&M. However, direct knock-offs aren’t always classy. Get yourself into a room with your designer lookalike handbag and some fashionable French dames, and they’ll probably ask you if it’s Chanel, knowing that it’s a fake. Then you just feel like an idiot.
- Keep your hair low-maintenance. One thing the French don’t spend money on is the salon, preferring uncomplicated cuts that never look blow-dried (showcasing your natural texture), or that are easily swept up into a bun. Blonds, beware: having blond hair is often an indicator that you’re not French. As someone who has had dyed blond hair for years, guys used to follow me in the streets of Paris (okay, that could be a good thing sometimes), but the first question out of their mouths was, “You American?”
- Don’t wear a beret. Ever.
- Know your body type, and steadfastly ignore the things you know you can’t wear. They’ve got a point there. In America, ignoring this has given way to the proliferation of the skinny-jean/muffin-top effect.
- When it comes to beauty, it’s all about preventative skin care and taking care of your acne so you don’t have to wear so much makeup. The French wear very little of it, and almost never carry it around in their purses, save for a signature lipstick. A small pat of red gives your lips a hint of color in the daytime, but can also make you look fancier in the evening with a heavy coat. They’re also obsessed, obsessed, with so-called “miracle” creams for wrinkles and cellulite lotions that promise to take off three inches. Believe what you will.
- As for that dose of everyday fabulousness, err on the side of sexy-demure. When I lived in Paris, I was often told that I did some typically American things like walk and talk loudly (uhm, okay…). My table manners were also lacking apparently, because I hunched over my plate, or slurped my soup, rather than sit up straight. It actually takes quite a bit of practice and skill to be able to sit up straight, and lift a spoon full of liquid to your mouth without spilling it.
- Learn how to cook a chicken. It’s simple and can easily be transformed to make you look like a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu.
- As for all that French Women Don’t Get Fat stuff, I’m inclined to think that it has more to do with genetics than diet. However, if you want to give it a go, the main school of thought is that you can either eat carbs like bread and pasta freely with little fat, or you can have your cheese and fatty cuts of meat, but hold the starch and sugar. Generally, a French woman will start out her day with a small glass of orange juice and a yogurt with jam or a small piece of airy baguette with a pat of butter and jam. For lunch, a salad, soup, or a sandwich. No snacking. And for dinner, a meat dish with salad, a glass of wine, and for dessert, a small slice of Brie and some fruit. As boring as portion control is, it works.