With summer approaching, it is time to change your winter coats for summer shorts. If you are interested in fashion, it is the perfect getaway to learn French. Kill two birds with one stone, right? The Parisian style is iconic and famous for its simple, yet chic and elegant aesthetic. Both men and women want to encapsulate this style. Besides, if you are planning for a trip to Paris for this summer, you don’t want to stand out like a tourist as it may put you in danger from scammers and pick-pockets. In this article, you will learn both the French words for different types of clothes and accessories, and how to dress the Parisian way.
The French Touch
French celebrities, from Jane Birkin to Jeanne Damas, are famous for their timeless styles. Afterall, Paris is the hub for the fashion industry, with streets lined up with several fashion houses (maisons de mode). To understand this multifaceted phenomenon, you can just watch fashionistas walk down the street with their espadrilles and ballet flats. They are far from your stereotypical béret and red lip it-girls eating a croissant in a cafe. The true Parisian woman is practical and does not follow fast-dying trends. Instead, her wardrobe is composed of timeless good quality basics that last for a long time and can be easily mixed to give the effortless vibe. If you want to nail the Parisian look, below are 10 basics that you will need in your wardrobe.
1. The white shirt
La (The) chemise (shirt) blanche (white).
Note: While white is “blanc” in French, it finishes in (che) as the color is linked to the feminine noun “chemise”. Therefore, blanc is changed to blanche.
The white shirt is often made from cotton (le cotton) or linen (le lin). It is indispensable in the French wardrobe, both for men and women. It can be coupled with jeans, shorts, trousers, or even over dresses if it’s chilly at night. The French especially love a boxy or oversized white shirt, as it brings a touch of masculinity in their wardrobe. This makes their outfit effortlessly chic. The fabric being in cotton or linen also makes it light and breezy, perfect for the hot summer weather. However, the white shirt can also be used in winter outfits, paired with thicker trousers and a woolen coat.
2. Ballet flats
Des ballerines (ballet flats)
Note: Ballerine is a female ballet dancer from which their pointe shoes inspired the ballerina flats. “Ballerines” is a feminin noun.
French people love being practical and comfortable in their shoes. You will hardly see a French woman walking in 10 inc high heels (chaussures à talons) on the cobblestone pavements in Paris. Everyone is busy rushing to their destination and high heels are not sensible shoes. The iconic Chanel ballet flats are famous for their beige and black toe design. However, these flats come in various colors, from neutrals to red or blue. You can use the ballet flats to elongate your legs if they are in your skin-tone color or add a touch of color to your outfit.
3. Stripy top
Une (A) marinière (stripy top)
Note: “Marinière” comes from the word “marin” which means sailor.
Inspired from the nautical style, the horizontal striped tops are a classic staple in a Parisian wardrobe. It perfectly represents the French style as both men and women wear those tops, spanning across all generations. The stripy top is worn in everyday life, providing a casual chic vibe to their outfit. They usually come in white (blanc) and black (noir) or white (blanc) and navy blue (bleu marine). Based on your mood, you can match this staple top in various styles, from classic to even rock.
4. Small crossbody bag
Un (A) petit (small) sac (bag) à chaîne (crossbody/chain).
Note: Crossbody bag can also be called “bandoulière” in French. “Sac” is a masculine noun, therefore “petit” adjective remains masculine.
The Parisian woman prefers to have nothing in her hands when she is strolling down the street. Her favorite bag is a small crossbody bag where she can store her essentials: phone (téléphone), wallet (porte monnaie), lipstick (rouge à lèvres) and sunglasses (lunettes de soleil). The small crossbody bag is also a functional piece for her outfit as it prevents thieves from snatching the bag out of her hands. While it doesn’t need to be a designer bag, a minimalist aesthetic is preferred to maintain the effortless look.
Un (A) foulard (scarf).
Note: Silk scarves are called "foulard (scarves) en soie (silk).
Scarves are a famous classic accessory for the French women, especially the famous squared scarf from Hermès. However, even a cheaper scarf from your local thrift shop would do the trick. Look for a good quality material with colorful prints to add an elegant touch to your outfit. There are several types of ways that you can tie a scarf: around your neck, on your bag, around a hat, around your wrist or in your ponytail!
6. Straight blue jeans
Un (A) jean (jeans) bleu (blue) droit (straight).
Note: Jean in French has the same pronounciation as Jeans in English.
The Parisian style is often represented with floral dresses, but it is not very practical for riding a bike, which is one of the most common ways of travelling in Paris. However, it's not the skinny jeans or jegging that have been trending the past few years. One well-known example of the straight blue jeans are the Levi's 501. These jeans can be paired with any tops from florals (à fleures) to the white shirt (la chemise blanche).
Note: Both the spelling and pronounciation are the same in French and English.
These shoes are essentials for the Parisian woman in summer. They are specially a favorite as they tick a lot of boxes at once. Comfortable? Check. Elongating? Check. Classic? Check. The origin of the espadrilles is quite controversial, some stating from France or Spain. The famous espadrilles from Castaner have kicked off the trend but these wedged heels are a staple that will not go out of style soon. They will even help you run down the stairs to catch the métro without stumbling!
8. Basket bags
Un (A) petit (small) sac (bag) panier (basket).
Note: Do not confuse "sac panier" with "panier". The first is a basket bag whereas the second is the plastic basket that you use in supermarkets.
Who does not know the Parisian summer style without a basket bag? No one! These basket bags can even transition to fall (automne) or winter (hiver) if you style them correctly. The famous designer Céline never leaves her house without her basket bag, no matter if it's raining or snowiing. You can find all different designs in markets or on holiday for less than 30 euros. While it is now trending, the basket bag will remain a timeless practical piece in your wardrobe.
9. Minimalist jewelry
Des bijoux (jewelries) minimalistes (minimalists).
*Note: Un bijou, des bijoux. An "x" is added for the plural instead of an "s" as it is an exception to the rule. Other words that are part of the exception are: caillou (pebble), chou (cabbage), genou (knee), hibou (owl), joujou (toy), pou (lice). *
French people love adding small touches to elevate their style, giving them an effortless look instead of becoming a walking jewelry store. Minimalist jewelry metals can also be mixed match to provide different looks for every day wear. You can easily find simple necklaces (colliers), bracelets (bracelets), créoles (hoops), or rings (bagues) that do not break the bank.
10. Oversized sunglasses
Des lunettes de soleil (sunglasses) oversize.
Note: Sunglasses are called "lunettes de soleil" as "soleil" means sun. In contrast, normal reading glasses are called "lunettes".
Wearing oversized sunglasses has not been considered too trendy the last few years due to the mini sunglasses that models would wear. However, those XXL sunglasses are practical as they protect your whole eye region from harmful UV rays. A pair of polarized sunglasses would be even better for your eyesight during the bright sunny days.
Improving your French vocabulary
Now that you have learnt some new words, why stop in your tracks after reading this blog! One simple way to keep improving your French is to watch Youtube videos or listen to podcasts. These will make your learning process smoother as they are fun and entertaining.
Besides, if you want to change your style to Parisian chic, there are plenty of French Youtubers that give great tips without breaking the bank! So, have fun, watch the videos, improve your French pronounciation and morph into the sophisticated and effortless French style!