Dress like a Parisian woman

Wednesday, November 15th 2023
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Among the many pocket-sized books on women’s style, dressing like a Parisian is a popular category. Many, it seems, find the idea of the Parisian woman who dresses fashionably but not fussily, in a way that is simple but chic, appealing.

I was skimming one of these recently (in the wonderful Gower St branch of Waterstone’s) when it struck me how similar the philosophy is to Permanent Style. Not just the aspiration to timeless style, but the attitude of investing in versatile clothing. 

So I bought what looked like a good example of the genre (Dress Like a Parisian by Alois Guinut) and have been making notes in the margin ever since. 

The approach is remarkably similar. As Guinut (above) puts it, "the words that come to mind when you think of Parisian style [are] effortless, chic, understated" and "our obsession with perfect basics may make us look alike…but for La Parisienne singularity is all in the details."

The same goes for the attitude to fashion: “La Parisienne doesn’t take fashion too seriously and trends do not really matter to her...Yet she may follow fashions when they please her and, as long as she likes them, doesn’t care about wearing the same.” Rather similar to ‘How I filter fashions’. 

It's nice having your approach endorsed by someone from a different world - in the same way it would be if someone from a different culture admired it, for example. But more significant is that it can really refresh your perspective on that style and how you think about it. 

For example, in the introduction Guinut writes something that could have come straight from Permanent Style: "What I will share with you in this book are not 'rules' but guidelines…style recipes that you can choose to follow or break away from".

But then she makes a point I've never quite managed to put into words: "You could think of this book as being like a cookbook of French cuisine. [And] as with all great cookbooks, I will give you easy recipes as well as more advanced ones."

It's a useful metaphor. I often struggle to express to readers how some looks are more complex, and therefore harder to achieve, but that this doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse. Much of high/low dressing falls into this category, as does mixing of strong colours and patterns. 

I would usually use a term like 'advanced' dressing, but that can sound condescending or suggest there is something necessarily superior. But there isn't. Just like a simple boeuf bourguignon compared to Parisian haute cuisine, the latter requires more experience to master but that doesn't mean it's to everyone's taste, or that there isn’t a lot of subtlety in a seemingly simple dish. 

Of course much of the book is not relevant.

I know a lot more than I did before about how to flatter your legs with different shapes, soles and heel heights (so complicated!). And I know some tips on mixing shiny materials in eveningwear (lurex, sequins, glitter, metallics).

But some of the sections are more relevant than you’d imagine. The way women wear lipstick as a pop of colour, for example, has parallels with how men use accessories. Plus the Parisian approach to make up and hair in general is something I think men could learn from.

Parisian women (apparently) like a natural look, with less make-up and a simple hair style, while always having a clear understanding of what flatters them. Men that work their designer stubble into too sharp a shape could take note - but so should guys that spend no time at it whatever.

And throughout the book, there were some genuinely useful and practical points. 

For example, Guinut’s definition of a ‘neutral’ colour, as one that doesn’t conflict with any other. This could be black, navy or grey; beige or nude (“warm neutrals”); denim or even “natural leathers”.

It isn’t a concept we (or at least I) use very much - instead referring to simple versatility or to less saturation. In Guinut’s view, Parisian women should work their whole wardrobe around these neutrals. 

She also talks well about the colour wheel, highlighting the contrast created by different sides of the wheel (blue with orange, yellow with purple) but then - more usefully for menswear - the role of neighbouring colours. So green and blue, red and orange. 

Often it can be hard to communicate to readers which colours ‘harmonise’ with each other when picking ties or handkerchiefs. Without such an understanding they're often reduced to picking an identical colour from elsewhere in the outfit. This discussion of neighbouring colours - along with how pastels work together, or monochrome and camaieu - creates a nice structure for thinking about it. 

It’s the kind of colour combination we admired in King Charles recently. 

Still, the biggest thing throughout the book, is the reinforcement of principles we talk about on PS, put in different and refreshing ways. For example:

  • Showing a white T-shirt under a crewneck: “Use white as a highlighter. Layering a white T-shirt or shirt underneath something is a great way to make colour easier to wear and add lightness.”
  • That style can be something your’re born with, or that you can learn: “La Parisienne would say she doesn’t care much about rules, that she is a free spirit. Truth is, they may be so ingrained in her DNA that she doesn’t realise she is following them.”
  • The difference between more rural and urban colours: “Silver, greys and blues will give a cool, urban look.”
  • That black can easily look cheap: “If you feel black is too harsh for you, replace it with navy blue, its more polished, bourgeois brother. Unlike black, navy matches almost every other colour.” 

