I’ll Have What She’s Having: Classic Parisian Chic

Parisian chic: a modern classic look in black and grey with attention to details.

I thought it might be fun to periodically document some looks I’ve spied on real women that have inspired me in some way. It’s not about copying someone else’s style wholesale; it’s about identifying what elements might translate well to one’s own style, and finding ways to incorporate them.

Modern Classic: Parisian Chic

This look was inspired by Jeanne, the young woman I introduced you to in Monday’s post, Paris, With Friends. I thought she looked very polished and soignée, without a hint of fussiness. Her outfit was timeless and ageless. There was that nice balance of masculine and feminine elements. She managed to look quintessentially Parisian yet modern. (And yes, she’s French.)

Shown above: beret | lipstickturtleneckpantsjacketbag | shoes (similar)


  • When in doubt, wear black. It simplifies getting dressed, yet looks polished. Don’t worry about matching your blacks, rather mix textures to add interest. (I know many of you have sworn off black, or just never liked it. You could also put together something similar with navy or dark grey.)
  • Simple doesn’t have to be boring. It’s all in the details: the pinstripe on the pants, the gold buttons on the jacket, the edging on the bag, the distinctive buckle on the shoes.
  • A red lip counts as an accessory. I saw more women of all ages wearing red lipstick in Paris this fall than on any previous visit, and I loved it. Satin or matte finish usually, never glossy.
  • Structure. It doesn’t have to be stiff or formal, but including a piece or two with some structure ups the polished factor. I’m a big fan of a softly structured jacket. Bags and shoes like the ones shown above can also be a way to incorporate structure.

I get that this minimalist look may not appeal to everyone. If you prefer more color, pattern, focal points, you could also use an outfit like this as a starting point, and add color with a sweater or scarf, and change up the look with other accessories.

Get The Look

Striped Pants

A.P.C. | Jen 7Ann Taylor | Elvi (Plus) | Banana Republic

Easy Jackets

Halston Heritage | Club Monaco | River Island | Lauren Ralph Lauren | Everlane

Buckle My Shoe

Roger Vivier | Michael Kors | Bally | Isaac Mizrahi | Calvin Klein

(Click arrow on the right to scroll through selections.)

Have you met or seen someone lately whose style has inspired you?

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  1. I absolutely love this look. I am actively seeking out some similar shoes, but with a silver buckle.

    French women I’ve known generally have a much smaller wardrobe that American women, but better quality. It’s perfectly ok to repeat and repeat an outfit. I was first exposed to this in Jr. High School as our French FRENCH teacher always looked pulled together and chic, but she repeated maybe 5 dresses (this was in the 60’s).

    Later, studying in Aix-en-Provence, I noticed the same thing. I aspire to be like that, but the “problem” is that I make many of my clothes and it’s hard to part with them, what with all the work that went into them (the inside has to be as good as the outside).

    The older I get, the more I get to really know myself and want to scale down to what I REALLY love. It’s a work in progress.

    I really enjoyed this feature. Thanks!

  2. Nice job Susan. I have and like much more color and pattern in my wardrobe…that’s just me. Was always amazed that both of my daughters adopted the above look. It suits them perfectly. Great to be able to appreciate both styles. Like the ocean needs the sands, the difference is what makes the world go ’round.

  3. Sue, I really enjoyed your translation of Jeanne’s chic ensemble. And good choices, too. That pearl-buttoned River Island double blazer is lovely.

    It seems this last trip to Paris was very energizing for your styling eye, and we are the beneficiaries.

  4. It has seemed to me, in my trips to France (where I, too, look pretty obsessively at style), that the minimalism is the essential of what we think of as French style and is necessary to the look. That is certainly the case in the shots you have posted over the years. It doesn’t mean no accessories, or no drama, it just means that one thing is chosen as the star, and nothing is overdone. Clothes are of better quality, and fit well, and are worn confidently. The look above is a great capture, but if more was added: scarf, or extra jewelry, the French style would start to disappear.

  5. Just back from Paris (10 days ago) and I noticed a lot of women wearing beautiful, long, unlined wool coats cut like a man’s overcoat with medium wash jeans like Levi’s, a simple pullover sweater and beautiful flats or loafers. Loved this look- elegant, simple, classic.

  6. I’ve got my black and white stripped jeans on, from Ralph Lauren, RIGHT NOW!! Great minds. . . Love this post. Love French woman style. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. The shoes with the round buckle are soooo beautiful… sold! They seem to be a perfect example of something that takes a simple look up to the next level.

  8. I noticed that the shoes have a square toe. I assume that means square toes are back in style. Does that mean almond is out!

    1. Hi Joanna, while I have seen more square-toed shoes this fall, there’s not a single toe shape that’s “in” or “out.” I think we can continue to wear what we like. 🙂

  9. French style: soignee, trim, chic, relaxed, self confidant!! Nothing more, nothing less!! MODERN CLASSICS!!

  10. That’s good news for me. I have a beautiful pair of black & white shoes with a square toe that have been sitting in my closet waiting for me to wear them again. I know what I’m wearing tomorrow.
    Those Calvin Klein shoes are just my style. I’m so tempted to order them.

    1. I saw a few velvet pieces in Paris, but didn’t get any photos. I’ve ordered a couple of the EF velvet pieces to try, and will be posting soon.

  11. I just tried on the black Ralph Lauren blazer at Macy’s that you list above….I was able to purchase it today 30% off $165 pre-sale and can pick it up Sunday when the sale starts! It fits great and will be a wonderful “Parisian Chic” staple. Thanks for the tip!

  12. So true, Ellen — although I need color by my face, so I’ll take off the hat (so hot!) and substitute an Hermes scarf draped simply around my neck. The first time I went to Paris, in 2005, there were still many WWII vintage ladies out and about — always impeccably dressed in a lovely suit, handbag, scarf — and sometimes a tiny canine, too! They might have been wearing orthopedic shoes (a glimpse into my future!), but there was no other sacrifice when it came to style.

  13. Love these real street style posts. I occasionally glance at The Sartorialist, but much of it is too extreme fashion for a 50-something Scot. Your posts by contrast spark many ideas.