Jennifer Nataf
Fashion Fairy Godmother & Street Style Photographer

French Chic

Photo by Laura Chouette/Unsplash

French women have a celebrated mystique. They’re known for being chic (and please note that “chic” is originally a French word!) with a minimalistic, effortless style. And despite my knowing this, I’d never actually noticed any discernible style to speak of on my previous trips to France.

Until now.

I recently returned from a trip to the Alsace region of France. This was my first visit to France where I’d noticed any style whatsoever (and I ALWAYS pay attention to style). On my previous visits, the style of the people around me had always appeared to be the same basicuniversal style you might find in any Western country, sans distinction.

So what was different this time? I’m willing to speculate that the difference was in me – since I’ve begun taking street style photographs (if you’re curious, check it out here: IG, FB or my site), my style-seeking superpowers have been honed. Perhaps the French elements of style are so subtle and so fine that I’m only now able to discern them, with my sharpened style senses?… Or maybe I just happened to be in a wealthier, more stylish area of France on this particular visit?
The beautiful and chic Lucie, in Colmar, France, who let me photograph her for my street style page.

Whatever the reason, I found myself with figurative whiplash, turning my head this way and that, devouring with my eyes all the stylish men and women around me.

This visit, I noticed how superbly executed the style was, how the men and women paid attention to every little detail in an oh-so-subtle manner. This was especially noticeable in the beautiful city of Strasbourg. (Loved Strasbourg and highly recommend it: for people watching, for the atmosphere, the sights and the food!)

So what’s this “French Style” everyone is talking about, anyhow?

French style is typically simple and classic, focusing on quality. There’s a lot of black and there are a lot of neutrals. They don’t wear much ostentatious colour; and if they do, it might be one bright colour repeated multiple times throughout an outfit in their accessories (shoes, bag, scarf) and sometimes lipstick, while the rest of the outfit remained black. Nautical stripes are the most popular pattern.

woman in a scarf and hat
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino/Unsplash

French fashion is beautiful and understated, while also being practical and utilitarian. For instance, French women wear scarves as an accessory but also to keep warm. Stylish sneakers and chic loafers take the place of heels on cobblestone walkways. Makeup and hair are minimally done.

When the French do luxury brands, it tends to be very subtle, not gaudy or conspicuous. They might wear a monogrammed jacquard Louis Vuitton scarf in a solid colour – so subtle that if you aren’t focusing on the scarf, you don’t notice that the print is Louis Vuitton. But noticing it makes you feel like you’re in the know.

Bottom line… Forget the food! French fashion is such a feast for the eyes, I can’t wait to go back!

I’d love to know: what elements of French style do you love the most?

About the Author
I'm a personal stylist in Jerusalem and the center of Israel. I help women find their own unique style and elevate it, so that they feel beautiful and confident and ready to take on the world. I also photograph stylish strangers on the street - my goal is to demonstrate that you can have great style regardless of your age, body shape, or budget.