I like the use of the term ‘bourgeois’ in that description. One thing classic menswear can be, by not following youth trends and being more conventional, is bourgeois. It’s something to be aware of and perhaps push against, but in some ways this is a better term than ‘fuddy duddy’ or old-fashioned.

The same goes for the way Guinut uses words like ‘cool’ and ‘sexy’, which menswear writers shy away from. Pushing back sleeves, for example, is for her just cool - which is the opposite of fussy. 

Do Parisian women actually dress like this? Speaking to a few friends, in the sense that there is some tendency there that they recognise, the answer is yes. But it doesn’t really matter - the important thing is how interesting or useful the ideas are, rather than who is actually following them.

I found the book refreshing - much more so than reading another menswear guide, which will always tend to use the same phrases, the same references, the same ‘icons’. 

That doesn’t mean readers should necessarily go out and buy this book, because some of the information will be irrelevant. But it's a good presentation of the argument for learning from womenswear, and for seeking other perspectives in general. Perhaps those that have a stylish partner could start by sneaking a look at their bookshelf.

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I’m so pleased you mentioned the repetitive “icons”; they’re pushed to the point that one almost wants to be contrary and find holes in their style.
It’s also a huge shame as it gives a very narrow view on the options available to men, especially as few of any of these icons which I can think of, are larger men.


I think classic menswear still does ok with having some diversity; Ethan Newton obviously, and Flusser (and if you move beyond the most often published ones, Tony Sylvester) are all on the larger side. And of course there’s a fair representation of older men, and on the other side of the spectrum there’s Ethan Wong who is slightly built and young-looking.

Not perfect, but there’s some variety.


Don’t disagree – I was interpreting “icons” more as Steve McQueen etc.


Great article,
Its interesting to see how more “sexy” women look when it looks like they didn’t really care about how they dress put just put it on. Even if in reality they thought very much about it. Its a lessons for us to not look like we “try to hard”. The most attractive looks are the last one and the girl sitting down with jeans and navy knitwear.


Hi Simon,

Thanks for the post. I quite enjoyed the slight tangent and different approach to the usual topics, as it adds a refresh to the blog.
Regarding whether women dress like that, living in Paris for a bit than 1 year now I can affirm that it is the case. Obviously not everyone, and mostly women who (apparently) has a bit more income and work in a coherent industry (e.g. engineering would be less common) but in the workplace I have (with many people in marketing and sales) the women do like what you described (and really well if I may say at the risk of sounding innapropriate)


I would add that the age old practice of innocent flirting lives well here today. We like it if paid a compliment on how we look/dress etc and also I think it a bit strange that in London such innocent flirting would be seen as harassing. Very sad.


I live in Jersey, and so we have a lot of French visitors, being a short boat trip from St Malo.
So, I would like to highlight my observations on the French rather than purely female Parisians and a lot are yachtspeople and so may be older and more affluent.
You can spot the French a kilometre away.
They are relatively thin, making them elegant, no unsightly bulges, they rarely go out in the middle, no middle-aged spread whatsoever with 50-60 year olds.
Big logos do not exist, even on yacht gear, they would rather get wet than have a manufacturers name emblazoned across their chest.
They wear colour but never seemingly garish.
Limited, if any, patterns the odd striped jumper or tee-shirt.
Rarely, jeans, normally coloured chinos, men and women.
We are not talking sartorial wear this is day trippers who are wearing practical clothing.
The simplicity is thoughtful and reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote, ‘If I Had More Time I Would Have Written A Shorter Letter.’


Hi Simon,
I don’t want to take this article off into a different realm from your intention, So, OK if you do not post this article as I am sure it will spark unpleasantness and may be divisive which is not for you to do with your followers.
A few people have commented on the attractive girls in the photos and then related them to larger men.
The reality of the situation is we all look better if we go in at the middle which is to do with weight.
The French by any metric are slimmer than we are, please look up WHO Wiki etc. etc. They are our closest neighbour, they are western, first world(ish), just culturally different.
My observations from visitors to Jersey from France are not accidents it is a visible truth and so simply look more elegant, because they do not go out in the middle.
The love of clothing, dressing up, beautiful materials, excellent workmanship are not bound by this consideration, but health is.
Attraction has always been about vibrancy, health, virility etc. which is almost universally accepted as having a smaller waist than chest and hips. Male and female.
My insurance company was concerned when my waist was 1″ bigger than my hips as it indicated carrying too much visceral fat, a health issue around comparison of waist to hip and which can be picked up visually.
It is why Huntsman, and all good tailors, cut their jackets the way they do, to accentuate the shoulders to waist and out again for hips.
This is a simple truth and is not intended to offend anyone, I am no slim jim, weighing 100kg. 38-40″ waist.
Body Fat % is a large determinant in how good we look in and out of clothes and as such is a sartorial issue.
Someone mentioned Alan Flusser, as someone who looks good. If one reads his books broad shouldered, slim waisted men abound.




