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“There are secrets to looking stylish 24/7” The three items every French woman relies on

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Audrey Diwan

Editor at Large of Stylist France, Audrey Diwan, reveals the secret to becoming a little more French.

Shop the staples of a French woman's wardrobe

Organisation has never been my strong point. I still own a paper diary. I scribble in it what I need to do over the next few days. Then I lose it and my schedule becomes an impressionist painting of what it was. Deep down, I think I deliberately cause confusion so that life has the best chance of surprising me.

In France, I’m not the only person who does this; French women have a tendency to play with these romantic notions. But given we have a reputation for looking stylish 24/7, how do you dress when you don’t know how that day is going to pan out?

Here are three items we swear by.

1. Dad shoes

These are flat shoes, such as the classic JM Westons (a French brand that has been around since 1891). For a long time, I gazed enviously at the men who wore them, while I obeyed the high heel dictatorship. And then, in the Noughties, the idea of elegance for French women underwent an evolution and concluded that there is nothing more chic than a woman who knows how to dress for herself, without giving into the pressure to wear heels. From Charlotte Gainsbourg to my stylish friend Caroline de Maigret, there are numerous examples to back up this principle. Notably, they walk the red carpets with the same confidence as their male counterparts. To prepare yourself for the unpredictable, you must feel comfortable from dusk till dawn.  

2. An all-purpose bag

From the outside, it’s big, strong, stylish and attractive, if a little flashy. It is so perfect, no-one questions what it contains. And that is exactly the intention. Because, behind its overnight bag appearance, a suitcase is hiding. From the Hermès Kelly to the 24 Heures bag by Gerard Darel, there are numerous French bags that you wouldn’t suspect contained so much. And yet, these vast bags allow French women to travel from one appointment to another without ever letting our secret slip. In my bag, I stash a large pair of earrings, which can upgrade the simplest of outfits; a scarf, for when the temperature drops; and a small make-up bag containing a travel toothbrush. Because you never know where you might end up that night. This leads me to my last point…

3. A plain top

I have no illicit lovers but lots of girlfriends. And it’s possible that as the night draws on, I might end up staying over at one of their places. You must always think about the next day. If, on the rare occasion, you have to head straight back out again, there is one rule you must remember: wear a plain top. A dark coloured, ordinary top that you can hide under a beautiful jacket. This top’s most important quality is that if you have to wear it for one more day, no-one will remember seeing it the day before. That is the one thing I do manage to be organised about.

Read more: How to dress like a French woman

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