The Edit: Effortless Parisian Chic Isn't As Hard To Achieve As It Looks

3 years ago | The Edit

Image: Yes to everything about this. Charlotte Gainsbourg being effortlessly stylish. Image source.

I'm from Dunedin, one of the southernmost cities in New Zealand. Dunedin is actually well-regarded for being a creative hub. Some speculate that places with dismal weather produce the most creative output, because there is literally nothing else to do except for hunker down inside and make stuff. Dunedin is certainly case-in-point of this: for a population of 100,000, the city has produced the ‘Dunedin Sound’, championed internationally by bands like The Chills and The Clean, and NOM*d, one of New Zealand’s most revered fashion designers. However, the well-heeled part of a city is merely the tip of the iceberg. Enter one period in my high school years when, perhaps as a very distant off-shoot of the Juicy Couture trend, one particular kind of expensive grey marle tracksuit pants became The Must Have Item, or when, in around 2002, Just Jeans in Dunedin received its shipment of Levi’s triple-x flares, and they sold out immediately (I used the phone in the student office to make my mum leave work to go and buy me a pair). 

All of which is to say, regardless of how creative a city is, or how fashionable the most fashionable people in a city are, the rest of us fall somewhere outside of this, usually because we genuinely don’t care, or because we’re too lazy (me) to care.

There is one place, however, where it seems like laziness and style go hand in hand, where every single member of the population, from toddlers, to teens, to the elderly, stalk (yes, stalk) the streets in a universal, constant state of effortless chic. This place is France, these people are annoying, and I want to be one of them.

Which led me to ask the question, 'why are French people so stylish?', while also decrying the fact they eat all of the bread and all of the cheese and look incredible, while I also eat all of the bread and all of the cheese but do not look incredible. Firstly, France is steeped in haute couture. Marie Antoinette essentially invented couture through working with Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin, who is considered to be the first celebrated French fashion designer. Together, Marie Antoinette and Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin obsessed over dress details and Antoinette’s wardrobe more generally, and Marie Antoinette’s style preferences – big hair and bigger gowns – became synonymous with the excess of the court of Louis XVI, and fell out of favour after the French Revolution. France’s predilection for couture and for defining politics and society through dress continued into the 20th Century: Coco Chanel modernised, some would even say liberated, women’s wardrobes with utilitarian jersey suits (for starters), Christian Dior re-feminised the female silhouette in the ‘50s with his New Look, and Yves Saint Laurent essentially subverted traditional notions of female sexiness by imbuing his clothing for women with masculine tailoring, most notably in Le Smoking jacket, which is still renowned today.

Perhaps unlike any other country then, style, and imbuing style with meaning, is part of the fabric (sorry not sorry) of French culture. Today, the items synonymous with the classic French wardrobe speak to the idea of intellectualism in fashion, as much as they do to the combination of these inimitable, and quintessentially French, moments in the history of fashion. I think, perhaps, this is also why the French wardrobe feels so effortlessly stylish: it naturally evokes the most stylish moments in history. What’s more wonderful still about the French wardrobe, is that it’s simple, utilitiarian, and achievable for everyone. Thus, in my quest to be both stylish and lazy, I have detailed the pieces on Well Made Clothes I feel best reflect the crucial pieces of the French wardrobe.

1. The Breton t-shirt. First invented for the French navy, the Breton t-shirt is the be all and end all of ‘throw it on’ elegance. This one's the Building Block Boat Neck Tee in Navy and White Stripe:

2. The blue jean. Francoise Hardy, that is all. The Cult Skinny in Original, are the most comfortable jeans I have ever worn:

3. The black jacket. Le Smoking all day every day. How about this blazer, which is also made from wool, which makes it perfect for this time of year:

4. The black dress. Coco Chanel invented it, so it's a necessary piece of everyone's wardrobe, right? (Also, work to after-work drinks game: strong). I am obsessed with this transeasonal one because flared sleeves are the best:

5. The white shirt: This item of clothing is an integral part of the changing nature of social class systems, and as a result makes it an important part of the French wardrobe and the idea that social progress and fashion progress are intertwined and interdependent. For this, simple is best, like this one:

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