I believe that I was the one who mentioned Flusser; I specifically referred to him as an example of a menswear “usual suspect” who does not meet the contemporary beauty criteria.

Otherwise, I would say that the slim waist ideal is a cultural thing. It is definitely the norm in modern western society, because it’s linked to health (and to a large extent, seen as being correlated with success and willpower, since we have easy access to an abundance of cheap, high calorie food). In cultures with food scarcity (including western Europe pre-industrialisation), having a larger waist has been seen as a sign of health and success as it means you have regular access to high-quality food. In the west, the ideal seems to have changed in the late 18th century, which is also around the time when mens clothing starts to resemble what many consider “classic menswear” (tailcoats and frock coats, combined with waistcoats and trousers).

Possibly* the increased food production facilitated by, and necessary to sustain, the industrial revolution played a part. A more efficient, steady system for production, preservation (canning was invented in 1809) and distribution of food meant that a large waist was no longer exclusive to the elites. The bourgeois, who rose in number during this period of urbanisation, could purchase and consume more food than they needed. The larger waist was no longer a sign of exclusivity but something available to the middle class**. The aristocracy began favouring an ideal of slim waists for women (the corset being used to create this effect) and a more athletic build for men.

* All of this is based on a quick google and some guy-guessing 🙂
** While this is purely anecdotal, this also seems to be a time when obesity becomes associated with poor character: larger waists being used to illustrate the up-and-comer without social pedigree, who eats more than their fill.


Enjoyed reading this.

David G

Well said !!


More knowledge here.


I have to say I’m sceptical of this. I’ve lived in both France and the UK, and the level of dressing is similar. Both have a mix of well dressed and poorly dressed. In both, the majority wear the same mix of international, logo-covered, low quality brands.

Perhaps there is a particular French yatching culture. But in general, the idea that, somehow, elegance is an inbuilt national characteristic is romantic idea. But one for the birds, I’m afraid.


From what I see, I would say is how different the (apparently) top 10% income people from each country look. Which basically means “given that I have all that is needed, where do I put my money and what do I value most”. In that sense, I do believe that particularly Parisian women put clothing and “looking good” at a high spot (or from my opinion, I like more how they do it)


I assume you won’t be be wearing the heavy knits with open high heels, but those seem slightly incongruous. Other than that the vibe and colour palette definitely reflect your own approach.
I liked the mention of navy going with amost everything. My base wardrobe includes at least one of every item in navy and it allows me to mix and match with everything from classic businesswear, to all navy, or strong colour which it also helps to tone down. To me it’s the best choice for big ticket items like outerwear as you can save by having just one and experiment more elsewhere.


The lady in the Burberry trench looks remarkably like Jo Ellison from the FT!


Indeed, came here to say this.


Bourgeois is indeed a better term than fuddy-duddy or old-fashioned – with which it doesn’t quite overlap, I think – because it is much more neutral. I suspect Guinut (as a Parisienne?) uses the term neutrally as well.

For myself, I have come to accept that I am bourgeois to the core, just like my parents. My mother used to be a Parisienne, and is living proof that being bourgeois does not exclude having great taste and individuality. I’m glad that in time I’ve learned not to push back against my bourgeois nature, because as they say, nothing is more embarrassingly, well, you get it.


I’m guessing that the Parisians would use “petit bourgeois” if they wanted to use it as a judgement, compared to the more neutral “bourgeois”.


Yes! I had forgotten about that, thanks.


I think it shows how useful some principles of classic menswear is, as they apply for more casual womenswear as well. Silhouette and texture can make monochrome outfits seem more alive, and a small wardrobe of neutral colors can go a long way. Focusing on these broader principles is far more important than what kind of buttonholes you get.

I’ve definitely been influenced by my girlfriends sense of style; her ability to rock all-black outfits caused me to work in some blacks in my outfits as well (though it also resulted in her appropriating my black LF crewneck, that she now wears as an oversized layer). And I think my ramblings about menswear has made her more aware of how textures and weights can be used to create more outfits from the same pieces.

Sadly, I think a lot of the pictures used to illustrate these principles in womenswear may hinge too much on the models. The TRUE test of how useful a principle is, might well be if it applies on people who aren’t traditionally beautiful. The fact that something looks good when worn by tall, slim, young women who to a large extent embody the contemporary western beauty ideal doesn’t really say much. Here, I think menswear illustrate these principles much better; people like Newton, Boyer and Flusser are unlikely to be asked to walk the catwalk for a major fashion brand, yet they can be very stylish. The style stands on its own, rather than relying on the model to make it look good.


