house of franglais

Dear Melissa,

Can we talk wardrobe for a minute?

I think I told you my sad story, of being stopped twice in the last four months by strange men inquiring if I was a member of a certain religion. I don't want to specifically mention the religion because these comments were not taken by me as compliments on my personal appearance (let's just say I googled the religion after incident #1, and it described the typical female belonging to said religion as one who wears no make-up or jewelry, does not cut her hair, and usually wears long plain skirts or dresses). If this happens to you once, you could think, sure, I'm just at the grocery store and haven't really gotten ready today (except for that day I had), ha ha, it's kind of funny. Twice - this happening TWO TIMES makes you stop and think, perhaps time for a little look-see in the mirror and some re-evaluation.

So as I think about this - because, at the end of the day I do have some vanity - the bottom line is that really what I would like to look like when I leave the house each day is french, and kind of vaguely artistic. And cute. Can this be done? C'est possible? And can you help me since you speak french?

First, let's consider what I generally do during the day, because my new french look needs to be practical:

exercise sometimes if I have time/remember. Lately I have been frantically doing the jump-rope because I can break a sweat and be done in 15 minutes while Wren sits in her high-chair and stares at me. (perhaps on the days I forget to exercise, this is more french, because it seems like french women do not need to exercise to look beautiful.)

drink hot chocolate (this is french already because sometimes I use a very small mug).

a load or two of laundry

lots of tidying

often a visit to the school to do an art class; and if I'm lucky I might find a little time to paint while Wren naps and other children are otherwise gone or occupied. (TOTALLY french to engage in artistic activity!)

various shuttling around of children to lessons, etc. (Not so french, because I drive a japanese minivan.)

disciplining/shaping the characters of my progeny
grocery shopping (if I start substituting the word "marketing" for this, do you think that would be a step in the right direction?)

reading (alors, always in english, as I only speak very poor high school level french.)

chit-chatting (rarely in french. only if i happen to offer a friend perhaps a bit of fromage avec a cracker at my table)

So, any brilliant tips for me? Articles of clothing to acquire? I'm wondering if you (or anyone else) has found the perfect ballet flats, or the perfect little black pants, the perfect red lipstick, the perfect striped top, or the perfect accessories (because, although my male admirers would be surprised, I actually do enjoy wearing jewelry). What do you think is the ideal composition for a (frenchy) lady of style's wardrobe? And, how should one wear one's semi-long hair so that it looks semi-long on purpose rather than default?



Elizabeth said...

Living in France for 2 years, I noticed that French women wear very simple things with beautiful accessories, like scarves and tasteful jewelry. They have a few real quality cardigans, and nicely made pants, skirts etc. They pay a good amount for these items, and wear them to death :) Then you would have to get a classic bob hair cut. It is easy to care for, and always looks French. I've never seen the clique striped shirt with capri pants, and rarely did I ever see them wear shorts in the summer, only skirts.
You are also right, in that they don't really do any exercise, just a lot of walking.
Hope that helps :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I can't say that I really have any good tips, but I loved this blog post. We all have a little vanity :) May I suggest locating a few good scarves? Versatile is good. Sometimes I wear them around my neck, sometimes on my head. In fact, now that I think about it, each time I wear one on my head (either folded or "peasant style") my husband remarks that I look "French." Not that he is an expert on fashion or "frenchiness" but perhaps it will help?
Keep us posted on on your transformation!

Silcox Stories said...

I would like to wear a skirt or dress and a cardigan everyday with the perfect earrings (preferably dangling and sparkly, but not over the top), with wedges or those previously mentioned perfect ballet flats. But I don't want it to look like the same outfit, make sense? I want to look like a retired contemporary dancer. Ideas?

lynne said...

Like Miss Barb, Jennie!!

Elizabeth, I love the idea of collecting really lovely pieces and wearing them to death. Then EVERY DAY you would look good. I have a couple of pretty nice things, but I am often afraid to wear them because they are nice. So silly. I should just really get my money's worth!

And Jessbcuz, I love the idea of scarves. I am going to go investigate that right now. This moment.

lynne said...

Jennie, I forgot to say - where do you think we can find those ballet flats parfait? My Target ones just are not cutting it - they are extremely pinchy. I think I need to invest.

Jenny said...

For hair: a nice mid-height ponytail? Garance Dore posted a while back on her love of the ponytail; I certainly find that it's a good way to deal with in-between lengths.

