In trying to emulate French style it’s equally important to know what French women do wear as it is to know what they’d never wear. While the jury is still out on berets—are they a cliché for a reason or an old-fashioned staple that’s outstayed its welcome?—we have pulled together a collection of five items French women would simply never have in their closets, despite some being trendy or popular in London, NYC or LA. So if you’re looking to embrace your Parisian side, we highly suggest clearing these out from your wardrobe and swapping them for something more in line with the rules of French fashion.
5 Things a French Woman Would Never Have in Her Closet (& What They’d Wear Instead)
1. Tons of Logos
Logomania is having something of a resurgence in 2022, but don’t expect that trend to pick up speed in Paris any time soon. French women don’t mind showing off a YSL belt buckle or an easily identifiable Dior saddle bag, but that is where the overt branding stops. Sporting a Chanel sweater with matching Chanel jewelry and a heavily branded bag (or two) is just too “in your face” to be French-girl stylish.
What to Wear Instead: One Small Logo Piece
A belt buckle, bag clasp or even earrings is fine, so long as it is the only logo you’re incorporating into your look. For French women, fashion should be used to make yourself feel good, not to advertise your shopping budget to the world.
Shop similar styles: Gucci Leather Belt ($395); Alexander McQueen Logo Beanie ($350); Off-White Logo Hair Clip ($78; $45); Chloé Logo Print Slides ($395); Loewe Anagram Brooch ($350); Gucci Wool Logo Scarf ($470)
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as one of the tenets of French fashion is dressing up even for the most casual affairs. Unlike jeans or a cozy oversize knit, sweatpants can’t really be gussied up in the same way and will always look like gym apparel to the Parisian set (unlike in NYC or LA where they feel more like a laidback weekend wardrobe staple).
What to Wear Instead: Matte Black Leggings
If you’re really loathe to give up your cozy, errand-running sweats, try swapping them for matte black leggings instead. They’re just as comfortable but feel inherently more put together and can much more easily be paired with a blazer and ballet flats or a hip-grazing sweater and ankle booties.
Shop similar styles: Zella Live In High-Waist Leggings ($59); lululemon Align High-Rise Leggings ($98); Spanx EcoCare Seamless Leggings ($68); Athleta Ultra-High Rise Elation Leggings ($89); Girlfriend Collective FLOAT Ultralight Leggings ($78)
3. Unwalkable Heels
Uncomfortable shoes of any kind are a no-no, really. French women may enjoy looking posh and polished, but they would never sacrifice practicality—say, being able to walk more than 50 meters—in the name of style. Sky-high stilettos, boots that chafe and platforms that make you trip over your own feet have no place in your wardrobe, no matter how cute they may look sitting in your closet.
What to Wear Instead: Block-Heel Boots and Kitten Heels
Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck wearing only flats or loafers. Stock up on pointy-toe kitten heels and luxe block-heel booties that are both chic and wearable to wear with everything from raw-hem jeans to wedding guest dresses.
Shop similar styles: Kahmune Becky 50mm Pumps ($395); Reformation Shelly Heels ($248); ASOS Design Triangle-Heeled Mules ($95); Sam Edelman Dia Heels ($160); Larroude Elle Heels ($300); Rag & Bone Infinity Heels ($395)
4. Multiple Bright Colors in Large Swaths
Emily may be strolling around Paris in head-to-toe Barbie pink or a bright mix of orange and green, but you’d be hard pressed to find a local with the same penchant for rainbow hues. French women aren’t entirely opposed to color (although the typical French wardrobe does feature mostly neutrals), but they’re much more likely to incorporate them in smaller doses.
What to Wear Instead: Small Pops of Color
The best way to showcase a bright red bag, shoe or even lip is to wear it next to more muted tones. Paired next to violet purple, cherry red can sort of fade into your ensemble, but next to black, navy or beige it truly steals the spotlight.
5. Cheap Fabrics
No matter their budget, French women prefer to invest in natural fibers and pieces that will last for a long time rather than inexpensive trendy pieces, like pleather pants or a polyester blouse. Sometimes that may mean saving up a little to be able to afford something better made, but other times it simply means passing on the fast-fashion trend pieces your friends may be shopping in favor of something more classic.
What to Wear Instead: Natural Fiber Basics
Cotton, silk, wool and linen are all examples of natural fibers that will stay in better shape for longer than cheaply made synthetics. (Often times they’re better for the environment too.) Realistically, the best thing you can do—and the most French—is to take some time to see where your favorite brands are sourcing their materials from and consider investing in some higher-quality staples that will last for years to come, rather than mindlessly stocking up on Zara’s new arrivals.
Shop similar styles: Everlane Alpaca Sweater ($100); Agolde ’90s Pinch Waist Jeans ($188); Marine Layer Chore Jacket ($165); Eileen Fischer Silk Dress ($368); Cuyana Cashmere Sweater ($248); Known Supply Cohen Pants ($59); Mayamiko Printed Wrap Dress ($117)