Hi SamS/Simon,
I agree with the point about models-v-normality and think this may well be a reason why the Reader Profile articles are so popular. I prefer to see clothes worn by men I can relate to personally.
Good article.


One thing that I learned from womenswear is that what I, with no indoctrination into the culture, found most stylish on women often contrasted significantly from what, I later learned, women found stylish. Most dictates of menswear should be taken accordingly—lightly seasoned.


I find the oppsite is often true too; we like a big tweedy coat, or a nice checked jacket and cords, which women often would find outdated and prefer jeans and a tee, for instance.
I strongly believe men dress to impress other men, rather than women.


Same with women, who dress to impress women. Sapienti sat.

Peter Hall

My wife,daughter and mother all wear colour with a nonchalant air which I will never match. When asked how ,I usually receive a shrug .

My wife has the ability to snatch several items from her wardrobe and become effortlessly stylish.

I suspect there is a secret finishing school for young women. Similar to a taxi drivers ‘knowledge’ but with clothes.

Peter Hall

My wife says ‘you never freestyle when playing your guitar… I don’t with clothes’


Great article, thanks Simon. I have been following your posts for a while now and very much enjoy reading them and seeing your photos. I work in design myself and I am learning all the time of menswear clothing/footwear/accessories companies I hadn’t come across before so I am expanding my own knowledge base too by exploring the links you provide. All really fascinating, I love what you do.
I am very much a ‘neutral’ dresser so I can relate to the photos you have used here and I love to have navy in my wardrobe as it is just such a great flattering colour/base to start from (and the late great Jean Muir was a stalwart of using navy of course) but I do love a bright shade to lift the whole palette sometimes. I can remember at art college being introduced to the ‘complementary (contrast) colours’ as you have mentioned and I now always have a colour wheel to hand when I am designing, it really helps envisage what goes together.
It is that casual art, but also a fine line too, of knowing how to dress up the basics with a scarf or a wonderful jacket on top, or indeed that pop of colour through a lipstick. I believe it was Coco Chanel who said that before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one item off (and she was, of course, French) Less is often more.
But I think more importantly at the end of the day if you dress for yourself, and feel relaxed in what you are wearing your self confidence really shows and carries you through.


Hi, my wife falls right into this category, as a near-lifelong Parisienne Shopping with her (which I do as less as possible but sometimes one cannot escape) is full of learnings. One of her key strength is being fashion-sensitive but at the same time perfectly able to know when something she wanted to try does not look good on her. Great ability to say “no” and great sense of what suits her – whether in terms of color, shape, age-appriopriateness… Very jealous of that skill.


You’re right, it’s a lot about confidence and knowing yourself. Sometimes I see her going to try on something she has craved for months, and when she eventually tries it, in 2 seconds she can go “Ok, that’s not for me”. I thought she looked fine generally, but as she never make any mistakes, she must know way better.

Bob M

It’s interesting that you picked up Aloïs’ book. I communicated with her some time ago and wanted to hire her as a stylist. While as you mentioned, some things are not relevant, many things she talks about are spot on. Simple pieces in classic colors that match your silhouette.
I have a much, much smaller wardrobe today but it’s one that is very interchangeable. It’s amazing how she can style simple basics that exude style.


Brilliant article, thank you. My wife and I struggle with the correct verbage to express our similar and differing tastes. I am used to defining style from the male perspective, and her from the female, and oddly they don’t always cross over. So while I may not pick this book up for me, buying a copy for my wife (and having a once through myself) I think could help us express what we intend to say.


I’m going to speak in generalized terms here but I think in this context it’s valid. I am a man and my wife works in fashion so has a certain amount of experience in with these people. I and she find that Parisian style as referee to here is very much symbolic of a certain social class. Indeed this style manifest in the central Parisian districts which are very much the ghettoized from a class/ wealth perspective. More so even than London. This style has its roots in this place. My perception of it is a kin to the boating blazer, deck shoes, upturned collar and quilted jacket etc you might see in the uk. Obviously its chicer but it’s associations with the upper class and the negative aspects that conjures are very much at the forefront for me. As such I struggle to view it sympathetically and indeed feel an aversion to drawing to much from it.


I was born and raised in France, and have spent many years living and working in both Paris and London.
There is a natural elegance to French (and Spanish and Italian) women that is not seen so much in the UK. This is emphasised (but not created) by how they dress, and seems to span across all age groups.
I don’t know what prompts this, but it is my experience.


