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Known for their classic sensibilities, French women embody a style that is effortlessly cool, casually elegant and nonchalant. Their style strikes the right balance between looking immaculately well dressed without being over the top and overdressed.
Whether the style embodies the French countryside or Parisian chic, there are some basic style ‘rules’ to follow: choose minimalist basics, high-quality pieces, neutral tones, classic cuts and the best quality you can afford.
So if you’re building a timeless wardrobe with French styling as your inspiration, below is a list of wardrobe essentials you’ll need and the ethical and sustainable brands that make them.
1. Striped top
First you’ll need a French striped top, also known as the Breton top, a top made iconic by French fashion designer Coco Chanel. Conscious label Amour Vert produces a range of striped tops in an organic cotton and modal blend fabric made in Los Angeles by fairly compensated garment workers. Our pick of the collection is the Bay Sweatshirt in Bateau Stripe ($88) a boatneck style with three-quarter length sleeves and a relaxed fit.
Australian sustainable label bassike also produces a soft organic cotton stripe long sleeve t-shirt (A$140.) The organic fabric and garment are all responsibly made in Australia under Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation.
2. Dark blazer
Your French wardrobe will also need a classic tailored dark blazer and the black Eileen Blazer (US$235) from British brand People Tree is ideal for work and recreating smart casual looks. Made with cotton in a fair-trade certified factory by skilled artisans in India, team with a striped top, jeans and some loafers for the ultimate in French chic.
There’s also Cuyana‘s Linen Double-Breasted Blazer (US$275) in navy; a blazer that is ethically produced in Portugal from Italian linen. The fabric is also Oeko-Tex certified which means it wasn’t produced with harmful chemicals. This is a great lightweight option for warmer days and casual occasions.
And if you’re in Australia, popular fashion label Cue manufactures a range of blazers in Australia. Its Washer Crepe Two-Button Blazer (A$395) is made in Australia and accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia.
3. White shirt
You’ll also need a classic white shirt if you’re building a French wardrobe. If you’re in Australia you can’t go past local brand bassike‘s range of white shirts. Our choice is the Slim Casual Classic Shirt (on sale A$120 from $320). This shirt is luxurious but a wearable everyday piece that can transition from work to weekend easily enough with the right bottoms and accessories. Made in Australia with premium cotton fabric sourced from Italy, this button down shirt is timeless and seasonless.
If you’re based in the United States, check out sustainable fashion label Reformation‘s Preston shirt (A$156) responsibly made in Los Angeles from 100% linen. There’s also Amour Vert‘s crisp organic cotton down shirt Ornella Button Down Shirt (US$138).
4. Trench Coat
What’s a French wardrobe without a classic trench coat? If you are cashed up, you can always invest in an iconic Burberry coat (or at the very least find a second-hand one on preloved luxury platform Vestiaire Collective). If this is out of your price range, the Classic Trench Coat from Cuyana (US$395) is an ethical option; it’s crafted in Portugal and is made from premium Italian-woven fabric.
5. Tailored black pants
No French wardrobe is complete without a pair of tailored black pants, and we’re loving these Black Crepe Svelte pants by Australian label Bianca Spender (A$445). It features a high waist, straight leg and is made in Australia with ECA accreditation.
For a more affordable pair, there’s the High Waist Tapered Trouser by Canadian ethical label KOTN (A$104) made from Egyptian cotton. It’s super comfy as it has the look and feel of denim.
To complement your French-inspired outfit, a pair of black loafers is required. British vegan shoe label Beyond Skin produce a stylish range of PETA-approved classic loafers and our pick is the Harper Black Faux Leather Vegan Loafers (£205.00) which are handcrafted in Spain and feature faux leather upper and recycled faux leather lining.
Nisolo, a fair-trade leather shoe brand handcrafting classic footwear, produces a highly-rated French style Emma d’Orsay Oxford shoe (US$185) that features a structured style and open side slits making it ideal for everyday use.
French women love their scarves. Whether tied around their neck, worn as a headscarf or worn in their hair, a scarf is the ultimate in French sophistication. Invest in a classic Hermes scarf if you can afford it, and if you can’t, you can pick up a second-hand scarf at your local thrift shop.
If you don’t have time and prefer to keep shopping time to the absolute minimum, check out ethical lifestyle e-markeplace Made Trade which stocks a great selection of delicate scarves made from natural and sustainable materials such as silk, linen, cashmere and cotton. The Maley Silk Scarf (US$221, pictured below) is handcrafted in India and dyed with all natural and organic dyes.
8. Oversized sunglasses
When you’re people-watching while sipping your latte at a cafe like a French woman, you’ll need some oversized sunglasses. Some conscious eyewear brands such as Dick Moby, Warby Parker, Matt & Nat and Sticks & Sparrow produce a range of oversized sunglasses in various frame styles – catseye right through to Jackie O – and come in a variety of shades to suit your tastes, preferences and of course, your face shape.
Some, such as US-based Warby Parker and Australia-based Sticks & Sparrow offer services where you can try them at home before you make your decision to buy.
9. Structured handbag
A structured handbag is a wardrobe staple and will complete any French outfit. For timeless vegan handbags, we’re lusting after Sans Beast‘s crossbody bags and shoulder bags, specifically its best-selling Noir Croco Reader Satchel (A$199) which is made from faux leather (“Eco PU”) and is the perfect sized structured bag and comes with a detachable, adjustable strap to wear as a shoulder bag and carry handle.
If you prefer genuine leather, conscious bag label Christina Fisher handcrafts luxury bags that are made from 100% recycled black leather and feature 100% GOTS certified organic cotton interior. Its Mini Flap Bag (€735) is custom handmade in Denmark and comes with adjustable buckle.
10. Classic Pumps/Black Heels
Last but not least, you’ll need a pair of classic black heels. Wills Vegan Shoes produce a classic court shoe City Courts (£73) which are responsibly made in Portugal under EU labor standards. The brand is also carbon neutral and has a plastic-free supply chain.
If you prefer ethically-made leather heels, the Django Courts by French brand Sezane (US$200) are the perfect pumps with pointed toes and high heels. Made in Spain by expert ateliers these footwear staples are classy and functional.
Disclosure: Details are correct at time of publishing. Opinions are that of the writer’s. This curated list does not fully take into account all the ethical considerations that are unique to each individual. Before making a purchase, we encourage you to do your own research paying particular attention to the supply chain and your own particular set of ethics. You can also check out online tools and apps that provide product reviews and brand ratings here. Click here to read more about our policies. Cover image via QWSTION.