For ballet flats, I'd consider Cole Haan (with "air" soles), Coach or Naturalizer. The first two brands are more of an investment, but if you take care of them (capping and polishing where & when appropriate) they'll last, and they're cute and they're kind to the feet. And let's face it, it's hard to look pretty when your feet hurt.

Lynne said...

here here on that, jenny!

thanks for the tips, i am going to go look!

Liz R. said...

i noticed H&M had a bunch of striped things this spring -at least in their window display...

old navy has great, inexpensive (also big and sparkly at times) jewelery. people often say that i am always "dressed up", but i think the secret is just putting on some jewelry - even if it's a strand of pearls from old navy that cost $1.49.

a cute headband, or even just a simple one helps.

every time i get a downeast outfitters catalogue in the mail i vow to buy all of it (though rarely do, much to my dismay)

for me, i spend a lot on jeans (totally worth it), but not a lot on other things. i suppose that i am fickle and hate to wear the same thing over and over and OVER again, no matter how expensive it may have been. some things are classic - and worth the "investment" bc the style won't change, but shirts, cardigans... after a while they just look like they've been washed a million times. i go through my closet every other year or so and give most of it away to yw at church... the things i have spent a lot of money on, i will usually hang on to in hopes that it will feel "new" again sometime soon.

Lisa said...

I like the idea of scarves too, and Blair at wisecraft posted a bunch that she just made, it has me wanting to make some fun scarves for spring.

esther (chinny chin chin) said...

I loved this post...living the life you imagine! here is a link to a mama-fashion blog written by some gals from denver:)

lynne said...

esther - thank you for that link to the "ain't no mommy jeans" blog. a font of fantastic information!!!

lynne said...

and lisa - i will go look at blair's scarves. she has such a lovely way about her that i am sure they will be very inspiring.

sasha said...


French women dress up in a very simple manner, and exactly when you think they are rather dull, you notice a small touch of chicness which totally changes the way you perceive their outfit.

if it's summer you can wear long floral pattern dresses or unique color ones with huge hats.

you can wear a long cardigans, which can elegantly match your capris/dress/jumsuit/long trousers.

they also wear a lot of scarf - I have the feeling it's one for every ocassion. the older women wear them smartly, pinched with a broche; the younger ones all swirlled around their necks.

most of them never arrange their hair...or at least it always seem to look like it hasn't been aranged in years; very natural.
no make-up if possible, but you gotta look good, and fresh ;so if that's not do-able without make-up then use natural shades.

the trick is to long younger that your age, very very natural and showing people you feel extremely good about yourself.

p.s.: oh, and not forgetting trench coats and blasers - very popular

sniffmommy said...

I too battle the mommy blah look. My latest experiment is to use the Covergirl ever stay lip gloss. You put it on once, and then it stays on all day, and sometimes the next day. It really dries out my lips, but I don't mind because I don't have to think about carrying around a lipstick and mirror.
I think the way to look more French is to have confidence, and move and dress like you do!

Bethany Hissong said...

Loved reading this post and all the great comments! I think I will wear skirts all summer... I was just thinking that I wished cotton dresses of the 40's were back.

Mommy en France said...

Enjoying discovering your blog! I am an American in Paris, for a little over ten years now. I think that the first poster is correct in saying that simple, classic, well-made garments and excellent accessories are the "secret". But the other secret is that there are plenty of normal or even frumpy looking women over here too. Not everyone is glamorous or effortless looking. Re: the flats - I don't know if you can get Repettos in the US or UK, but if so, I recommend them. They are super expensive, but they last if you take care of them and they are very chic yet comfy. They're the "ballerines" to have.

lynne said...

mommy en france -

aha! i knew there had to be women over there who were also not always looking chic! that makes me feel better.

-and - i will investigate repettos! thanks for the recommendation!

alexandra said...


i think you should also speak with a french accent. it would have a certain je no se qua, no?

lynne said...

alexandra, i have a VERY good french-american accent. normally i only use it at home, but i will start ASAP using it in public. C'est adorable to speak with an accent, non?

Jacinta @ modelmumma said...

I would LOVE to see you do some outfit posts here. My blog is dedicated to SAHM outfit posts so you might find some ideas there? Not saying I'm french or overly classy but I do like the classic simple look.
Definitely go with the scarves and I love long dangly earrings everyday. :)

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