Interesting, that’s not a perspective I agree with. I’ve always found the styles of those you describe to be entirely homogeneous and lacking in any distinct character or point of view. The underlying culture being extremely important in that respect. Not enough grit in the oyster so to speak. Elegance is an entirely subjective term and I’d caution against a putting too much emphasis on its virtues.


I would say: “Elegance” is displayed individually – but the term, derived from phenomenon, is objectifiable. No cultural-moralic sense, though.


Maybe Romance languages are prompting ? There is – from Latin on – a certain “formality” in this group of derived languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese), lacking in Germanic languages like English. As natural language ist the first representation we learn, an influence on the personal sense of style in cultural context is not unlikely.

More difficult to refer in these times … the ancient cultures, yielding the roots, are regarded “higher”, meaning : they had more time to develop visual culture historically, like female individuals (regularly, not necessarily) in today’s cultures personally (Simon’s explanation for female “style advantages” above).

Peter Hall

Dutch,Frisian, and German stand as the nearest kin to English, with Frisian holding the strongest resemblance. The syntax, lexicon, and phonetics of both Frisian and English demonstrate their shared lineage.
All of them part of the Germanic group of languages. Dutch is generally considered to be our closest modern language.

A fact for the kids,Simon.


No, not meant this way, just the contrary ! Grammar and intonation make the difference, linking to concepts of “natural elegance”. The language group is called “Romance” (not romantic).
The suggested link between grammar (and “formality”, think of Latin) and elegance is vague, of course. Following the intonation, French is apparently more “melodically” bound (over the sentence) than English or German – the latter being more “percussive”.

Peter Hall

And here is a little West Frisian for the kids

West frisian.

Myn hûn dronk it wetter út ‘e beek neist de âlde wynmûne by ús hûs.

My dog drank the water from the stream (brook) next to the old windmill by our house.


It’s called a “genetic” relationship (Bopp, Schleicher et al. 19 th.), widely accepted as such (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_languages).

But I think more interesting would be the (vague) link between formal structure of language and “natural elegance” your French reader (Mathieu) observed, crossing the border of two language families.

Maybe: a natural language is suggesting a “kind of individualisation” – which is different between families, having impact on kind and concepts of dressing.


A while ago, I got tired of trying to remember all the effortless but cool-looking color combos I have come across.
So I (over) re-engineered a bunch of outfit images I liked, including a lot from your blog. I found that almost all combined two different, neutral colors and one primary or dominant color. For example Cream/White/Dark brown, Tan/Light grey/Olive or Charcoal/White/Navy.
I found it to be an almost foolproof way to combine my clothes without even thinking about it in the morning. It didn’t matter if the pants has the primary color or a sweater or a jacket.
I can see that almost all of the photos in the blog post follow this “rule”.


An article focussing on these nice (possibly foolproof) colour combinations may be the basis of a helpful article.


One thing I note just from the images is that, with the exception of the lady in the navy blazer, all of them wear one item that is oversized or flowing, whether it is a knit, a long coat, or a scarf (and arguably the navy blazer, even though conventionally sized, is so much darker than the rest of the outfit that it draws the eye). Their other clothes are then used as a backdrop, either by being slimmer, the same colour, or in harmonious neutrals. In the images where you can see the shoes, they are all equally minimal (sandals or slim heels, in neutral colours). The overall effect is to be harmonious while still retaining character. Quite easy in menswear to imagine wearing a tailored coat with jeans and a neutral shirt, or a sober suit with a large scarf (Jake Edward Grantham used to do this at Pitti), or a knit and tailored trousers in the same colour.


Your example of Jake is great. Personally, the play with volume is the thing I’m most jealous of when it comes to women dress. They can play with proportion and use a very long and light coat or cardigan, or huge volemnous shirt, a big belt and slouchy trousers all at once, in a way that guys (at least most guys) cannot in a similar manner, and look great.
This classic picture of Cindy Crawford on the Ralph Lauren runway comes to mind. Sure, a man could wear similar pieces, but probably wouldn’t look as good, because their figure wouldn’t allow for the same drama/flair. Or for more clear examples, this would likely just look sloppy on a guy, such a big shirt too. I guess what I’m saying it’s usually easier to play with silhouette and volume for women than men, since we’re usually of a larger frame and taller.
But I still find all the pics I’ve linked very inspiring and can apply them to my own dressing, be it color combinations, being a bit more daring with proportion or simply inject some relaxed confidence.


