How to look elegant and well-groomed like them there French women?

(75 Posts)
IBlameThatcher Fri 10-Feb-12 18:59:01

I've decided that I should stop wearing jeans and baggy tops everyday. I need to lose a couple of stone, so I've started on that. Had my hair trimmed and am trying to keep it in good condition. What I really need is advice on what exactly to wear. I was thinking plain, straight knee-length dresses, lots of black and simple jewellery. Can anyone else advise me as to what I should be wearing? Links to pics of tres stylish French women would be good grin

TheFarSide Fri 10-Feb-12 19:02:26

<Watching with interest>

I suspect being slightly underweight, a la "Desperate Housewives", helps.

VivaLaSativa Fri 10-Feb-12 19:03:48

Look on street peeper. I love this site, it's inspirational. wink

KristinaM Fri 10-Feb-12 19:06:36

Wearing lots of black only helps if black suits you. Of you are 25. Otherwise it makes you look tired and drawn.being well groomed always helps

whyme2 Fri 10-Feb-12 19:07:26

Viva but none of those elegant ladies had small children hanging off their arm and trailing snot through their hair.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:10:51

My 'trick' to always lookin elegant and groomed?

Glossy hair
Neat make up (unless you are naturally 'gifted' and don't need it)
Manicured nails
Clean Shoes

If you screw up on any of those then you have no chance of looking like the French (though I hold the Italians in higher esteem - personal preference). Other than that, dress for style over fashion and learn what suits your shape, then stick to it.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:12:29

Looking - typo - I'm not 12!!

BettyBathroom Fri 10-Feb-12 19:16:32

Was about to post the same as MrsMartin. Hair done. Make up done and shoes polished. Nails short & neat at the very least. Then take it to the next level. Doing too much at once is just overwhelming and you'll give up. I think you need to dress classically and let your accessories do the talking...I have yet to get to grips with this level - any tips would be gratefully received, I've neglected accessories very badly in the past.

VivaLaSativa Fri 10-Feb-12 19:17:24

whyme2 I noticed one that did look as if she had snot through her hairgrin .

bessie26 Fri 10-Feb-12 19:19:06

<marks place & wonders how she is going to polish her converse>

TheMouseRanUpTheClock Fri 10-Feb-12 19:19:29

Reading with interest, I asked for help earlier and got no response.

VivaLaSativa Fri 10-Feb-12 19:22:28

Eyebrows are a must for a polished look, If you get something like benefit brow zings this will help immensely.

Nails as already mentioned are important too.

A good foundation suited to your skin type to make your skin look flawless.

Not too much make up obviously, Nice lipsticks and neutral eye and cheek colours look more natural and elegant.

Bienchen Fri 10-Feb-12 19:23:13

Agree with previous posters.

Can add that a lot of French women sport short hair but I don't see much evidence of straighteners. Plain, good quality clothing and usually kept up to date with accessories (jewellery, scarf, sunglasses). Good quality handbag, again plain. Shoes with heels (at a comfortable height) and they wear coats in winter (currently a lot of apres-ski type down jackets with fur trims).

Very much agree on clean/polished shoes that are resoled/reheeled as and when needed.

Good posture.

BettyBathroom Fri 10-Feb-12 19:24:12

Do nails need to be painted or can I get away with nicely shaped?

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:29:21

Ah accessories...

OK BettyB, you need, as part of your core accessory wardrobe, the following:

1 tan leather handbag
1 black leather handbag
1 black clutch bag

1 pair of flat tan shoes
1 pair of black flat shoes
1 pair of tan heels (comfortable heel hight/shape)
1 pair of black heels
1 pair of pretty sandals in a metallic colour (pref with sparkle)
1 pair of havianas

1/2 statement set(s) of jewellery in either/both warm and cool tones
(this depends on your jewellery style and wedding band etc)

scarfs in a variety of colours and fabrics - silk can be knotted onto a handbag/ cotton worn loosely around the neck etc.

All other accessories can be added into your wardrobe but no matter what you wear, something from the above is guaranteed to work with it (obs you will need boots too but summer is comming (promise!!)

Look out for these key pieces in sales - pick up quality in sale rather than tat that you will have to replace every year.

harbingerofdoom Fri 10-Feb-12 19:30:42

Aaaaah, well can do most but am 'doomed' on the hair.
How on earth can curly hair look groomed? No I'm not straightening it.

