Fashion Flair the French Way: Lesson 1 (Find Your Style)

Find your style

So what does it take to find your style, or to change it as your circumstances evolve?

Sexy Casual Style Jeans and Leather JacketFactor in your lifestyle, and your personality. Experiment. Be playful. It’s fashion, not brain surgery!

What else?

I’d say a willingness to look at yourself honestly is a must. That’s honestly, not critically. If you’re tall, you can carry off extravagant looks. If you’re petite, not so much. Now is that so hard?

You should also recognize what you like – simplicity over complexity, a bright palette or a muted one. And whatever your age or budget, you can find options to meet those tastes.

Those whose fashion sense you admire can provide helpful clues. Often, it’s celebrities – so with a nod to their stylists, you might love the looks on Scarlett Johansson or Halle Berry.

May it’s Victoria Beckham, who can take a simple T and jeans, add heels and a wild purse, and epitomize easy chic. How sexy is that kind of simplicity?

Perhaps you prefer the earthy elegance of Helen Mirren or Susan Sarandon. Or the classics in film – style icons Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, and Grace Kelly. If so, give plenty of credit to designers Givenchy and Edith Head. Or, your style guru may be the creator of the little black dress herself – Coco Chanel.

The point of all this? The looks you love are right in front of you. See if they fit. You.

Fashionable, every day

And if you admire more than one style? Everything from minimalist and tailored to Boho (Bohemian) chic with its typically flirty mix of patterns?

Woman wearing orangeThere’s no rule book that says you can’t adopt several styles. There are two or three that work for me. Why shouldn’t I acknowledge each as a part of my personality and my lifestyle? I know who I am. what I own woman.

And that’s the essence of Lesson One: find what you like, be your own woman.

Why are French women so successful at seeming stylish every day? They know it doesn’t take a lot of pieces; it takes the right pieces. And they’re comfortable in their individuality. They know themselves, and that’s reflected in what they wear.

Now. Reality check. do give myself a break on days when there’s not an ounce of energy to deal with fashion. Work, kids, “just life” – who doesn’t have a really crappy day, or week, or month for that matter? Who doesn’t run out in any old thing when you’re in a rush, which will (of course) be the moment you careen right into a breathlessly handsome man?

And that’s one great reason to take what may be as little as five minutes for the tiniest hint of makeup, or a colorful sweater. Even on an off day, I know I feel better when I look better.

How do you find a style that’s right for you?

In addition to looking at celebrities, style icons, as well as fashion magazines and sites, here are a few more clues to what you like:

  • Check out your friends. Who has it together in a way that appeals to you? What elements seem to work for them? What is it that you like about their style?
  • Wander the department stores. Try their personal shopping services if you’re overwhelmed. They don’t necessarily cost.
  • Or, ask a sales person to help. Tell her you’re trying to redefine your style with a few simple pieces. The first time you do this, if you don’t trust yourself – leave your credit cards at home. You can always put something on hold and come back later.
  • If  you make a purchase you later regret, take it back! Don’t put a “some day, maybe” piece of clothing in your closet, or another “when I lose ten pounds” item either. (We’ve all done it.)

Another indicator?

Turn to your interiors as a guide. We often surround ourselves with furnishings that mirror our taste in clothing. And if you’re still raising little ones, think of this as your “desired” interiors, rather than the toy-strewn sofas from your grad school days. The objects and colors you live with – or wish to – are clues to your wardrobe style, and may translate into classic and clean, geek chic, Bohemian flirty, fitted and sexy, or frilly and floral. Maybe it’s a mix, as in the example above from the Neiman Marcus site.

Accept your body type

Accept your body type. Right. What woman doesn’t struggle with that one?

Health comes first. And a healthy diet and exercise will impact how you feel, how you relate to people, the glow of your skin, the luster in your hair – not to mention your brain power and mood.

Helen Mirren 2010We’re all pressured to look a certain way, and often bemoan our natural assets, without appreciating the beauty of our own bodies. If you genuinely believe you’re overweight (and uncomfortable because of it), my advice is to follow a sensible diet plan that’s about improving your health, not meeting some cultural standard of dress size or number on a scale. I can honestly say that my self-image is no longer a function of how much I weigh. But it has everything to do with the fit of my clothes and the energy in my step.

Feeling good about your body type (and dressing the part) also requires understanding

  • issues of body shape and proportion
  • dressing up and dressing down
  • using essential pieces for double duty
  • how neutrals allow you to vary your look easily
  • colors you love, colors to enhance you.

When I say accept your body type, I mean acknowledging the basics like height and build. You may be tall, short, broad shouldered, pear shaped, and so on. You can learn to flatter any body type, and play up other assets as well – a gorgeous neck, beautiful legs, your smile.

I’m petite, and rather amply endowed. So I’ve learned to elongate, and wear nothing fussy around the neck or shoulders. I no longer fight my body type; I’ve learned to work with it and appreciate it. This guide is a fun stop to all things “body shape” and how to bring out the best in each.

As for more on essential pieces and colors? Stay tuned.

But next – this is fashion chic the French way, after all – Lesson Two – la semaine prochaine… The power of perfume.

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