I was lucky enough to spend half of my career surrounded by Parisian women and was a constant admirer of their timeless elegance and simple chic.
Of course there are two natural elements that are the foundation – being the correct weight and having beautiful hair !
These elements are so fundamental to their look and having spent my life in the cosmetics industry I know very well the care they take with their cosmetics and hair and how different their approach is to their Anglo-Saxon counterparts.
Indeed, hair is ridiculously under discussed in men’s ‘Style’ media – the fact is that unless you’ve got great hair, in great condition the rest won’t amount to a hill of beans and believe you me, getting a great haircut anywhere is something of a mission.
Of course, for the follicle challenged this is out of reach but once they’ve realised that the only way forward is to shave it off – they resolve that issue and can concentrate on other things.
But yes, we have much to learn from simple Parisian female chic.


The comment regarding “correct weight” seems chauvinistic and outdated, and am surprised it was published.


To add to the article. There are, by now, many scientific studies that conclude that females are better in discriminating among colors and can see more shades of colors than males. Males, on the other hand, appear better in detecting movements. Underlying this research, but this seems experimental, is the hunter-gatherer thesis where women had to be better at gathering berries, fungi and the like and the hunting men had to detect movement better.
This could be the case that some men wear clothes that colour wise do not fit together at all, what one seldom sees in women.


Actually one of the women in the picture is not French but she is a British journalist.


Trust PS readers to call you to order! I suspected it was FT’s Jo Ellison.


Good article Simon. I’ve often seen very chic women out and about in London and admired the colour combinations they have chosen or the pairing of certain items of clothing – a rich burgundy scarf and a black leather jacket, slouchy roll neck not quite rolled properly, contrasting textures etc. I’ve definitely made mental notes and thought that I could translate outfits to items from my own wardrobe.
Men should feel free to draw inspiration from anywhere. As I’m sure you’ve iterated previously it’s only as you consume lots of information on things you admire that you begin to experiment and create a personal style.

Tim J

Hi Simon,
Another interesting article and some great commentary from other readers. I’ve taken notice the last two times we’ve visited Paris and do think, in my terms, there’s an ‘elegant simplicity’ to the way a lot of Parisian women dress. I think the same is true of Rome and Florence too. I also agree that when done well, their style does look effortless.
One of your readers below commented on the mix of proportions and that many of the outfits depicted have one oversized piece. This is also something I’ve noticed women do especially well in practice. Do you think this simply works better on the female form? I tend to think that a lot of us men don’t benefit from adding ‘volume’ to outfits whereas women seem to carry that look much better for my mind.


I personally find that oversized looks work best on slender builds, for both men and women. The size of the clothes create a real contrast there. On large or muscular people, I find that some of the effect is lost. And on average, I’m guessing more fit women tend to be slender, where as fit men are muscular.


This is a fascinating! Are you aware of any resource (book or blog!) about dressing in a British style for women?


Excellent article! Interesting perspective.
I’d also like to note (as some have commented) that the women shown are also quite attractive (in shape, quite lean). This should not detract from the point however, I’d say it reinforces the idea that if you want to look good you should never forget the canvas (your own body!). Dressing classically is great, but it helps if you have a good frame. I think I would surely look better in my clothes 5-10kgs lighter!


Peder Isaksson


This question has nothing, what so ever, to do with the article; which is, by the way, brilliant!

I have av pair of trousers made of the Fox Brothers’ Permanent Style Ecru Cavalry Twill fabric. It’s a great fabric with a fantastic drape! However, I would like to have them cleaned. I have been in contact with Fox Brothers and they recommend a sponge and press – hand finished dry cleaning, instead of a standard dry cleaning. Do you have any other recommendation? I have, myself, used the “sponge and press” method on various spots. Have you had your own trousers cleaned?


i love this style, scarf is amazing!


I also have difficulty to relate to the models in the pictures. Of course they look absolutely fabulous, but most do not look like they are going about their daily business in their high stiletto heels.
Much more relatable and interesting would be to cover a real stylish Parisian woman and have her talk and show what she wears to the office, for grocery shopping, on the school run, for a night out on the town with family or friends. That’s where it becomes really interesting.

Cormac Lynch

Parisian effortless chic attitude reflects in men’s clothing too. In numerous French movies, both new and old, capsule wardrobe is masterfully executed. Every character commits to a personal look, at all levels of social status. In other words, they have their personal Permanent Style.
At the upper end, wardrobe might be a couple of dark structured suits repeater over and over, with slight fun in appropriate accessories. In the middle, it could be same cashmere sweater and nicely tailored pants worn with different shirts. On the lower end, a leather jacket or parka with jeans but tees rotated. While the labels may vary from low-end to mid-end to luxury, but the quality, versatility, and look stays.
There is a quote from Luca Turin, which I paraphrase, “A man should not buy new clothing too often. If he does, he is asking for attention, which is no good. By 30, a man should have acquired tasteful clothing pieces and wear them until there are holes in them.”.
No denial, that it might be a subjective view. Nonetheless, there is the element of capsule wardrobe in Parisian fashion.


