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Friday, January 09, 2009

How to dress like a French woman

Curious about how to dress like a French woman, I turned to Garance Dore, the ridiculously amazing Parisian street-style photographer. If anyone would know the answer, she would!

Me: Do French women wear lots of stripes? That’s how it is in the movies...
Garance: I stand witness straight from my armoire, and I've got my hands on: three short-sleeved striped shirts, two long-sleeved striped shirts, two round-necked striped pullovers, and one striped cardigan...

Do French women wear lots of layers? They seem to...
The French woman does “unconscious layering.” (I just made up that expression, because the French woman loves to use English phrases to sound cool.) It comes from the very popular concept called ‘$@&!-I-don’t-have-anything-to-wear-this-morning-i’ll-just-grab-whatever...' But when dressing up, she never forgets the sexy detail, even if she’s a bit disorganized. So there goes the (too) short skirt, the tee that falls off a shoulder, etc...

Here in New York, people wear lots of patterns and prints. But it seems like French women wear mostly solid colors, is that true?
Yeah. That’s right. The French wear mostly black, but we’re known to mix it up a bit. Like for special occasions, we’ll even wear grey. Ha! But overall, Joanna, the mystery behind the French woman is that she has confidence in herself, despite all the nonsense she says.

Read the rest of the conversation on Garance's blog. Thank you, Garance!

(Illustration by Garance Dore)


Roberta Jane said...

Such a cheerful and clever interview - thanks!

Miss Jo said...

i love her blog been reading it for a while now! i love french women...they do sweat confidence like no one else!

Adriana Gehlen said...

uh la la >)

emaura15 said...

I love french style! It should be my new goal in life, to live like a French woman. i hear they never get fat, either.

Sal said...

Hurrah! Always trying to add a little more French-lady-style to my look.

yves klien dress said...

ah, I just read this on Garance's blog and I came on to congratulate you! I'm so jealous, I love her, but would be so scared to email her! I'm not far from France, in the UK, but I could do with some of this french style... xx

Joanna said...

Intriguing interview. I wish could speak French so I could understand the comments on Garance's blog!

Anne Corrons said...

It's always fascinating to read what American women think about French women!

Rachel said...

Adorable! I love that you're actively researching one of your resolutions.

coco+kelley said...

oh, i just love garance! and french style is so effortlessly chic. i love the idea of always having some 'sexy' detail in an outfit ~ i subscribe to that but never really thought of it that way. to me it was always about having a piece that made me feel like a girl - a bit of bling, a little cleavage or even just sassy lingerie...

Emily said...

as much as i'd love to believe that there are certain "rules" of which to abide, i think the most important thing i took from this interview is that it's all about confidence.

Jessie Cacciola said...

great idea--such a fun interview. thanks, joanna! xo

Leigh said...

I love her, she is such an inspiration!
Great interview, I also love how she mentions that the French women love to use the English phrases.

Shelby said...

I love this post Joanna! I think you've inspired me to alter my style a little. I'll work on having a little more "confidence in myself" and I'm off to find some stripes!

Thank you!

Kwana said...

I love the blog and the interview. Thanks so much.

Dallas Shaw said...

great post, and her blog is so sweet


pigeon.toed said...

i love the french and i love garance dore. thank you so much for this!

Anne Zimmerman said...

I just got new grey jeans... I will feel so cool today wearing them with layers of dark colors & maybe a set of stripes!

Joslyn said...

brilliant interview joanna! you rock.

Sweet Nothings said...

le chic

Katie said...

Love it! Such a fun post :)

Kristin said...

i loved the interview! and thanks for introducing me to a new blog! :)

{this is glamorous} said...

Such a fun interview! Loved your questions, and her answers were great. Just remember an old post about another fun French girl that you may want to check out:


I *Heart* You said...

look at you going straight to the source! there will be no stopping you now!

Jeremy and Kathleen said...

"The secret? The nonchalant air and the smoky eye, the perfect alternative to the cigarette."

I love this!

amric1409 said...

What a fun interview! I definitely agree with the confidence thing, french girls always look so laid-back and polished!

Kimberly Julie said...

Seriously, things like this make me love being a woman! :)

I think I am going to buy some killer heels and a sexy dress now to celebrate.

debbie said...

what a great interview :)

just the other day, i bought an oversized striped shirt and exclaimed, "i love it because it feels french!" ha, i am a dork.

Mishka said...

This is wonderful! I'm adding stripes to my shopping list for later today! Thanks, Joanna!

Ana Cristina Powell said...

Hi Jo!
I loved your questions and Garance Dore's answers.
it was great to learn about her blog too.
Thanks for the tip!
have a lovely weekend!

valerie said...

what a great little diddy on french dressing! i often aspire to look as cool as those girls. it's truly an art!

