Back to articles

The Truth About These 11 French Fashion Clichés

Have you ever wondered if all those French fashion clichés are actually true?

Do French women roam Paris's streets in their Breton striped tops, trench coats, silk scarves, berets, and Chanel handbags? Or is this just one of those Paris stereotypes?

If you research the term "French-style clothing," you'll often be met with a list of must-have items that the writer swears all French women have in their five-piece French wardrobe. 

So, how do you know what French women actually wear, and what's a French fashion cliché? 

French women are renowned worldwide for their effortless, chic, and timeless style. And if you want to perfect French chic, you have to know the difference between a French fashion favorite and a cliché. 

Here are 11 items we're reviewing to give you the lowdown on what to add to your wardrobe and what you can cross off from your list.

Water color painting of a French cafe

The beret

The beret is the number one French fashion cliché out there!

When you think of what French people wear, you might automatically envision them with a navy or red beret atop of their head. 

Sorry to burst this bubble, but the truth is, most French women do not stroll around wearing a beret! You might see a beret on a trend-focused, stylish woman (if berets happen to be in that season) or on the head of an old man playing Pétanque.

Apart from that, this is an age-old French stereotype that simply isn't that common anymore.

The Breton striped top (marinière)

Female summer outfit - navy jeans, striped top, sunglasses, backpack

A Breton striped top is a classic white top with horizontal navy stripes, known as the marinière in France.

Coco Channel popularized the Breton top when she introduced the design in her nautical collection back in 1917. While it's true that most women will own at least one striped top, they're not as popular as you might think.

In fact, tourists tend to wear Breton tops while visiting France more than local French women do! Neutral tees and graphic tees are far more popular today than stripes. 

If you're set on rocking a striped top, pair it with a block-colored blazer, a pair of straight-leg jeans, and some white sneakers for a smart-casual daytime look.

Ballerina flats

The French fashion cliché of ballerina flats was initially started by Brigitte Bardot in the '60s. Most French women will own at least one pair of ballerina flats in a neutral color that works with most other things in their wardrobe. However, they don't wear them all the time!

French women also love wearing white sneakers, loafers, slingbacks, and low block heels. It's all about comfort and style. 

The silk scarf

The silk scarf is such a versatile item and can add a pop of color or pattern to any look. You'll see images of French women wearing them around their necks, tied on their bags, and also in their hair.

But is this a fashion staple for French women or just a cliché?

French women do wear silk scarves, and a lot of them will own at least one. But they tend to be reserved for special occasions and not worn for a day-to-day look. 

Bold red lipstick & voluminous lashes

Model with bold red lipstick in front of red backdrop

Do you imagine the streets of Paris filled with women with flawless skin, perfectly tousled hair, and rocking a bold red lip? 

Some women will wear red lipstick as an everyday look, especially fashion-savvy women. But others will keep their daytime look a little more toned down and opt for a subtler pink lipstick instead. They'll save a bold red lip for special occasions like a girl's night out, a date, or a party. But every woman will own a classic red lipstick in their makeup collection.

Day or night, French women will always give their lashes a coat of mascara for more length and volume. Good makeup is key to achieving that timeless, French chic look.

The vintage cardigan

Do you imagine Parisian women wearing cute vintage cardigans in an array of colors? 

While some women do like the look, many prefer to keep their look more classic. This means sticking to neutral colors and tones and more timeless cardigan shapes. 

One thing to note with vintage cardigans is they can quickly make you look dowdy if not worn the right way. To avoid this, opt for a finer-knit cardigan for a modern, chic look perfect for fall and winter. 

The Birkin basket bag

Yes, French women do love a basket bag, but they don't use it the way you might think they do!

You'll spot basket bags all around the streets of Paris, but they're usually popular for carrying groceries, running errands, shopping, or packing a picnic during the summer. 

Americans have been seen wearing smaller basket styles as handbags, which you'll rarely find French women doing. 

The trench coat

Happy smiling woman wearing straw hat, long trench coat, and holding basket with flowers

The trench coat truly is a French woman's fashion staple. Most women will own a good quality classic style in a neutral color. 

Why?

Because the trench coat is the perfect piece of outerwear for that unpredictable French weather! 

