French women hate fashion… but they adore style, says expert Aloïs Guinut


One hundred per cent cotton jeans age the best and the toughest. Go for blue, black or white. You’ll have to try on a lot: designs and sizing have been modified over the years, so a number means nothing.

Denim Jackets

Oversized, snug, sleeveless, studded or 80s shapes. I love denim-on-denim outfits, either using the same or a variety of shades. Jean jackets can make pretty dresses or skirts look more relaxed.

Biker jackets

In winter, I wear a sweater underneath and top it with an oversized scarf. They make smart trousers and frilly dresses look cool while emphasising the rock attitude of denim-based outfits.

Leather skirts

The pencil skirt is an eternally sexy classic. Try on a few (make sure you can walk). Tone things down with an oversized top: a fluffy sweater, a men’s shirt or a square T-shirt. Tuck or half-tuck to show your waist. Team with trainers, flats, low boots or heels. In affordable second-hand shops, you may notice some scratching and fading to the leather. As long as it’s not too obvious, this can add soul to the piece.

Leather trousers

These will mostly be high-waisted and pleated: super cool. Wear with a tight or loose sweater – maybe in the same colour – tucked in. Add a belt to define your waist.

High boots

Choose 70s-style straight boots (these work wonders under short and knee-length skirts and dresses) or the more relaxed shapes with the triangular heel from the 80s.


Make sure the lining and straps are in good condition. If not, have the price reduced and do some DIY upcycling.

Trench coats

Older ones are less cinched than those from recent decades. Check for stains and tears in the lining. They look better worn open (as long as it’s not raining).

Utility jumpsuits

You want a fabric that has ‘been through the mill’, so look and feel are key. Open the buttons to reveal a low-cut T-shirt, roll up the sleeves and trouser-leg hems, and add heels, jewellery and a bit of make-up. If it’s baggy at the waist, belt it.


Silk pussy-bows, Victorian collars, dainty lace… more refined than anything made today. To undercut their ‘femininity’, go for trousers, jeans or shorts – and tuck in the blouse.

Pleated skirts

I recommend midi length. Wear with 70s-style high boots in autumn, platform sandals in summer and ballet flats if you’re in a Bardot mood.

Silk scarves

Feel the softness to be sure it’s the real thing. Wear under a sweater or shirt like a turtleneck, in your hair, around your bag handle… the options are endless.

Embellished jumpers

The ones with pearls or cute embroidery that your gran used to wear are cool again. Wear with something sexy or masculine – a leather skirt, jeans, cigarette trousers. Roll up the sleeves and half-tuck the front.

Why French Women Wear Vintage – And Other Secrets of Sustainable Style by Aloïs Guinut (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99) is out now. See also and @aloisparisian 

Order a copy for £11.49 until 30 August at by entering the code YOUFRENCH at the checkout. Book number: 9781784726690. for Terms & conditions go to