Good-Grace said...

This is delightful!

secret, fragile skies said...

Loved your interview with Garance. Loved that you asked if you should smoke! When I was in college, for me, it was all about looking French; wearing stripes, a lot of black, of course, and smoking, so bad. No longer smoke, but still long to look French.

Rowena said...

Huh, I think I dress like a French woman... albeit one chasing a couple of toddlers around the house. Stripes are my favorite, layers are my love, and I thought I was adding color when I started where gray instead of black. Is there a similarity between the way French women and NY women dress?

i.d. said...

Thank you Joanna, you just made my day! It's amazing...I actually have all these pieces in my wardrobe - I just need to learn how to throw them together like a Parisienne!

Happy weekend! xx

Emilia Jane said...

This will help me with MY resolution to dress more like Anna Karina (my favorite French lady).

Michelle Brunner said...

Great advice on how to dress like a French woman! Love the illustration!

Stacy said...

Fantastic. With your help by the end of this year I'll be looking and dressing a little more french.

Amanda said...

Joanna- I love how you just emailed emailed Garance out of the blue, now THAT is confidence. Also loving the shout-out for the stripes. Chubbily-making or not, I love me some stripes.


Trixy Tran said...

Haha, I love the bit about wearing grey for special occassions. This was a great post - and so helpful if you want to dress like a French woman!

miss a. said...

I just read this on the Garance Dore website and thought it was fantastic. Loved the "questions" you asked as they are all things I have always wondered but never thought to ask (or had anyone to ask, really).

b1brittany said...

I really like the style of French people, the way they dress and the way they are very confident of themselves. I am loving this interview.

J'aime vraiment le modèle des personnes françaises, la voie qu'elles s'habillent et la voie elles sont très confiantes d'elles-mêmes. J'aime cette entrevue.

Excuse me. I am still learning French. :P

kari said...

Forgot to say how much I love this -- oh la la, women are fabulous!

Flo said...

I just discovered your blog via Garance and this post really made me laugh, as a French woman living in NY!!
Thanks for this, great questions, great answers!

chelsea said...

So fantastic! Great idea.

A Day That Is Dessert said...

Great interview!!

Marine said...

Hi, i'm actually french and leaving in Paris and i have to say it was quite fu to look at the way you reacted to that interview. just another point about stereotypes, we wear stripes but just like the rest of the world! don't make it the representative point of french style, and second thing what you actually call french "chic" is even for us an ideal we will certainly try to reach all our lives without succeeding but lets stop here, France is a myth and i don't want to break it too much....
oh and forget about my english, as some of you are still learning french, i'm still learning english

Anonymous said...

I love color.

Garance is actually trying to say that French women don't limit themselves to black and grey, even if the latter happens to be her favorite.

And in a humorous way, she states that style isn't just a French thing.

Glad you had this interview with her. :-)

Rotonics Technologies said...

I am staying in India, city hyderabad
so,the people here won't accept these type of dresses.


Jack Daniel said...

her work is wonderful!

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♥jordan said...

Wow, what a cool interview!
I love the French style also :)

mama said...

Also, when we went to Paris, it seemed all the women were thin. Even the over 50 set were thin and chic.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the intrigue of french women and their sense of style! I've always been fascinated by this! A fun book to read which gives a great look into french style: Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl - by Debra Ollivier.

sarah said...

best interview i have read in a while, thank you!

by the way, i grew up in france and moved here for college. and although i do wear mostly solids, i love patterns and have lots of them in my wardrobe!

kairu said...

I love the interview, but Joanna, I think you have great style already. Who needs to dress like a French woman when you already look like you know who you are? And what I love so much about the pictures you've posted of yourself is not just your clothes, but how happy you look. That is the ultimate in chic, I think.

I've been following the Sartorialist for a while now, and I notice that a lot of the comments center around one essential secret of style: what makes the outfit is the personality of the wearer, which expresses itself in the eyes, in the smile, in a gesture, caught in that fraction of a second.

Grace said...

Mmm...Love me some Garance Dore! She's like the female sartorialist.

Anonymous said...

A good black coat, black boots and a scarf is pretty much the ticket. However, the secret to messy, yet wonderful, french hair remains a mystery. It must be more than just length...mine gets long and just looks bad. Maybe it's the water. My hair does look better when I wash it in a nearby city, so maybe there is something in French water. -Jennifer

Becca Jane said...

i love this post. Garance dore is amazing.

diane said...

thanks to garance i discovered your blog, i really really love it!! (i added your blog in my blogroll).
it is very inspiring!
this interview was fun to read and open up many questions finally. :-)

melly said...

Garance comes across as such a fun lady, haha i love how she says what she says.

Jessie Cacciola said...

joslyn is so right--you do rock. i think i need a "[ Jo] Rock It" tee. ;)

Pine & Lord said...