IBlameThatcher Fri 10-Feb-12 19:31:47

Well, I have plain, filed nails, clean shoes. Wash hair daily and am trying to avoid straighteners. My make-up is very simple (clinique foundation, a little blusher, subtle pink lip gloss, mascara). I think I'm ok in some ways, but it's more the clothes really. Oh and sunglasses - are they necessary? I see a lot of people wearing them on their heads and they always seem to look quite chic.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:31:48

As for nails - if you don't want to paint them then buff them - the shine will last a week. Just make sure you look after your cuticles with oil.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:34:13

harbinger - put an oil/serum through curly hair - it will look gorgeous.

My faves are:
Loreal Mythic Oil
Tres semme salon smooth (has argan oil in it)
Percy and Reed no oil oil.

BettyBathroom Fri 10-Feb-12 19:40:11

Many thanks MrsMartin. I am a one handbag lady - I buy a lovely good quality bag and then wear it to death...need to be less lazy in this regard. I have no tan leather - none! Black, red & dark brown & white for summer. Have ordered some tan boots, scarf collection is being slowly extended.

I have rather large norks - I never know what works with lowish cut tops (only style that suits big norks). Have a fear of short necklaces looking like "fuck me chokers" and long necklaces look matronly. Any advice from the well norked?

harbingerofdoom Fri 10-Feb-12 19:41:35

When I was little the curls made me look like a poodle (joy of joys),now I'm a lot,lot older the curls have 'relaxed' so not sure any more.
There was a lady that went round hotels with curly hair.She looked great. Could have done that 10 years ago but not now.

sittinginthesun Fri 10-Feb-12 19:43:16

Watching thread with interest...

BettyBathroom Fri 10-Feb-12 19:44:59

I gave up on foundation years ago - it always looked like a mask, I have very white skin tones - I use liquid concealer and a loose powder it gives me a more natural appearance. Will get a nail buffer....or some clear nail varnish - my hands are awful so I would rather not draw attention to them.

Fraktal Fri 10-Feb-12 19:45:14

Quality clothes kept in good nick
Not over accessorising
Attention to detail
Eyeliner (pref liquid) and mascara
No denim except skinny jeans!
Layer well

Fraktal Fri 10-Feb-12 19:45:40

Unpolished, shaped mails are preferable to chipped polish!

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:46:02

I am not 'well norked' - only a D (up from a B - the one saving grace of rapid weight gain). That said, I think necklaces that are longer and hang just off the cliff edge (iykwim) look great on the well norked!!

Tan goes with almost everything so you need it. If changing hanbags seems like a pain, buy a handbag2handbag bag - it is a little bag with different pockets that you put your stuff in and they you just transfer that when you switch - it is genius.

NotYetEverything Fri 10-Feb-12 19:51:58

Get your colours done. This way, everything in your wardrobe will match everything else. If you get your style / clothing personality done too, it gets even easier.

On the beauty side
- lipstick
- regular haircut in some sort of style
- neat nails.
- moisturise.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 19:52:12

Fraktal - totally agree on the nail front but that is why people need Seche Vite combined with a good nude polish OR to buff their nails. I buy my buffers from poundland - you get 4 in a pack and they do the job brilliantly. Also - if people have peely horrible nails -I used to too but nail envy changed that for me - it is great. smile

Well... Well groomed and elegant sounds good. But I reckon at my age and with my body I'm better aiming at clean and neat, with perhaps a mild diversion to quirky! I think elegant needs a certain kind of strong features and a long neck, or it can just look frumpy tbh.

harbingerofdoom Fri 10-Feb-12 20:09:50

Groomed is clean and neat,as it's base.
Elegant is deportment and 'lines'.
Not sure if neck length is a requirement!

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 20:13:42

harbinger grin

Bienchen Fri 10-Feb-12 20:21:19

Having your colours done may help but is not a guarantee for success. There is some awful stuff in the shops (thinking per Una speziale, etc). Even if it is on your colours, it will still look .... was too well brought up to write this down ;)

sonicrainboom Fri 10-Feb-12 20:24:33

I don't get the Per una line. Who is their target customer? (Not some stylish frenchwoman wannabe probably)

WannabeEarthMomma Fri 10-Feb-12 20:26:47

I think the key to dressing up a bit is to figure out your best features and play them up. For example, I am tall and busty with a high waist, so I find a long floaty v-neck top with a bold pattern makes me look smart even if I wear it with jeans.

One thing which seems to suit everyone and looks instantly glam is just a pair of dainty earrings, no other jewelry. Whether you have a crop, a bob, or long hair in a nice updo, showing off your neck and dainty earrings will make you feel a bit like Audrey Hepburn!

