First things first: I’m not trying to write another “How To Dress Like a French Girl” manual here.
There are dozens of books and articles on that topic already, and frankly, there isn’t one standard uniform of what a French girl dresses like. But what I can tell you is that—as with skincare—French women have had the upper hand for years, benefitting from some of the best minds in fashion with attention to detail that is unparalleled. You don’t have to wear head to toe designer to be chic, and you certainly do not need to wear skinny jeans and ballerina flats to fit into some stereotypical French girl trope.
Pas de tout.
Normally, most French women won’t actually exactly tell you where they got their clothes (you might hear, “I can’t remember” or “I got it at this cute vintage store on Rue de Bac”). In a very un-French girl fashion, I’m going to share my own cache of favorite French clothing brands.I don’t know what it is about French-designed ready-to-wear, but these brands just get it right, from silhouettes to fabrics, to small details like knit pattern and decorative buttons. If you love clothing, you might fall in love with these brands in an instant. Hold on to your wallets, ladies…and don’t say I didn’t warn you!
I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve turned on to Sezàne, even though I honestly would keep this brand all to myself if I could. Founded by Morgane Sezalory, this Parisian-based brand makes some of the most beautiful clothing I’ve ever seen, at price points that are justified by the quality of the goods. I personally love their stylish yet not uber-trendy dresses and cozy, uniquely-designed knits. Dresses run from $125-300 USD, sweaters run $100-150 USD, boots run $300-400 USD, and tops go from $95-160 USD. They tend to use cotton, linen, viscose, and silk often, and they typically carry a limited run of items in order not to overproduce. They focus on sustainability and philanthropy, which you can read more about here.
During the summer, I bought a couple of gorgeous sun dresses and a handful of lightweight tops that I can wear throughout the year here in Los Angeles. This fall/winter, I’ve got my eye on another few dresses and at least three sweaters and a pair of boots (even though I don’t really have anywhere to wear these clothes at the moment), but haven’t pulled the trigger on anything just yet. Pro Tip: Their sizing varies depending on the item and they leave a note on the item description on how you should pick your size and if it runs small/large, and they carry from US sizes 0-14, which is pretty amazing for a French brand.
Everyone has seen a version of the Saint James Breton stripe shirt somewhere—in fact, my first version of this shirt was a stretchy t-shirt I picked up at H&M. But my husband rightly noted that my precious striped shirt was going to wear out quickly and he introduced me to the brand Saint James (Sahn-Zham, if you want to pronounce it the French way). This historic brand is named for the village of Saint James, established in the 11th century on the Mont-St-Michel Bay. The sheep that were bred in the area provided the ideal type of wool to knit sweaters and hats meant to keep fishermen warm as they worked; in the 18th century, the nautical striped sweater was born and became the uniform of the French navy. Fast forward to today, Saint James is known best for their authentic nautical knitwear, but has expanded their clothing line to other pieces (coats, pants, and more) that still take their inspiration from the maritime aesthetic.
Full disclosure, I bought my Saint James shirts in France, where they are a bit less expensive than they are in the USA (about 59€ versus $105 USD). But the quality is insanely good; my husband and his dad both have Saint James sweaters that they wear often and they still look fantastic. My Saint James shirts, the original Meridien Moderne, are quite thick and can keep me warm on cooler days here in LA and they still look as good as the day I bought them several years ago. If you’re searching for a lighter weight style, the Minquiers Moderne is made of a softer cotton but has a similar shape and assortment of color ways.
Shop www.saint-james.com/us/, free shipping in the US for orders over $79.
This boutique is based in Toulouse, and I discovered it randomly after catching a glimpse of founder Margaux’s Instagram account. Her outfits were so cute, I had to find out where the pieces were from! She’s a fan of Sezàne, so naturally, her shop’s aesthetic leans in that direction (but the price points are notably less). I’m a bit obsessed with dresses at the moment, so it’s their collection of dresses that drew me in. They carry a lot of floral prints and broderie, in styles that are on trend yet somehow timeless—I can imagine wearing them for years to come. They carry up to a size FR44 (which is about a US12) and I guarantee you won’t see these pieces on a ton of people since the shop is relatively unknown outside of France. In addition to the usual dresses, tops, pants, skirts, and denim, there’s also a great selection of accessories, all at very affordable prices.
Shop at stellaetsuzie.com, International shipping available upon request.
This renowned sandal maker has been around since 1933 at 33 rue Allard in St. Tropez. Jacques Keklikian and his wife Elise—both Armenian refugees—would make strappy sandals sur mesure for neighbors and friends, evolving into what is now known as the Tropezienne style sandal. Today, K. Jacques sandals are worn by the likes of Kate Moss, Michelle Obama, Alessandra Ambrosio, Chrissy Teigan, and Angelina Jolie, and the house is helmed by Jacques’ children and grandchildren. Their line has expanded to dozens of styles from flat sandals to wedges to stacked heels, and include timeless designs that last for seasons of wear. Prices range from about $240 to $350 USD—definitely not cheap, but the craftsmanship is worth it.
Shop online at K. Jacques, Shopbop, and select Bloomingdales locations.
Disclaimer: I have not personally bought shoes from La Botte Gardiane, but this label came very highly recommended to me by a dear friend who lives in the South of France. This, like K. Jacques, started as a small family atelier with a focus on fine leather craftsmanship. Their most iconic pieces include boots meant for riding horses and running around the farm, but their line has expanded to include oxfords, sandals, ankle boots, with their most expensive model for women — a stylish cowboy-style boot — running about $600, and for men — a calf-height riding boot — about $500 USD. They also make shoes for kids, and if you’ve got a difficult-to-fit foot, they offer custom options too.
Shop online at La Botte Gardiane or find them in person at their stores in Paris, Lyon, or the atelier in Aigues-Vives.