From fabulous food and fine wine to elegant fragrances and amazing clothes, the French have long been known for their decadent luxuries. Champagne was invented here, as was haute couture. Then there’s the chocolate, paintings, and dare I say it? Kisses. Small wonder exports and tourism are staples of the French economy.
So with easy access to some of the world’s most desirable goods, you’d think every French woman would have a big waistline and a huge closet. But they don’t. Just as “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” (according to author Mireille Guiliano), chic Parisiennes don’t have closets full of clothes. They don’t need them.
The secret is moderation.
Paris was first settled as a fishing village more than two thousand years ago. While it’s been burned, rebuilt, invaded, and occupied many times since then, the core of the city is still hundreds of years old. The roads are narrow, the buildings are old, the apartments are small. So are the closets and bathrooms. Full size refrigerators are scarce and weekly food shopping trips are unheard of. Where would you put a week’s worth of groceries? For that matter, where would you store a season’s worth of clothes?
You’d keep a small inventory of staples and add new things with care. If you buy something new, something old has to go. There just isn’t space for both.
So how can French women be so chic when they can’t buy new things all the time?
1. Learn what styles look good on them (and which don’t) early on
2. Buy a handful of good quality, neutral-colored staples that they can mix and match with each other for maximum wear
3. Add one or two new trendy pieces each season and wear them out
4. Invest in high quality everyday bags and shoes
5. Have one or two high end scarves or other accessories that they wear all the time
6. Get a facial every month to keep their skin looking good
7. Maintain a fuss-free hairstyle
8. Pay cash for everything
The French, like the Germans, have a history of saving and are adverse to personal debt. To stay in budget, they don’t do a lot of impulse buying, and they indulge in their local luxuries very little or in moderation. Why buy a dozen handbags in different shapes and colors when one in a neutral, basic shape does the trick?
What? Too boring, you say? Not enough variety?
All it takes is a little imagination.
Start with basic pieces that look good on you. Find tops that fit, jackets that flatter, and pants and skirts that feel and look good.
Then study the latest fashion magazines and websites to see the latest trends. Try to re-create or simply evoke the look with pieces you ALREADY HAVE in your closet. You may just need a new jacket or some updated pants to look current. Or, maybe a new, trendy accessory can breathe new life into your old favorites. You don’t have to follow every trend. Learn which styles look best on you and just update them as the seasons pass. Or, pass them by if they don’t flatter.
This simple mantra is how the French look chic AND still manage to live within their budgets and with their miniscule closets. You can too. You don’t have to have a big budget or a lot of clothes to dress well. All it takes is a little practice and creativity. Learn what styles look good on you, choose your pieces wisely, and wear them in many different ways until they wear out.
Or, in the words of designer Jil Sander, “Think more, buy less.”
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at http://www.WardrobeMagic.com