I love her answer about cigarettes and lies. Ha!

Anonymous said...

From my observations of French women, they have a magical way of bringing attention with clothing, scarves, makeup, to their best feature: nose, ears, eyes, breasts, whatever. The rest of the form drifts away into the diaspora, and you are left only thinking, " Wow, she has the most amazing nose, ears, eyes,... whatever" Magical

east side bride said...

I just started prowling for more striped tees ;)

victoria thorne said...

marvelous interview: thanks to both of you. a real treat.

KATLIN said...

Ahh so the stripes are true! Wasn't too sure on that one till now! And my fave layer-ers are the French and Japanese!

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Prêt à Voyager said...

so fantastic! thanks, joanna, for making my day :)


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Catherine said...

I too have been fascinated by this subject for some time. I recently spent 5 months living in Paris, working in a french advertising agency, and analyzing the ways of the "FRENCH WOMAN" - part of my conclusion was that their style is born somewhat out of circumstance which I wrote about in a short piece I called "French women wear Cardigans"

but here are a few other things I noticed during my time in paris:
- french women don't wear a lot of makeup
- they don't generally "dress up" when going out - ie. no short skirts or high heels or revealing cleavage... it's always classy. My one french girlfriend said "you can spot an english girl from a mile away:
- french women layer (this is because of the ever changing temperature"
- they wear grey and black and tan
- they wear flat shoes and boots
- hair is long and relaxed and feminine
-they like things that flow, like long sweaters, scarves, shirts.
- style is simple, but with all the bits and pieces so so stylish.
- it's not "sexy" in the known term, but the unsexiness is so sexy.

designbabylon said...

I recently discovered Garance's genius blog as well and am totally enamored of her illustrations (keep an eye on for a post featuring them!)

I was so excited to see your post b/c I am leaving to go to Paris on Sunday for 2 weeks and will be there to attend Maison et Objet, and therefore NEED to look tres chic!

Thank you also to Catherine (see her comment above) -- will need to have this post and comments handy when I pack!


Rosey Posey said...

I love the style of French women. They look so cool and elegant. I lived in France for a couple months and stuck out like a sore thumb. There aren't too many stocky flip-flop wearing women in Lyon :)

Loved the post!

alek said...

When I lived in Paris, what I observed among my friends was that regardless of how much money they had or didn't have, they didn't necessarily own a lot of clothes or all the latest trends. They just knew how to pull together what they did have. I agree with Garance that confidence has a lot to do with it.

thealeatory said...

cute idea...I agree that French women are indeed lovely in how they approach life and the blog-to-blog collaboration!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, I loved it when 2 of my favourite bloggers crossed blogs! As a Canadian in Paris I have been trying to find the keys to the secret "Je ne sais quoi" of french women for a looong time too! I can tell you that I have never owned so many scarves or boots in my life! I thought you might enjoy these videos from another great blogger!

K said...

Very fun, love the feature! It's so entertaining when two great bloggers come together!

I also came across some awesome how-to guides for tying scarves that are oh-so-french (perhaps right up your alley). They're up on my blog now: Now I just need more scarves!

Madame Lamb said...


great interview! garance seems very cool. thanks and i'd love to see more of this!



Marie said...

Interesting... (I'm French :) ) I agree with the layering part, but however hard I look in my closet, I don't have a single striped garment ;-)

La Victorienne said...

haha! funny interview! I discovered your blog via Garance's.
Here are some tips for american women: 1)stop wearing to much make up (If you can tell there is foundation you should take some off). The point is to look like a natural beauty. Otherwise people wonder why does she wear so much make up, what does she want to hide...
2)keep it simple (hair, make up, clothes, ...). Again, you want to look like a natural beauty (not like you've spend 3 hours in the bathroom).
3) Neutral colors and classic style can be combined with more fashionable pieces (fashion comes and goes, style is for ever).

Voilà, hopes this helps.

Mia said...

You should read The Left Bank Look: Easy Parisian-Chic Project for Your Home and Clothes! Its really chic and fun!

Jack Daniel said...

oh shit, i've asked her if she wants to be interviewd by me, but I'm guessing I'm the last one in line. :P

nice interview! And I LOVE your smitten website. Haha.

lisa @ luxe said...

french style is so cool, thanks for posting & great blog too :)

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Anonymous said...


naomi said...


tippaniny said...

From what I have seen, French women primarily wear confidence and well, that's sexy. And apart from that, they accessorise. Well. :-)

katty said...

All kind of dress drive me crazy, i love the new styles and the dark colours. I think we identify with evey dress that we usually wear.
But i must to say the sensual dress in my favorit style.
buy viagra said...

It can't work as a matter of fact, that is what I consider.

Anonymous said...


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