How to Dress Like a French Woman

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The French woman's style can be summed up as timeless elegance with a splash of joie de vivre, not to mention a nod to what you may see on the runways next season. french style is meticulously crafted like a confection from a prize-winning patisserie but is as effortless as running down to the corner market. A French woman knows what looks good for her body -- not just what's trendy at the moment.

Casual Chic

Even when the French woman goes casual she keeps it streamlined, whether with trademark stripes and bateau necklines or a more global ensemble of leggings and a tunic top. Baggy or rumpled clothes are eschewed for sleek denim or a well-tailored wide-leg pant, though the casual look is usually not perfectly polished -- think a cuffed pant leg or undone button or two. Patterns are gently embraced in a happy marriage with soft neutrals or solids instead of clashing with bolds. Full skirts are balanced with slim tops, and vice versa. Textures are soft and touchable, from sleek cashmere to airy gauze. And sometimes a delicately striped or floral sundress is all that's needed to nail the simple -- but not simplistic -- style.

Formally French

French women know the art of glam when getting dressed up for an evening out, but take care to not show too much leg or cleavage and tease with textures such as lace and tulle instead. The look is classic and understated sexiness, playing with feminine fabrics such as chiffon and cuts such as soft pleats in a monochromatic palette of neutrals or color. Black is a definite basic for both night and day. Skin can be bared in a less overtly seductive way, such as with a one-shoulder top. And while you're accessorizing, don't forget a swipe of true red across the lips for a pout to remember. Keep it understated by going minimalist with the rest of your makeup.

Beyond the Pearls

The picture of the perfect French accessories may start with pearls and a quilted Chanel bag, but the modern French woman goes beyond these staples. A short scarf knotted just so can pull the look together, along with jewelry toned to blend with the rest of your outfit. A sleek clutch or structured carryall in a surprising color can add that bit of French-inspired edginess. Avoid the stereotypical beret yet embrace a knit cap or fedora to top off a perfectly rumpled bedhead. Don't forget oversized sunglasses, which not only protect eyes from aging, but lend the perfect air of mystery for a well-timed peek of the peepers. French women also know the art of not over-accessorizing; coordination with the outfit is more of a priority than stark contrasts.

The Perfect Shoes

The ballet flat is eponymous with French style as a complement to a short, swingy dress or a slim cigarette pant. The real key to picking shoes in a French style, though, is making sure that the footwear keeps the overall look flowing, whether a short stiletto boot with skinny pants, ribbon adornments on a heel to accent formalwear, or basic white sneakers to complete a casual look. The shoes don't shout with loud colors or accents, but nod in agreement with the total outfit. Even a pair of menswear-inspired oxfords added to a short, flowing dress is often all that's needed to transform into effortless chic.