what is French style

The Biggest Ways Americans Get French Style Wrong

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I’ve been studying and researching Parisian fashion for years and on my most recent trip to Paris, it was easy to spot the tourists. Seeing the tourists in France made me think about how the majority of Americans view Parisian fashion back home. And well, it’s not very accurate!

Not saying that I’m the expert (though I have put in 10,000+ hours so you decide), but I’ve noticed there are a few glaring differences between what Americans think French style is compared to what it really is. Here’s what they are!

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What Americans Think French Fashion Is
*Keep in mind I am generalizing here. I am not saying all Americans think this or all French people dress this way.

  • Americans think French style is super casual
  • Americans think French style is super done up

Now let me explain…

1. Americans think French style is super casual

While I was in Paris, I saw plenty of tourists embrace the casual travel look. You’re a dead ringer for a tourist if you’re in super sporty clothes with brightly colored sneakers all the while sporting an Under Armour backpack.

Yes, there’s a possibility they weren’t “trying” to be French and if sporty clothes make you the most comfortable then, by all means, I want you to feel good in your own skin.

But the French fashion way is not wearing your college hoodie with joggers or leggings, running sneakers, and hiking backpacks all at once.

Stars…they’re just like us. Parisians…they’re just like us? Yes and no.

Leggings are not a go-to wardrobe staple and gym clothes are just that- gym clothes. Not athleisure fashion. While American brands are starting to be cool over there, t-shirts emblazoned with the Nike swish symbol are just not it!

And though French people do look to some Americans for style inspiration (I picked up French Elle while I was there and Leandra Medine had a huge spread), it seems to be they are inspired by the eclectic originality, not the casual looks.

Related: 20 Parisian Outfits I Captured on the Street, Part 1

2. Americans think French style is super done up

When most people think “Paris” or “French women”, they probably think high-end, designer, super posh, and super fancy. (And maybe stripes, berets, and baguettes let’s be real.)

On the flip side of the casual wanderer, a tourist was once again easy to spot if she were super done up.

Perfectly curled hair, a full face of makeup, red lipstick, a beret, and a houndstooth dress with thigh-high boots would make for a beautiful photo, but it doesn’t make for the makings of French fashion. (Yes, I’m describing a real sighting.)

And if that’s your style, more power to you! But dressing that way because you think Parisians dress that way, is not it. In fact, you may even think that French style is a little boring…

So what is French style?

French style is casual chic. It’s simple. Smart. Classic. Timeless. Think business casual. It’s not dressing like you’re headed to the gym or dressing like you’re headed to a party.

It’s still wearing casual things, like t-shirts, jeans, or sneakers, but in elevated ways. Such as pairing a tweed jacket with your jeans or a baseball hat with your blazer and sneakers.

It’s investing in quality items, focusing on neutrals, and not trying too hard. It doesn’t mean there’s no room for color or fun, of course, because a major key component of French style is having your own signature style.

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Mastering a casual-chic fashion aesthetic is one of the best ways to dress like a Parisian!

For more tips on how to dress in this timeless style, check out 8 Things French Women Don’t Wear (And What They Wear Instead) and 17 Items You Need for Your Classic French Capsule Wardrobe!

how Americans get French style wrong
Ways Americans Get French Style Wrong
Carolyn Arentson
Carolyn is the founder and creator behind My Chic Obsession. When she's not dreaming up new content, you can find her watching a funny tv show with her husband, raising her two boys, or planning her next trip to Paris.