NotYetEverything Fri 10-Feb-12 20:28:51

Too true Bienchen. I'm guessing maybe 50 year old wafty artists? Is it the older generation of the Boden 'hotchpotch' dress?

otchayaniye Fri 10-Feb-12 20:35:44

Weigh 8 stone or less, wear Marni and have neat, natural hair.

I can only claim to manage one of those....

strictlovingmum Fri 10-Feb-12 20:41:28

Read thiswww.travelbelles.com interesting, some very good tipswink

planetpotty Fri 10-Feb-12 20:44:31

MrsMartin! The handbag2handbag bag is what I've needed all these years!!

Got so excited about this I told DH and he made this face hmm

MrsCampbellBlack Fri 10-Feb-12 20:51:26

Really do you want to wear neat dresses and lots of black - sounds tres dull to me wink

Have fun with fashion. Ideally be a good weight, do routine grooming and then have some fun - I love fashion and always have good sunglasses/bags etc but I know what suits me generally but still make mistakes.

Colour is good - I'm loving pretty coloured skinnies for spring for example.

Mostly its just spending time on yourself - so exfoliating, moisturising etc. I know I always feel better with a bit of fake tan on and nails done [towie].

And don't buy into a capsule wardrobe - stuff dates - it really really does. Better to buy good stuff and wear it to death over a year or two in my opinion.

Also find shops/designers whose stuff suits you and is cut for your shape.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 21:02:26

I don't think anyone has said anything about only wearing black...you just need to have pieces that work and are timeless - not clothes but key acessories. I have a tan leather bag that still looks like I could have bought it today - £225 10 years ago and I use it all the time. There is a big difference between 'stylish' and 'fashionable'. And no, I'm not ancient smile

planet - yeah, my DH made that face when I first discovered seche vite - after years of chipping my manicure after a day it was the holy grail. He din not care enough imo!!

MrsSchadenfreude Fri 10-Feb-12 21:12:34

Plastic surgery over a certain age to achieve a) the "stretched face" look if you are over 60 or b) the "pillow face and cats' eyes" look (a la Carla Bruni) if you are under 60.

Trout pout. (We were in a resto near us the other week and DH had to tell me to stop staring at a woman whose face was so stretched and whose lips were so plump that she could barely eat.)

Dyed hair, cut well. (ver' ver' important to look groomed)

White fluffy dog that looks like it went to the hairdresser with you and had le brushing itself.

Polished shoes.

Designer bag.

Hopefully Fri 10-Feb-12 21:14:17

Being a halfway sensible weight helps a lot, and being well groomed is crucial.

I think having your version of a capsule wardrobe helps, although it almost never fits into the one white shirt/one suit/one LBD type formula. For instance, my equivalent of having the wardrobe 'essential' of a suit jacket that goes from day to night is a leather jacket, which goes with everything, but suits my more relaxed style.

Also, fewer, but more expensive clothes. Very important. I only have a couple of dozen items of clothing in total (excluding underwear), and I have more choice than when I had a cupboard full of crap, and it all looks much better.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 21:26:46

mrsS - why does looking elegant and groomed = looking like a Jackie Collins super bitch? Or old for that matter? To me it is more Pippa Middleton - clearly made an effort without looking like a trashy slut idiot.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 21:28:53

or, perhaps worse, looking like shit crap and not giving a shit crap

planetpotty Fri 10-Feb-12 21:41:59

Ha MrsM in a Shellac addict love, love, love always having perfect nails but still being able to actually use my hands! grin

The lady I go to is fab and it costs me....£8 shock

MrsCampbellBlack Fri 10-Feb-12 21:45:27

MrsM - the Op mentioned wearing a lot of black hence my comments.

strictlovingmum Fri 10-Feb-12 21:47:10

Agree hopefully fewer items of clothing very well cut/expensive will dress you very well, mix and match them and accessories with stylish, but not loud jewellery and you are set.
I don't think that classic/stylish should be associated with old that certainly isn't the case, I am not ancient, but at the same time I don't want to wear staff I wore in my twenties, simply because I can't get away with it anymore, there is nothing old in well cut jeans, crisp shirt, biker jacket and patent pumps and IMO lot more preferable to uniform of skinny jeans and baggy top seen everywhere and on everyone regardless of their age.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 21:49:56

Ah..sorry, missed that one.

Shellac seems good to me - haven't had it done simply because I like to change my colour on the spur of the moment and because I find seche vite so good. Also - I'm not sure if nail envy would penetrate through it - and I would not give up my nail envy!!!