Plus, it's a great lightweight transition to take you from late summer into fall when it's too warm for a pepper winter coat. Traditional French clothing is all about being practical and chic at the same time.

Look for a trench coat in a neutral color like beige, light grey, or navy. And invest in a coat that is made well and will last you for many years—this is what French fashion is built on. 

The floral wrap dress

Floral wrap dresses have become increasingly popular over the past few years and are often associated with French women. But are they a true fashion staple or a cliché?

During the spring/summer season, you will find many French women wearing wrap dresses. They're flattering for all figures, comfortable to wear, and can work well for holidays and weekends.

However, this is a very feminine look, and French women are notorious for mixing and matching feminine and masculine silhouettes. You might want to add a blazer or a pair of sneakers to keep this look fresh and modern. 

The white button-down shirt

You'll always find the white button-down shirt making its way onto French fashion must-have lists! 

But you won't find many French women wearing white shirts around the city. It tends to be kept for work and in business settings rather than day-to-day social life. 

Although it might be a French fashion cliché, it's an incredibly versatile piece that can be dressed up or down and will never go out of style.

The Chanel bag

One of the biggest Paris stereotypes is that all French women own a black Chanel handbag which they never leave the house without. 

While this might be all French women's dream handbag, not everyone can afford such a luxurious brand. If it's within your budget, it's a great, timeless piece to invest in that will make any outfit chic. 

But there are so many great high street versions of the classic black leather handbag that will suit all budgets. Invest in a piece that is well made and looks expensive, but don't worry about the label.  Black handbags collection on white background

 

And that's the truth about French fashion clichés! The number one rule with French style is to keep things classic, timeless, and effortless. Stick to this, and you'll perfect that French girl style in no time.

 

 

Next to read
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    39
Our Story
December 30, 2020
Our Story

The world of Vivienne Sabó Imagine being surrounded by turmoil but refusing to give up on love and your dreams... Step into the world of Vivienne Sabó. Vivienne lived in Paris in the 1930s, during a time of elegance and high fashion. In her sacred diary, she wrote down her dreams of starting her own makeup line and creating a career out of her passion for beauty. She was consumed by her vision to make life more beautiful. Vivienne’s career and romance collided when she and her fellow student, Louis, began to create amazing beauty formulas together. Together they would have had a bright future as a beauty icon had it not been for the war. World War II entered France in 1940, and Louis joined the resistance. Before he left, he gave his darling Vivienne a pot of violets to remember him by. Weeks without word from Vivienne's beloved Louis left her eager to know of his fate. One day the pot of Louis' flowers inexplicably wilted; a week later, Vivienne received the news that Louis had been killed in action. Vivienne’s rules of life Her vision and creative formulas were written down in that diary and have since transformed into modern-day products: Only do one thing at a time. Suppress lust by working hard. Disregard all public opinion not based on reason. Love those to whom you could be of service. Dreams and passion Heartbroken, Vivienne slipped away. She was never heard from again, her name, one of many lost in the upheaval of post-war Europe. Though her love story did not continue and her makeup dreams did not come to reality, her diary was found years later, and her aspirational brand was eventually born. Vivienne’s vision and creative formulas were written down in that diary and have been transformed into modern-day products. The history of Vivienne’s beautiful love has inspired us to create this brand filled with romance, pride, and genuine Parisian femininity!  