My wife and I were in Paris on a winters day and passed a teacher leading a dozen or so 5 year old girls in school uniforms on a field trip. Each of the children had a different scarf, tied in a different manner but all so chic and effortless. It must be in the DNA.


More on DNA above … steetware link (if allowed here) https://www.instagram.com/parisiensinparis/

john kalell

Wonderful sidebar, Simon, to the efforts of your day job.
I took particular note of the concept of ‘effortless, chic, understated.’ Not so easily achieved as the author further notes that ‘rules may be so ingrained in her DNA that she doesn’t realize she is following them.’
I should imagine that this applies in every culture, certainly beyond mode of dress.
But, as it pertains to menswear, a simple but useful takeaway is that one shouldn’t strive to be put together perfectly; but rather to look ‘perfect’ by not being too studied. N’est ce pas?

Eric Michel

There is something which is hard to mention when talking about the Parisian style: most of the pictures show thin women. This is not something easy to discuss as this effortless style comes after huge efforts to remain that thin…


I don’t agree it takes huge efforts to remain thin. Rather, getting fat has become easy and convenient

Ben Frankel

Good article, not the first time this has been written about.. however there is much truth in the Sinatra song “you’ve either got or you haven’t got style”. Some have it – others don’t. Some transcend maxims – good bones and posture make all the difference.
The women in the photos all wear expensive shoes, and gold sandals for day- a look started by the great stylish lady Sonia Rykiel, look wonderful! The reference to Jean Muir was a pleasure to read.
Alas in Melbourne is a desert, Lycra instead of sand!


This is a defeatist/elitist (depending on if you have “style” or not) attitude. Short of physical or cognitive challenges, most people can learn almost skills to a fairly high level. Innate ability can put some limitations on your absolute max in some skills (not everyone can be a world champion marathon runner), but almost everyone can perform at a high level, given the interest, access to information and training, and a chance to learn. Not everyone can be a style icon, but anyone with information, time and the money for a wardrobe can learn to dress stylishly.

What looks like “natural style” is probably an early advantage (say, stylish relatives to learn from) compounded with fortunate circumstances (your relatives noticed you were picking up style from them, encouraged your growth, and gave you access to different styles of clothes to experiment with). This is also the most likely reason why women seem to have more “natural style”; they have more role models and more incentives (rewarded socially for dressing well, punished for dressing poorly), where as many young men learn that merely having an interest in clothes can get you punished.

There is no “style gene”; being able to pick the right shade of brown tweed to to with grey flannels, or understanding that navy is office-appropriate and black isn’t (unless you work for a mortician?), are learned skills. Even grace and poise (often baked into style) are learned – modelling schools teach their students how to stand and walk. Noone just knows how to walk on the catwalk, but if you watched a lot of fashion shows as a kid, and happen to have excellent body control you will pick it up faster. That LOOKS like natural talent, but it isn’t.

Personally, I dressed and moved like a concussioned scarecrow from an early age until my late twenties, where a few years of martial arts taught me basic body control (now I’m a healthy scarecrow!), and a few years of reading PS and DWW taught me enough about basic style that I could start experimenting. I had 0 talent, no early role models and no starting point, but I had time, information, some money to spend and a will to improve. Today I get stopped by old ladies who comment positively on my style (I may lean slightly fuddy some days), female colleagues complement my style, and male colleagues ask for style advice (usually with the caveat “no sport coat, though”). Style is definitely learnable.


You can always spot a French woman from a mile away…

Ben Frankel

In reply to Simon,,
Maybe style can be studied and acquired.
But surely ‘taste’ is inherent/instinctive. As the song states.

Ben Frankel

Indeed that could be so- its not easy to define.
Fascinating that the style and taste of Chanel was fashioned by her exposure to the men in her life- all of whom were impeccably clothed- her elegant French equestrian friends and then the the British nobility. They introduced her to British tailoring, a certain style of not trying too hard yet always looking right. And of course to British and Scottish wool textiles, which she used all her life. The supreme example of men influencing women!


Totally agree. It can be like osmosis. You hardly notice it, but it is all-pervading.


