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The petite girl’s guide to dressing the French way

February 22, 2021

I’m going to sound like such a cliché but there’s no other way to say it- French women rely on simple, luxurious classics. You’re never quite sure if the piece is from their grandmother’s closet (one should be so lucky), a vintage store or heritage brand’s latest collection. These items create that particular, Left Bank vibe, look that its not for everyone but if you know, you know. You recognise it a mile off.

So when I saw an editorial in most recent French Vogue called L’eternal classique, I immediately knew it was something for me.  Shot by the famous duo Inez & Vinoodh and styled by Emmanuelle Alt, it’s full of pieces that can easily be building blocks of your capsule wardrobe, and each one of them can be mixed and matched for endless, chic combinations.

Le pull – simple, beautifully made, good quality black jumper. It’s probably the single most versatile item in your wardrobe. It does have to be the best quality you can afford- soft, luxurious, generously yet simply cut, wool (cashmere, merino). Acrylic jumper from Zara won’t do because it will look like a rag two washes in.

Black jumper makes for luxurious backdrop allowing people to focus on your features rather than your clothes, at the same time creating that moneyed, chic look that whispers (but never shouts) about your social status.

Black (or white) dress- this wasn’t on a Vogue list but I think it deserves a prominent place on the list of eternal classics. It is one of the easiest items in your wardrobe- just zip it up, put on a pair of sunglasses and you’r ready to go. Just like with the jumper, get the best quality you can afford and you’ll wear it for years. A superb cut will separate it from fast, cheaply made garments. A well cut dress sits well on the shoulders and across the back and looks as if it was made for you rather then you having to “fit” into it. It doesn’t bulge anywhere or sit awkwardly. Grab a chic tote on your way out and watch people admiring you on the street.

Safari jacket – made from linen or cotton, in beige or sand, it’s a spring/summer classic that you can just throw on over anything for an instant chic. It’s probably why celebrities from Ernest Hemingway to Yves Saint Lauren (who came up with the modern version of the jacket) to Giovanna Engelbert (née Battaglia), were all photographed wearing this particular piece. Pair it with white tank top, a pair of jeans and classic loafers for a foolproof outfit formula.

White tank top –a classic that changes character depending on accessories. From quiet elegance when paired with black skirt or trousers to 90’s look with Ray Ban aviators and vintage Cartier watch, it’s a top that keeps on giving.

A suit – linen in the summer, wool in colder months (although you can come across cool wool- a wonderful summer wool with thermoregulating properties), I encourage you to think of a suit as an elevated, elegant track suit. Not something to wear during office hours but a relaxed spring/summer uniform. There’s something so life changing about wearing elegant clothes on a daily basis. Not only you end up standing out from the crowd in the most positive way but your social status rises automatically because your clothes communicate clearly that you treat yourself with respect.

For petites, I’d skip huge shoulder pads that are having a moment on Instagram, and opt for tailored shoulders and flared (A line) or looser body instead, and slightly tapered trousers. Recently, my hairdresser wore a similar suit (I fell in love with her tapered trousers) paired with a t-shirt underneath and a pair of Converse. She looked not only elegant and professional but cool and thoroughly modern. I asked for exact same fringe she had but what I really wanted was her whole outfit!

In colder months you can wear the suit with a pair of riding boots (trousers in the boots for cool, nonchalant look). In the summer, pair the suit with simple leather slides. I love how Basquiat wore Armani suits in his studio to paint, a nonchalant and barefoot vibe that we can easy recreate.

White trousers – they can be part of your suit or just a pair of white jeans. You can wear them all year around, paired with cream cashmere jumper and cream coat for a chic, monochrome look or with tank top and safari jacket in the summer. Another pairing would be a simple, slightly oversized linen shirt with gold accents. All these looks are so easy to put together and carry off and yet most people won’t do it. So when you do, you stand out from the average dressed crowd.

Trench coat – need I say anything? Just like the jumper, go for the best quality you can afford and you’ll wear it for life. The quality fabric is thick and a little stiff to the touch as opposed to its thin, flimsy high street counterparts. You don’t need to spend a fortune- you can easily go vintage. Pair the trench with a grey cashmere jumper and gold accents for that Left Bank Parisian look.

Leather trousers – I bought mine 9 year ago and they’re still going strong. There’s something so easy about them- you only need to thrown on a cashmere jumper and add a classic watch for an effortless, easy chic. For petites, go for a slim leg silhouette.

Cardigan – another easy, timeless classic. Skip anything with extra buttons on the shoulders, frills, bows etc. There’s a new bread of cardigan in town, one that looks and feels like a luxurious bathrobe. Or go for a classic version, black or navy with gold buttons. Pair it with shorts and rain boots for a walk on a windy beach (yes, you can wear shorts with rain boots when you’re petite) or pair it with white trousers and mules for a chic, city look.

White shirt- I know you’ve read it in every glossy magazine but do you actually wear yours? My advice is not to make it too precious and wear it as you would wear a t-shirt. White linen or cotton can be paired with tailored shorts for that “I’m on yacht” look or even used as a beach cover up. Buy a slightly oversized version- I buy mine in men’s department.

Tailored shorts – white, beige or navy, they are a perfect spring/summer versatile staple. Whether with cashmere jumper and flat boots or cardigan and loafers, they convey easy, chic elegance. From office to a walk on windy beach, from chic restaurant to a day on the yacht, they are a trouser version of an LBD.

Have you noticed how easy all these pieces are? You could literally dress in the dark safe in the knowledge that all of them go with one another. You can much and match them for endless variety of outfits that look truly effortless.

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