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