A French Christmas
December 24, 2020
A French Christmas

Could it get any more swoon-worthy than celebrating Christmas in France? Is there anyone who knows how to do Christmas quite as spectacularly as the French do? The food is heavenly, the lights twinkle like stardust, while the traditions make the holiday season feel extra special. Their festive season stretches out for weeks rather than a couple of days.  What’s not to love about that?   Although celebrating Christmas in France may not be an option this year, you can bring France right to you! From cooking a French-themed Christmas dinner and decorating your home to some gorgeous French gift ideas, there are so many fun activities to enjoy this season. Here’s how to do the perfect French Christmas and have a très chic Joyeux Noël (FYI: that’s French for Merry Christmas)! Go to town on the Crèche Nativity scenes are known as the “crèche” in France and are super popular across the country.  But you won’t just find the usual suspects like baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph popping up.  Oh no. France likes to get the whole community involved in the celebrations, and rightly so! You’ll see a butcher, a baker, and a policeman on display too. And traditionally, these are all made of clay.    In the month of December, certain towns like Marseilles have delightful Christmas markets (more on this to come) where you can purchase authentic, local versions of these nativity figures. One of the unusual facts about Christmas in France is that, unlike the rest of the world, the crèche remains on display in homes until February 2nd, 40 days after Christmas.  French markets  Christmas markets (marchés de Noel) are a big part of France’s Christmas tradition. The first one can be traced back to 1570, which was Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmarik.  Many of them start in the last weekend of December, running through into the New Year. And each one is slightly different from the next. At these staple French markets, you can buy beautiful decorations, yummy festive treats, and high-quality artisan products from local producers. Each Christmas market is slightly different from the next, with its own unique charm. At every market, you’ll find beautiful decorations, yummy festive treats, and high-quality artisan products from local producers.  The array of delicious food is perhaps the highlight and a brilliant way to bring France to you this year. If you’re looking to bring that beautiful Christmas aroma into your home, start by roasting some chestnuts. This is one of the most popular snacks at French markets as you stroll around the different stalls.  Delicacies like pâté, foie gras, cheese, and charcuterie are all French favorites, and each region boasts its own specialties.  One dish that can’t be missed when visiting a French Christmas market is a cheesy tartiflette, which originates from Savoie. It’s a mix of real comforting ingredients: potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons, onions, and herbs.    Those with a sweet tooth can whip up a batch of homemade waffles smothered in melted chocolate, just like you’ll find at the Arras Christmas market. Other family favorites include beignets (a mini doughnut), macarons d’Amiens (an almond and honey cake), and gâteau battu (a brioche-like cake shaped like a chef’s hat). Don’t forget to share a toast with a glass of gently spiced mulled wine, or vin chaud as it’s known in France.  Some of the standout French Christmas markets to head to are: Colmar Strasbourg Amiens Reims Metz Montbeliard Lille Avignon Check them out, and make a note of the ones you want to head to next winter! Le Sapin De Noël In France, a Christmas tree is called “un sapin de noël” or “un arbre de noël.”  Strasbourg is said to be the birthplace of the festive tree. A fir tree is chosen because it doesn’t shed its leaves, a symbol of hope and eternal life. This tree was originally covered in red apples and lights and stood in front of Churches as a symbol of Christ.  Many homes quickly adopted this tradition and would decorate their trees with apples and biscuits. However, one year there was a shortage of apples. To avert the crisis, glass-blowers created decorative versions of them, and that is how the Christmas bauble was invented!   To create the perfect French-themed tree, decorate using ribbons, candles, and baubles, and place a star at the very top.  If you want to go one step further, you can place your shoes under the tree (or by the fireplace) on Christmas eve instead of hanging stockings. It’s tradition for French children to do this in the hopes that Père Noël (Santa) will fill them with gifts.  Spread the love like Père Noël Did you know that in France, it is illegal for a letter to Santa to go ignored? That’s right. In 1962, France passed a law stating that all letters to Père Noël must be responded to with a postcard. Isn’t that beautiful? All those handwritten letters from children are saved from ending up in bins and storage boxes.  Christmas is traditionally a time of giving and receiving, so how about giving to those less fortunate than you this year?  You could volunteer to respond to children’s letters to Santa or donate food and gifts to a local shelter. Bake some French Christmas treats and give them out along with blankets and sleeping bags to homeless people in your local community. This year has been a tough one for all of us, but Christmas is all about family, love, and compassion. Let’s end the year on a high and spread the Christmas cheer. Enjoy a beautiful log fire Long ago in France, it’s said that a large log would be carried into the home on the eve of Christmas, sprinkled with red wine to make it smell nice (plenty leftover for you to enjoy), then left burning all night long.  Yule logs made of Cherry Wood are always a firm favorite across French homes.  There’s something about an open fire that feels so wintery, cozy, and festive. You might even want to make some mulled wine or hot cocoa, slip into some snuggly clothes and relax as the warmth fills your soul.  The perfect stocking stuffers Whether you’re filling shoes or stockings, it doesn’t matter! What really counts is what’s inside.  What better way to celebrate Christmas like the French than by stocking up on some French beauty products?  Our Long-Lasting Matte Lipstick Duo Pack in classic red is the perfect shade to see any woman right through the holiday season. Think Réveillon, Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve, and everything in between. And if red is too bold for you, there are plenty of tamer shades to choose from.  No French woman can do without some classic French mascara in her beauty bag. Why not pick up the legendary Cabaret Première Classic French Mascara—promising natural volume and definition in one swoosh.  How to celebrate Réveillon in style In the US, Christmas dinner on December 25th tends to be the pinnacle Christmas meal. But the French like to do things a little differently. The holiday season’s biggest meal is traditionally eaten around midnight on Christmas Eve, known as le Réveillon. Starters often include delicacies like foie gras, oysters, or escargots. The main course is usually roast goose or turkey. And the meal is completed with the bûche de Noël (Yule Log). There’s always plenty of wine on hand too. Doesn’t Christmas dinner in France sound amazing? If you’ve never done this before, why not mix things up this year and prepare a feast for Christmas Eve. It’s a perfect way to get into the French Christmas feels. Sweet treats to indulge in What I love most about the way the French do Christmas is their celebration of all things sweet. One of the most noteworthy facts about Christmas in France is their tradition (in some regions) of eating a grand total of 13 different desserts!  Yes. You read that right.  Here are a few of the standout sweet treats to try Chocolate Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) Cake A French pastry chef invented this in the late 1800s. Traditionally, it’s a Genoise sponge layered with buttercream and shaped into a log. It’s then topped with some beautiful decorations like meringue mushrooms or even a fresh cutting of holly.  Classic French Marrons Glacés (Candied Chestnuts) These are a popular holiday treat in France and will fill your home with a deliciously sweet aroma. They take a few days to prepare, but they're definitely worth it. Chocolat Chaud This is hot chocolate, but it's not just any hot chocolate. This is probably the most decadent hot chocolate you’ll ever drink! Made with melted chocolate, warm milk, topped with whipped cream, and maybe some marshmallows for extra fun—the perfect companion to an open fire.  Celebrate the Fête des Rois Fête des Rois (known as Epiphany in the US) is celebrated on January 6th. This marks the official end to Christmas in France. Baking and eating a galette des rois (king cake) is a tradition. This is a delicious flaky pastry filled with frangipane (almond cream). Hidden inside the pastry is a fève (a small baby figurine). Whoever is lucky enough to get the piece with the fève becomes the King or Queen for the day. This is such a popular tradition that most French bakeries sell the cakes with a paper crown.    And why not? We are all Queens in our own way. Let’s celebrate that more this year! And that is how to do Christmas like the French do. Enjoy weaving a bit of French wonder and magic into your holiday season.   Wishing you all a beautiful French Christmas, wherever in the world you’re celebrating this year. Joyeux Noël!

