If you like the classic French Chic style and you’re well over 50 then you might find it useful to see this try-on.
I’m trying on a set of French-style clothes that would work for Winter through to Spring. I’m well over 70, well over-weight and short! But I wanted to see for real if someone like me could get that famous French Chic look.
Where to buy typical French clothes
Most fashion retailers across the world stock a few classic French styles. But I decided to order these clothes from the online store of LaRedoute. They are the largest online fashion retailer in France and what they don’t know about French chic style is not worth knowing!
It’s a good site for inexpensive versions of styles that many French women would usually spend a lot more on. But if you’re just trialling a look, it’s a good place to start. Of course, as I’m in France right now I ordered from the French site. But I’ve added links to the UK site in this post (if you click and buy from one of these links I likely get a commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support.)
If you’re in the US go to the laredoue.com site. I don’t have affiliate links for you but you should find the items easily. Same goes for the rest of the world. LaRedoute has dedicated sites for many countries.
How did I select the clothes for French Chic?
These clothes feature in How to get French Chic style over 50.
In that post I explain how French women style simple clothes to look elegant and confident.
So this post is all about seeing if it’s really possible to wear those exact clothes and get ‘the look’ when you’re overweight. Even though being slim is part of the whole French Chic thing.
A few clothes were out of stock in my size, as it’s sale time on the site. But I ordered most of the items in my usual size European 42-44, UK 14-16 US 10-12.
I have to say I was very happy with all the items, especially as they were heavily discounted. If I’d had the time I would have taken up the sleeves of the coats and blazer. And I shortened the jeans myself, but without a sewing machine where I’m currently staying, I couldn’t give them that lovely row of yellow stitching at the hem.
It’s worth noting that above ankle pants and jeans are a current part of French Chic – especially for older women. So, the navy pants need to be shortened too, …when I get time.
But I think, even so, you’ll get an idea of how successful I was in my quest to look more French.
As French Chic is a classic style it will take years for these clothes to go out of fashion. Most French women see all of these items as wardrobe staples.
Right let’s get going and see how these clothes look on a typical older woman.
The structured navy blue blazer
This is an iconic item in a French Chic wardrobe.
It needs a military smart look. So wide shoulders – wider than I’d usually feel comfortable wearing. Then the jacket falls to low hip level, either straight – as here – or with a bit of a kick to the back. I’d normally wear a much shorter jacket and look for that slightly waisted look that allows the back to flip out a little. But this one is very much a traditional straight blazer.
It took me a few try-ons to get comfortable with such a big jacket but in the end I’m converted.
I prefer it with jeans to mix up the smart and casual vibe. After all, at heart I am very much a casual classic.
The navy silk shirt
Navy is so easy to wear when you get over 50. No wonder French women love it.
It’s the most obvious aspect of dressing like an older French women. Navy, and more navy.
Younger women may substitute black but you need really good skin tone to look good in black in the daylight. As I’m pale, I head straight for the navy items.
Unless you have a radiant tanned complexion to give a healthy sporty look, any shirt requires a scarf at the throat.
Scarves are de rigueur for the French chic look. They draw attention to your face, help disguise an ageing neck and show that you’ve styled your look, not just slipped into something that caught your eye this morning is your closet.
French Chic needs that little twist, as I call it. That little bit of extra styling that catches the eye. The look is groomed, not just smart.
The Breton top
For an instantly French look, whatever your age, add a striped tee-shirt or sweater. If there are buttons on the shoulder, even more French!
Whereas a child would wear a Breton sweater over pants. A woman would wear a Breton top under another layer.
Again it’s all about putting a bit more effort into the styling by using layers, not just popping on something exactly as it arrived from the shop.
Those stripes will maximize your width if you don’t wear a jacket or other top. No worries if you’re in your teens and twenties but after 50 few of us can wear horizontal stripes stylishly.
That top layer can be draped over your shoulders, casually knotted over your chest or carried over your shoulder. It just needs to be there to take the eye away from the to and fro across your middle of those stripes.