MrsCampbellBlack Fri 10-Feb-12 21:50:29

God - I love skinny jeans - in fact prefer super skinny but wouldn't be caught dead in a baggy top or flat shoes either smile But i am small which makes a big difference to how i dress, if I were 5ft 10 am sure I'd wear flats a lot more.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 21:51:08

thanks for Mrs C-B by way of apology.

MrsCampbellBlack Fri 10-Feb-12 21:52:35

Why thank you MrsM smile

I am weaning myself of black as I know it really doesn't do me any favours. And there may be some truth in this colours malarkey wink

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 21:56:14

I can't imagine going to have it done but I think that is because I have found what suits me already. There are alot of people who just haven't worked it out for whatever reason so if it helps then great. I can't really stand Gok but he does at least get women to understand their body shape and that is the most important thing imo

NotYetEverything Fri 10-Feb-12 22:03:00

We'll get to you eventually MrsCB grin
I think some people do do the classic thing without feeling overdone. These are the same people (I'm one of them), who can't do unstructured pieces so well.

orangina Fri 10-Feb-12 22:09:17

Has anyone had a look at the tokyo page on that street fashion website linked to earlier? Think I would rather go down that road than the classic french chic look.....

(I.... cannot.... do..... anything....... tan........)

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 22:17:15

Im far more in favour of Milan and New York style on that site

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 22:20:20

I love block colours, patent leather (conversly hate plain black leather - can bear a glove butter leather in black but that is it), structured jackets and chiffon skirts/pallazo trousers. I have 2 very definate styles - uber classic and rock star nonchalance.

FriskyBivalves Fri 10-Feb-12 22:31:26

Avoid laughter lines by never smiling. Parisian women learn that at their mother's knee.

If must smile never let it reach eyes [see laughter lines above]

Nick aforementioned maman's vintage Hermes scarf and accessorise with a Goyard tote and Chanel No 19

Book twice-weekly blow dry

Smoke cigarettes to suppress appetite

Buy louboutins and aigle footwear

Book in for electro convulsive therapy for pelvic floor to avoid post childbirth sag

Burn extra calories by scoffing at foreigners' attempts at French

Jeans? What are these jeans of which you speak?


<bitter, moi? grin>

IHaveAFeatureWallAndILikeIt Fri 10-Feb-12 22:34:45

My staple is a A-line knee length skirt and heels! Very flattering on my c-section "shelf". I used to wear a lot of black but am trying to get more colourful. I find a long beaded necklace instantly makes my outfit look more thought out and complete. I have a black and silver one that goes with everything.

mrsmartin Fri 10-Feb-12 22:36:06

I'm less bitter...Decleor skincare (with abit of elemis now, gatineau in the future) to avoid the lines (but embrace they when they finally win)

QuietOhSoQuiet Fri 10-Feb-12 22:45:44

Thatcher have you been in my head,this is what I have been thinking,I want to be well groomed like so many european women are.

I have bought some more age appropriate clothes hmm that actually suit me,dresses,skirts,tights,simple tops,cigarette pants,loafers,kitten heels,lots of black as it suits me to a T.Not necesarily french but stylish and chic and not bloody jeans

I have quit smoking but it's still there,in my head and I know it's wrong so no shouty but it looks so chic,smoking.....bad bad bad thoughts blush

I am doing my nails,not fancy but short,shaped and groomed.

I will be an Audrey Hepburn style ambassador to someone (am mid 40s so all relative)

am off to hide some of my spoils before dh realises I am metemorphisising,if he says anything then the oh have had it for yonks will come into play grin

QuinnFabray Sat 11-Feb-12 08:25:25

I quit smoking a year ago and put on ten pounds. I quit because I was developing a cat's bum mouth though. Looks like I'm going to have to choose between being skinny and having prematurely ageing skin.

JoantheFennel Sat 11-Feb-12 09:14:43

Scarves, elegantly draped.

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 11-Feb-12 09:26:06

Smoke and drink black coffee.
Lunch to consist of a fat free fromage frais and a diet Coke (or another coffee). Or push a bit of lettuce around your plate.
Never smile. (French teeth worse than British ones, and stained from all those fags and coffee.)
Have very thin legs.

If French teenager, wear skinny jeans tucked into Uggs. Canada Goose jacket. Long flicky hair. More fags.

