Accentuate your good points: So much of American make-up is about altering your face (making your eyes look bigger, your lips look fuller, your eyelashes look longer, etc), and after seeing loads of French women with almost invisible make-up, they are much more about accenting what is already there (This isn't necessarily a negative reflection about American make-up, just an observation from someone who has spend a lot of time following fashion bloggers and beautiful American women on instagram and blogs. So many American women are gorgeous wearing makeup, I am just starting to prefer a very small amount on myself). The French typically prefer an invisible layer of foundation to smooth things out, some lipstick, and a bit of mascara. Seriously. At first I wondered if that was normal, but after seeing hundreds of women in Lyon and Paris without eyeliner and eye shadow, I can honestly say, it definitely is. Young and old, pretty or not, very few women wear more make-up than this. You will certainly see some girls with lots of make-up, but that is the exception, not the rule. It has made me re-evaluate the amount of make-up that I wear, and really made me want to wear less.
A tan trench coat is always chic. It's a classic look that's feminine and great for rain, wind or just a chilly day. I saw dozens of these in Paris. Lyon has been much warmer, because it is further south, but I have seen a few of them here too. They are always a good idea. Adam asked me the other day if I could have an unlimited budget to buy just one item of clothing, what would it be? Easy. I would get a Burberry trench in tan. It will be stylish forever.
Wear comfortable shoes: French women do a lot of walking. Living in a big city in France involves a lot of walking. And lots of streets in older parts of the city have cobblestones, which are practically impossible to navigate in heels. A few days ago, I was in Vieux Lyon (the older part of the city with cobblestone streets), and saw a young woman wearing 4" stiletto heels. They were lovely shoes, but she looked a intensely wobbly and not too comfortable trying to navigate the streets in them. I was a bit worried she was going to break and ankle. You may not live in a city with cobblestone streets, but your feet just might thank you for wearing comfortable shoes. This doesn't mean you have to invest in a pair of orthopedic shoes, just wear the right shoes for the right occasion. I am starting to realize that I don't need 40 pairs of heels in my closet, because, as a mom, I'm just not out using them every day. Something darling and slightly more sensible is the way to go.
Get comfortable in your own skin: Last weekend we spend some time on the beach in a little town along the Mediterranean coast. I was surprised by the obvious level of comfort that women had with their bodies. In some cases they demonstrated a little more comfort that was comfortable for me(...), but I was impressed by how much they didn't seem to care about what others thought about their bodies. They embrace them and love them just the way they are. After years of feeling rather uncomfortable in a swimsuit, it was refreshing to see a beach full of people who were just happy to be on the beach and not constantly adjusting their swim suits and sucking in their gut to look skinnier. That is me, every time I go to the pool/beach. Next time, I hope I can take a leaf out of their book and love my body just the way it is.
Like any article or blog post about a culture, these observations are absolutely a generalization. Not every French woman and girl is like this. But it has been an interesting and enlightening study to see many lovely women find a way to be elegant and comfortable in their own skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are daily changing my paradigm about fashion, style and what it means to be a chic woman.
*As a side note, these are all photos that I took of fashionable but ordinary French women that I saw on the streets in Lyon. Aren't they lovely? Also, they were taken with my cell phone, so some of them are a little fuzzy. I was a slightly stalkerish in taking them, because I am afraid of speaking in French, and the awkwardness of asking that of a complete stranger, so I made sure you couldn't see any of their faces full on.