French style is enigmatic. If I asked you to describe the wardrobe of a typical French woman, what would come to mind? Fuzzy, faraway images of Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot, wearing something-something-pants and heels? There’s a reason why it feels so indefinable to us: “French fashion is discreet, diverse, and incredibly subtle,” says Garance Doré, a French style blogger, photographer, and illustrator who recently released her first book, a Love Style Life, a style guide and memoir. The book details Doré’s thoughts on her career, relationships, and, of course, French beauty and fashion. Since my secret dream is to be mistaken for a Parisian, I chatted with Doré, who now lives in New York City, to find out what she sees as the key differences between French and American style. And also to see if she would be my best friend. (The jury’s still out on that one, but I’m hopeful.)
1. French women aren’t too flashy. “In New York, you have amazingly bright and bold and interesting fashion choices on the most diverse group of people wearing head-to-toe designers, but in Paris, you’re not going to be blinded by the colors or labels that women wear,” says Doré. Which isn’t to say, of course, that she’s not dressed in head-turning looks. “It’s just more of a quiet elegance,” she notes.
2. She’s cool with imperfections. “In New York, women will spend hours getting their hair and nails done before a party and show up looking perfect and pristine, but that’s totally against a French woman’s style. You would never see that there,” says Doré. “Nobody would be at a party talking about how they just got a blowout, because French fashion doesn’t have that sense of shiny perfection. The coolest French girl is the one who makes people think she’s not trying too hard—and, honestly, she probably isn’t.”
3. She sticks to what works.“The makeup aesthetic tends to be very clean and simple over there,” says Doré. “Personally, I can do my daily makeup with fewer than five products, which I would say is pretty standard with French women. We tend to wear the same makeup when we’re 14 as we do when we’re 94.” And no, Doré isn’t just talking about the same type of eyeliner-slash-mascara combo—she means the exact same products. “The nightmare of a French girl is a product getting discontinued,” she says. (Mine too! I’m on my way.) “It’s not uncommon to hear your friends buying dozens of their favorite perfumes or lipsticks, even before they’re discontinued.”
4. French women wear what looks good on them. Yeah, this one should be a universal no-brainer, but go to a strip mall on any given day—or just flip through your high-school yearbook—and you’ll see enough ill-fitting fashion choices to last you two lifetimes. “We have a thing in France where it’s better to wear what looks good on you than to try to wear what’s trending,” Doré says. And, as she writes in her book, “our mothers teach us very early on to say no to any type of clothing that doesn’t fit or flatter us, [saying,] ‘My love, pants just don’t look good on you; you should only wear skirts.” Sounds harsh, but Doré says that style education is “serious business,” and that doesn’t necessarily result in the newest, trendy styles. “Take Emmanuelle Alt, for example. Ninety percent of the time, she’s wearing black, cropped skinny jeans and big Isabel Marant jackets, but it’s never boring, because she knows that’s the shape that flatters her.”
5. She cares more about attitude than labels. “When it comes down to it, French style is really based on confidence,” says Doré. “It doesn’t matter if you wear the same shoes every day, or if nobody knows where your coat is from, because your confidence is what makes the ‘French woman’ idea what it is. It’s something you embody. And for me, personally, being well dressed is a form of expressing love and happiness, not showing up my neighbor with designer brands.”
Now that you’re sufficiently inspired, check out the behind-the-scenes look of this insane Allure photo shoot: