Beauty & Style

This Is How French Women Look So French

Two of our favorite French-inspired brands, Clé de Peau and La Ligne, had a brain meld for an adorable, stripy makeup pouch (see below) stocked with two gorgeous little beauty products. (Set that calendar alert—it goes on sale next week.) Très simple, très chic, très French. But funny enough, neither of the brands are based in France. In fact, fashion label La Ligne is from New York, and Clé de Peau is actually based in Japan. We’re in the same boat: lusting after dream lives in Paris and Provence, and striving for that je ne sais quois. To get some key makeup and styling advice for successfully faking French, we hopped on the phone with La Ligne co-founder Valerie Macaulay, who shares the title with Meredith Melling, a fellow Vogue alum along with Macaulay, and Molly Howard, formerly of Rag & Bone. Here are some tricks for your inner Francophile.


The overarching rule to looking French: Something should be a little mussed, rumpled, or lived in. “A woman that is not so perfectly put together, that seems to have more depth to her, like there’s something more important to her than how she appears to others,” says Macaulay, who spends time ruminating on the French when looking for inspiration in the Marais. “In this age, we put such a premium on perfection, the hair and teeth and skin, and in France, what’s not perfect is really what you love about it. Your hair’s not perfectly straight. You have wrinkles or freckles. It’s the nonchalance.”


“Looking fresh is a priority, and that comes from wearing more minimal makeup and something we take away from how women in France age gracefully without trying too hard,” says Macaulay. “It’s about being confident in your own skin. But if I do have dark circles or a zit, I live by the Clé De Peau Concealer.”


“If you’re getting dressed up, it’s about highlighting one feature on your face, like a gorgeous red lip,” says Macaulay. “If I’m going out, I’m only going to bring out my credit card and lipstick in my clutch or pouch, like the one we just made. It fits just the essentials, and it’s not going to overwhelm the outfit. Less is more; you never see a French woman overladen with accessories.” The designers have a particular affinity for stripes, as they remind them of “Coco Chanel and maybe the French Navy and all those fishing towns, like Saint-Tropez,” she says. “There is something very neutral about stripes. You can pair them with florals or an animal print and still feel put together. It’s kind of a palate cleanser.”


When the French do wear accessories, it’s simple, pretty, and personal. “It’s more European to have the personal jewelry,” says Macaulay. “Mementos like something from your boyfriend, a best-friend necklace, or an heirloom that speaks to the other areas of your life. Little bits and bobs.”


“Two years ago, before we were just designing the first collection, I was in Paris and this girl was wearing a blouse similar to our Bleu Man shirt. She was cycling and completely perfect-looking,” Macaulay describes. “She looked so chic and put together, but so functional. I was like, ‘I need to make that shirt.’” But what makes it French is really in the way it’s styled. A little more undone with it unbuttoned or undoing cuffs and rolling it up. Is there a French way to tuck in your shirt? “Just slightly untucked. Always, if it looks too perfect, something’s got to give.”


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