Bluff your way in French fashion ... buy a scarf
Journalist Samantha Wydymus, who runs a table d’hôte in Olliergues (63), reveals the great secret to that most French of tricks – effortless style
There is much we can do to integrate ourselves into the French way of life.
Become fluent in the language, own a right-hand drive car, become best friends with the mayor – but, as hard as we try, we are just the wrong shape to look French. Our tops are too wide, our behinds too flat and our legs and arms too long. No amount of diets or trips to the gym will change that. We’re not built to squeeze into French fitting rooms, let alone garments.
Shoes are too small or ridiculously too wide. Long trousers look badly cropped on our gangly legs. Mid-length skirts act as belts and long dresses barely hide our knees. Shirt sleeves stop on the elbow rather than the cuff – and don’t get me started on underwear.
Finding elegant, chic and ‘oh-so French’ clobber in a British size isn’t easy. Yes, UK retailers ship to France and you can always have an M&S binge on your next trip home. The problem is, without guidance, you risk looking more Milton Keynes than Menton.
Luckily, French style is an effortless mix of hard work and attention to detail. The French do not trust fashion fads so rarely stray from their classic wardrobe. Once you’ve found your inner French style, stick with it and claim timeless elegance. Unlike the rest of the world, the French expect and encourage you to wear the same thing twice, if not forever.
Ignore the London fashionistas with their washed-out blue and ripped jeans. Side with the Parisian preference for denim in dark indigo, immaculately ironed and hole-free. For everything else, plump for black or, if you fancy yourself a trend setter, navy.
Fabric and cut is vital. The French are taught from birth to distinguish alpaca from angora, so make sure your cardi is up to the touch test. Go for a tailored look and avoid anything that says ‘boyfriend’. Spend a bit more on a piece that won’t droop at the hem or give at the seam should you indulge in the odd macaron.
If all else fails, one item will instantly increase your ‘Frenchness’. Summer, winter, patterned or plain; you can’t go wrong with a scarf – just make sure you know how to tie it.