What is it about French Women?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why do we all want to be like them?  To dress like them?  This is not a typical post for me now, but please humor me.  Since we have been here, I have been thinking a lot about French women and wondering what is it about them that is so appealing.  And so chic.  They don't wear much makeup, many of them don't wear trendy clothes, they often don't do their hair (seriously. lots of messy hair here), and yet many of them are effortlessly gorgeous and sexy.  HOW?  This is of course a generalization, but many of the lovely French women that I have seen here are beautifully ordinary. After watching dozens of women in the streets and on the Metro, I have come to a few conclusions about them:



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.


Stick with classic colors and shapes for clothing: The chicest women that I have seen here, tend to stick to basic colors of clothing.  White blouses, black or tan pants, a tan trench, a navy and white striped dress.  You know: the basics.  And they look fabulous while doing it.  You see some summer colors (pinks, yellows, florals) right now, but overall, especially for middle-aged women (40-60), the basics are always around.


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.

Get an easy haircut.  Find something that is easy to style and that looks good on you.  Perfectly coiffed hair is not a must in France.  Messy or windblown is perfectly acceptable, as long as that's what you were going for.  Having it perfectly curled or straightened is not necessarily the norm here. So, style it if you want.  If it's a good cut, it can look good au natural.  Because of this, I am chopping all my hair off when I get back to the States.  Short hair works better for me, whether or not it is currently in fashion.

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.


Don't eat on the go:  A few days ago, I mentioned to Adam that I almost never see people eating on the go.  You never see people eating food on the metro or on the street.  Or in stores.  People just wait until mealtime to eat, or they sit down somewhere.  At lunchtime,  you will see squares, parks and steps filled with people eating baguette sandwiches, or sitting down for lunch and coffee at a sidewalk cafe, but you just don't see people eating on the go.  I can see the merit in eating while multi-tasking, and sometimes it is necessary, but I keep wondering if we should slow down a little so we can really enjoy the food that we are eating.


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.





17 comments

  1. Interesting observations. When I was preparing to visit Paris, I listened to a bunch of Rick Steve's podcasts and one of them made the same observations about French women. And I totally agree with the choice of a tan Burberry trench, very chic and classic.

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    1. Shelly, I have heard great things about Rick Steve's (My mom read a ton of his books about travel when I was growing up)! I kind of want to go back and see what I missed in Lyon ;)

      And yes, if I ever win a million dollars, you can bet I will go out and buy that Burberry coat :)

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  2. Hi! I'm following your blog from Germany, never wrote a comment, but I'm reading every entry with interest.:-) Your journey and adventures in France are interesting and funny. I have never been to the US, but I visited Brasil and France a lot - so I can just compare betweeen these states and Germany. You made a really good reflection about the french girls and women - off course you will find exceptions everywhere. The french women are in a very special way allways gracile, best-dressed, etc. Their way of living is much more relaxed than in Germany, but not as relaxed as in Brasil ;-) During my time in France as a teenager I learned, that loving yourself (your body, your behaviour,...) is the basis. Based on this you learn not to worry so much about other opinions regarding yourself. That's why I only wear mascara as a daily make-up and sometimes some lip balm.
    Short hair is perfect - you never have to worry - I love it :-)
    Thanks for your reflection, that shows again how lovely the french women are and that everyone can learn from them. :-)

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  3. Hello! I'm an American currently in Toulouse. I enjoyed this post and have been following your lyonnais adventures with interest. So, when you say "a little more comfort that was comfortable for me(...)" you totally mean those women were topless, don't you?! ;) I went to the Mediterranean coast just last week with my in-laws and they were very surprised at the 'casual' nature of beach style.

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    1. Haha! Indeed... I don't feel comfortable with some string bikini's, let alone topless. But yes, there were several topless women. They did have tops, they just weren't wearing them while sunbathing. I guess you would just get used to it being here, but it was somewhat shocking to me :) I guess I should have anticipated it, but apparently I didn't! Enjoy your time in Toulouse!
      Landen

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  4. Hello! I have been following your blog for several months and absolutely love it! My husband and I spent a month over in Germany and France (we were actually only engaged and he was stationed in Germany at the time with the military). France was my absolute favorite! I still love to reminisce about the time we spent there. This post absolutely nails French woman. They are just divine! We as Americans can learn so much from the French, especially the part about slowing down and enjoying what we have in front of us! Thanks for such a great post ... and enjoy every last second of your time overseas!!! I would love for you to check out my blog ... www.afabulousfrenzy.com !

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    1. Kristie, France is so fantastic, isn't it? I love, love, love being here! It is such a beautiful country, and I really love so many things about it (The people, the cheese, the architecture, the parks, the bread... I could go on and on)!
      I am so glad you have been able to experience some of that French culture for yourself! I am sure we will look back on these seven weeks with incredible fondness! I am getting sad to leave (although we are having a heatwave in Lyon and our apartment is about 90 degrees right now, so I will be happy to get back to our AC), and we are trying to do all our favorite things one more time before we leave.
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Landen

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  5. This is one of the most beautiful posts! Everything makes sense too! :) I love the idea of being "more natural" and of course loving yourself! I think that having two little girls has made me realize how much I love them the way they are and how much I want to love myself like that! Wonderful post! Oh and can't wait to see your hair chopped!

    www.mylittlenest.org

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    1. Thanks, Ruth! The older I get, the more I wish my teenage self had come to France to learn this. Don't we all wish we could just accept and love ourselves despite our physical imperfections!

      Also, as a mother, I think you get a sense of what a beautiful person each child is, and I am sure it will be a challenge to help them see that for themselves as my little boy (and hopefully future children) grows up in a world that is constantly pointing out their imperfections.

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  6. Love this post Landen! Such a great reminder that chic style can be simple, especially when adorned with a side of confidence.

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    1. Oh yeah. And I'm definitely including this in the next newsletter I send to my blog readers. :)

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  7. Love those insights - thanks for sharing. I'll be thinking about them (trying to apply) for a long time. Now, come hommmme!

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  8. This is such a great post! There's just something about French women - they exude confidence, and live a simple but stylish life. One of my favorite books while pregnant was "Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman, and it shares a similar view of French women, moms in particular, from an American perspective. I love that they don't go with trends, it's much more about classic staples, like you said. And also, definitely need to follow the tips on being comfortable in my skin and not eating on the go!

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  10. I thought about whether that was ordinary, however subsequent to seeing many ladies in Lyon and Paris without eyeliner and eye shadow, I can genuinely say, it certainly is. Youthful and old, pretty or not, not very many ladies wear more make-up than this. You will absolutely see a few young ladies with loads of make-up, however that is the special case, not the standard. It has made me re-assess the measure of make-up that I wear, and truly made me need to wear less.

    Kathy N. Kranz

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