While color perception may be a natural aptitude, which colors go together and what they mean can definitely be learned. And what colors mean is (at least to some extent) a cultural thing. Pink use to be considered a manly color and purple have historically been associated with rulers – today both carry other meanings in western culture. Grey has historically been worn by labourers and low-ranking monks, now it’s one of the main colors for businesswear. And of course, cords were for royal servants and tweed was for outdoors work – today cord trousers and a tweed jacket look like you’re cosplaying a university professor.


Love it. More posts like this! 🙂
I think we can learn a lot from women. I have actually find more inspiration about clothes from women than men during the years…who they combine things..but translating it into menswear of course 🙂
And I really like the parisian style (who doesn’t). I think we can learn a lot of how to make an outfit less boring and more sophisticated. A lot of times men are so focused about the detailes of a bespoke jacket but forget about the overall style.
So I suppose you recommend this book, or have you find other as well that are worth looking at?

Julie in New York

The best compliments I ever get are when I’m mistaken for French (before I open my mouth to speak and give away the truth!)


Amen to almost all of that. Men can learn a lot from women – in general – about how they approach clothing and style. And among the best to pay attention to is the Parisienne. I would widen it to say that this is true for most of the cities in France, regardless of where they are (eg less visited cities such as Nancy, Angers, Lilly, Nantes, Poitiers….). There’s a care about presentation to the world and a sense that comportment matters, the sloppiness and uniformity we see across the sexes in the “AngloSaxon” world is not taking over in France as fast.


These principles of elegance, effortlessness, quality, “understated-ness”, apply beyond menswear and womenswear. You could apply them equally easily to other areas of life, like how you combine furniture in a room (the mix of new and old, leather and fabric, formal and informal), or how you set a table.


Maybe this is entirely the wrong place to be saying this, but isn’t all this good taste just a tiny bit dull? As a counterpoint, there’s a young French woman who runs a very charming YouTube channel called Not So Blonde that has a very different take on Parisian style. Of course, a perfectly cut trench twinned with a marinère is always going to look chic, but part of what I like in fashion is seeing people wearing things I could never wear myself – I’d sooner perch on a stool at Allpress on the corner of Redchurch Street and see the best that east London can throw at me than watch les radiographies sociales pass by the Café de Flore…


Really interesting! I absolutely see that benefit in showing a bit of white t-shirt under a crew neck jumper and wish I could do it! I generally find the t-shirts don’t have a high enough collar (and I don’t want it like a turtle neck!) and doesn’t peep over the top of the crew neck of the jumper. And then if the crew neck outer piece is too loose it just looks scruffy!

Any advice to get this right would be very welcome. Is it just try on lots until you find the right combination? Indeed it’s one of the seemingly simple things I can’t get right!


At least now I know I’m not that rather peculiar chap leafing through women’s books and magazines (old Paris Vogue issues)! In my other hustle as a bookseller, I have often admired the way women put their clothes together especially those in the continent when chronicled in print, especially France. Worth looking at Emmanuelle Alt’s (ex-Paris Vogue editor) style too. My mother once had a womenswear business growing up and it still influences the way I dress today. I also felt she bought better menswear than I can ever do as she had the run of goods from factories all over Europe in the 80s.


Haven’t filtered through all the comments to determine if anyone else has mentioned this…. the French ladies photographed are visually pleasing, fit/thin, healthy hair/skin, and prioritize in accentuating their feminine attributes. Before they even choose their clothing – they have elevated themselves above the vast majority of other females.


Thank you for writing such a fantastic article! I really appreciated the conversational tone, and I took away the importance of a simple beat set and careful fashion choices. It’s amazing how a minimalist look can be both chic and effortless when you know how to put pieces together. Your article definitely gave me all the Parisian vibes!

Arthur Bond

Some of you wanted more women’s style books that men can learn from. Here’s three I can across and greatly enjoyed, even though only one of these is Parisian

Listening to an Alan Flusser interview in the 74th episode of thr Blamo podcast, he recommended Caterine Milinaire’s “Cheap Chic” from 1975 as a huge influence. While some of the advice is quite dated or for women only, most of it is timeless advice for either gender. On the plus side it’s budget conscious.

F.E. Castleberry mentions “I Love Your Style” by Amanda Brooks on his blog. Another very good read with much that men could learn from.

He also recommends “How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits” by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. These are four friends who obviously have good times together. More lifestyle than style, there is plenty here too entertain the male reader. The world they create is obviously a fantasy, but like watching “Sex in the City” it’s a fantasy that’s inviting, light-hearted and fun.


The insights into women’s fashion, such as the use of lipstick as a pop of color and the approach to makeup and hair, offer intriguing lessons for men. The discussion of ‘neutral’ colors and the role of neighboring colors on the color wheel provides practical guidance for those navigating the often challenging terrain of color coordination in menswear.