MrsSeanBean Sat 11-Feb-12 10:06:54

Having spent some time in Paris the best I can offer is -

- eat a croissant but little else all day (apart from leaves)
- drink black coffee
- smoke (these steps ensure whippet thinness) and
- wear a black cashmere roll neck and skinny trousers at all times

it also helps if you have glossy dark brown hair pulled into a low ponytail or up-do (I have fuzzy white/blonde sad )

MrsSeanBean Sat 11-Feb-12 10:08:28

By the way, we need Bonsoir on here to give us the real low-down (may not be her current MN name, I haven't been on here regularly of late)

sonicrainboom Sat 11-Feb-12 11:19:10

Laughing quite sadly at these descriptions...I don't envy those women.
but fortunately one can still be well-groomed and stylish without living croissants + cigarettes only!

mrsmartin Sat 11-Feb-12 11:57:30

totally agree with sonic. And to those smokers with cat's bum mouths - naughty ladies but we all have a vice (mine is make up and sweeties) - then try gatineau defi lift lip plumping stuff - I got it for MIL and it has worked wonders

TheCuntwormUnderfoot Sat 11-Feb-12 12:03:10

Love the idea of avoiding lines by not smiling... but smoking is fine grin

KandyBarr Sat 11-Feb-12 14:37:28

Great thread - Frisky is right about the smoking.

French women are very groomed and all that but they always look constrained, uniform and rather joyless to me. Much more impressed by louche an inventive London/NY/Danish women's style.

mrsmartin Sat 11-Feb-12 14:56:16

I still hanker after the italian look...I'm classic but classic english...I don't have the cash for italian luxe...got the hair and make up for it at least - I'll get there.

bessie26 Sat 11-Feb-12 15:02:04

I read somewhere that at age 30, French women decide between their face (stop smoking) or their figure (continue).

DH & I both put on about a stone when we quit, but I did manage to loose most of mine again, and my cats bum mouth is much better these days! grin

KandyBarr Sat 11-Feb-12 15:21:40

Also I always think the English shire rose look is elegant and underrated, too - sort of tweedy, hearty and modest. Rebecca Hall, for example.

mrsebojones Sat 11-Feb-12 17:00:18

grin @ smoking comments DH gave up (again) 7 days ago. Reckons he's now over the worst but scoffing mini cheddars like there's no tomorrow...

I think we brit girls can look stylish and chic with just a little attention to detail. I've never had my colours done cos I kind of think that I know what suits. I stick to Navy, blues, beiges and tan which all work well for me. I do wear some black, just not next to my face. My staples are fitted cashmere sweaters, slim fit trousers and jeans, dark tunics or dresses with opaques. I use belts or scarves to add interest. My nails are short and either painted clear or a pretty neutral shade. I wear a splash of chanel no 5. I have also had my hair cut into a style that suits my hair type rather than trying to force it into a style it does not want to be in - if that makes sense.

jennywren7750 Sun 22-Apr-12 16:30:00

I see that I have stumbled across this thread rather late (the last post seems to have been in February!!). Nevertheless, I can't resist adding my penn'orth of wisdom as a woman who has lived (and is still living) all my adult life in France.

Don't under-estimate British chic. The French certainly don't! Magazines like Elle and Marie-Claire often devote pages to help their French readers achieve "le style britannique". Having said that, I endorse what other posters have said, it is impossible to be elegant without good grooming. Take care of your skin, hair, nails, and be prepared to make friends with your local cobbler and dry-cleaner. A good haircut, is, as others have said, essential. I have a plunging bob (short at the nape, but plunging at the front to chin-length). It's a cinch to maintain between my monthly visits to the hairdresser.

Contrary to some posters, I definitely believe in a capsular wardrobe and a careful choice of good accessories. Well chosen jewellery (gold or silver if possible, but worn discretely), even with the most casual of outfits. One simple outfit that has brought me countless compliments from French friends is a good pair of jeans, worn with a simple black scoop-necked T-shirt, a well-maintained black blazer, a Hermès silk square, and black patent pumps. Less is DEFINITELY more for the chic French look, but be prepared to buy the best skin products you can, use them conscientiously, then use natural make-up to let the results of your hard work show through. Finally, develop a signature perfume. For me, Guerlain have a great range of intemporal ones to choose from. I wear L'Heure Bleue, which dates to 1912!! How many other perfumes do you know that will stand the test of time like that, and still get you compliments? Good luck, but above all relax and enjoy developing your personal style!

jennywren7750 Sun 22-Apr-12 16:45:00

I forgot to say in my post above that French women, just like most of us, are addicted to M & S for quality basics. BUT they accessorize them brilliantly. Good shoes, handbags, high-quality silk squares, and impeccable grooming. Relax, much of it is common sense, achieving this je ne sais quoi!! Enjoy!! :-)

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