Us Weekly's Review
April 22, 2020
Us Weekly's Review

See what Us Weekly had to say about our mascara! In a recent review from Us Weekly, Suzy Forman lauded the Cabaret Premiere mascara as a "makeup must-have" – she states her admiration of its affordability, high-quality and chic look. “Vivienne Sabo’s French mascara is way under budget and way over expectations... has over 2,200 reviews on Amazon, and shoppers can’t say enough good things about it. Even the self-proclaimed mascara snobs are calling it the best they’ve ever used!” It’s clear that Vivienne Sabo has produced one of the best, most quality (yet affordable) mascaras of all time – and if the endless 5-star reviews on Amazon aren’t enough, high praises from top consumer reviewers and beauty bloggers alike further prove the fact.Speaking of high praise, the Us Weekly article goes on to say: “Vivienne Sabo’s Cabaret Premiere mascara is called “the secret to French beauty.” It claims to be clump-free and lightweight, producing a natural look — but the kind of natural that evokes an “Oh my gosh, how was that person born with such beautiful lashes?” “This mascara is so effective that shoppers even say that they’re being asked if they got extensions, but all it takes is one coat in the comfort of your own home.” Forman tops her review off with a call for anyone reading to go get their own “magical, golden tube” of our amazing, cruelty-free mascara!We hope this review from Us Weekly has helped you see how terrific Vivienne Sabo’s mascara is. Further, we hope you give our products a try for yourself. Remember, if you are unsatisfied for ANY reason, we will happily provide a refund within 30 days.So what are you waiting for?! Pick out your next (and last) favorite mascara!   Buy now