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French fashion? Mais oui!

December 3, 2009

Travel and Leisure is one of my favorite magazines. Maybe it’s because I don’t get to travel all that often, except to places like Disney World (I do have three children, after all). But reading about fabulous, exotic locations in that glossy magazine soothes a bit of my travel bug.

The July issue featured the World’s Best Awards – resorts, lodges and hotels that simply define luxury. A gorgeous shot of Domaine Des Hauts De Loire in France (World’s Best Inn) immediately captured my attention. Soaring ceilings, detailed mouldings, spectacular carved mantles and furnished with a traditional French je ne said quoi

I was in heaven and instantly envisioned myself as a guest, then quickly did a double take. My vision was of myself gliding (10 pounds thinner) through the magnificent space, perhaps having a cup of tea snuggled close to the blazing hearth… wearing denim capris and a tank. Hmmm…maybe not. A gorgeous, elegant space like this calls for extra special wardrobe — a French wardrobe.

Now, I have never been to France. However, my husband grew up in Switzerland, so he spent quite a lot of time there. He also has a great “eye,” so last night we discussed at length how much better dressed Europeans are than Americans in general. We agreed — French women have a certain air about them, a confidence to pull off ensembles that would look distinctly out of place in your average American suburban shopping mall.

So, to revamp my Domaine Des hauts De Loire fantasy, how do I achieve French chic without resorting to the vintage Belle Epoque styles recently sported by Michele Pfieffer in Cheri?

My rules for fabulous style with a decidedly French finesse:

Black. A great unifier and oh-so-sophisticated. Europeans wear black in every season. Even a relatively inexpensive outfit looks better in black.

Legs. American women are so programmed to wear jeans or pants, we forget the incredible allure of a swinging hem and glimpse (or more!) of toned leg.

Shoes. I don’t mean sneakers, flip flops, or (heaven forbid!) Crocs. I mean shoes. Real ones made of leather, preferably with a bit of a heel (although embellished ballet flats or high boots are also acceptable).

Good bags. Bags don’t necessarily have to be designer. Great lines are crucial. Also, size matters! Nothing looks worse than a woman with a tiny bag and the some huge, hideous, canvas freebie tote with a slogan emblazoned on it. Go for a larger bag or carry less stuff.

Body conscious designs. Belt it. Cinch it. We all know that French women are notoriously thin. But you can enhance your own silhouette with form fitting designs that create the illusion.

Personality. Hard to define, but easy to spot. Create a signature look. A scarf in the hair, masses ropes of chains/pearls, a hat. Choosing to dress with flair requires a certain degree confidence.

People will stare – and that’s okay – because tomorrow they will copy your look.

Susan McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and social activist. In addition to Susan Said What?! Susan also writes for Style on a WHIM, It’s how you play the game!, and Success Won’t Wait!


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