Why we still love French style

Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick of interest in French style. From newspaper and magazine articles to current collections, it seems that effortless French style is back on the radar. Perhaps it’s due to the latest Paris Fashion Week, or perhaps we’re all ready for a bit of a visual palate-cleanse and reset. Either way, I’m here for it!

This is the latest post in my Effortless Style Series. You can read the entire series HERE.

The (enduring) appeal of effortless French style

A simple French-inspired wardrobe capsule in navy, white, and tan. Effortless French style ideas for women over 50.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: when I talk about French style, I’m referring to a particular aesthetic, rather than trying to categorize how all French women dress. Style has become much more global and diverse, and you’ll see that diversity reflected on the streets of Paris or Beaune or Aix-en-Provence.

Probably the most succinct definition of French style I’ve read comes from Louis Vuitton’s women’s creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière. He describes it as a “blend of sophistication and nonchalance…”

But even if you think French style is over-hyped (and yes, it sometimes is), I think there are some valid reasons why it still appeals to many of us.

French style, translated

These days, I’m all about functional style, and looking put-together without a lot of fuss. Even if you don’t wear blazers, Breton stripes, or black, there are attributes of French style that can be adapted to most wardrobes and help you to do more with less.

Shopping in Paris: Comptoir des Cotonniers

It’s always lovely to have a chance to shop in Paris. But I’ve found it’s also possible to find many items that align with the French aesthetic from US, UK, and other brands available online here. French style has also been influenced by American style, and jeans remain a staple.

(Yes, many of these pieces I’ve used as examples here are from J.Crew. They seem to be popular in Paris too; during our last few visits there was a huge J.Crew section in the iconic Le Bon Marché department store.)

Timeless and ageless

While cuts and details may vary, there’s a certain timelessness to French-inspired style. And the look isn’t age specific…with a few tweaks the same pieces can work whether you’re 20 or 80.

French-inspired style can look both classic and modern…it’s all in the cuts and details, and how it’s put together.

Comfortable and practical

For the most part, there’s nothing fiddly or constraining. It’s a style intended for going on about your daily life.

Clothing may be quietly stylish, but it’s also practical…the pieces work together and are functional. Shoes are walkable. You’ll rarely see anyone teetering around in stiletto heels during the day.

Simple, but put-together

French style doesn’t rely on a lot of flashy, attention-grabbing, or demanding clothing. A French-inspired wardrobe consists of pieces that can be remixed, and dressed up or down as needed. But it can look deceptively simple; often there are subtle details that add interest and pull the look together.

While some oversized or more relaxed fit pieces have made their way into French wardrobes, they’re often paired with more structured or fitted garments, so the overall look is never sloppy. (And yoga pants, sweats, or other “athleisure” items are worn only for exercising.)

Accessories are key to personalizing and finishing the look. A belt can be an excellent “finisher.”


The wardrobe basics that comprise the core of effortless French style are usually available in a wide range of sizes and prices. (Though I’ll always encourage you to buy the best quality you can afford, especially in your basics.)

Mango pocket tweed jacket ecru gold buttons.

And visit my SHOP for more French-inspired styles!

Are there aspects of French style that you’ve incorporated into your wardrobe?

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  1. Because I like quirky stuff, I am often bored with the French style. But I do admit that it always looks very good, while I often hit and miss. And I also adapt the French style once in a while.

  2. I can’t help but love classic French style! I love the neutrals, the simplicity, and the way it always looks stylish, even decades later. I’ve recently been on a Meg Ryan movie kick and have noticed how her classic style could be considered French style in a lot of movies. In French Kiss she is wearing basically the same outfit in most of the movie but styles it multiple ways. She has a lovely classic style in You’ve Got Mail and even her clothes from 1993’s Sleepless In Seattle could be worn today with a tweak here and there. Not a lot of clothes from that era can pass the test of time. Thanks for this fun and informative post, Susan!

  3. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for the wonderful article on classic French style. Under your photo of clothing items, when I click on the Shirt tab, the cotton poplin shirt with J. Crew is actually a men’s shirt. I realize there are women who purchase men’s shirt for themselves but I wasn’t sure if the posting was intentional and if so, do you have any suggestion with sizing?

    1. Ah, thanks, hadn’t realized that. I know a lot of women do buy shirts from the men’s section. (That doesn’t work for me, as they’re too long.) Here’s a similar style for women: https://bit.ly/3Jee30x

  4. I will always love classic French style. A cashmere sweater with denim or slim pants is my go to style. A nice shirt, striped tee, classic jacket, raincoat is all I need. I add a casual dress or skirt in the summer and I am set. My days of experimenting with styles are over.

  5. Good Morning
    Thank you for keeping me from my work a few minutes a day.
    Arket doesnt shop to the US, have you found a work around for this?


    1. Got it. that’s so odd as they have a US website… I’ve replaced that item in the post, still looking for something similar available here.

  6. I love classic French style and always feel I look best in classic styles. I always intend to have a cool wardrobe with just basics and some really nice accessories, but then get drawn in by other finds. I am retired and don’t need all the fluff, anymore, and really need to seriously consider and get on board with this. I saw someone, above, had talked about Meg Ryan’s style. I’d not thought of it as French classic ( because I knew nothing of what that was), but have always loved everything about her look. A former hairstylist of mine(I moved so lost him), who was trained by Vidal Sassoon, always told me that I had hair like hers-haha, that’s about all we have in common! 🙂

  7. I think of French (Parisian) style as higher quality items, but fewer of them. One bag, as opposed to 10 bags. A winter coat, not five winter coats. A strand of real pearls, rather than a jewelry box full of costume items. Etc.

    My father lived in France the last 30 years of his life, and every time he returned to the States, he’d comment on the certain “je ne sais quoi” difference between French and American women. He thought French women aged better — no surgeries, less obsession, more joie de vivre.

  8. Thank you for this wonderful post. Very informative. Not sure which description of French style I liked the most. Nicolas Ghesquière’s description as a “blend of sophistication and nonchalance…” or yours, “there’s nothing fiddly or constraining. It’s a style intended for going on about your daily life.”

  9. We are finally going back to France this summer. A couple of days in Paris and then off to visit the family in Savoie. I am still a little prickly about the notion of “French style,” but I take your point. My relatives and their friends will be dressed in everything from Chanel to muumuus, and that reminds me that people are the same everywhere.

  10. Another intelligent and on-point post Susan–thank you. the older I get, the more I lean toward French style but I do love sparkle and shine a bit more than my French friends…. 🙂