Saturday, 14 July 2012

French style

It seems only appropriate to write about French style on Bastille Day.  As a young woman I always wanted to achieve that elegant, effortless look that all Frenchwomen in the media seemed to possess.  As an older woman I realise that in most cases it was probably the result of a lot of effort!

I remember the bitter disappointment I felt when I looked around my first French market, hoping to buy some chic clothes at bargain prices.  I seemed to be surrounded by the same cheaply made, unflattering clothes that I could find in any English market.  I fared slightly better in French clothes shops though and whenever we travel to Paris or elsewhere in France I leave room in my suitcase to bring my latest French fashion find back with me.

So, bearing in mind my lack of style nous, how can I possibly give you advice on how to be chic the French way?  First of all, there are a few obvious guidelines.  After that, all I can do is point you in the right direction  and share some of the helpful resources that I have found.

1.  Baggy isn't stylish.  Unless you are nine months' pregnant, in which case it will be obvious, but what you don't want is to look pregnant when you're clearly not.  Which probably covers all of us who are over 60.  If you want to wear a loose top, make sure that your skirt or trousers are slim-fitting. If you are going to wear wide-fitting trousers or a full skirt, your top should be a snug fit.

2.  On the other hand, avoid tight-fitting clothes.  Tight clothes are not a good look unless you are young and slender, which I for one am not.  Clothes that skim but don't cling to the body are far more flattering.  Trust me on this one - I have some unflattering photos to prove the point!

3.  Take care with the colours that you wear.  In my thirties, and even in my forties, I could wear bright blues, pillar-box red, lime green - most of the colours of the rainbow in their brightest hues.  However I have noticed that even young Frenchwomen wear more subtle shades (with the occasional flash of colour) and now I am over 60 I have realised that less can definitely be more.  I still wear blue, red and green but these shades are now toned down a bit to suit my older skin.

Catherine Denueve - still looking chic
at the age of 68

4.  Don't be a fashion victim.  This is even more important when ra-ra skirts come back into fashion:, as they weren't a good idea even the first time round.  Yes, by all means read the fashion pages, but use your common sense.  If leopardskin prints are the latest trend, don't dress head to toe in it, though you may want to consider buying a leopardskin scarf or bag.

5.  Buy the best basics that you can afford, going for classic styles in neutral shades that won't date.  A well-cut jacket, skirt and trousers could form the basis of your wardrobe, depending on your lifestyle. If you live in the UK, you may be advised to spend money on a decent trench-coat and boots!  With quality basics, you can liven them up with fashionable touches to give them a different look each year.

6. Plunging necklines and ultra short skirts never look chic, and especially not when combined.  As an older woman you don't want to be stared at for the wrong reasons, so although there's nothing wrong with emphasising your assets, please do so subtly.

7. Black can look very chic, and cheap clothes usually  look better in black than in other colours.  Ask any Frenchwoman.  But if black drains all the colour out of your face and makes you look older, then restrict it to your bottom half and wear more flattering colours close to your face.  

So now to check out the style experts, and where better to start than with the French model Ines de la Fressange, author of "Parisian Chic"?

Check out Parisian style at:

A blog for women of a certain age who are seeking Parisian style is:

Or take a look at:

What do you think makes Frenchwomen so stylish?  Do you have any favourite blogs?  Please leave your comments below to help all of us!


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