The cashmere sweater
To bring understated luxury to even the most casual of outfits, a French woman will prefer cashmere to other knits. She wants to feel – and look – pampered.
If you look at most US and UK retailers designing for older women, you will find they offer sweaters that are sightly shaped at the waist. This looks great in the site photos but less so in real life.
The French take today is to go for an more ample cut. A French woman wants the softness of a cashmere knit to be on show. That means the sweater has to flow gently across the body, whether sitting or standing. The same goes for the silk shirt.
Basically a French woman wears structured items that have strong lines. And she wears softer items that have very fluid lines. What she doesn’t wear is a soft item with a definite silhouette such as a slightly waisted sweater pulled straight down to her hips.
I’m not sure if that look comes through in my pictures here. I should probably have taken photos when I was sitting down to show how the sweater looked as it ran in folds across me.
I have to say, though, that getting that fluidity, is altogether more difficult when you’re overweight. Whereas the structured items are more forgiving.
The pale trench coat
Another iconic garment in the French wardrobe. LaRedoute lightweight ivory trench.
This was originally a traditional British look, made especially popular by Burberry in the seventies, probably carried over from military raincoats. Perhaps that’s why you see British women wearing a trench buttoned up against the elements.
Yes, if you’re tall, slender and probably under 40, you can pull up the collar, button the front and lash yourself up against the rain by tying the belt like a bit of rope around your waist. You’ll look cute. That’s because you’ve got a waist.
At my age a waist is history. And most older French women know that problem too.
The trench for them is not a raincoat to keep out the weather. It’s a fluid, generous layer to add to any outfit. It alters the silhouette so that the long straight-ish front panel takes centre stage and all the rest becomes rather indistinct.
If you wear a lot of navy blue, a trench in ivory or pale beige, is just the right contrast.
This coat arrived with the belt fastened loosely at the back. And that’s the way to wear it for the French chic look.
The simple dress
French women enjoy dressing with more panache for an evening event. And they’ll have a few more expensive outfits they keep for these times. But for day wear, they’ll invest in two or three simple frocks that can be worn with flat shoes or sneakers.
Again, these dresses wll have ample, flowing contours that embrace their body but do not highlight their exact shape.
This dress is the same cut as the rust-colored one I suggest in my earlier post on French Chic. But I couldn’t get that first dress in my size so chose this one.
French chic is not a sexy or provocative look, especially for the older woman. So the V neck on this dress is high on the chest with no possibility of cleavage on show. The folds add a soft line to the bodice. The skirt is gathered. Over all, it gives a womanly shape but without highlighting any specific body areas.
I should say that, at my weight, I found it made my bosom look a bit heavy and it definitely looked better with a layer, such as the cashmere sweater or trench, on top.
The classic wool coat
I chose this coat instead of the one suggested in my previous Chic post because this one is shorter. If you are taller than me the heavy wool coat down to mid calf will give you a more French look however.
This coat is usually worn open over any outfit. Accessories such as a bag or scarf add an important touch, allowing you to make it more or less casual. Flats or sneakers bring it up to date and add to that sporty vibe that French women love.
The dash of color blouse
Like the Breton sweaters, this works better under a layer.
It’s a pyjama-shaped top in slinky material and I really enjoyed wearing it. Wide and square-cut with a defined shoulder and collar, I found it looked casual yet classy with all my pants and layers.
And that’s why a French woman would have many more navy, ivory or tan items in her wardrobe than patterned colorful tops. She would select just a few tops that would make a statement against all her basic colors.
You can find the whole capsule wardrobe in French Chic style in my previous post here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how an older woman tries to get that French chic look.
If you like the classic style, take a look at my post on Classic Wide-Fit knee-high boots.
As a contrast you can look back at some of my other capsule wardrobes.
Want to put together your own seasonal wardrobe to suit your own personal taste and lifestyle? Take a look at the Mature Style Course. It’s a step by step program that takes you from closet clutter to a well-styled wardrobe.