There is a truth universally acknowledged: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress, dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” Coco Chanel
I experience this truth first hand every morning when dressing for the day. How I am feeling or how I want to feel during my day is reflected by what I choose to put on. If I wake up in a foul mood (a not uncommon occurrence) I can pull myself together by dressing in something that makes me feel confident and sexy. I can then face the day ahead when I am dressed according to my feelings. An example of this dressing with feeling is illustrated in “One”, episode 12 from the sixth season of Sex and the City. Charlotte, devastated after her miscarriage, pulls herself together (in a very Audrey Hepburn moment) with a candy pink strapless Eric Way dress, black strappy heels, sunglasses and her hair pulled into a chignon. Her clothing gives her a new outlook, making her look and feel sexy, alluring, together and most importantly, confident which gives her the strength to face her fears.
Vicki Archer wrote about confidence on her wonderful blog French Essence. Please do read her post Confidence because it will make your day. Somehow she has tapped into the very essence of what it means to be a woman. C’est magnifique! I was so inspired by her insight that it led to this post. I began thinking about how it is that French women convey confidence so easily through their wardrobe. I didn’t want this post to be a guide per se, or filled with all the “how to” information that is all over the web – because there are plenty of blogs and websites dedicated to the art of French style and how to attain it. I wanted this post to be about lifestyle and how confidence is a part of that and how it can be attained through the way we choose to dress. It just so happens that French women seem to do this innately, without even trying. So why not learn what we can from them?
While there is no doubt in my mind that if you peek inside a French woman’s closet, you will find a wardrobe that is elegant, stylish and minimalist. You needn’t worry if you don’t think yours is up to scratch. It’s how you feel on the inside, the intention behind your choices and what you wish to convey by the way you wear your hair, which belt you choose, the shoes you put on, how you tie your scarf, even how you walk. A French woman is most likely thinking about looking sexy, even if she is simply out walking le chien. If you think confident, you are confident… food for thought, oui?
French women assess their assets and make the most of them. They know themselves and their bodies well enough to trust their own instincts. It is not so much what is on the outside, but what is on the inside and the French woman is therefore self-assured, feminine, sexy, and alluring from the inside-out. Nothing is over-complicated and this shines through when it comes to dressing because they focus on simple clothing, and they know that they don’t need the latest trends to look good. True, they do have their beloved Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dior, but they get a lot of mileage out of these expensive pieces because they know what to buy for their body. And for everything else, they mix vintage with high-street fashion.
After much research, reading, discussion and looking at hundreds of pictures of French women, I have come to the conclusion that if you highlight your best feature you will achieve the very essence of dressing like a French woman. If you have a gorgeous hour-glass figure then enhance it by highlighting your waist. If you have long legs, then it’s short skirts for you. The key is to remember to keep it simple. Whether it is your waist, derrière, legs, or dècolletage, only draw attention to one thing. It’s all about simple. Less is more. Don’t brush your hair, wash it less often. If you want to your makeup to look à la Française then all that it required is a good foundation, a little mascara and some lip gloss. It’s true! Take a good look, these women have bed head hair and very little make-up on but don’t they look incredible?
Something else I feel I must highlight is the French woman’s aversion to dying her hair, or in fact leaving the grey in and using it to her advantage. A woman who does this has to be supremely confident, in my book. Don’t misunderstand me, French women do dye their hair. They just don’t talk about it. When I lived in Sydney, my French hairstylist, Pierre (yes I know, the irony of it all) was adament about not dying my hair. I didn’t have a plethora of greys, but to me, they were all I saw when I looked in the mirror. He of course would say to me (in a very thick French accent) “What grey ‘air ‘eidi? I cannot see any, you are crazy!” After moving away I found a hairstylist who had no such qualms with dying my hair but a few years later, and a few more grey hairs later, I have gone back to my natural dark brown and I am letting my greys do their thing. I am proud of them. They were borne out of a lot of hard work, stress, post-natal depression and dammit, if the French can laud them, why shouldn’t I? More confidence boosting to boot.
It is pretty daring to say the least for women in our hemisphere and before they’re 60 to allow their hair to remain uncoloured and to show off our grey in all its glory, but these women above certainly look amazing and prove that we can be comfortable in our own skin without all the cosmetic affectations.
Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd. I promise you, to be daring is exhilirating! It is a definite confidence booster!
These French ladies have added something to their ensemble to stand out from the crowd. A colourful scarf or a colourful dress mixed with monochromatic black and white and the neverfail beige.
Whenever you feel like you got out on the wrong side of the bed and are thinking of wearing your oldest trackpants for the school run, don’t berate yourself. No, no, no! Let out your inner French woman and hear her roar! Some lipgloss, a spray of perfume and a gorgeous scarf, Pashmina or beret and you have put a whole different spin on your day. I promise you!
A splash of colour; red lipstick, red skinny belt, even a simple beanie makes this French lady appear to ooze confidence. Sexy shoes and shiny pants mixed with a simple black scarf and gloves, it’s sexy and alluring and dare I say it, yes confident.
“French women don’t try to look like anyone else other than themselves,” says Frenchwoman Nathalie Rykiel, daughter of designer Sonya Rykiel. “They know who they are and make the most of what they have. Allure, to them, is more about a statement than physical beauty.”
Frenchwoman Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for All
Seasons says “French women can be stubborn and don’t like anyone advising them about their appearance.” I read somewhere that stylish French women know their own ‘brand’ DNA and work it. I know exactly what that means. How I dress is an extension of my personality. Accept that how you dress is part of who you are. If you don’t like the way you dress, then how can you like the person inside? By paying just a little more attention to even one part of how we dress, it can do wonders for our self-esteem.
I must add however that while French style is obviously innate…
…it has to be said.
If you dress with confidence, you will feel confident and then you will be confident.
love & light xx